The Cold Equations

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Brian Pickrell

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Feb 10, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/10/97
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[ The story so far: In the science fiction story _The Cold Equations,_ a
young female stowaway on a spaceship has to be tossed out the airlock
because there isn't enough fuel to land with the additional mass aboard.
The author's intended message was that the laws of nature are unforgiving.
Richard Harter blames the authorities instead, for failing to take
adequate precautions against stowaways. He also blames the author, Tom
Godwin, for a blame-the-victim mentality... ]

Bernard Peek (b...@intersec.demon.co.uk) wrote:
: In article <5dlg4h$o...@news-central.tiac.net>, Richard Harter
: <c...@tiac.net> writes

: >
: >>In fact your criticism of the original story is based on additional
: >>material that you fabricated.
: >
: >You make a point of a sort. I did not make it as clear as I might
: >have what they *did* not do, steps that are obvious. I quote:

: You made it clear that you felt that these were obvious, but failed to
: demonstrate that this follows from the text. The method by which the
: girl gains access to the ship isn't discussed in any detail, and
: therefore can't sensibly be subject to


: >
: >You would be wrong. The pilot does not make a routine
: >check for stowaways and feels no remorse for not
: >having done so. No effort is made to keep stowaways
: >out except for an uninformative sign. Nothing stops the
: >young woman from just wandering on board.
: >
: >If it makes you happy I will follow the author and call her a girl.
: >Now what was not done in the story?
: >
: >There is no lock on the door.
: >The girl is not informed of the policy.
: >The sign does not say anything about stowaways.
: >The pilot does not check his vehicle before taking off.

: I don't recall this being stated.

: >
: >These are routine, obvious precautions. The threat of a stowaway
: >is serious; so serious that the pilot is issued a blaster. Yet the
: >obvious precautions are not taken. All of this is quite clear in the
: >story.

: >
: >The author wished to set up a certain situation, one in which a
: >certain moral would hold. The simple fact is that he was sloppy about
: >doing so. I sympathize with him. Writing fiction is work; setting up
: >scenarios in which all the bases are covered takes quite a bit of
: >thought.

: And the effort involved couln't really be justified because it wouldn't
: have materially affected the story, except possibly to bury it in
: padding. The author's point was that the laws of gravity can't be
: repealed. It made the point succinctly and effectively, witness the
: story is still being discussed decades later.

I have to agree with Mr. Harter here. A writer should be able to set up a
scene adequately and concisely without leaving huge logical gaps. For
instance:

'Jeepers!' said the pilot, 'how did you get on board? Entry to this
area is carefully controlled, and there are warning signs telling you that
stowing away is very dangerous.'

'Oh, I slipped past the sensors,' replied the girl. 'And I never read
warning signs. But don't worry, I'm young and beautiful and my daddy's
rich, so the rules don't apply to me.'

Okay, it still needs a little more brushing up, but you get the idea.

: > Given the economics of writing short fiction (ASF paid three
: >cents a word at the time and they were the market leader) one, of
: >necessity, grinds the stuff out.

That's three cents more than I'm getting for writing this. Maybe I won't
bother brushing it up.

: >
: >Now it is quite clear what moral the author wished to draw, wished to
: >present to us. (Although the odds are that it was Campbell's idea and
: >Godwin wrote it on order.) But if we look at the situation actually
: >presented in the story it does not support the moral; that is the
: >first point of the essay.

: I understand that to be your premise. The story, as written, does
: support the moral (not really the right word in this context, morality
: was excluded from the central premise of the story). Your revised form
: may not, but it isn't the story that Godwin wrote.

: > The second point is that the situation
: >really supports a different and much uglier moral - that of
: >bureaucratic callousness and rationalization of that callousness. The
: >third point is that this fundamental defect escapes the editor (not
: >surprising) and the SF community.

: It's obviously possible to read this into the story, you've done it. I
: wouldn't have considered the issues you raise to have been important to
: the story, and now that you've pointed them out, I still don't. Over-
: reading can torture almost any story into supporting almost any theory
: about its contents. It's pointless because the criticism becomes a work
: of fiction in its own right, owing little to the original text.

: I'm sure that had Godwin thought that the points you raised were worth
: the effort he would have thrown in an extra paragraph to deal with them.
: Personally I think the effort would have been a wasted effort.

It tells a lot about the author (and his audience) to note which points he
thought were worth covering, and which he didn't. In this case, the
underlying assumption is that rockets are dangerous machinery, that
there's no margin for error, and that everyone ought to know that. Would
_The Cold Equations_ have the same effect if it was set in a rowboat?

The reason I crossposted this article is that the same premise is in
effect today. The Space Shuttle is still vulnerable to single-point
failures; if something goes wrong, everybody gets blown up. This is a
fundamental design defect, and space travel will never be practical until
the rocket designers abandon the _Cold Equations_ mentality and decide
that exposing passengers to this kind of danger is simply not acceptable.

: There's a more serious criticism of the work. The additional mass of the
: girl would have been detected almost instantly because of its effect on
: the course of the ship. The only way she could have avoided it would
: have been to discard her own mass in other objects. Had she done that it
: would have negated the entire central premise.

: >
: >It is the final point that is most damning of SF, in my opinion. The
: >story is a fine bit of melodrama and people respond to the melodrama
: >and the authors moralizaing without thinking about what actually went
: >on in the story. That is slop. Slop is the norm in SF.

: Hard SF of this vintage, particularly at short story length, was usually
: written around one central idea. The central idea in this case is that
: there are situations when the universe won't let you win.

: When I run management training courses I often set up at least one role-
: play scenario as a lose/lose situation. To avoid any accusations of
: unfairness I use situations that really happened. The Cold Equations was
: a scenario of that type. I realise it's unpleasant to realise that in
: some situations you can't win, but the universe is like that sometimes.

