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DShomshak last won the day on October 11 2018

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  1. By stellar lifespan, I mean time for complex life to evolve. Earth had existed for a few billion years before multicellular life appeared. Assuming that's typical, a brighter, hotter and more massive star might expand into a red giant before life gets past bacteria. Then again, who says this biosphere is natural? Work of the gods, or the Progenitor alien terraformers... if these are not one and the same.😉 Query: By "1/4 the size of the primary," do you mean 1/4 the mass or 1/4 the luminosity? It matters, because the relation between mass and luminosity is very nonlinear. For now I'll assume 1/4 the luminosity. At 1/4 mass, the difference in luminosity will be so much greater the smaller star might not significantly impact the seasonal cycle. (Again, I'll need to run some numbers.) I'll further assume the smaller star and the planet orbit in the same plane. If they don't, you might get destabilizing long-term tidal interactions. Moreover, coplanar orbits mean the smaller, differ star frequently eclipses the larger, brighter star. Seen from the planet, for a few hours the light drops. At maximum eclipse, the suns appear as ring of blinding white around the dimmer, yellower star. It's looking at you. Dean Shomshak
  2. I'm only an amateur celestial mechanic, but I'm pretty sure this system could function. IIRC real exoplanets have been found orbiting close binaries. Gimme a few days and I'll try to put some numbers on this, assuming real-universe stars and gravity. Biggest real-science problem I see is that the primary star would be significantly brighter and more massive than the Sun, giving it a much shorter lifespan. Here, you might need to invoke magic. Dean Shomshak
  3. I haven't read Turakian Age, but I readily take your word that it's much better than Forgotten Realms. I've read the Forgotten Realms setting guide, and found it very generic in style and content. Yes, it's perfectly designed to support D&D games. But there's no voice or vision. Complete checklist setting design. I would not recommend anyone waste time or money on it. I do hope someday I can find time for Turakian Age. Dean Shomshak
  4. This one is for Lord Liaden, as it deals with another case where physicists admit they are stumped about something they first thought would be simple. It isn't space news, exactly; this is about the very smallest components of matter. But the biggest and smallest scales of the Universe merge in the Big Bang, so some problems in cosmology probably can't be solved until physicists improve their understanding of how quarks combine to make protons and neutrons. I as a layman thought that was pretty well nailed down. Protons and neutrons (collectively, "nucleons") are made of quarks, which are held together by the "strong force" carried by gluons. It's laid out in the theory of quantum chromodynamics (QCD). But an article in the June, 2019 Scientific American says it ain't so simple. For a start, the mass of the quarks adds up to only 2% (or so) of the mass of the proton or neutron. Where does the rest of the mass come from? Nucleons have a spin. So do the quarks of which they are composed. But the spin of the quarks doesn't add up to the spin of the proton or neutron. QCD doesn't explain this because the math is kind of, um, impossible. In part this is because the strong force is far more complicated than good ol' electromagnetism or gravity. Like, electromagnetism has just two charges, positive and negative. The photons that carry electromagnetism do not themselves have charge, though, so photons don't interact with each other. The strong force has three charges, called colors, each with an opposite for six in all. Worse, the gluons that carry the strong force have a color "charge," so they do interact with each other. While a virtual gluon jumps from one quark to another it exchanges its own virtual gluons with other quarks and gluons -- and those gluons exchange their own gluons as they interact -- and so on. Somehow, all this seething mass of quarks and virtual gluons adds up to the properties of protons and neutrons. But the bazillions of particles involved make the calculations impossibly complex. The theorists are lost. Physicists can only hope to solve this puzzle by poking at the quarks and gluons directly, to see how they react. Remarkably, they can do this. In fact, they've been able to do this for several years -- which is how they proved that quarks really exist and aren't just a delusion of theorists. If you shoot high-energy electrons at (say) a neutron, the electrons can bounce off the individual quarks and give clues to what the quarks are doing. Physicists have already learned that quarks behave differently in a single particle than when a bunch of nucleons are grouped together in a nucleus. The authors hope that a more powerful and focused particle accelerator, the Electron-Ion Collider, will enable physicists to create 3-D maps or pictures of quarks and gluons bopping around inside atomic nuclei, and that this will help solve the puzzles of nucleons' mass and spin. Maybe even develop techniques to control the motions of quarks, as a test of their understanding. Which leads to the question: If quarks and gluons can be controlled precisely, does that raise the possibility of femtotechnology, a million times smaller than nanotecnology? They decide that such speculation is premature. But they won't rule it out. Dean Shomshak
