A user wrote this non-answer seemingly quite upset about many of my cultural/sociological/logistical/and scientific premises. He openly admits "Disclaimer: yes, I know the above is not an answer."

They offer nothing at all in solution, but insist on hammering their opinions through the comments. This "answer" does nothing at all except advance one person's personal rant against something that disagrees with their own opinions, disguising them as "frame challenges."

Please mark for deletion.


Follow the process: flag as not an answer, let the community decide.

Questions and answers belong to the community, the community decides.

  • $\begingroup$ It has already been through that process, which is how I became aware of it to comment. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 31 '19 at 18:18

You have data communication by means of quantum entanglement (nope, doesn't work) and, in addition "the quantum device must be exactly in the center of the two receivers" (nope, not possible in any meaningful way) ... and you pretend that this hard SF. Nightmayre's answer is pretty much what I would have written in a scathing review of such a book plot.

My personal policy with questions which are just not fully thought through is to either ignore them completely or, at best, write a comment. But user Nightmayre was so incensed with the shoddy structure of the plot presented in the question that they took the time to write a lengthy critique.

Remember that Nightmayre is a potential reader of your story. You don't want to raise such a strong feeling of rejection in your readers. I would say be grateful for Nightmayre's answer, because it highlights basic incongruities in the proposed plot, and allows you to address them before putting in the effort to flesh out the story.

  • The communication by means of quantum entanglement must go. It is simply not compatible with hard SF.

  • The requirement for the comm device being exactly in the center must go. It is simply not possible to place it there, because the exact center moves on a highly complicated path. Allowing this requirement downgrades hard SF to the softest of the soft space operas.

  • The blurb about each of the two parties being dependent on some sort of unique resource from the other must go. Those are civilizations capable of interstellar travel. They are not dependent on anything, much less on a resource which so happens to be available in a neighbouring civilization. They very much like what they get in trade, yes, possibly. Britain liked Chinese tea and didn't like paying silver for it, so they decided to engage in a limited war; but Britain was not "dependent" on Chinese tea.

  • You must acknowledge and address the immediate observation that those gigaton cargo ships make for excellent kinetic weapons. It is supposed to be hard SF, isn't it?

  • $\begingroup$ "There will be no ground war". I thought that was in the question all along? Your gigaton weapon would get onto the planet just like the megaton freighter bomb Kim Jong Un sends to the US didn't. Right? Is it really necessary to fill trivially obvious human principles like customs into the question? $\endgroup$ – Vogon Poet Oct 31 '19 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ I do appreciate the perspective on different audiences. I won't ever be able to fill every whim however, and people who imagine kinetic weapons in this scenario are just not in my target, because I can't imagine one. However, you made me realize that the only reason I can't imagine one is because I have worked in border security for decades, and my concepts are not necessarily obvious. For this question the point is moot. For the full story, I will need to tackle that. $\endgroup$ – Vogon Poet Oct 31 '19 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet: I don't fully understand what is the relationship between border security and a billion ton projectile travelling at one sixth of the speed of light... I'm afraid border security is not really of much use against a relativistic kinetic projectile. The situation room was tense. Multiple ICBM launches had been confirmed, coming over the North Pole; probable targets included several large cities. The President remained calm, radiating an aura of tranquility. After all, the import of nuclear munitions was illegal: border security would never allow the missiles into the country. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 31 '19 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ if the concept of annihilation wasn’t already itself suicide, then consider that ballistic projectiles launched from 12 light years away only occasionally (and that means never) hit their target. You want this now to be modified into a *guided missile”, and assume it has built-in defenses and evasive programming, using intelligence gathered from... where again? Your scenario is bizarre, and not really applicable here. I’d need a whole new series to explain the logistics! $\endgroup$ – Vogon Poet Oct 31 '19 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet: But the premise is that they already have the ability to navigate to the other planet -- the question says that they are used for trade. The ships are perfectly capable of navigating all by themselves over 99.999% of the journey; adding the capability to complete the remaining 0.001% of the journey must surely be easily within the grasp of an interstellar civilization. That is the entire point. The ships are guided missiles, massing billions of tons and travelling at one sixth of the speed of light. This is the premise, it's in the question. The ships are weapons. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 31 '19 at 21:01

Not everyone who answers the question is going to agree with your basic principles, some people will poke holes in them. Nor will you agree with the points raised in every answer. That is ever the risk of asking questions on a public forum.

It's up to you to decide whether you'll take some of those points on board or not.

In this case I disagree with the wording that's been used in the answer, I think it could have been worded in a less confrontational manner as well as formatted better. But I also accept not everyone is a native English speaker so they might not understand the subtleties of the language.

However under the principles for what is or is not an answer on this site I do feel that it's a valid answer and could be useful to someone reading your question again in the future even if it's not that useful to you.

