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Old 08-15-2018, 02:18 PM   #1
Varyon
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Nuclear Powered Aliens

Reading through the GURPS Space description of Bioroids, my mind went off on a tangent that I'd like some advice from the forum on. The "aliens" in my Harpyias setting, the Malakim, are engineered organisms, albeit distinct from "true" bioroids in that most of them are produced via reproduction rather than assembled. I've long wanted them to be highly resistant to ionizing radiation, and indeed I'd like for them to utilize radiosynthesis to augment (and in some cases produce) their normal rations. The bit in Space about bioroids incorporating synthetic materials made me consider the idea of the malakim actually having radioactive materials in their bodies.

The problem, however, is that one of the ideas behind these creatures is that they don't create. Their bioships are actually just a different form they are able to take, not really technology (they all start out as grubs, and later metamorphosize into one of many forms, including one that eventually grows large enough to serve as a bioship), and any technology they are seen to use is either stolen or purchased from humans. As the humans of the setting are heavily averse to nuclear technology, the malakim aren't really going to have access to good radiation sources.

So, how should I handle this? I've considered allowing a partial exception to the "do not create" rule to allow them to mine and refine raw materials (typically with assistance from human technology), which they can then trade to humans for technological goods. Might they be able to use this technology to purify naturally-occurring radioactive materials, then use those to make better radiation sources in something akin to a breeder reactor? This seems a bit too counter to the "do not create" rule, honestly. What other options might there be? Background radiation out in space might be able to help keep a bioship and her crew fed (bioships, and some other morphs, are also photosynthetic), but that gets rid of the idea of having radiation sources in their bodies. What about occasional visits to gas giant moons, which I understand tend to have very high levels of ionizing radiation? Might such moons contain more useful radiation sources they could consume to incorporate them into their bodies? Obviously you can't mine, say, Cobalt-60 on a terrestrial planet, but if it were possible to mine that (or some other radiation source with a good W/g ratio of radiation power) on a gas giant's moon, it could be workable for the malakim.
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Old 08-15-2018, 02:48 PM   #2
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Lawrence, KS
Default Re: Nuclear Powered Aliens

Does "do not create" include not growing food, or not hunting or fishing or herding?
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Old 08-15-2018, 02:59 PM   #3
Nereidalbel
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Ellicott City, MD
Default Re: Nuclear Powered Aliens

If they purchased reactors instead of building their own, loading and unloading fuel would not violate the "do not create" rule. The same can be said for mining equipment.
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Old 08-15-2018, 03:15 PM   #4
AlexanderHowl
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: Nuclear Powered Aliens

Well, cosmic radiation is around 2 rads per week in deep space, so it is unlikely to work. I honestly would have the biological spacecraft use biological fusion reactors that use deuterium-deuterium reactions and which produce helium-3 and tritium as byproducts. Much like humans replace the lining of their stomachs, the biological spacecraft would replace the lining of their reactor chambers, replacing radioactive components with newly grown components, and excreting the radioactive components as waste. They could graze on asteroids and comets for the materials that they need and trade the helium-3 and tritium to humans in exchange for human technology.
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Old 08-15-2018, 04:00 PM   #5
Varyon
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: Nuclear Powered Aliens

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
Does "do not create" include not growing food, or not hunting or fishing or herding?
They don't do any traditional farming, but one of their "branches" (that is, one of the forms an adult malakim can take) is basically a sessile, massive food-production plant that uses photosynthesis (and radiosynthesis, provided I can get them a reliable radiation source) to produce food, which others consume. They often extract needed trace elements by occasionally eating dirt or similar. They can also eat the same things humans can, so when on planets humans have colonized but away from other means of acquiring food (via trading or stealing) will hunt and/or fish the animals and gather the edible parts of the plants the humans brought with them. On uncolonized worlds, if there is native life they can often eat that, but that's gathering rather than hunting (no planet discovered has life more advanced than fairly simple plants). The malakim themselves were created by an immortal, cinematic, and somewhat-insane human, initially assembled as bioroids (but, as noted, with the ability to reproduce). They are very much an artificial species, with an artificial culture - they don't even have their own language, communicating entirely in English*, which puzzles the setting's humans (who think they are aliens).

