The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey

Reactions to Chapter Twenty-six
Jecel, Sharon, Mac

[Jecel Assumpcao, Jr., 11/14/99]
      Well, Dr. Starks, I'd just like to thank you for another wonderful chapter of Sara's story! Very impressive — I have come to the conclusion that either you:
      a) have some very sharp consultants helping you
      b) are a frustrated physicist, or
      c) are the greatest con artist ever and could talk your way out of the electric chair :-)

[Sharon Best, 11/14/99]
      Also, on the point of structural stability of something Sara lifts, I think that's critical to portray. The comics blew past that and it always pissed me off. Ordinary materials can only withstand so many pounds (tons) per square inch and Sara's hands aren't very big. I once portrayed Aurora lowering a 747 to the ground by tearing her way into the central wing struture beneath the fuselage and spreading her arms and legs and letting the weight of the aircraft (about 350 tons) rest on her back. When she was done, a 'snow angel' imprint of her body had been formed in the steel spars of the wing. Several people wrote me to say that even that was unrealistic. That supporting an aircraft that size from such a small area would have collapsed the central wing structure. I'm not sure of that, but I remembered the lesson.
      It's a definate limitation to the useful strength of our characters unless you get into Vendorian steel and other materials that are unknown on Earth. Which is what I did. Vendorian steel, a titanium, steel and ceramic hybrid that was invented on the planet Vendor, weights about the same as stainless but is ten to a hundred times stronger. Arion spacecraft in my stories are made of that stuff and Terrans have learned the metallurgical skills and now can make it as well.
      Perhaps Sara, with her knowledge, could show people how to make a steel like this and that would give her a couple of orders of magnitude more ability to lift something that was contained in such a steel structure.

[Toomey, 11/14/99]
      Sharon: "Also, on the point of structural stability of something Sara lifts, I think that's critical to portray. The comics blew past that and it always pissed me off."
      Toomey: Yeah, me too. That's why I put in the scene with the cement mixer. In the comics, it wouldn't have been a problem for little Kara to pick it up with one tiny hand and leap a tall building with a single bound. One of the Russian tutors had the task of teaching Sara how to accomodate stresses in terrestrial materials, and another tutor taught her how to kreen structural composition and integrity. 'Susan' was able to integrate these kinds of calculations into its evaluation of how to accomplish tasks set by Sara.
      I'm trying to be careful about heavy loads. The Maurdur Gate problem in the First Interlude [Chapter 19] was solved by borrowing a couple of 'gods' from H.P. Lovecraft to channel the vast underground planetary power source to artificially bind the molecules of the gate together beyond normal limits. I thought of making it possible for Sara to do something like this with the rather incredibly strong electromagnetic flux available to her, essentially binding materials to her hand and increasing their tensile strength many times over. A powerful enough magnetic field will even have an effect on non-ferrous materials like wood and plastic (saw a demonstration on a TV show that involved magnetic levitation of organic materials — including a live spider — in a very powerful electromagnetic field). This would make it possible for her to deal with extremely heavy loads. But it could be a problem by making her character too powerful to create narrative interest. Unless the use of such a method has unpleasant side effects (didn't seem to be a problem for the spider, though).
      I have another potential scene where Sara cuts loose with an electromagnetic surge and rips about a half-mile of steel rebar right out of a concrete freeway. Might be useful in the Singapore earthquake chapter.
      Also, that's why she had to flip the tank over and toss it upside down from the turret. The underside of a tank is too thin, you know. Her hand would just push right through it. The treads and some of the wheels couldn't take the acceleration and came off. Probably bent the hell out of the frame, but by then it didn't matter.
      How's that for verisimilitude?


[MacBeth, 11/14/99]
      Oh, you kids. Always having to accept only what we see, eh? Tsk, tsk, okay, before we get too carried away here (after that kind of statement, I just hope the following doesn't sound too dumb).
      Obviously, anything/one, like Sara, capable of producing the enormous energy needed to displace heavy loads like she can, would also generate incredible fields surrounding the part of her using the energy as part of the process. Since we do not fully understand the source of her power, we cannot fully understand the nature of these fields. Perhaps they can affect matter on the subatomic level — that is, displace it much like electrical fields can displace a magnet to make the motor go around. Regardless of the true nature of these fields, as fields, they would follow some fundamental laws.
      Considering the inverse-square law of point charges, it would make sense that the fields would be at zero strength at infinity, but at their strongest at the point of contact with the object, the origin. So, she would have to touch the object in order to displace it. Even so, the act of touching the object is not to lift it but to generate the field needed to lift it. Once done, she is not concentrating all of her strength at one small point but, indeed, concentrating a field of force distributed evenly along the lower surface of the object. Since the field is uniform, the object appears to react to it as if it were a point in the palm of her hand — that is, it teeters and wobbles, but the force is distributed along the field, nonetheless. A distributed force means that the object is not distorted as it would be with a focused force. The tank is lifted, Sara looks really cool doing it, and the tank is returned intact.
      Sorry about the interruption, fellas, but I had a neuron hiccup and had to clear the breach. Time for cocoa.