  5. I try to give each megavillain their own style. In my campaign, Professor Proton was the straight-up, give me the world or I'll blow stuff up high-tech megalomaniac. (And I thought of him before Big Bang Theory used the name for the aging host of a kid's science show. Though I don't begrudge them the use of the name, because Bob Newhart.) For campaign background, Professor Proton first built a base inside one of the highest peaks of the Himalayas, from which he threatened half of Asia with long-range plasma cannons. He later reoccupied Proton Peak, built a Weather Dominator and held the monsoon hostage. For a change of pace he built a skyscraper in New Delhi that was actually the resonator for an Ultrasonic Mind Control device with which he hoped to take over the Indian government. Taking a cue from the Austin Powers movies, he built a giant laser on the Moon and threatened to burn cities unless the world surrendered to him. A PC origin was tied to his flying battle station Jagganoor ("Divine Light of the World," also with a big laser and a defensive screen that could only be pierced by MegaScale teleportation. The PCs finally caught up with Professor Proton when he built a Gravitron and used it to deflect Comet ISON so it would hit the Earth. Either the world must surrender (in which case he'll steer the comet away) or he'll rule the few survivors after the world-ravaging impact. In addition to his own awesome power, Professor proton had a team of hench-villains and a small army of agents, including Nuclear Kshatriyas with battlesuits and plasma bazookas. As a further complication, the PCs were warned the Gravitron was volatile: If it was damaged in the slightest degree, either it would explode and vaporize everything within hundreds of miles (and leave a big hole in the Earth's crust), or its neutronium core would collapse into a black hole and start eating the Earth. The villains, of course, knew this too, which made them cautious fighting the heroes! \ The PCs went into the fight intending to kill Professor Proton, and knew that no one would condemn them for it: Professor Proton was in the habit of destroying small cities to demonstrate his latest superweapon, just to show he was serious. They played on his Psych Lims to keep him fighting instead of teleporting away; and when they finally knocked him out, they executed him. That just left the problem of defusing the Gravitron, but since the remaining minions had fled that was only a matter of time. Though Professor proton was dead, his organization continued to play a part in the campaign: former lieutenants out for revenge, bases occupied by other villains, etc. Dean Shomshak
  6. Well... Psychologist Jonathan Haidt does find distinct patterns of thinking in self-described liberals, conservatives and libertarians, and the differences are more pronounced the more strongly they self-identify ("very conservative," "very liberal," etc.) But yes, there are people who don't fit neatly into the categories; the same "moral foundations" can lead to different conclusions (for instance, Loyalty and Authority matter more to conservatives than to liberals or libertarians, but loyalty to what group, obedience to which authority?); and different systems of moral reasoning can lead to the same result. After laying out his research in his book The Righteous Mind, Haidt urges people on all sides to try using other systems of moral reasoning as a way to persuade people of different viewpoints, instead of just yelling at them and preaching to the choir. So I'd say, that viewpoints and policies on different issues are not getting lumped together by pure accident. But the connections may not be obvious, and "poaching" of issues from one camp to another may be possible. I'd nominate same-sex marriage as an example: mIt began as a liberal issue of compassion for an oppressed minority, but became a majority viewpoint with support from libertarians who didn't want government telling them who they could marry, and conservatives wanting to stay loyal to family members and mollified by seeing LGB people showing reverence for the institution of marriage. Dean Shomshak
  7. Liberalism is indeed a big tent with diverse occupants. Last year The Economist did a series about its history and future, with profiles of liberal thinkers whom you would not immediately group together -- until you compare them to definitely illiberal philosophies. Then you see that yes, libertarian Hayek and interventionist Keynes may be saying very different things, but they are speaking the same language and considering the same problems. Thing is, the whole tent is under attack from ideologies that do not share the liberal assumptions that individuals and reason matter -- from nationalists that elevate tribal identity, to Jihadists that deny humanity in the name of God, to looney-tunes postmodern academics who reject the very idea of objective truth as a tool of oppression. Dean Shomshak
  8. Speaking of Trump and Deutsche Bank: Last week (IIRC) the radio program The Daily, with Michael Barbaro, devoted a program to this. Deutsche Bank was desperate enough to break into the New York real estate market that it was willing to loan to Trump. They got burned. Despite this, he persuaded two more divisions of Deutche Bank to loan to him -- and they got burned too. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times? Trump may be one of history's greatest grifters. But that's the limit of his business skill. I'm curious how far Deutche Bank will go to protect their records of their dealings with Trump. On the one hand, the bank's top officers might want revenge. Don't want potential clients thinking they can cheat the bank with impunity. OTOH they may not want to show the depths of their own gullibility and confusion. And given their history of dealing with dirty money, they also might not want clients thinking they'll rat them out too easily. Dean Shomshak
  9. Well... converting Hero System spells to D&D spells in any systematic way is impossible, as every D&D spell is functionally a rule in itself. There are common patterns, but that's it. And as eepjr24 says, many Hero System mechanics just have no analog at all. For instance, there are no analogs to Power Defense, Mental Defense or Flash Defense; any effect other than hit point damage tends to be all-or-nothing, with duration set by spell durations or saving throws each turn rather than a number set by a dice roll. You'd be creating brand new crunch to be consistent with your setting concepts and flavor text, rather than adapting existing material. Which does not make the project unworthy. Just don't imagine it would be simple and purely mechanical. Dean Shomshak
