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Author Topic: Veteran Writer - Newbie Steampunker - advice on some creative gadgets  (Read 721 times)
maxredford
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« on: April 02, 2016, 05:57:30 am »

Umm . . . hi.  I know this is my first post I've ever made here and I'm starting off by asking for advice and for your time, and I do really, really hate that.   

But it is what it is. 

BUT!  I want to preface my inquiry: 

I am a serious author who is extremely versed in the craft of fiction. (Look my name up and read what I've written, prose and personal).

I'm a huge Lovecraft fan and personally prefer the ideologies of times gone by. 

But for some odd reason I've ignored the steampunk genre and culture -- thinking it too mainstream for my taste, maybe . . .


(My wife is going to be shocked to death when she finds out I'm here!)   

I'm succumbing to the awesome aesthetics of the steampunk genre and culture.

Anyways, lemme get on to what I'd like some insight on:   


A few weeks ago I just got the itch to write a light military-fantasy with airships and steam-powered era technology -- maybe some dieselpunk, but minimal.   

But I don't do historical. I prefer creating my own worlds and histories.   


I'm sorry, I apologize! I'm a loquacious one, I admit.   



So here's the scenario:   

There's a squad of troops who've been dropped into an enemy jungle and they've come under unexpected attack by the jungle itself. 

The MC in the story who is aboard the closest airship to the distressed squad has a plan to rescue the squad quicker -- cause the airship would move too slow, they need
quicker-moving troops . . .   

So the MC has an idea to attempt an experimtinal modified  Ornicopter rescue.   

Here's where I need help:   

The modified ornicopter is powered by a very small steam-engine that requires some form of "pellets". 

The 'pellets' have to be used very precisely in order to garner enough energy to propell the gliders a certain distance. 

Each "paratrooper" is equipped with a sack of pellets in order to fuel the ornicopter in order to get them to the designated location.   


I guess here's my questions:   

1) What are the 'pellets' made of that fuel the small steam engines in the  ornicopters?   

2) Is this entire idea asinine? 


*Note:  For dramatic purposes in the story, I want some of the 'paratroopers' to not regulate the pellets properly and end up crashing -- or overpowering the engine and overshooting the drop point.



P.S. 

I can only hope any of this makes sense! 


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CPT_J_Percell
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« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2016, 10:51:58 am »

*Snip*
I guess here's my questions:   

1) What are the 'pellets' made of that fuel the small steam engines in the  ornicopters?   

2) Is this entire idea asinine? 

*snip*


1) Well first guess there is Handwavium, Obscurum and Guesseium. Maybe some hybrid charcoal mix or some powdered chemical mix (which someone has substituted with a fake mix)
2) Well this is steampunk so nearly anything is possible.
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maxredford
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« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2016, 07:00:52 am »

Quote
1) Well first guess there is Handwavium, Obscurum and Guesseium. Maybe some hybrid charcoal mix or some powdered chemical mix (which someone has substituted with a fake mix)

Oh! So it doesn't need to be technically believable! Handwavium it is then.  That will make things so much easier.

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pakled
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« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2016, 07:44:33 am »

I'm thinking of the old standby, solidified ether. Like carbon dioxide, when compressed and chilled to a state, becomes a form of physical matter that normally doesn't happen in nature. It would have to be kept in special containers, of course. And like frozen gas, you can it shrinks to but a fraction of it's original volume.

Just an idea




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« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2016, 09:30:55 pm »

I'm thinking of the old standby, solidified ether. Like carbon dioxide, when compressed and chilled to a state, becomes a form of physical matter that normally doesn't happen in nature. It would have to be kept in special containers, of course. And like frozen gas, you can it shrinks to but a fraction of it's original volume.

Just an idea


Dammit forgot about solidified Æther but i tend to use focusing crystals
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MWBailey
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« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2016, 10:24:53 pm »

The chemistry behind heat packs (those paper bags that get all piping hot when you get remove them from their sealed packaging) has been around as a scholastic science experiment for years, maybe even as far back as the 1800s; perhaps the pellets could be a hybridized and souped-up form of that process...
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« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2016, 12:55:00 am »

Hello Max Redford.
Firstly, the correct term is ornithopter not ornicopter, a common mistake.
Also don't get hypnotized by steam. The name Steampunk is derived from a throwaway comment made in 1987.
I am sure that you have read the works of Wells and Verne. At that time, Steam power was commonplace. Many of the Victorian speculative fiction works focused on the new, cutting edge technology of electricity, not steam. For example, whilst it is commonly believed that Captain Nemos Nautilus from 20,000 leagues under the sea was an atomic submarine, that was an invention of Disney. In the book, Nemo had invented a method of extracting electricity from sea water.

In the real world, there was a theoretical engine first proposed as early as 1661 that was seriously considered as a potential aircraft engine, powered by pellets of gunpowder.
SEE GUNPOWDER ENGINE WIKIPEDIA.

Whilst the technology was never made to work successfully in reality, in your fictional world, someone could have made the  breakthrough that makes powered flight possible, using an explosion engine.
The technology for making pellets certainly existed in the form of Medical pill machine. and conveniently, the binding agent, glucose syrup, being high energy, would lend itself to the manufacture of explosive pellets.

