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Kaman Smith
Posted on Saturday, January 27, 2007 - 01:20 pm:   

I am writing a story that takes place primarily on a spaceship. A design element of the ship which plays a notable role in my story is that the hull is made of an organic-type material. The natural state of the material is transparent, and thus, the hull is also transparent. It can be made to be opaque simply by running a current through it, which is normally used.

The purpose of using this exotic material is mainly for its radiation repelling properties. In my story, the hull starts to break down and disintegrate, leading to the proverbial crash landing. Earlier in the story the ship goes thru a small collection of a couple dozen micro-meteorites, but doesn't disable the ship much. My current theory in the book is that a rare element in the micro-meteorites reacted with the organic hull, and caused a sort of "cancer". But this doesn't seem to be working

Is this design element too hokey or unbelievable?

This part of the story (transparent hull) seems to be lacking credibility, but I would like to keep it as it works with other parts of the plot.

Any thoughts on how this might work or how to make it more credible?
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Sean Melican
Posted on Saturday, January 27, 2007 - 03:54 pm:   

Assuming when you say organic you mean alive in some sense of the word, not merely carbon-based, then a rare, heavy metal could cause toxicity.
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Kaman Smith
Posted on Thursday, February 01, 2007 - 12:15 pm:   

Sean's idea was very helpful for me breaking through my writers block. Thanks, Sean. It steered me into the right direction for research. BTW, it dawned on me that meteorites are meteors that land on earth. No such thing as meteorites in deep space. Anyway, here is snippet of what I came up with. I think it strikes a nice balance between being technical/credible yet understandable to the reader, without slowing the story down. What do you all think?

**Earlier in the story, the ship ran into a handful of marble sized meteors, with no major damage. Heather is the andriod watching things during the crew's stasis. She just woke up the captain, Lex, still groggy from the effects of the rapid emergence from the stasis chamber.**

***************

"No," replied Heather. "It has only been three months into the sleep cycle. I am having trouble with the life support systems." Lex stumbled to the cockpit and surveyed the panels.

"The hull is deteriorating. This can't be. How could this happen?" asked Lex.

"The composition of the micro meteors started the chain reaction. An unstable allotrope of the heavy metal thorium reacted with the organic material."

"Allotrope?"

"An allotrope is an alternate structure of atoms in an element. For instance, diamonds and graphite are allotropes of carbon."

"I see. Continue."

"This unknown thorium allotrope caused the organic material to turn on itself, like a fast-acting cancer." Heather answered dryly. "The rate of disintegration has increased exponentially. The repair units cannot keep up. I estimate the ship will lose life support within a few days."

***************
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Lars Thorsen
Posted on Thursday, February 01, 2007 - 04:06 pm:   

The more well-read you are in the sciences, the more credible your story will sound. If drama is the main thrust of the story, then the science can take a backseat as most readers will be in a state of 'suspension of disbelief' anyway. Part of the art of writing may be in correctly anticipating who is the audience, and what is their level of sophistication. Beyond that I'm in the dark as much as anybody.
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M Knoper
Posted on Friday, February 02, 2007 - 04:10 am:   

Meteorites - found on Earth
Meteors - falling through atmosphere
Meteoroids - found in space
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Lars Thorsen
Posted on Saturday, February 03, 2007 - 10:50 pm:   

Hi M_Knoper,

For more depth on what's out there in outer space that might be realistically impinging your organic hull; check out the Astrophysical Journal,

http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/ApJ/

it's a bit of a slog, but the articles 'abstracts'
give a lowdown on the gist.

2002,Jan pg75-98
The Organic Refractory Material in the Diffuse Interstellar Medium: Mid Infrared Spectroscopic Constraints
This one may speak to you most directly.


It takes a bit of scrolling to find it amongst all the papers, but it's interesting stuff. (some of it)


The one from 2003, march 10, pg 921-929
by Baumgarte & Shapiro
General Relativistic Magnetohydrodynamics for the General Construction of Dynamical Spacetimes
is a hoot just in its own right !
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Lars Thorsen
Posted on Monday, February 05, 2007 - 08:43 am:   

This article might be more useful on second thought.

Link on solar system material from the new theory of solar evolution and modeling; which posits our sun was a nova and the solar system formed from that explosion, not by condensation when the sun condensed concurrently. Comet dust adds evidence to this new idea.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061215091106.htm

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