  10. The May 18, 2019 issue of The Economist has an article and editorial about Jeff Bezos' space colonization proposals. They aren't very kind to Bezos, pointing out that his plan for O'Neill colonies, and his limits-to-growth justifications, are both from the 1970s. I would point out: This does not, itself, make them false. (Though it does remind me of Ben Bova's novel Colony. As far as space colonization goes, Bova thought that O'Neill colonies were putting the cart before the horse. But... why might someone want to build one as a near-first step? In Colony, the reason a consortium of the world's richest men build a space colony is that they want a refuge from the collapse of civilization. Which they are so sure is goingh to happen, they intend to make it happen on their timetable. Things do not work out as they intend... Notably, their idyllic town in space is not too far away for the building conflict on Earth to touch. If Bezos has read Colony, I hope he read it wisely.) Dean Shomshak
  11. I had this as a bit of campaign background for my Avant Guard campaign. Doctor Thane, the world's most powerful techno-villain, sent the Dallas-Fort Worth area back to the Cretaceous to show Evangelicals that geological history was real. By conservation of mass, an equal area of the Cretaceous appeared in the city's place in Texas. Tech-her and time travel specialist Doctor Future put the city back, but there was a lot of cleanup afterward. First, a bunch of dinosaurs escaped into Texas. Second, a bunch of Texans escaped into the Cretaceous as the grabbed their buns and went out to HUNT DINOSAURS! The dinos escaped into the 21st century didn't last long. The Texans escaped into the Mesozoic took a long time to round up -- those who weren't eaten -- and Doctor Future was never sure all of them were accounted for. Doctor Thane's thing was conducting experiments that could incidentally destroy the world, or at least large portions of it. He tried setting off the Yelloowstone caldera because he wanted to study the effects of really big megavolcanic eruptions (and he had not yet developed time travel). And could nanobots really destroy the world in a Gray Goo meltdown? Only one way to find out! Can the local gravitational constant be changed? Yes, and that this will cause the Moon to crash into the Earth presents further research opportunities. Thane's final plan was to destroy the universe as a way of testing "decay of the false vacuum" theories. Avant Guard stopped him, but it apparently cost Doctor Future's life. They hope Thane is gone for good, too, but they doubt it: Time travelers are hard to eliminate forever. Dean Shomshak
  12. Given the fairly generic nature of the powersets -- unavoidable, given the brevity of descriptions -- one could probably reskin other puvlished characters to represent Tiger Squad members. Like, take any powered armor character, cross out the name and write in "Iron Horse." Or if you don't want to rename a fire controller as Lady of a Thousand Fires -- too easy! -- taker some other energy projector and change the power FX to fire. Still easy-peasy. Dean Shomshak
  13. Well... not small. It's bigger than France. While it sounds like a Wakanda homage, it also reminds me of Botswana. Botswana came to my attention in the 1990s when it asked the US to stop giving foreign aid, it didn't need the money anymore. It's the African country that both avoided the worst effects of colonialism and then used its mineral wealth and aid money to build roads and schools instead of presidential palaces and toys for the generals. All in all, a remarkable place. I've recently mentioned Acemoglu and Robinson's Why Nations Fail a few times recently, and I'll do it again here. The book includes a section on how Botswana's 19C leaders saved their country from Cecil Rhodes and laid the foundations for the country's current growth. One might adapt this for Mingombe. Dean Shomshak
  14. Well... not small. It's bigger than France. While it sounds like a Wakanda homage, it also reminds me of Botswana. Botswana came to my attention in the 1990s when it asked the US to stop giving foreign aid, it didn't need the money anymore. It's the African country that both avoided the worst effects of colonialism and then used its mineral wealth and aid money to build roads and schools instead of presidential palaces and toys for the generals. All in all, a remarkable place. I've recently mentioned Acemoglu and Robinson's Why Nations Fail a few times recently, and I'll do it again here. The book includes a section on how Botswana's 19C leaders saved their country from Cecil Rhodes and laid the foundations for the country's current growth. One might adapt this for Mingombe. Dean Shomshak
  15. Incidentally, I do strongly recommend Acemoglu and Robinson's Why Nations Fail. Their discussion of "extractive" vs. "inclusive" economic and political institutions becomes more relevant every year. And while I knew that the post-Enlightenment developed world was doing a lot of things differently than people did before, I under-appreciated just how drastic the changes were, and how relentlessly, brutally exploitative so many societies were before. Like, we think North Korea is bad (and rightly so); but in some ways the Kims are amateurs at harvesting wealth from a country. Gaming utility: If you want to design a Sf dystopia or Fantasy Evil Empire, this book will give you a lot of material. But also story ideas on how societies can break free from the cycle of exploitation and turn in directions that enrich and empower the many instead of the few. Dean Shomshak
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