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tech manual: the ship's propulsion

 
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theonetruebix



Joined: 26 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 1:41 am    Post subject: tech manual: the ship's propulsion Reply with quote

FYI, regarding the Tech Manual question and answer on Serenity's propulsion, etc. There's also a rather alarmingy-detailed spec from Emile Edwin Smith, Visual Effects Supervisor at Zoic Studios.

Quote:
The, “Serenity” is a Firefly Class interplanetary ship. Originally conceived and built as a medium range cargo ship.

Dimensions and Weights:

She is comparable to that of Boeing 747. She is 63 meters long, 40 meters wide and 18 meters tall. Her gross empty weight is 575,000 lbs and her maximum takeoff weight is 945,000 lbs.

Performance and Powerplants:

Primarily powered by 2 wing mounted Smith & Davis SD-2595 (95,000 lb) turbofan and solar induction engines, she can achieve a maximum airspeed of mach 2 (1484 mph) at 1000 Meters EBSL (Earth Based Sea Level,) and mach 30 (22270 mph) at 100,000 Meters (62 miles) EBSL. During the transitional phase from atmospheric to orbital flight the fan blades rotate to collect photons emitted by a solar source to feed the engines keeping the relative thrust ratio comparable to it's atmospheric rating.

The “Firefly” engine, a Smith & Davis SD-4631 photon reaction drive, was developed on the same principles that drive fusion in a star, (4 1H + 2 e --> 4He + 2 neutrinos + 6 photons.) The reaction produces enough thrust to propel the ship to 643,738 kph (400,000 mph) taking it approximately 16 days to travel 1 AU. (The Astronomical Unit is the distance from the Earth to the Sun, 149,597,871 kilometers.) Although very reliable, this reaction produces large volumes of plasma as hot as the surface of a star. Thermal panels on the outside of the engine dissipate the plasma and heat that builds up during the process typically glowing in a yellowish hue as they cool down.

Handling:

The maneuvering of the ship is handled in two different ways. In atmosphere she has flaps and ailerons that in conjunction with the pitch of the side engines control her direction. In space she uses an RCS, (Reaction Control System,) consisting of Hydrazine fueled thrusters that work in a countered measure. For example if she were to turn nose up, thrusters on the back rear of the ship would fire upwards and thrusters of the front nose would fire downwards pushing the tail down and the nose up. Variations on this, tied into the side engines pitch, produce all her movement in space.

For landing her side engines rotate vertical and vents on the front of the engine open to allow the engine the “breathe” as she hovers.

Gravity:

The Firefly class ships gravity comes from a rotating ring just aft of the ships midsection. It produces a gravity field using the "Peristere Principal," that also acts as an momentum dampener to allow passengers more freedom of movement during all aspects of flight.
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Emile Edwin Smith
Visual Effects Supervisor
Zoic Studios
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Companion Kate



Joined: 27 Jan 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 4:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right, but that's not canon, and in the Tech Manual section we only cite canon - which we define as the movie and the series (including deleted scenes), and the RPG book. Anything beyond that, we can't use as a source, unless we explicitly qualify it with "this is not canon".

Besides, I just don't buy the "The Firefly class ships gravity comes from a rotating ring" bit. OK, so if that's true, where do the shuttles' gravity come from then? No rotating rings on the shuttles! And what about - oh - just about every other ship we've seen on Firefly that doesn't have a rotating ring?

Note also that the whole "photon reaction drive" thing actually contradicts the RPG book, which explains in some detail all about the "pulse drive". In fact, the sentence "The reaction produces enough thrust to propel the ship to 643,738 kph" doesn't even make sense! As any physicist will tell you, thrust gives you a maximum acceleration, not a maximum speed. The RPG book, on the other hand, is quite clear that pulse drive does not operate on the basis of thrust, but instead uses entirely new physical principles (which we haven't discovered yet). OK, so that's hand-waving, but at least it does acknowledge the existence of science instead of ignoring it. For all these reasons, I prefer to believe the RPG book, which was written with a lot of back-and-forthing and double-checking between the RPG book people and Joss.

So in summary, this is interesting stuff, but in my view it's not really suitable info for the Technical Manual, because of the non-canonicity of the source, and because the authors fail utterly to understand real physics. If you're going to bend the laws of physics, you'd better invent some new ones first (which is what the RPG book did) instead of just assuming the audience would never notice (as that quote did).
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gecko68



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 5:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Kate,
As I read the starter post, all I kept thinking was, "That's not what the RPG book says."

Since I am doing some writing myself, I want to make sure it follows the laws of the Wheadon 'Verse.

Thanks
Dan
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theonetruebix



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 10:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Companion Kate wrote:
Right, but that's not canon, and in the Tech Manual section we only cite canon - which we define as the movie and the series (including deleted scenes), and the RPG book. Anything beyond that, we can't use as a source, unless we explicitly qualify it with "this is not canon".