--
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Brian Pickrell

Bill MacArthur

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Feb 11, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/11/97
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I can't believe that this thread has returned! It seems to me that you
have stored this on disk, stewed over it and reposted.

pma...@eskimo.com (Brian Pickrell) wrote:
>[ The story so far: In the science fiction story _The Cold Equations,_ a
>young female stowaway on a spaceship has to be tossed out the airlock
>because there isn't enough fuel to land with the additional mass aboard.
>The author's intended message was that the laws of nature are unforgiving.
>Richard Harter blames the authorities instead, for failing to take
>adequate precautions against stowaways. He also blames the author, Tom
>Godwin, for a blame-the-victim mentality... ]
>

People are not victims when they suffer the consequences of dumb ass
mistakes.


>'Jeepers!' said the pilot, 'how did you get on board? Entry to this
>area is carefully controlled, and there are warning signs telling you that
>stowing away is very dangerous.'
>
>'Oh, I slipped past the sensors,' replied the girl. 'And I never read
>warning signs. But don't worry, I'm young and beautiful and my daddy's
>rich, so the rules don't apply to me.'
>
>Okay, it still needs a little more brushing up, but you get the idea.
>

I think if you criticize the story with quotation marks you should quote
it verbatim. The story made the point that she had been warned but she
just didn't believe it. I don't remember reading anything about sensors
in stories of that era. Naval analogies were far more prevalent.

BTW do rich brats not behave in the manner you described? Or poor brats
for that manner? How many young lives are snuffed out through
misadventure such as River Phoenix's a few years ago? How many die of
alcohol/drug related deaths, car accidents, AIDS and general
misadventure? Weren't they adequately warned?


>It tells a lot about the author (and his audience) to note which points he
>thought were worth covering, and which he didn't. In this case, the
>underlying assumption is that rockets are dangerous machinery, that
>there's no margin for error, and that everyone ought to know that. Would
>_The Cold Equations_ have the same effect if it was set in a rowboat?
>

You have missed the point completely. This is a cautionary tale. The
point is that the universe is uncaring. It does want to save us or kill
us, it just is and we have to live with it. As for your rowboat story,
read some sea stories. Start with _The Cruel Sea_.


>The reason I crossposted this article is that the same premise is in
>effect today. The Space Shuttle is still vulnerable to single-point
>failures; if something goes wrong, everybody gets blown up. This is a
>fundamental design defect, and space travel will never be practical until
>the rocket designers abandon the _Cold Equations_ mentality and decide
>that exposing passengers to this kind of danger is simply not acceptable.
>

I'm glad you weren't around when Columbus was ready to sail. The Nina,
Pinta and Santa Maria would still be in dry- dock.


Edward Wright

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Feb 11, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/11/97
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In article <JMC.97Fe...@Steam.stanford.edu>, j...@Steam.stanford.edu
says...

>Aircraft are subject to single-point failures. All it takes is one
>bomb. The design of the Shuttle involved as much redundancy as could
>be afforded. Space exploration to date has proved less dangerous than
>the arctic and high mountain exploration of the previous two
>centuries.

Several astronauts, including the former head of the NASA astronaut
office, John Young, have disputed this. NASA spent over $35 billion on the
Shuttle, yet the Shuttle didn't even have a drag chute for landing, until
after the Challenger accident. It's hard to argue, with a straight face,
that it was because NASA couldn't afford one.

>Some people are braver that Pickrell evidently thinks they ought to be.

Bravery has nothing to do with it. NASA granted itself more than 800
Criticality 1 (non-redundant) safety waivers on the Space Shuttle. No
safety waivers were allowed in the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, or Skyalb
programs. That's not because the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo astronauts
were less brave.

--
The opinions expressed in this message are my own personal views
and do not reflect the official views of Microsoft Corporation.


dkn...@efn.org

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Feb 11, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/11/97
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Bill MacArthur says that the girl in "The Cold Equations" "was warned"
but didn't pay any attention. All the story tells us about this is that
there was a sign over the door, "UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL KEEP OUT!"

Damon

Scott A. Munro

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Feb 12, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/12/97
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Someone within the last few years wrote a fictional "response" to
Godwin's story called "The Cold Solutions." The solution the pilot
came up with is to hack various body parts off herself and the
stowaway and eject them, thus allowing both to live.
-----
Scott A. Munro http://www.nextdim.com/users/smunro/
Read my horror story "Immortal"
<http://tale.com/munro/imm-free.htm>
on the web at Mind's Eye Fiction <http://tale.com/>

New York Theosophical Society

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Feb 12, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/12/97
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John McCarthy (j...@Steam.stanford.edu) wrote:
: error, and that everyone ought to know that. Would _The

: Cold Equations_ have the same effect if it was set in a
: rowboat?

: Similar stories have been set in rowboats. Usually, the actions that
: lead to the sacrifice of lives can be fuzzed up a little.

A doctor, a lawyer, and an accountant were in shark-infested
waters in a rowboat. There was a shore in sight, but the rowboat was
sinking; it could not make it to shore with all three people on board.
The lawyer, seeing this, said, "You row to shore; I'll jump into the
water", and proceeded to do so. The doctor and accountant rowed the boat
to shore, and, much to their amazement, saw the lawyer swim safely to
shore, flanked by sharks on either side.

"Why didn't the sharks eat you?" asked the doctor, in surprise.

"Professional courtesy", said the lawyer.

John McCarthy

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Feb 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/13/97
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In article <5dqt3c$t...@news.microsoft.com> edwr...@microsoft.com (Edward Wright) writes:
>
> In article <JMC.97Fe...@Steam.stanford.edu>, j...@Steam.stanford.edu
> says...
>
> >Aircraft are subject to single-point failures. All it takes is one
> >bomb. The design of the Shuttle involved as much redundancy as could
> >be afforded. Space exploration to date has proved less dangerous than
> >the arctic and high mountain exploration of the previous two
> >centuries.
>
> Several astronauts, including the former head of the NASA astronaut
> office, John Young, have disputed this. NASA spent over $35 billion on the
> Shuttle, yet the Shuttle didn't even have a drag chute for landing, until
> after the Challenger accident. It's hard to argue, with a straight face,
> that it was because NASA couldn't afford one.
>
> >Some people are braver that Pickrell evidently thinks they ought to be.
>
> Bravery has nothing to do with it. NASA granted itself more than 800
> Criticality 1 (non-redundant) safety waivers on the Space Shuttle. No
> safety waivers were allowed in the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, or Skyalb
> programs. That's not because the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo astronauts
> were less brave.

