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Old 05-16-2018, 03:08 PM   #11
Anaraxes
 
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Default Re: Monomolecular blades

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Originally Posted by Kelly Pedersen View Post
The stasis field on a variable sword seems to be mostly about making the monowire blade easy to control
Also rigid, as I recall. Sinclair molecule chain by itself was flexible, so you couldn't whack someone at a distance with it, though you could wrap it around them and dismember them or whip them.

Sinclair chain could also be braided, which is a curious property for the universal slicer to have :)
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Old 05-16-2018, 03:18 PM   #12
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Default Re: Monomolecular blades

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Originally Posted by Kelly Pedersen View Post
The "variable sword" weapon was indeed that, but Niven also mentions "Sinclair molecule chain" as separate, un-stasis-fielded stuff, and claims it's "fantastically dangerous", and that you can cut off various extremities if you're incautious about it. The stasis field on a variable sword seems to be mostly about making the monowire blade easy to control, rather than making it somehow sharper or more resilient.
In at least one case, "braided Sinclair molecule chain" was used for a ramrobot ship to keep the cargo away from the monopole generated magnetic field of the drive section.

Another example was Ringworld shadow square wire, but I don't think how it worked was ever described.
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Old 05-16-2018, 03:54 PM   #13
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Default Re: Monomolecular blades

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Also rigid, as I recall.
I was including that in "easy to control", yeah. Really, that's the only thing the stasis field added to the wire's controllability, I think. The only other thing the variable sword added was a little red ball at the end of the wire, so you could see where it ended, and that's not part of the stasis field.

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Sinclair chain could also be braided, which is a curious property for the universal slicer to have :)
I guess that's its unbreakability? It can cut anything except itself, presumably.
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Old 05-16-2018, 06:20 PM   #14
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Default Re: Monomolecular blades

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As I understand it (I am not a material scientist!), the superscience bit isn't in making monomolecular strands, it's in their effects. Basically, the ideas that a monomolecular strand would be a) very strong, and b) capable of cutting through virtually anything are the "superscience" bits.
Yes. On two counts.

The first is that real chemical bonds are strong enough it's theoretically possible to make a wire with a radius of curvature that's about as sharp as a knife and strong enough to exert a few hundred pounds of force (and thus survive being swung as a weapon by a human wielder), but that's about the limit - nothing that sharp or sharper is going to be much stronger than that.

The other one is that there's actually little to be gained by having an edge with a much smaller radius of curvature than that even if you could. Once your edge is narrower than the distance the *target* material redistributes forces over when point stressed, making it sharper wouldn't do anything to improve how well it cuts anyway.
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Old 05-16-2018, 06:51 PM   #15
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Default Re: Monomolecular blades

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The other one is that there's actually little to be gained by having an edge with a much smaller radius of curvature than that even if you could. Once your edge is narrower than the distance the *target* material redistributes forces over when point stressed, making it sharper wouldn't do anything to improve how well it cuts anyway.
When does that start happening? I've seen a couple of pop-sci articles about super-sharp glass scalpels and the like that implied they're superior to steel in some ways because of their sharpness, although obviously not as durable. So I guess there's a cut-off somewhere between the sharpness of a steel razor and atomic scale widths?
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Old 05-16-2018, 07:22 PM   #16
Fred Brackin
 
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I was first introduced to monowire in Neuromancer, wielded by a sarariman corporate assassin who manages to get himself killed with it [1]. I also saw it pop up a lot in Larry Niven, where it somehow magically cuts everything except when you want it to just be a super strong thread to hold your backpack together.
For those without a natural feel for times involved the use in Niven predates Neuromancer by a decade or so.
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Old 05-16-2018, 07:55 PM   #17
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Default Re: Monomolecular blades

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For those without a natural feel for times involved the use in Niven predates Neuromancer by a decade or so.
And Dune (1965) and Stand on Zanzibar (1968) predate Niven's use by almost another decade*...




* Were 'Sinclair molecules' in Ringworld (1970) or Ringworld Engineers (1979)?
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Old 05-16-2018, 07:57 PM   #18
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And Dune (1965) and Stand on Zanzibar (1968) predate Niven's use by almost another decade*...




* Were 'Sinclair molecules' in Ringworld (1970) or Ringworld Engineers (1979)?
I first remember them from a Bbeowulf Schaeffer short story. Stasis swords go all the way back into the 60s.
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Old 05-16-2018, 08:02 PM   #19
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Default Re: Monomolecular blades

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Originally Posted by evileeyore View Post
And Dune (1965) and Stand on Zanzibar (1968) predate Niven's use by almost another decade*...




* Were 'Sinclair molecules' in Ringworld (1970) or Ringworld Engineers (1979)?
I think they were in A Gift From Earth (1968), if not earlier.
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Old 05-16-2018, 08:11 PM   #20
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Default Re: Monomolecular blades

Mono weapons are as much superscience as light sabers. They also should be a lot more dangerous to their users than light sabers because there is no way that a normal human can see the mono wire, as it is one atom thick. The fact that they do not look cool probably doomed them when it came to the movies.

One possibly realistic alternative though would be a triangular carbon nanotube wire with sides one hundred micrometers long. It would be strong enough to be a weapon and you could actually see it. Each point of the triangle could be 1 nanometer in thickness.

The utility of the weapon would be in the creation of a superior lasso rather than the creation of a superior blade or lasso. When the carbon nanotube wire wraps around a target, it would cut into the target until the target was cut in half. Of course, untangling it afterwards would be nearly impossible, so the wire would have to be disposable (and would presumably have something that would allow it to decay to prevent hazardous conditions).
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