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Old 08-04-2011, 04:03 AM   #11
Flyndaran
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Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 2 Parahumans and legacy genetic engineering

I guess. I didn't think my first impression through. Never mind.
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Old 08-04-2011, 09:00 PM   #12
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Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 2 Parahumans and legacy genetic engineering

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Sure, but they will be at least as fast as growing a feedstock in fields and then processing it to a final product in a chemical plant.
True. But even by 1917, characters from Western nations on Earth will be used to thinking in terms of coal and petroleum deposits as fuel, so the advanced biofuel resources on Mars might seem simultaneously wonderous in terms of its nature and frustrating in terms of availability.

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Good point. It's like the reputed difference between to politics of coffee colonies and sugar colonies. The established plantations will be an important form of valuable capital, more so and more universally than on Earth, where a standing crop might very likely consist of annuals.
It might also mark the difference between 'civilized' combatants and barbarians, as the Martians see it. If city A and City B are struggling for control of the plantation, they both have incentives not to damage it, they might trade it back and forth many times. Nomadic barbarians, on the other hand, or out-and-out criminally insane, might be perfectly happy to threaten to destroy the plantation to coerce cities A and B.

This might also produce a difference in Martian culture: a citizen of City B might be captured by City A, treated tolerably, and repatriated back to the City B at some point, and vice versa. A captured plantation-destroyer might get death by slow torture, or something along such lines. They might be seen as in the same light as child murderers or the like are seen on modern Earth.

(It occasionally surprises modern-day people that not so long ago, stealing a horse merited the death penalty. This made perfect sense at the time, though, since stealing a horse could under some circumstances be a form of slow murder.)

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The same issue bites with food. A typical 2,000 kcalorie diet is 8.37 MJ/person/day, and requires as much energy as 0.064 gallons of gasoline.
Yeah, but 2000 kcalories of food is much more versatile than the .064 gallons of gasoline. Assuming 50 mpg engines (better than most of ours but probably not that great by Old Martian standards), .064 gets you 3 miles. Two thousand kcalories can get you much further than on foot, and let you do other things to, at small scales the 2000 kcalories of food are probably a better overall investment than the equivalent supply of gasoline. A superplant could keep several people alive and healthy very easily for the same energy investment that would let a car move from one village to another.

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I think it would be cheaper just to sow seed over an area than to cover it with mirrors. You can't increase the average productivity, so its a matter of whether concentrating it with mirrors is cheaper than collecting it with extra plants. I guess concentrating it would reduced harvesting costs, too, but I think that's only viable is mirrors are both durable and very cheap.
It would probably depend on the terrain and climate. If you're in fertile, well-irrigated lowlands, just planting more land makes more sense. If you're in a little valley of good soil surrounded by rock hills, the mirrors look like a decent investment.

(Or if you're having to defend your plantation, it might make sense militarily to farm a smaller area more intensely, mirrors might make sense then, too.)

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[i]They might not have been that specialized. If one used genegineering to make a miniature 'elephant', maybe with multiple trunks capped with manipulative hands, on all sides of its body, and gave it a mind that was able to learn from experience but programmed for doglike devotion, you might have a very versatile and effective field worker, and one that might be able to make it in the wild if need be, too. It could be a traction machine, a field hand, or a guard dog, all in the same animal.
Possibly, but I'm always suspicious of Swiss Army knives. As the Space Shuttle and the F-35 show, multi-function equipment usually turns out to be less economical than a set of specialised tools.
But the Swiss army knife comes into its own when you can't carry everything you want, when you can only carry on item, then general purpose becomes crucial, even if it's not as good at any given thing. The jack of all trade is preferable to several masters, if you can only carry one guy.

The collapse of civilization is precisely when jack beats the master.

Last edited by Johnny1A.2; 08-04-2011 at 09:06 PM.
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Old 08-04-2011, 09:26 PM   #13
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Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 2 Parahumans and legacy genetic engineering

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Yeah, but 2000 kcalories of food is much more versatile than the .064 gallons of gasoline. Assuming 50 mpg engines (better than most of ours but probably not that great by Old Martian standards), .064 gets you 3 miles. Two thousand kcalories can get you much further than on foot, and let you do other things to, at small scales the 2000 kcalories of food are probably a better overall investment than the equivalent supply of gasoline. A superplant could keep several people alive and healthy very easily for the same energy investment that would let a car move from one village to another.
I would not count on Mars having much use for wheeled vehicles of any kind. They don't work well without roads, and roads are expensive to maintain. The Near East pretty much abandoned them after the Romans left (see Bulliet's The Camel and the Wheel, one of my sources for Low-Tech). For land transport, animals with good food and water storage capacity and feet that can function in sand would be more functional, I think.