Do you seriously think NASA's safety waivers put astronauts in as much
danger as 17th thru early 20th century were? Scott and his entire
expedition to the South Pole perished - to take a 20th century
example.

Do you think John Young was claiming any such thing?
--
John McCarthy, Computer Science Department, Stanford, CA 94305
http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/
He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.


Cathy Mancus

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Feb 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/13/97
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In <JMC.97Fe...@Steam.stanford.edu>, j...@Steam.stanford.edu (John McCarthy) writes:
>Scott and his entire expedition to the South Pole perished - to take
>a 20th century example.

Only because he was grossly incompetent. We've already beaten
that subject to death.

--Cathy Mancus <man...@vnet.ibm.com>

FIDO

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Feb 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/13/97
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John McCarthy writes:

Scott and his entire expedition to the South Pole perished
- to take a 20th century example.

"Entire expedition"? Come now. Five who were the final assault
party. A monument to stupidity and hubris. Talk about safety
waivers ... Shackleton and Nansen wrote the ObBooks on polar
exploration.

FIDO

Zak Cramer

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Feb 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/13/97
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>John McCarthy (j...@Steam.stanford.edu) wrote:
>: error, and that everyone ought to know that. Would _The
>: Cold Equations_ have the same effect if it was set in a
>: rowboat?

Perhaps it would. But "The Cold Equations" is interesting not only in
the point it makes about physical law being what it is whether we like

it or not, but also in that this becomes more and more an issue for us
the farther removed we are from the safe confines of our homes .......
..... those ancient Phonecians or Greeks that set out into a dark and
unknown sea were brave men, and so also will be those who will set
forth leaving this safe blue sphere of our human origins and voyage
into the vast deep. - Zak

Allen Thomson

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Feb 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/13/97
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In article <JMC.97Fe...@Steam.stanford.edu> j...@cs.Stanford.EDU writes:

[snip]

>
>Do you seriously think NASA's safety waivers put astronauts in as much

>danger as 17th thru early 20th century were? Scott and his entire


>expedition to the South Pole perished - to take a 20th century
>example.
>

>Do you think John Young was claiming any such thing?
>--
>John McCarthy, Computer Science Department, Stanford, CA 94305
>http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/
>He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Well, perhaps it would be useful to do, or at least think about,
arithmetic. If a person takes a trip on the Shuttle, that person
has about a 1% chance of dying during the trip. What was the chance
of dying during an expedition in the period you mention?

pat

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Feb 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/13/97
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In article <5dv4vo$l...@mufasa.harvard.edu>,
zcr...@warren.med.harvard.edu says...

Physical laws are what they are, but we still can alter the
scenario. Obviously the cold equations must have been written
before Apollo 13. The simple physical study of the Apollo 13
accident was of an unsurvivable event. The CM had insufficient
power to survive, and the LEM had insufficient resources for 3 men.

now godwin would have one of the three get thrown overboard.
Gene krantz decided otherwise.

any cargo ship without 100 Kg of disposable internal fittings,
is a joke. when a B-17 lost 2 engines, it was heading down.
the crew would dump everything to delay the inevitable long
enough to get over land.

Edward Wright

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Feb 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/13/97
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> > Bravery has nothing to do with it. NASA granted itself more than 800

> > Criticality 1 (non-redundant) safety waivers on the Space Shuttle. No
> > safety waivers were allowed in the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, or Skyalb
> > programs. That's not because the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo astronauts
> > were less brave.

>Do you seriously think NASA's safety waivers put astronauts in as much


>danger as 17th thru early 20th century were? Scott and his entire
>expedition to the South Pole perished - to take a 20th century
>example.

That is irrelevent. Polar explorers -- the good ones, anyway -- did as much
careful planning as possible before the set out. Failure to do that is not
bravery, it's stupidity. Safety standards for space vehicles should be based
on how safe we can make them, at reasonable expense, with current
technology, not on what was acceptable to 17th Century explorers.

Besides, Shuttle astronauts are not explorers. Their mission is to boldy go
where Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab have gone before. They are not
Charles Lindbergh. More like the people who crossed the Atlantic 30 years
after Lindbergh. But no one who crossed the Atlantic in the 1950s faced a
1/100 chance of death.

Steve Dirickson

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Feb 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/13/97
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p...@clark.net (pat) wrote:

>any cargo ship without 100 Kg of disposable internal fittings,
>is a joke. when a B-17 lost 2 engines, it was heading down.
>the crew would dump everything to delay the inevitable long
>enough to get over land.

I don't intend to pick on this specific posting; this theme of "was it
*really really* necessary to space the stowaway?" has come up over and
over again in this thread (and the multitude that preceded it).

Aren't we kind of missing the point? This is a *story*, people! It is
not a drill scanario for space cadets, and it's not some type of
historical account being presented as a lesson--it's a tale, made up
by the author, and the events are simply not negotiable; this is the
way the author wrote it, and this is the way it is. If the story had
ended with
1) A brilliant solution that allowed both pilot and stowaway to
survive unscathed
2) The previously-mentioned "Cold Solutions" resolution of both
surviving, but less than intact
3) Both surviving, but at the cost of dumping the cargo
(critically-needed medical supplies as I recall, though it's been a
while)
4) Something else

then it wouldn't be the same story. It might be thoroughly enjoyable,
hailed as a masterpiece, or it might be a quickly-forgotten bit of
fluff, but it would not be *this* story, and this story is what the
author wrote.

Steve Dirickson WestWin Consulting
(360) 598-6111 sdir...@kpt.nuwc.navy.mil

Todd D. Ellner

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Feb 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/13/97
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In article <5e04fa$t...@news.microsoft.com>,::Do you seriously think NASA's safety waivers put astronauts in as much

::danger as 17th thru early 20th century were? Scott and his entire
::expedition to the South Pole perished - to take a 20th century
::example.
>That is irrelevent. Polar explorers -- the good ones, anyway -- did as much
>careful planning as possible before the set out. Failure to do that is not
>bravery, it's stupidity.

