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Orbit dynamics are just hosed

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 25, 2009 12:36:23 PM PST
Doug Jones says:
Stephenson doesn't really understand orbital dynamics, alas. His description of the appearance of satellite orbits as seen from the ground is just plain WRONG... an observer not at the pole will not see the simple radial pattern, but instead a series of arcs that do not cross the pole star. He also ignores the planet's shadow- most nighttime passes are invisible because the satellite is not illuminated.

Also "polar" orbits are typically not at inclination 90, but at something like 97 degrees to allow the equatorial bulge to precess the plane to stay sun synchronous. This makes interpreting the results of an all-sky survey even harder.

The black mirrors might hide the objects at either end, but the tether itself would be very obvious, lit up in sunlight... an electrodynamic tether wouldn't be able to do the apogee velocity matching needed in the short time available... proximity operations, like the postlaunch roundup, don't need to use explicit orbital element changes, you just do straight line maneuvers with a little extra thrust perpendicular to make up for the tides... the transfer orbit to the target would have taken only hours, not days... arrgh.

Stephenson tried, he really did- but I wish he had played with Orbiter before writing the spaceflight scenes.

Posted on Aug 30, 2010 9:49:16 AM PDT
With a subject this complicated, some people think that just being able to formulate a technical criticism is some kind of achievement in itself. Did you identify much with Barb? And do you still have a framed 3-D schematic diagram of the NC1701-D on your wall?

If any of the above were included in the text of the novel in place of the technical explanations Stephenson gave, it would be wholly incomprehensible. If you're looking for technical accuracy of this degree, you're better off reading textbooks.

Posted on Aug 30, 2010 10:05:49 AM PDT
Doug Jones says:
Nice flame, Gareth. I'm not going to play your childish game, however.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2010 11:11:21 AM PDT
If you responded at all I guess you've "played the game", though you chose to do it in a passive-aggressive way. Maybe that means you'll continue.

My ad hominem comments were intended to be amusing, but they supported my point, which stands: This was a novel that featured some talk of orbital dynamics, but you approached it as if it were a technical treatise on orbital dynamics. Either you were mistaken when you picked up the book and waded through what must have seemed like a very long introduction to a non-fiction text ("Monks? What? I guess he's getting to the orbital dynamics eventually..."), or you decided to address the quality of a work of fiction based on a peripheral paragraph or two out of a thousand pages. Not that I mind--that's fine--but I thought it worth noting that the result is self-indulgent. Just as a teen with coke-bottle glasses who snorts and says "But THAT'S not a Jeffries tube!" while waving at his Star Trek poster is... well, a little full of himself.

You don't have to say anything to that if you don't want to, but I thought I'd defend myself from the horrible charge of "flaming". I hear they still brand you for that. Welcome to another chapter of wasting time on the internet.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2011 8:37:33 PM PST
Etaoin says:
"What principle explains the powers imputed by this document to the Dynaglide lubri-strip?" he asked. "Is it permanent, or ablative?"

"Ablative," I said.

"It is a violation of the Discipline for you to be reading that!" Barb complained.

"Shut up, " Fraa Jad said.
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Discussion in:  Anathem forum
Participants:  3
Total posts:  5
Initial post:  Dec 25, 2009
Latest post:  Feb 25, 2011

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Anathem by Neal Stephenson (Hardcover - September 9, 2008)
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