*Well, they initially seemed to have their own language, but were also apparently all fluent in English. Eventually, humans figured out that each of the sounds of the malakim language actually corresponded to a sound in English, and each letter of their written alphabet corresponded to a letter in the Roman script. Essentially, "Malakish" is encrypted English. There are a variety of theories of why this could be (from relatively tame theories that they consider their own language to be holy and refuse to use it where humans could perceive it, or conversely that their original language was highly limited and that they jumped onto the advantages of English; to wild theories like them being Ancient Astronauts or their true language being psionic in nature).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nereidalbel View Post
If they purchased reactors instead of building their own, loading and unloading fuel would not violate the "do not create" rule. The same can be said for mining equipment.
The humans don't produce nuclear reactors of any form, due to a strong aversion to the technology (mainly, I don't want nukes nor nuclear-powered spaceships). Energy is typically generated using "green" technologies - solar, wind, geothermal - and from special superscience generators that functionally steal energy from hyperspace. Energy is stored and transported using power cells consisting of superconducting loops.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
Well, cosmic radiation is around 2 rads per week in deep space, so it is unlikely to work.
Interstellar travel is done via hyperspace, which lacks ionizing radiation, and where ships tend to spend a very short amount of time. The bioships are going to be "feeding" between the termination shock of a solar system (which is where ships are able to enter and exit hyperspace) and the system's star itself. How much radiation would one be exposed to within that span? If necessary, the ships may make pit stops to dose themselves with the radiation concentrated by planetary magnetic fields (assuming they can't just store enough radioactive material).

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
I honestly would have the biological spacecraft use biological fusion reactors that use deuterium-deuterium reactions and which produce helium-3 and tritium as byproducts.
An important part of the setting is that humans were never really able to get cold fusion to work (although the superscience technology they use for space travel actually originated from failed cold fusion experiments). If they found an organism that was able to pull it off biologically, it likely wouldn't take them long to replicate it, and we'd end up with a very different setting than I want.
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Old 08-15-2018, 06:16 PM   #6
Flyndaran
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Default Re: Nuclear Powered Aliens

I started a thread a while ago about trying to figure out how much hard radiation would be necessary to support a human sized organism.
The consensus was around 11 millions rads per day.
http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread...ight=radiation

I suppose with how humans generally make vitamin D using sunlight, these aliens could need hard radiation for similar necessary but non-caloric "foods".
Or OP could just rubber up the science without many getting upset.
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Old 08-15-2018, 10:00 PM   #7
Varyon
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: Nuclear Powered Aliens

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
I started a thread a while ago about trying to figure out how much hard radiation would be necessary to support a human sized organism.
The consensus was around 11 millions rads per day.
http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread...ight=radiation
Huh. I had previously calculated you'd need something just shy of a gigagram of Uranium-235 to generate enough energy - assuming 100% conversion - to provide 1 GURPS meal (roughly 1000 kcal) per day. I had assumed that either Uranium-235 was just a really bad source of radiation (it does have a rather long half-life, compared to the sorts of things usually used for RTG's) or that I was screwing up somewhere. Now that I see how much radiation these things would need to even put a dent in their consumption, I'll probably either need to abandon the idea or go rubber-science with it.

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Originally Posted by tanksoldier View Post
These two statements contradict each other. Either humans are accepting of nuke tech or they arenít.
What humans really oppose is what you could call "dirty" nuclear power - they dislike RTG's and fission power due to their toxic, radioactive byproducts. Cold fusion is seen as a clean form of energy, as any radioactive products would be fairly harmless, like tritium. Neutron capture would mean some radioactive waste would be produced, but it might be possible to carefully select your shielding materials to avoid this.

There's also the fact that fission relies on rather rare and difficult to purify materials, while a biological fusion reaction would likely be cheap and easy to replicate, once you figure it out. I would expect my humans to get over their nuclear phobia pretty readily if cold fusion became available.
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Old 08-15-2018, 07:21 PM   #8
tanksoldier
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Default Re: Nuclear Powered Aliens

Quote:
Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
The humans don't produce nuclear reactors of any form, due to a strong aversion to the technology (mainly, I don't want nukes nor nuclear-powered spaceships). Energy is typically generated using "green" technologies - solar, wind, geothermal - and from special superscience generators that functionally steal energy from hyperspace. Energy is stored and transported using power cells consisting of superconducting loops.
Quote:
An important part of the setting is that humans were never really able to get cold fusion to work (although the superscience technology they use for space travel actually originated from failed cold fusion experiments). If they found an organism that was able to pull it off biologically, it likely wouldn't take them long to replicate it, and we'd end up with a very different setting than I want.
These two statements contradict each other. Either humans are accepting of nuke tech or they arenít.
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Old 08-15-2018, 10:02 PM   #9
AlexanderHowl
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: Nuclear Powered Aliens

Biological fusion is not cold fusion, it is using organic ceramics and organic glasses to control a hot fusion reaction.
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Old 08-15-2018, 11:50 PM   #10
Nereidalbel
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Ellicott City, MD
Default Re: Nuclear Powered Aliens

If no other races will so much as sell reactors, the only option for your bioroids is to find a natural reactor on their planets.

That said, it's likely that most systems will have at least one gas giant, and those are excellent sources of ionizing radiation. The Juno probe's 2 week trip around Jupiter was an estimated 20 million rads, which is probably enough of a dose to "feed" even their largest vessels (assuming you either rubber science things, or give them a racial Reduced Consumption).

If the need for radiation is only for some form of chemosynthesis to create some sort of vitamin, just park near a gas giant or as close to the local star as safely possible, and all is good.
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