It is a pity that Scott was one of the stupid ones. It is even more of
a shame that history lionized him while villifying the real heroes like
Amundsen and Shackleton(sp?).

Todd
--
Todd Ellner | The man who never alters his opinion is like the
tel...@cs.pdx.edu | stagnant water and breeds Reptiles of the mind.
(503)557-1572 | --William Blake "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"

dkn...@efn.org

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Feb 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/13/97
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John McCarthy wrote:
> The premise of _The Cold Equations_ was that all possible weight had
> been removed in order that the ship had a chance of bring the needed
> vaccine. There were no phone books.
>
> I can understand that people don't want a story to be based on that
> premise. I feel similarly about Anna Karenina. Tolstoy should have
> written the story so that Anna got psychiatric help in time.

"The Cold Equations," as many people have pointed out, is a cheesy story
because the text does not support its premises. If you add up the mass
of various superfluous things mentioned in the course of the story, it's
easy to show that the girl need not have been jettisoned. I won't give
the whole list here, but start with the pilot's weapon, the rulebook,
and the closet (stowaways, concealment of, Mark VI). :)

Damon

John McCarthy

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Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

In article <5dvbkl$l...@clarknet.clark.net> p...@clark.net (pat) writes:
>
> In article <5dv4vo$l...@mufasa.harvard.edu>,
> zcr...@warren.med.harvard.edu says...
> >
> >
> >
> >>John McCarthy (j...@Steam.stanford.edu) wrote:
> >>: error, and that everyone ought to know that. Would _The
> >>: Cold Equations_ have the same effect if it was set in a
> >>: rowboat?
> >
> >Perhaps it would. But "The Cold Equations" is interesting not only in
> >the point it makes about physical law being what it is whether we like
> >
> >it or not, but also in that this becomes more and more an issue for us
> >the farther removed we are from the safe confines of our homes .......
> >..... those ancient Phonecians or Greeks that set out into a dark and
> >unknown sea were brave men, and so also will be those who will set
> >forth leaving this safe blue sphere of our human origins and voyage
> >into the vast deep. - Zak
> >
> >
> >
>
> Physical laws are what they are, but we still can alter the
> scenario. Obviously the cold equations must have been written
> before Apollo 13. The simple physical study of the Apollo 13
> accident was of an unsurvivable event. The CM had insufficient
> power to survive, and the LEM had insufficient resources for 3 men.
>
> now godwin would have one of the three get thrown overboard.
> Gene krantz decided otherwise.
>
> any cargo ship without 100 Kg of disposable internal fittings,
> is a joke. when a B-17 lost 2 engines, it was heading down.
> the crew would dump everything to delay the inevitable long
> enough to get over land.
>

The premise of _The Cold Equations_ was that all possible weight had


been removed in order that the ship had a chance of bring the needed
vaccine. There were no phone books.

I can understand that people don't want a story to be based on that
premise. I feel similarly about Anna Karenina. Tolstoy should have
written the story so that Anna got psychiatric help in time.

Zak Cramer

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Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

p...@clark.net (pat) wrote:
>Physical laws are what they are, but we still can alter the
>scenario.

Not always - or, at least, not yet.

The entry in The Encyclopedia of SF isn't full of details
(and I can't remember it very well) but I believe T. Godwin
died of some horrible disease ....

If we could ALWAYS alter the scenario, then no one on Earth would
be hungry, no one would die, and I wouldn't have to go to work every
day and waste my life on vacuous activities like reading usenet.

Still, though, I take your point - we should be optimists until we are

dead. It's not over till it's over.

- Zak

pat

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Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to
>In article <5dvbkl$l...@clarknet.clark.net> p...@clark.net (pat) writes:
> >
> > In article <5dv4vo$l...@mufasa.harvard.edu>,
> > zcr...@warren.med.harvard.edu says...
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >>John McCarthy (j...@Steam.stanford.edu) wrote:
> > >>: error, and that everyone ought to know that. Would _The
> > >>: Cold Equations_ have the same effect if it was set in a
> > >>: rowboat?
> > >
> > >Perhaps it would. But "The Cold Equations" is interesting not only
in
> > >the point it makes about physical law being what it is whether we
like
> > >
> > >it or not, but also in that this becomes more and more an issue for
us
> > >the farther removed we are from the safe confines of our homes
.......
> > >..... those ancient Phonecians or Greeks that set out into a dark
and
> > >unknown sea were brave men, and so also will be those who will set
> > >forth leaving this safe blue sphere of our human origins and voyage
> > >into the vast deep. - Zak
> > >
> > >
> > >
> >
> > Physical laws are what they are, but we still can alter the
> > scenario. Obviously the cold equations must have been written
> > before Apollo 13. The simple physical study of the Apollo 13
> > accident was of an unsurvivable event. The CM had insufficient
> > power to survive, and the LEM had insufficient resources for 3 men.
> >
> > now godwin would have one of the three get thrown overboard.
> > Gene krantz decided otherwise.
> >
> > any cargo ship without 100 Kg of disposable internal fittings,
> > is a joke. when a B-17 lost 2 engines, it was heading down.
> > the crew would dump everything to delay the inevitable long
> > enough to get over land.
> >
>
>The premise of _The Cold Equations_ was that all possible weight had
>been removed in order that the ship had a chance of bring the needed
>vaccine. There were no phone books.
>
>I can understand that people don't want a story to be based on that
>premise. I feel similarly about Anna Karenina. Tolstoy should have
>written the story so that Anna got psychiatric help in time.
>--
>John McCarthy, Computer Science Department, Stanford, CA 94305
>http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/
>He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.
>


All possible weight? Gee that must mean Landing loads onthe
vehicle are far greater then takeoff loads.

One takes a saw or a torch and starts cutting away now un-needed
structure. That blaster is of course a good starting point.