  • $\begingroup$ But possibly inventing principles which don’t fit the OP could be considered as “not an answer?” Why did my receivers go into orbit in his answer? Why is he ignoring the bold “no ground wars” requirement? Why is he spinning my unpiloted barges around in mid space? Can anyone insert random premises into a post? There is a spec of useful content hidden in a ream of non-answers. $\endgroup$ – Vogon Poet Oct 31 '19 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet, it's attacking certain aspects of your fundamental scenario as being unrealistic. In some cases there's definitely a point to be made, on others it's weaker, but as I said, my biggest problem with this answer is the way it's worded and I suspect you'd find it more acceptable with better wording. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 31 '19 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ I left a comment and a link saying just that. Challenge the frame but at least add something that speaks to the problem, like an alternative plot device. His relevant content can be distilled down to “hand-wave communications” & “they will skip the information war and go straight to throwing rocks”, and “throwing rocks is impossible” has been very clear from edit #1. $\endgroup$ – Vogon Poet Nov 1 '19 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet regardless of the other things, spinning the barges around shouldn't be difficult, unless your society hasn't invented computers. $\endgroup$ – Gryphon Nov 2 '19 at 3:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Gryphon-ReinstateMonica - Aside from being futile and self destructive, how does computer propulsion exactly work? And where do “computer thrusters” get their fuel from? $\endgroup$ – Vogon Poet Nov 2 '19 at 3:55
  • $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet In regards to your point about futility, I fail to see how depriving an opponent of resources they would otherwise get in a war, which is what your question is about, is futile and self-destructive (or in any case, more futile and self-destructive then wars are in general), especially when all it costs you is a long-distance radio call. $\endgroup$ – Gryphon Nov 2 '19 at 4:02
  • $\begingroup$ However, regardless of how your barge slows down when it reaches the system of the other civilization, it must have a way of doing so (otherwise it would flash past at 0.1c, making it a bit useless as a trading barge). So, assuming your society has computers, you send your barge a signal telling it to do the thing it does to stop, and it does that thing and stops/turns around early. Even before full-on war, this is going to be a useful threat, as "we'll cancel that shipment you're supposed to get in a week" is a more effective threat than "we'll cancel the shipment you'll get in a century. $\endgroup$ – Gryphon Nov 2 '19 at 4:02
  • $\begingroup$ I’m not sure you read the question. No one who sent a shipment will be alive when it arrives. Even if the barges had some monstrous navigation capability and could generate thrust to turn itself around, carrying an extra 20 tons of fuel to send itself home, and all this engineering just runs perfectly for 200 years with no maintenance, the radio call to tell it to do this takes 12 years. The barges are ballistic projectiles because we don’t have magically self-maintaining and self-repairing engine rooms. Star Trek doesn’t even do that. It’s a pipeline of raw material, nothing more. $\endgroup$ – Vogon Poet Nov 2 '19 at 4:52
  • $\begingroup$ Too many people watching too much TV. We forget how stupidly big space is. Every barge consumes up to 20 tons of fuel to start it, and another 20 to stop it. They spend 75 days getting it up to 0.1c, and the same on the other side to catch it. $\endgroup$ – Vogon Poet Nov 2 '19 at 4:59

Frame challenging is at the core of World Building. If I had more time on my hands, I would be adding more frame challenges to your question. As it is, though, I clenched at the part where you meant to use quantum entanglement for communication, and I stopped reading when you mentioned how the quantum device must be positioned. To give you an idea of how... Bad those things are, they are as offensive to sci-fi enthusiasts as the idea that the Earth is flat is offensive to the scientific community at large.

It is almost like saying that you can get a bike to hover by holding a magnet above it as you ride it.

So rather than claiming Nightmayre has posted a non-answer because it doesn't fit into the universe you are creating, consider that your universe may not be consistent and that answer is showing you why. It is doing its job so well that right now it is the must upvoted answer. It goes a long way into rethinking the world you are creating and then preparing a new, improved question on space warfare.

I would also suggest educating yourself about the science you invoke in your story. Quantum and FTL are not just buzzwords.

For the reason why your FTL communication device is a no-go, please see Quantum entanglement as practical method of superluminal communication .

For the reason why the quantum entanglement device cannot be in a "center": you might just pull it off if both end points are on a planet, but as soon as they are not stationary relative to each other they will not measure space nor time the same way anymore. For light-year distances, this effect is just too much. Both ends will not be at the same pace, might not even agree on the order of some events they observe, much less where the "center" between them is. You can read more on that here.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree how important it is to help plots get realistic frames of reference - within control limits. Reality-check questions literally specify a frame challenge. However each plot has extant immutable devices which are not necessarily part of every WB question; they’re backdrop noise and a distraction. I personally look very closely at the tags before making presumptions, and I take for granted that what isn’t written in the post is not part of the problem, and that’s why it was not included. Then, I use comments rather than answers to probe for clarifying details. Great avatar BTW $\endgroup$ – Vogon Poet Nov 1 '19 at 12:49

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