When there are canal routes, of course, those are going to work better. Turbines powered by a biodiesel analog could be a workable technology. There's also sailing, of course, but in a less dense atmosphere sailing is going to provide much less power.

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Old 08-04-2011, 09:41 PM   #14
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Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 2 Parahumans and legacy genetic engineering

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I would not count on Mars having much use for wheeled vehicles of any kind. They don't work well without roads, and roads are expensive to maintain.
Excellent point. I hadn't given that aspect of it much thought, but it's true.

That said, some parts of desert Mars might still have viable roads, depending on the engineering skill of the Old Martians. After all, the sparse, mostly absent biosphere would tend to preserve some things better than the fecund activity of Earth. Flat surfaces like well-made solid-surface roads might endure for some time absent extensive plant life and related biological dangers. Paradoxically, the roads might be in better repair far from civilization, in the depths of the deserts, than they would be in some of the canal valleys.

Still, time would take its toll, wind, quake, scouring sand, the roads would be buried or destroyed in a very short time on a geological or historical scale.

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When there are canal routes, of course, those are going to work better. Turbines powered by a biodiesel analog could be a workable technology. There's also sailing, of course, but in a less dense atmosphere sailing is going to provide much less power.

Bill Stoddard
Here's where the food/fuel dichotomy kicks in again. But sailing might partly make up for the thinner air (it can't be too much thinner than Earth's, though, if Mars is habitable) by the fact that it might not take much 'power' to sail the canals, esp. if speed is not of the essence.

Hmm...one might see two categories of canal ship, slow, cumbersome sailing (or even oared) vessels, or maybe pulled by animal power on the shore in places, and biofuel-powered motor craft that move high value, high priority cargoes or combat troops. The scare fuel would tend to be saved for critical needs.
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Old 08-05-2011, 09:05 AM   #15
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Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 2 Parahumans and legacy genetic engineering

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There's also sailing, of course, but in a less dense atmosphere sailing is going to provide much less power.
I believe your conclusion is right, but question the means to get there. Weather is driven by insolation, so to zeroth order the average wind energy/area will be unchanged as the atmospheric pressure varies - thinner air will blow faster given the same amount of sunlight. Aerodynamic forces scale as energy/area. Mars gets less sunlight, so it will have less energetic winds, but the thin atmosphere will give as much of a push as a thicker atmosphere.

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Old 08-05-2011, 09:43 AM   #16
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Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 2 Parahumans and legacy genetic engineering

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I believe your conclusion is right, but question the means to get there. Weather is driven by insolation, so to zeroth order the average wind energy/area will be unchanged as the atmospheric pressure varies - thinner air will blow faster given the same amount of sunlight. Aerodynamic forces scale as energy/area. Mars gets less sunlight, so it will have less energetic winds, but the thin atmosphere will give as much of a push as a thicker atmosphere.
I'm not sure that that necessarily follows. If I understand the physics right, wind energy is a product of pressure differences that result from differential heating of the atmosphere; that is, ultimately it's thermal energy. But if the atmosphere is less dense, you have less mass per unit surface area and therefore less capacity to take up heat. Wouldn't the equilibrium partition of energy have a smaller fraction of energy going into the atmosphere?

If your assumptions are correct, the winds would have to be much faster on Mars. That in itself would produce a less Earthlike landscape. "Then the chilly winds blew down/Across the desert" (as the Eagles sing in "The Last Resort").

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Old 08-05-2011, 01:53 PM   #17
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Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 2 Parahumans and legacy genetic engineering

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What kind of parahumans will exist is going to depend on what kind of society Mars had when they were created. Theocratic, aristocratic, consumer capitalist, technocratic, caste-based? That will determine the raw material.
I think this is a essential question. Was there a planetary society while the parahumans were created or were there multiple societies and cultures? Over what kind of time frame were the various parahumans created? Were any types created near the end or in response to the coming collapse?