Now limited life support is a much stronger case. X O2 on board,
the vehicle leaks at a certain rate, one consumes at a certain
rate. Now one can modify this by reducing O2 pressure, sealing off
areas, etc....

The basic nihilism of many SF writers is troubling to me.

pat

pat

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Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

In article <5e1ob0$r...@mufasa.harvard.edu>,
zcr...@warren.med.harvard.edu says...

>
>p...@clark.net (pat) wrote:
>>Physical laws are what they are, but we still can alter the
>>scenario.
>
>Not always - or, at least, not yet.
>
>The entry in The Encyclopedia of SF isn't full of details
>(and I can't remember it very well) but I believe T. Godwin
>died of some horrible disease ....
>
>If we could ALWAYS alter the scenario, then no one on Earth would
>be hungry, no one would die, and I wouldn't have to go to work every
>day and waste my life on vacuous activities like reading usenet.
>
>Still, though, I take your point - we should be optimists until we are
>
>dead. It's not over till it's over.
>
> - Zak
>
>

I would point out professional pilots never panic during an
in-flight emergency. the Cockpit Voice Recorder tapes 99%
of the time show them deliberately trying procedures and
analyzing the problem until about a second before impact.

They usually keep working the controls until final impact.

Quitting is for losers.

pat


Cathy Mancus

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Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

>j...@Steam.stanford.edu says...


>>The premise of _The Cold Equations_ was that all possible weight had
>>been removed in order that the ship had a chance of bring the needed
>>vaccine.

In <5e239l$7...@clarknet.clark.net>, p...@clark.net (pat) writes:
>All possible weight? Gee that must mean Landing loads onthe
>vehicle are far greater then takeoff loads.

The vehicle in the story was a small craft "launched" in zero-gee
from a mother ship. It never handled takeoff loads.

Of course, this begs the question of whether you really want
to be routinely flying vehicles with so little margins.....

--Cathy Mancus <man...@vnet.ibm.com>

gram

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Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

pat (p...@clark.net) wrote:
:
: any cargo ship without 100 Kg of disposable internal fittings,

: is a joke. when a B-17 lost 2 engines, it was heading down.
: the crew would dump everything to delay the inevitable long
: enough to get over land.
:
A B-17 that lost two engines was was _designed_ to have a lot of
capacity for material that could be jettisoned, and the means to
dump it quickly and easily. The B stands for Bomber.

Ward Griffiths

Gregg Germain

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Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

Cathy Mancus (JHOLL4@) wrote:

: In <5e239l$7...@clarknet.clark.net>, p...@clark.net (pat) writes:
: >All possible weight? Gee that must mean Landing loads onthe
: >vehicle are far greater then takeoff loads.

: The vehicle in the story was a small craft "launched" in zero-gee
: from a mother ship. It never handled takeoff loads.

Um all it means to be launched in Zero G is that the loading
on the articles inside it was 1 G less than if it were launched from
earth.

I don't know what acceleration the ship had to get away from the
mother ship but THOSE are launch loads and therefore the articles
inside did handle a "takeoff" load.


--- Gregg
Saville
gger...@cfa.harvard.edu #29 Genie
Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics #1762 CRIS
Phone: (617) 496-7713 "A Mig at your six is better than
no Mig at all."

Cathy Mancus

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Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

In <3304b...@cfanews.harvard.edu>, gr...@ncc1701a.harvard.edu (Gregg Germain) writes:

>Cathy Mancus (JHOLL4@) wrote:
>> The vehicle in the story was a small craft "launched" in zero-gee
>> from a mother ship. It never handled takeoff loads.

> Um all it means to be launched in Zero G is that the loading
>on the articles inside it was 1 G less than if it were launched from

>Earth.

> I don't know what acceleration the ship had to get away from the
>mother ship but THOSE are launch loads and therefore the articles
>inside did handle a "takeoff" load.

Sorry, that's oversimplified. There is a reason that launchers
don't accelerate at 1.5 g from Earth; you would waste too much fuel
while deep in the gravity well. It is much more efficient to
accelerate rapidly. The ship that pulled away from the mother
ship could have used very low gee thrust, although I don't remember
the actual amount from the story.

Also, a launch from Earth requires supports that can handle
the loaded weight, extra fuel to handle the aerodynamic drag, etc,
etc. Compare the LM with the Saturn V and you'll see what I mean.

--Cathy Mancus <man...@vnet.ibm.com>

John Schilling

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Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

p...@clark.net (pat) writes:


>Physical laws are what they are, but we still can alter the

>scenario. Obviously the cold equations must have been written
>before Apollo 13. The simple physical study of the Apollo 13
>accident was of an unsurvivable event. The CM had insufficient
>power to survive, and the LEM had insufficient resources for 3 men.


And a "simple physical study" shows this?

Bull.

The physics governing human oxygen consumption are far from simple,
and indeed are not particularly amenable to analytical solution.
The rocket equation predicts with as much precision as you care
to ask for, how much propellant will be reqiuired to complete a
particular trip. There is no such equation for oxygen consumption;
certainly nothing along the order of "X men in Y hours consume Z
kilograms of oxygen".

There are statistical approximations. "X men in Y hours will with
99.99% confidence consume between Z1 and Z2 kilograms of oxygen".

And these approximations, applied to the circumstances of the Apollo
13 spacecraft and crew, resulted in a simple, physical *uncertainty*
regarding the survivability of the event. There were insufficient
resources to *guarantee* the survival of three men, but there is
a very large grey area between guaranteed survival and guaranteed
death by asphyxiation.


Apollo 13 was very much like the classic "lifeboat" story, and thus
a nearly absolute opposite of the scenario in _The Cold Equations_.
The former are characterized by a fundamental *un*certainty regarding
the outcome of various strategies, the latter by an absolute certainty.

Which is why Godwin chose propellant, rather than oxygen, as the
limiting factor.


>any cargo ship without 100 Kg of disposable internal fittings,
>is a joke.


