Wormholes and Swords is a blog dedicated to Science Fiction and Fantasy, with a bit of real world technical stuff thrown in from time to time. It is managed by T.D. Wilson, author of the Science Fiction book series, The Epherium Chronicles.

Monday, September 23, 2013

What was the Best Sci-fi/Fantasy Movie of the Summer?

Now that the summer of 2013 is officially over, what was the best sci-fi/fantasy movie?  I put together a quick poll, but I want everyone to not only vote.  I want them to post comments on why they think their choice was the best.  If you think one was second best, please post it.  I am sure many readers would want to know which movie you thought was the worst as well.  If I don't have your choice listed, please comment and let me know.  I will update the poll until Oct 5.

What was the best Sci-fi/Fantasy Movie of the Summer?

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Quick Word About Publishing and Rejection

I came across this article and I thought it was really inspiring for those of us who have tried to publish something and been rejected.  It takes patience; it takes perseverance;  it takes hope; it takes faith.  There are at least a dozen other qualities, but each person has to find their way.  The list doesn't include C.S. Lewis who was rejected over 800 times or Louis L'Amour was rejected 200 times.  Dr. Seuss was rejected repeatedly and F. Scott Fitzgerald was even told by an editor that he would have a great book, if only he would get rid of that Gatzby character.

Anyway, its a good list and many will find inspiration.

If any one else out there has a story to tell regarding their struggles with becoming published or their current journey, please share.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

RAILGUNS "The Series"

Part 2 - History

In my last installment of Railguns "The Series", I started off by describing what is a railgun and how it compares to the function of an electric motor.  This time, let's take a look at the history of the railgun and a little bit of why the railgun is considered to be a potential weapon for ships, portable field artillery, and even small arms.

Most historians view the first railgun design as the developed by French Inventor Louis Octave Fauchon-Villeplee.  It was an electric cannon,  He applied for a US Patent and it was issued in 1922.  The first working railgun was fielded by Joachim Hansler of Germany during World War II.  The design, while feasible, only accelerated projectiles to about 1 km/sec.  The velocity was slightly slower than conventional rounds, but the design was a fantastic achievement.  He planned to take the design to make a new anti-aircraft cannon.  That version of the cannon was never built, but plans that were later discovered showed the design to be technically feasible.  Although, the power required to achieve the muzzle velocity for the explosive laden projectile and the rate of fire would have required a small nuclear reactor.

Later in the 1960s, Australian physicists created a larger version of the railgun, but struggled with solid armature projectiles achieving greater than 3 km/sec velocities.  They added a new wrinkle to the design; plasma.  A small fuse was inserted behind a non-conductive projectile (usually a nylon cube).  The concept of the fuse is to become the initial circuit between the rails.  As the fuse is consumed by the current, it becomes super-heated plasma.  During the process, the electromotive force generated by the magnetic fields thrusts the projectile forward.

Over the past few decades, we have seen more advancements in railgun design.  In 2003, the British Ministry of Defense tested a 1/8 scale railgun design.  The muzzle velocity for that test reached Mach 6.  An impressive step for a the next larger scale weapon, primary for ships or large platforms.

In 2012, BAE delivered and tested a railgun for the US Navy.  The picture of the gun is below:

The tests for this gun provided speeds roughly at 4500 to 5600 mph and were set for ranges of 50 to 100 nautical miles.  Not bad at all.  Average effective range for most naval gun ordinance is about 12 miles, except the larger 16 in guns of the Iowa Class battleships that ranged about 18.

General Atomics has also developed a new railgun.  Here is a video of their offering called the Blitzer System whick was designed for the Navy.

Now there are still some issues that we continue to face.  Power is one of the most prevalent, but with a nuclear powered vessel, those can be minimized.  Rail wear and malformation are still an issue.  The friction and effect of the high current passing through the rails is significant and has been a issue from the earliest of designs.  Rate of fire will not be high due to the power required and wear on the rails.  Repulsion is a another issue to consider.  Whether the projectile is a solid armature or a plasma "hybrid", there is significant force pressing outward on the rails that can cause stress and warping.  In space, reaction force to the liner electromagnetic force must be dealt with.  Having a ship in the water or a platform on the ground makes is a lot easier.

Next time we will talk about the use of railguns in our favorite sci-fi books, tv shows, and movies.  Don't worry, my take on using railguns in space is coming soon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

RAILGUNS  "The Series"

As I often plan to do with the this blog, I want to look at the more science related issues in science-fiction writing.  Why rail guns?  Well, the Epherium Chronicles is set in the mid 22nd century and the primary Earth space based weapons are rail guns.  My goal with series of posts is not only to educate other about rail guns (their origin and function), but to compare them to other weapons and explain some of the advances made to them for my sci-fi book series.  It's the whole world building thing.

Plus, the picture of the rail gun fired from a naval test platform is really cool and I had to share.

First of all, what is a rail gun.  Here is wikipedia's quick explanation:

railgun is an electrically powered electromagnetic projectile launcher based on similar principles to the homopolar motor. A railgun comprises a pair of parallel conducting rails, along which a sliding armature is accelerated by the electromagnetic effects of a current that flows down one rail, into the armature and then back along the other rail.

Straightforward isn't it.  Well, a railgun originally was a very simple design based on the theory of the traditional electric motor.  You see for most of us engineering types, once the blood gets in the water on a new and cool topic, we are on it like sharks.  It wasn't different for the concept of electric motors.  Once the first few motor designs were developed a whole new engineering craze on the subject began.

Anyway, now for the motors.

You see, the traditional electric motors look something like this (for purposes of brevity, I using one example of a DC motor and not an AC one or the multitude of variations...its my blog and I show the examples).  

Since there are so many types, I don't want to bog you down with the details, but what I want to show is this.  When you apply electric current to the motor, the magnetic field generated create an electromotive force.  In the case of a standard motor the force causes the armature in the center to spin.  The higher the current, the faster it moves.

So if this a motor, what does a railgun have to do with it?  Well, a railgun is essential a linear motor, where the force generated moves in a straight line.  This next diagram depicts a simple concept of a railgun.

The railgun rails are parallel rails that electric current travels.  When current flows through a conductor like the rails, it generates a magnetic field.  In this case, the projectile is the armature and becomes a circuit bridge, thus allowing the electric current to run across from one of the rails to the other.  As the current travels, the magnetic fields create a linear electromotive force that pushes the project down the rails.  The higher the current, the create the acceleration.

In the next part of the series, we will talk history of the railgun, look at different approach to a linear motor weapon, and compare them to traditional types of weapons used today.  Nothing like examples to let your mind relate to scientific jargon. 

Please feel free to comment and share you thoughts.  This is fun stuff and I love to talk about.  Later on in this series we will look at how these weapons have been used in Sci-fi books, movies, or TV.  Are there depictions accurate or too far fetched?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Every year I have a list of TV series that I really want to take time to watch; even if I have to DVR them for a month to find a slot.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D  has a lot of promise.  I loved Agent Colson's character and hopefully, we might see guest appearances of the other Avengers (Black Widow and Hawkeye being the easiest).  I also think it would be a good way to integrate Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch into story line before the second Avenger's movie.  Another good slant would be to introduce Sharon Carter, Agent Peggy Carter's niece.  There is so much source material to use and I think Marvel has really excelled in putting the characters we love in a developed story line we can enjoy.

There are several Marvel movies coming, but this series can be a foundation for many of them and it can teach us more about S.H.I.E.L.D.  After a great summer of action, sci-fi, and superhero movies, this fall looks really bright.