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Unless the genetic lineages were mutually sterile, mongrelization will have erased the differences and reverted them to wild type.
Or consciously conserved by restricted breeding; though maybe only a few lasted til modern times.

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* An amphibious race created to maintain the canals, and now living in and along them, sailing up and down them, and probably carrying on most of whatever trade the planet has.

* An entertainer or courtesan race talented at manipulating others, possibly with levels of Smooth Operator or Charisma.

* A guardian race, now living tribal lives based on mutual loyalty and clannishness, possibly as sanguinivores.

* The original race, driven out into remote wild areas and now adapted to live as nomads under the harshest conditions.
Why would the original race survive in the harshest conditions?

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Old 08-05-2011, 08:48 PM   #18
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Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 2 Parahumans and legacy genetic engineering

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I'm not sure that that necessarily follows. If I understand the physics right, wind energy is a product of pressure differences that result from differential heating of the atmosphere; that is, ultimately it's thermal energy. But if the atmosphere is less dense, you have less mass per unit surface area and therefore less capacity to take up heat. Wouldn't the equilibrium partition of energy have a smaller fraction of energy going into the atmosphere?
Very roughly, the dynamics go like this: Light is emitted from the sun. The atmosphere is transparent to sunlight. Sunlight goes through the atmosphere and hits the ground. Some is reflected back out into space, the rest is absorbed to make heat. You need as much heat flowing out as is flowing in (otherwise the planet heats up, speeding up the rate of heat loss until this condition is met). The atmosphere is opaque to heat radiation. The heat is conducted to the air (or radiated from the ground and absorbed by the air), and then convected by air turbulence to so high in the atmosphere that the heat radiation can escape. The process of convection via air turbulence is what gives rise to all weather.

Now, this description is vastly simplified, and there are complicating factors at every step of the way. But in the zeroth order approximation as outlined above, all solar energy initially absorbed by the planet goes out through the atmosphere before it can leave again; and thus the energy for weather is driven mostly by insolation and albedo.

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If your assumptions are correct, the winds would have to be much faster on Mars. That in itself would produce a less Earthlike landscape. "Then the chilly winds blew down/Across the desert" (as the Eagles sing in "The Last Resort").
Yeah. makes it seem kind of bleak, doesn't it? Fast, thin winds howling across empty plains of twisted, weathered rocks. An empty expanse of rusty desolation, with twin moons hanging overhead in a deep blue-black sky.

Of course, the air has to be dense enough for our heroes to breathe, and with the lower insolation the winds can't be too fast.

Luke
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Old 08-05-2011, 09:27 PM   #19
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Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 2 Parahumans and legacy genetic engineering

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Very roughly, the dynamics go like this: Light is emitted from the sun. The atmosphere is transparent to sunlight. Sunlight goes through the atmosphere and hits the ground. Some is reflected back out into space, the rest is absorbed to make heat. You need as much heat flowing out as is flowing in (otherwise the planet heats up, speeding up the rate of heat loss until this condition is met). The atmosphere is opaque to heat radiation. The heat is conducted to the air (or radiated from the ground and absorbed by the air), and then convected by air turbulence to so high in the atmosphere that the heat radiation can escape. The process of convection via air turbulence is what gives rise to all weather.
That's a proposition about the rate at which heat is added to the atmosphere per unit area of planetary surface. But it doesn't seem to imply a specific residence time of heat in the atmosphere, and therefore it doesn't seem to imply a specific energy density of the atmosphere. Is there any reason to suppose that the heat will take as long to get from the ground to the edge of space on Mars as it does on Earth, or even that it will take the same amount of time per kilometer of altitude? I don't need to see a quantitative analysis; I'm just asking whether there is some basic fact of atmospheric dynamics that requires either of that and that I'm ignorant of.

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Old 08-05-2011, 09:30 PM   #20
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Why would the original race survive in the harshest conditions?
Reasoning by analogy from Earth. The very low-tech societies lived in bands of hunter-gatherers in the arctic, in harsh deserts, on remote islands, and so on, when (a) less harsh environments were able to support civilized peoples and (b) civilized peoples had the military capacity to push tribal peoples away. Add the assumption that the civilized people can manage genetic modification, and you get the modified races living in the more benign environments, while remnants of the Old Race hang on in the deserts and at the end of the polar glaciers.

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