Fine. List for me the 100kg of disposable internal fittings in
a Cessna Skywagon modified for range and cargo. The kind of
"cargo ship" which, in the real world, might be used for, say,
carrying medical supplies to a remote outpost. Your local
general-aviation airport can probably set you up with an owner's
manual that itemizes the weight of every component, so it shouldn't
be too difficult a task.

And yes, there is at least one place in such an aircraft where a
stowaway could hide, even through a standard preflight inspection.

--
*John Schilling * "You can have Peace, *
*Member:AIAA,NRA,ACLU,SAS,LP * or you can have Freedom. *
*University of Southern California * Don't ever count on having both *
*Aerospace Engineering Department * at the same time." *
*schi...@spock.usc.edu * - Robert A. Heinlein *
*(213)-740-5311 or 747-2527 * Finger for PGP public key *

David M. Palmer

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Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

p...@clark.net (pat) writes:
[trimming, and thereby losing all but the top level attribution]

>> > >the point it makes about physical law being what it is whether we like
>> > >it or not...

>> > Physical laws are what they are, but we still can alter the
>> > scenario. ...

>> > any cargo ship without 100 Kg of disposable internal fittings,
>> > is a joke....

>>
>>The premise of _The Cold Equations_ was that all possible weight had
>>been removed in order that the ship had a chance of bring the needed
>>vaccine. There were no phone books.

>All possible weight? Gee that must mean Landing loads onthe


>vehicle are far greater then takeoff loads.

Yes they were. The ship in question was a small ship launched
from a larger ship. It couldn't lift off from a planet under
its own power, so there's no reason to make it strong enough to.

>The basic nihilism of many SF writers is troubling to me.

Actually, the story was written in response to the prevailing Sci-Fi
style of the time, where against impossible odds, the hero pulls
out a miraculous save, sometimes using super-science*. The whole
point of the story is that, _sometimes_, you can't. One unhappy
ending out of thousands of stories should be troubling only because
of its rarity.

*After the villian had encased the three orphans and me in solid rock,
eight miles below the surface, with only three minutes worth of air,
things looked pretty grim. But I noticed that the cavity we were in
intersected a vein of spuzzumite which, as you know, breaks down in the
presence of electricity. I grabbed a comb and ran it through the
tousled mops of the three youngsters, and soon had enough static charge
to clear the way to safety.
--
David M. Palmer
dmpa...@clark.net
http://www.clark.net/pub/dmpalmer/

Robert Sneddon (SEE .SIG TO REPLY)

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Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

In article <5e0c93$a...@sirius.cs.pdx.edu>

tel...@cs.pdx.edu "Todd D. Ellner" writes:

>
> It is a pity that Scott was one of the stupid ones. It is even more of
> a shame that history lionized him while villifying the real heroes like
> Amundsen and Shackleton(sp?).
>

And the unsung heroes, like Dr. Ray, from the Orkneys, who mapped and
surveyed massive tracts of Canada over a ten year period for the Hudson
Bay Company, and only lost one man, an Esquimaux who drowned. He
wasn't a self-publicist, or articulate, or titled, just a working stiff.
His big mistake that cost him dear was to bring back evidence of the fate
of an "expedition" lead by a titled idiot who died to the last man -
telling of "civilised" people and the cannibalism that was their last
desperate act before their extinction. He was vilified as a credulous
fool, who would take the word of a native, a savage, about their hero's
fate (the "savage" had traded valuable meat for useless (but identifiable)
trinkets to the lost expedition, and tried to give them directions,
which they ignored).

Going into the Unknown can kill you. Space travel is no different
from Polar or naval travel used to be, before powerful steel-hulled
ships, helicopters, satellite navigation systems etc were introduced.
It is dangerous, and AFAIK still totally a volunteer occupation.
The risks are minimised, and they can be reduced further as
knowledge is gained, but as this happens, the Unknown is rolled back.
This always seems to expose more Unknown...

--
*** SPAM BLOCKED ADDRESS *** To reply, remove the string "_nospam_" from
the address above. If you don't, mail will bounce and I'll never see it.
This is done to prevent spammers from junk-emailing me.
Robert (nojay) Sneddon


pat

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Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

In article <5e31ir$9...@spock.usc.edu>, schi...@spock.usc.edu says...

>
>p...@clark.net (pat) writes:
>
>
>>Physical laws are what they are, but we still can alter the
>>scenario. Obviously the cold equations must have been written
>>before Apollo 13. The simple physical study of the Apollo 13
>>accident was of an unsurvivable event. The CM had insufficient
>>power to survive, and the LEM had insufficient resources for 3 men.
>
>
>And a "simple physical study" shows this?

sure. The LEM was designed to support 2 men for 48 hours,
not 3 men for 96. Power, water, Co2 absorption were all
insufficient.

If you went by the book, ensign savik.



>
>Bull.
>
>The physics governing human oxygen consumption are far from simple,
>and indeed are not particularly amenable to analytical solution.
>The rocket equation predicts with as much precision as you care
>to ask for, how much propellant will be reqiuired to complete a
>particular trip. There is no such equation for oxygen consumption;
>certainly nothing along the order of "X men in Y hours consume Z
>kilograms of oxygen".
>
>There are statistical approximations. "X men in Y hours will with
>99.99% confidence consume between Z1 and Z2 kilograms of oxygen".
>
>And these approximations, applied to the circumstances of the Apollo
>13 spacecraft and crew, resulted in a simple, physical *uncertainty*
>regarding the survivability of the event. There were insufficient
>resources to *guarantee* the survival of three men, but there is
>a very large grey area between guaranteed survival and guaranteed
>death by asphyxiation.
>
>
>Apollo 13 was very much like the classic "lifeboat" story, and thus
>a nearly absolute opposite of the scenario in _The Cold Equations_.
>The former are characterized by a fundamental *un*certainty regarding
>the outcome of various strategies, the latter by an absolute certainty.
>
>Which is why Godwin chose propellant, rather than oxygen, as the
>limiting factor.

and even propellant while governed by the rocket equation assumes a
certain fixed mass.