[Toomey] 11/14/99]
      Mac — with his thinking cap on: "Obviously, anything/one, like Sara, capable of producing the enormous energy needed to displace heavy loads like she can would also generate incredible fields surrounding the part of her using the energy as part of the process."
      Toomey — very impressed: Damn, you're really good at this…! I think you've nailed it , Mac. My hat's off. <whew>
      I managed to swipe a couple of manuals from the Cryptoalien factory complex in the Orion Nebula before I 'woke up'. My translation may be a little wobbly, but here's some stuff I thought I'd pass along.
      To begin with, a little background. Matter at terrestrial densities is mostly empty space. For instance, the diameter of the nucleus of an iron atom is only about one thirty-thousandth of the diameter of the whole atom itself, including the cloud of electrons that surround the nucleus and interact with neighboring atoms to form the elecromagnetically stabilized lattice of solid iron in a crystalline state.
      Under the extreme conditions found in the crust of a neutron star, gravitation can compress the distances between iron nuclei by about ten-thousand times, which results in a solid quasi-crystalline state wherein the diameter of the nuclei measures only about a third of the diameter of the whole atom. At this density, the electron shells cannot be further collapsed unless enough force is applied to physically combine electrons with nuclear protons to form a neutron fluid. This usually happens in the course of a supernova explosion, and the resultant 'neutronium' comprises the interior of the neutron star.
      (Mark MCLXXVI Protectors are constructed of a rather thin sheet of the dense hypercrystalline iron crustal material, actually resembling a soap bubble about a quarter-mile in diameter. The ultrathin material is microscopically folded (crumpled) into a shape determined by software routines.)
      One way to visualize just how dense this stuff is would be to lay out the surface area of the bubble flat on the surface of the pulsar. It would be a sheet a little more than a half-square-mile in area, like a really big piece of tinfoil. If you reconsitituted the sheet as iron at terrestrial densities and kept the footprint the same size, the thickness of the sheet would have to increase. By how much?
      Well, compressing 'normal' iron into 'hyper' iron means compressing a cube of a given size to one ten-thousandths of its original height, one ten-thousandths of its original width and one ten-thousandths of its original depth. That's ten-thousand times ten-thousand times ten-thousand (10,000 x 10,000 x 10,000), so this stuff is one trillion times denser than normal matter (I'm rounding off, of course — but it's in the ballpark).
      Let's arbitrarily make the bubble membrane that comprises Sara one-millionth of an inch thick (or, rather, thin). That's an easy calculation — one trillion divided by one million equals one million (a billion is a thousand million, a trillion is a million million). So that thin membrane is the equivalent of one million inches of normal iron, which is 83 thousand feet, or roughly 15 miles. Blasting through Sara's millionth-of-an-inch-thick 'skin' would be the equivalent of trying to penetrate 15 miles of iron.
      At that density, it's likely to be proportionately stronger, actually. Astronomers know this stuff exists as a solid on the surfaces of neutron stars because as these stars lose energy over time, they also lose mass and therefore shrink. Even though hyper iron is the strongest physical material possible, eventually it must buckle to accomodate the change in diameter of the underlying neutronium supporting structure. If it wasn't a fantastically strong solid, it would flow under those conditions, but it resists the fantastic stresses for long periods until, from time to time, a 'starquake' occurs, releasing prodigious amounts of energy and changing the rotational speed of the pulsar very slightly — which, due to the very precise nature of such a massive object's rotation, can be measured on Earth as a change in periodicity.
      The surface conditions on a neutron star are so hellish that our language lacks sufficiently powerful superlative adjectives to describe them. It's impossible to imagine the force with which infalling material impacts the surface. Magnetic currents create fantastic gouts of energy which give the pulsar its most notable characteristic, a sweeping beam of energy that can vaporize whole planets in its path and churn the shattered remnants of the exploded progenitor star into brilliant incandescense. Gas drawn from orbiting binary companions is heated to the point where the energy released is sufficient to evaporate the donor star. X-ray hotspots produce temperatures that exceed those found at the core of our sun. Yet the crust survives as a solid. The fractured landscape must be beautiful in a way no human can ever know.
      The incredibly dense and fantastically reticulated membrane that constitutes Sara has one more hitherto unexplored property. The electron fluid that interpenetrates the iron nuclei is itself tremendously concentrated, capable of controlled energy fluxes that may never be obtainable by terrestrial engineering. Think in terms of trillions (Carl Sagan was a piker). The potential power behind her lasers is simply incalculable. The force she can exert would be immeasurable. She can supply a flow of current that would dwarf earthly lightning and mankind's ingenuity.
      There's your field, Mac. Oughtta do the trick.

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© Patrick Hill, 2000