Tuesday, March 23, 2010

From the Ground Up - Homebrewing a Near Future Sci Fi Setting : part 5 : Power

Power drives our civilisation. Without power our lives would be changed utterly; the dawn of civilisation was defined by the discovery of fire, most of it by the harnessing of beasts of burden, then our current age brought about by steam, coal, oil and nuclear power with solar and windpower nipping at their heels. With the current global power problems and global warming prowling in the shadows a change in power source would be a massive change for society.

I think I've decided on three...

1) An interim fuel source between now and near game time. I'm currently meandering through the GURPS Transhuman Space sourcebooks to steal borrow cool ideas and it's realistic use of helium-3 as the major power source of this century is something I'm going to keep for a while.

2) Plot-driven stellar-travel spaceship fuel. Caught by skimming solar winds and harvesting the matter expelled by stars. Really powerful but only viable in actual spacecraft.

3) A cool new fuel source to fight over. No nation would ever regard having too much fuel as a bad thing and if there's a new improved source on the block to fight over then you can bet that tensions will be high. As I ended up at a lecture on antimatter at last years British Science Festival that substance jumped to the top of my list. Certain isotopes are currently used in modern medical PET scanning because they decay and release antimatter - carbon-11, nitrogen-13, oxygen-15 and fluorine-18 - and this by itself lent itself to lots of fun possibilities for discovering antimatter on other planets. What happens if within a certain ecosystem one of these isotopes is bound in molecules which stabilise them until the molecule bonds are broken down? Antimatter is annoying to store for anything more than a few minutes without a penning trap, and even then the amount you can store in one is tiny but if you can ship out tons of the compound then separate the molecules...

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