>
>
>>any cargo ship without 100 Kg of disposable internal fittings,

>>is a joke.
>
>
>Fine. List for me the 100kg of disposable internal fittings in
>a Cessna Skywagon modified for range and cargo. The kind of
>"cargo ship" which, in the real world, might be used for, say,
>carrying medical supplies to a remote outpost. Your local
>general-aviation airport can probably set you up with an owner's
>manual that itemizes the weight of every component, so it shouldn't
>be too difficult a task.
>
>And yes, there is at least one place in such an aircraft where a
>stowaway could hide, even through a standard preflight inspection.

Ah, he get's chicken, Internal fittings. Real men will not be limited
to this.

Start with.

1) Seats.
2) Co-pilot controls (Pedals, rudders, yoke, linkages.)
3) Radio Nav stack and com radio stack.
4) all manuals, logbooks, food,water.
5) Fire extinguisher
6) O2 bottles.
7) engine instrumentation.
8) flight instruments except ASI,ALtimeter, climb rate gauge,compass.
9) carpeting
10) garments.

-------

now if you are a real macho stud, and not some whining, crying,
quitter, you get out on the wing and take off the
flaps, drives and linkages. Speed brakes if they are existent.
if that's not enough drop the wheels and landing gear struts.

That is assuming you are macho enough.

the goal is to get the cargo there, the aircraft is disposable.
a belly landing maybe ugly, but it is an acceptable option,

If you are up to the challenge.

------------------


Of course it's far easier to sit there reading magazines and whining
about how hard life is in a university then actually doing the hard
things.

pat

pat

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Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

In article <5e3cct$l...@clark.net>, dmpa...@clark.net says...

>
>p...@clark.net (pat) writes:
>[trimming, and thereby losing all but the top level attribution]
>>> > >the point it makes about physical law being what it is whether we
like
>>> > >it or not...
>>> > Physical laws are what they are, but we still can alter the
>>> > scenario. ...

>>> > any cargo ship without 100 Kg of disposable internal fittings,
>>> > is a joke....
>>>
>>>The premise of _The Cold Equations_ was that all possible weight had
>>>been removed in order that the ship had a chance of bring the needed
>>>vaccine. There were no phone books.
>
>>All possible weight? Gee that must mean Landing loads onthe
>>vehicle are far greater then takeoff loads.
>
>Yes they were. The ship in question was a small ship launched
>from a larger ship. It couldn't lift off from a planet under
>its own power, so there's no reason to make it strong enough to.
>

Typical Narrow-minded, failure seeking Aero-space engineer.
Okay, so this is a shuttle, What does it do once it makes
planetary landfall, turn into a gazebo?

when it gasses up, loads cargo and leaves the planet, it faces
a much larger takeoff load.

And in this case, the vehicle is landing, so it's burning fuel
and losing weight and stress during the landing.

I know most aero folks sort of prefer failure, but this is
ridiculous.

>>The basic nihilism of many SF writers is troubling to me.
>
>Actually, the story was written in response to the prevailing Sci-Fi
>style of the time, where against impossible odds, the hero pulls
>out a miraculous save, sometimes using super-science*. The whole
>point of the story is that, _sometimes_, you can't. One unhappy
>ending out of thousands of stories should be troubling only because
>of its rarity.
>

Most of human endeavour is survival against the odds.

>*After the villian had encased the three orphans and me in solid rock,
>eight miles below the surface, with only three minutes worth of air,
>things looked pretty grim. But I noticed that the cavity we were in
>intersected a vein of spuzzumite which, as you know, breaks down in the
>presence of electricity. I grabbed a comb and ran it through the
>tousled mops of the three youngsters, and soon had enough static charge
>to clear the way to safety.

Hey if you like kids reading, fine. I'll stick to the more serious
stuff.

David Anderman

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Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

In article someone says...

>>>The basic nihilism of many SF writers is troubling to me.


What is more troubling to me is that we are a lot more interested in SF and
what to call Star Trek fans than getting out into the Real World to open the
space frontier.

How about a discussion on:

What are the real policy issues that confront space entrepreneurs today;

and

what can *we* do to resolve those issues?


Otherwise, we'll not only still be discussing SF and Star Trek on this board
in 30 years, but we'll be arguing about whose fault it was that the space
frontier was never opened.

DAvid Anderman

Jim Kingdon

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Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

> What are the real policy issues that confront space entrepreneurs today;

Well, depends on the entrepreneurs, but I'd probably say that the
biggest issues confronting entrepreneurs are not government policy at
all, but just the usual difficulties in starting a business. As
nearly as I can tell, LunaCorp and Casey Aerospace are going to
succeed or fail based on whether they can get their act together, not
based on anything external to those companies themselves.

> Otherwise, we'll not only still be discussing SF and Star Trek on this board
> in 30 years, but we'll be arguing about whose fault it was that the space
> frontier was never opened.

Oh we do that already :-).

-Mammel,L.H.

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Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

In article <5dvbkl$l...@clarknet.clark.net>, pat <p...@clark.net> wrote:

>Physical laws are what they are, but we still can alter the

>scenario. Obviously the cold equations must have been written
>before Apollo 13. The simple physical study of the Apollo 13
>accident was of an unsurvivable event. The CM had insufficient
>power to survive, and the LEM had insufficient resources for 3 men.

I actually remember this issue coming up during the coverage
of the events. All the news people were in a tizzy over the
amount of oxygen. A news conference was held and the spokesman
started intoning their plans etc., when the press erupted
from the floor, "WHAT ABOUT OXYGEN? DO THEY HAVE ENOUGH
OXYGEN?" Yes, they did. "HOW COULD THEY?" The amount in
the lunar module included allowance for two purges of the
cabin during their lunar excursions. "OHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

Also, FYI, sometime before Apollo 11, LEM was dropped in favor
of LM ( Lunar Excursion Module -> Lunar Module ) but
it continued to be referred to orally as the "Lem", and
LEM survives by virtue of its lexicographical utility in
crossword puzzles.

Lew Mammel, Jr.

Bill MacArthur

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Feb 16, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/16/97
to

p...@clark.net (pat) wrote:
>In article <5e31ir$9...@spock.usc.edu>, schi...@spock.usc.edu says...

