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,
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
© Patrick Hill, 2000