What makes the RPG canon but not Zoic's documents, given what Jamie has written about the RPG mainly being the creation or he and his team, with little to no contact with Whedon or his people? That sort of contradicts what you say above, that the RPG was "written with a lot of back-and-forthing and double-checking between the RPG book people and Joss."
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Companion Kate



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, ya know, I read the exact same document (before you posted that) and came to the exact opposite conclusion. I understand: "what is official in the Serenity RPG? The whole thing. This is an officially licensed product, approved by Universal according to our agreement." I also understand: "is Joss Whedon bound by our presentation of his universe, its history, or characters? Hell no!" Seems to me that's as canonical as you can get, short of being written by Joss.

Sure - you are free to choose a different baseline to choose your "canon", if you want. You could choose to believe that the novelization was canon, or that the virtual seasons were canon. Every choice you make will give you a different answer to some questions.

But I think we all have to agree that the series is canon. In Out of Gas, did the rotating ring stop rotating? Yes, it did. Did the gravity stop? No,it did not. Ergo, Serenity's gravity is not caused by its rotating ring. Other ships that have artificial gravity do not have rotating rings. Planets and moons have artificial gravity but not rotating rings. That's series canon. And any document which contradicts series canon is hardly a contender for canonicity in any sane choice. (And that's not to mention the speed/acceleration physics error, and complete lack of understanding about what photon drive is).

Granted, we might choose not to accept the RPG book as canon, but if we made that choice, we'd have no way of answering Tech Manual questions at all, since I don't see a more plausible candidate.
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theonetruebix



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I'm less arguing in favor of the Zoic document than I am arguing against the RPG, in terms of canon. Jamie states it pretty clearly, and if what we're going by is that the RPG was officially licensed, then yes we'd have to consider the novelization canon as well -- despite (for one thing) the latest Signal referring to it as not canon, and (for another thing) Joss' own comments about novelizations being something about which he just whistles and keeps walking.

I'm mainly just try to figure out the criteria for what The Signal considers canon, because it doesn't seem consistent.

Disclaimer: The canon debate is one of those hot button issues for me, as anyone who saw the rather long and raging debate in which I was involved over on the Browncoats boards can attest. I believe fully in the notion that there is official canon, community canon, and even personal canon. It's just that as of Season 2, Episode 3, I am unsure which one The Signal subscribes to.

In general, the RPG seems to me to fall into the community canon category, because so many fans want to accept it into their conception of the Verse. But I'm not seeing the officialness of it, other than as a licensed product (which the novel is also).
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Companion Kate



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we're going with what I said above.

(1) The series
(2) "Those Left Behind" (sorry - I forgot that one).
(3) The movie
(4) The RPG book.

(...until such times as some future movie contradicts the RPG book, that is Laughing )

If the novelization had been completely consistent with the above 4 list items, then it would probably itself be in that list, but it does contains one or two problems which, I feel, have already ruled it out.

I guess we could always say "RPG continuity" instead of "canon" if you liked, to avoid confusion, but personally I think we're pretty sorted.

But if you're asking what are the criteria for being in that list...? I guess there really aren't any. To some extent it's an arbitrary list. The nearest I can give you to a rationale behind the list is that we start by listing all officially licenced products, eliminate items which "don't work", and keep what's left. The RPG book didn't present any continuity problems with the series, the movie, nor any major disagreements with science or common sense, so it didn't get eliminated.
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lhoward



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

theonetruebix wrote:
...then yes we'd have to consider the novelization canon as well


The Serenity novelization was written from an early version of the Serenity script. With the exception of things the novelization author added that were not in the script, changes in the script between the version we saw in the movie & the version the novel was written from, and anyplace where it contradicts "better quality" sources, I think it can be taken as a reliable reference.

Even the "high quality" items on Jill's list contain some internal contradictions. We just try to do the best we can with what is available.

L
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Companion Kate



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I found that "whistle and look the other way" quote that you mentioned, Bix (here). I'd be interested to read that long and raging debate to which you refer. Any chance of a link?
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theonetruebix



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 11:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Companion Kate wrote:
I found that "whistle and look the other way" quote that you mentioned, Bix (here). I'd be interested to read that long and raging debate to which you refer. Any chance of a link?


If I can remember whether it was on the dead Universal ones or the new gossi ones, yeah. Tho if it's the Versal boards, I might be able to find it in gossi's archives of them. I'll poke around.
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gecko68



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2006 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jamie Chambers, author of the RPG book, on canon material.

http://www.serenityrpg.com/features_articles.htm
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theonetruebix



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2006 10:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

gecko68 wrote:
Jamie Chambers, author of the RPG book, on canon material.

http://www.serenityrpg.com/features_articles.htm


Um. This was linked in the fourth post of this thread, and the subject of a fair amount of discussion.
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gecko68



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2006 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oops, Sorry I digressed back. Shocked
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