>>Fine. List for me the 100kg of disposable internal fittings in


>>a Cessna Skywagon modified for range and cargo. The kind of
>>"cargo ship" which, in the real world, might be used for, say,
>>carrying medical supplies to a remote outpost. Your local
>>general-aviation airport can probably set you up with an owner's
>>manual that itemizes the weight of every component, so it shouldn't
>>be too difficult a task.
>>
>>And yes, there is at least one place in such an aircraft where a
>>stowaway could hide, even through a standard preflight inspection.
>
>Ah, he get's chicken, Internal fittings. Real men will not be limited
>to this.
>
>Start with.
>
>1) Seats.
>2) Co-pilot controls (Pedals, rudders, yoke, linkages.)
>3) Radio Nav stack and com radio stack.
>4) all manuals, logbooks, food,water.
>5) Fire extinguisher
>6) O2 bottles.
>7) engine instrumentation.
>8) flight instruments except ASI,ALtimeter, climb rate gauge,compass.
>9) carpeting
>10) garments.
>

I presume that you are talking about a Cessna 180 and not the finely CE
ship. You have built some assumptions in here:

1) You have the tools to remove the seats.
2) You have the tools to remove the co-pilot controls and not mess
anything up.
4) Manuals etc. would weigh but a few pounds unless you have some long
term provisions.
5) Fire extinguisher- OK.
6) O2- OK.
7) Tools to remove engine instrumentation.
8) " " " flight ".
9) " " " carpeting.
10) OK but the big question is Who flies the airplane while you tear it
apart?

If you had the tools to rip out all this stuff, you would probably save
more weight throwing the tools overboard.


le...@netcom.com

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Feb 16, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/16/97
to

In article <5e3duh$l...@clarknet.clark.net>,

p...@clark.net (pat) wrote:
>
> In article <5e31ir$9...@spock.usc.edu>, schi...@spock.usc.edu says...
> >
> >p...@clark.net (pat) writes:
> >
> >
> >>Physical laws are what they are, but we still can alter the
> >>scenario. Obviously the cold equations must have been written
> >>before Apollo 13. The simple physical study of the Apollo 13
> >>accident was of an unsurvivable event. The CM had insufficient
> >>power to survive, and the LEM had insufficient resources for 3 men.
> >
> >


Not quite sure what you mean by this. The idea behind the rocket
equation is that fuel is burned, the total mass of the vehicle goes down,
that changes the amount of fuel you need to burn, etc. Mass of
propellant is not a constant.

The other thing is, it can be exactly calculated. There aren't any of
the uncertainties associated with something like oxygen consumption.
Thus, the characters in TCE know just how far they can run with the
girl's added mass on board.

>

> >
> >
> >>any cargo ship without 100 Kg of disposable internal fittings,
> >>is a joke.
> >
> >

If these fittings are disposable, then why are they even there in the
first place? Especially when extra mass means burning more fuel, which
means burning more money. Anyway 1) how do you tear them out and 2) if
they're not truly superfluous, (for instance, something like backups),
are you sure you want to fly without them?

> >Fine. List for me the 100kg of disposable internal fittings in
> >a Cessna Skywagon modified for range and cargo. The kind of
> >"cargo ship" which, in the real world, might be used for, say,
> >carrying medical supplies to a remote outpost. Your local
> >general-aviation airport can probably set you up with an owner's
> >manual that itemizes the weight of every component, so it shouldn't
> >be too difficult a task.
> >
> >And yes, there is at least one place in such an aircraft where a
> >stowaway could hide, even through a standard preflight inspection.
>
> Ah, he get's chicken, Internal fittings. Real men will not be limited
> to this.
>
> Start with.
>
> 1) Seats.
> 2) Co-pilot controls (Pedals, rudders, yoke, linkages.)
> 3) Radio Nav stack and com radio stack.
> 4) all manuals, logbooks, food,water.
> 5) Fire extinguisher
> 6) O2 bottles.
> 7) engine instrumentation.
> 8) flight instruments except ASI,ALtimeter, climb rate gauge,compass.
> 9) carpeting
> 10) garments.
>

> -------

Again, how do you tear all this stuff out? Also remember that you're
running against a time limit.

>
> now if you are a real macho stud, and not some whining, crying,
> quitter, you get out on the wing and take off the
> flaps, drives and linkages. Speed brakes if they are existent.
> if that's not enough drop the wheels and landing gear struts.
>
> That is assuming you are macho enough.
>
> the goal is to get the cargo there, the aircraft is disposable.
> a belly landing maybe ugly, but it is an acceptable option,
>
> If you are up to the challenge.
>

And belly landings are a good way to die.

Why even bother tearing all of this stuff out? Why not just stuff that
girl out the airlock? Isn't it a little foolish to risk the lives of the
pilot and all those miners by gutting his ship just to save the life of
one human being?

Anyway, what's macho go to do with it? Machismo or whatever is a poor
substitute for courage; for instance, if the girl had said, "Well, you
could gut this ship, trashing backup instrumentation and cutting away
pieces of the hull, drastically reducing the chances of either of us
making it and in the process dooming those poor miners, or I can walk out
that airlock. I think I'll walk out that airlock."

Now that's a lot more admirable than machismo.


> ------------------
>
> Of course it's far easier to sit there reading magazines and whining
> about how hard life is in a university then actually doing the hard
> things.
>
> pat

-------------------==== Posted via Deja News ====-----------------------
http://www.dejanews.com/ Search, Read, Post to Usenet

pat

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Feb 16, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/16/97
to

In article <E5o61...@news.uwindsor.ca>, bil...@uwindsor.ca says...

>
>p...@clark.net (pat) wrote:
>>In article <5e31ir$9...@spock.usc.edu>, schi...@spock.usc.edu says...
>
>>>Fine. List for me the 100kg of disposable internal fittings in
>>>a Cessna Skywagon modified for range and cargo. The kind of
>>>"cargo ship" which, in the real world, might be used for, say,
>>>carrying medical supplies to a remote outpost. Your local
>&g