Monday, February 26, 2007

Original Source Research ...

I've got a short in progress, pretty much done from a character/story arc point of view. There is some science that I need to do some research on, just enough for verisimilitude (see Boskone notes below.)

So (shameless plea for advice), if you were going to write about 400 meter tall robotic legs, where would you look to get the science right? I'm more concerned about structural integrity, weight, etc., than whether it's actually possible to make such a thing. That part I'm happy to fudge.


Blogger Steve Buchheit said...

Depends on what the legs are made of. If they're some form of steel or aluminum, research metalurgy. If their a composite, you'll want plastics. You'll need something to move them (electrics, hydraulics, some new wizbang composite material which flexes in electrical current). If you want to go hog wild then you have the issues of heat dissipation, flex stength, mechanical engineering (thin wall structures supported by a honeycomb internal skeleton). So that research area would be mechanical engineering.

I think some questions you'll need to ask yourself is, what do you want these legs to do (get through something, smash something, fall on something) and then work from that.

Then there would be step distance (phsyics), how do they stay upright (gyro stabilization), etc.

Or, if it's not all that necessary, and sufficiently in the future, it could be a car thing. How many people who drive cars know the difference between four stroke and two stroke engines (when power is applied), between cast iron, steel, and billeted aluminum engine casings, or understand interference engine design or why suspensions need universal difference joints. Not many, they just press the "go" and "stop" pedals.

But, no matter what they're made of, 400 metter tall anything moving is going to make noise and leave a mark.

February 26, 2007 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Great suggestions, Steve. Especially the last bit. Their impact and sound are those descriptive elements I tend to be thin on.

Physics is probably the key, just to get some hard numbers on steps, distance, and bouyancy.

As for the other facts, I'll stick with a fantastic new alloy and an ingenius collection of cables, gears, hydraulics, etc.

February 26, 2007 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger littlebirdblue said...

Well, I'm not a science guy, but this has interesting links:

and this:

and this is useful to help conceptualize the way things might move (biormorphic robots):

but frankly, what I thought most about when reading your post was John Christopher's tripods trilogy (great YA stuff.)

February 26, 2007 at 9:51 PM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Thanks, LBB!

Tripod? I hadn't thought in that direction. That might help with some other inconvenient facts. For instance, the legs need to cross rather large bodies of water.

Like, the Atlantic Ocean.

February 26, 2007 at 10:16 PM  
Blogger Christine Clark said...

Try calling one of the local tech schools. There's one in Westford called Nashoba Valley Tech that teaches robotics. If they can't help, I bet they can tell you where to get information.

February 27, 2007 at 6:16 AM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Thanks Chris.

Are you joining the league of bloggers now? I see you have a profile set up.

February 27, 2007 at 3:27 PM  
Blogger littlebirdblue said...


Couldn't the legs be telescoping, w/ the capacity to retract into the body, enabling the thing to float?

The Tripods in Christopher's books didn't cross the ocean, but they were so massively tall they stepped over water and other inconvenient terrain pretty easily.

February 27, 2007 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Drat, more good ideas. Too much science and math.

Why didn't I start writing fantasy? Magic explains away everything. ;-)

February 27, 2007 at 11:35 PM  
Blogger Steve Buchheit said...

until you have to explain th emagic, how it works, why it works, and it's limits.

February 28, 2007 at 10:10 AM  

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