As the mechanical output from such an engine is linear rather than rotary, it would lend itself well to the flapping action of an ornithopter.

It would be easy to imagine over enthusiastic troopers running the engines too fast, causing them to overheat with explosive consequences.
Alternatively, there is an ill advised practice with muzzle loading firearms of double charging to get a bigger bang. it is possible that a soldier could find a way of "double charging" the pellet feed system in order to get a burst of speed.

« Last Edit: April 05, 2016, 11:07:22 am by Mr Addams » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2016, 01:19:29 am »

I just found this short animation constructing the theoretical flight of a ornithopter powered by a Cayley explosion engine proposed in 1850.

http://firstflight.open.ac.uk/movies/cayley/1850flight.mp4
« Last Edit: April 05, 2016, 01:23:33 am by Mr Addams » Logged
RJBowman
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« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2016, 03:05:23 am »

I assume that you want some kind of scientifically feasible technology, as opposed to some writers who's stories take place under "alternative scientific laws", which to me is not to satisfactory and feels like a cheat.

First off, don't use bags of pellets; use fuel cartridges that belt-feed into the engine like a gatling gun.

Modern jet packs use hydrogen peroxide fuel. It produces a lot of force quickly; this could be used to push pistons or turn turbines to make those ornithopter wings flap.

Alternately, carbonic acid is a fuel with an old time feel to it. I can't seem to find much information about it, but I think that it was basically seltzer;  the force of the carbonation used to small machinery. The best-known example: in the 19th century, inventor Paul Giffard developed a carbonic acid pistol that had a reservoir of the liquid fuel. The gun had regulators that allowed multiple shots to be fired from a single charge of the liquid.

Or if fizzing seltzer doesn't seem powerful enough to keep a man airborne, you could go straight to the source of the fizz and devise a pneumatic technology based on the small compressed CO2 cylinders used to charge seltzer bottles.
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« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2016, 10:17:04 am »

Perhaps look into hypergolic fuels and apply suitable anachronism to fit the development of hypergolic fuels into the 19th. C?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypergolic_propellant

By the way, not to clash with the interests of the OP, but Steampunk has a lot to do with anachronisms, and that usually involves a passing knowledge of history.

However it is not a requirement that your world be historical.  According to a classification all of my own* (so don't take it too seriously). There is another type of Steampunk based on Uchronism, that is, the concept of placing the story outside of an identifiable historical period, such as it was done with the world of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian.

RE Howard's approach had the advantage of allowing him to still place his story on Earth, Eurasia to be more precise, while divorcing the story from any real history. Thus RE Howard didn't have to be concerened with matching the story to any real world events. The downside of Uchronism is that it requires the author to work harder on the background universe to make the story believable, simply because now the author needs to invent a background history for his hypothetical world...

There's a third type of Steampunk that doesn't even need to be based on actual geographical locations - it could be placed, for example, on an alien world with perhaps even non-human inhabitants. I call the latter "Virtual Steampunk," and it's the hardest type to write, because you have to convincingly impart a "19th. C. / Industrial Revolution" flavour to the story even if it doesn't happen on Earth. So you literally have to evolve the alien world up to the time period in your story in order to match your desired aesthetics.

*The Principle of Virtual Steampunk, the result of a sleepless night while under the influence of cold medicine: http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,33164.0.html
« Last Edit: April 05, 2016, 10:32:49 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged

Clym Angus
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« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2016, 06:49:35 pm »

Ok so you've got power vs lift and glide. Those are you 2 main ways of getting something up and keeping it up.

Power requires something with a significant amount of ooomph that your air frame can cope with. Man strapped to a rocket territory.
Alternatively it sounds for the purposes of your story your going for a suspense angle, (3 pellets left and going down down down!)

Have you considered a substance or item that generates a power source external to the craft that it then utilises to gain the necessary lift to keep going?
In effect it generates an intense localised heat source that in turn generates a thermal updraft that the ship can ride to give it a hight boost.
 
Truthers after 9:11 went on about the mythical properties of "red thermite" a special kind of super thermite that the US military had..... If they can rattle on about that and keep a straight face then "thermal thermite" doesn't seem to be that much of a stretch. Cooks your forest a bit but then who really gives a rats ass about a forest that's trying to kill you in the first place eh? Also big bags even when written on paper, always fun.

Dangerous to have around? Certainly bit os a swiss army plot device that could be used to get you out of several story corners if one is found in a pocket at an opportune moment after the audience has forgotten all about them? Possibly..... Cheesy
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pakled
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« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2016, 04:22:57 am »

wish I could 'chapter and verse' it, I seem to remember the 'red thermite was a deliberate hoax. But then..

Every fact that confirms a conspiracy is proof of its existence.
Every fact that contradicts a conspiracy is proof of its operation...Wink
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RJBowman
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« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2016, 05:59:10 am »

"Red Thermite" sounds suspiciously like "Red Mercury"; one conspiracy theory imitating another.
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« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2016, 04:32:47 pm »

Never let reality get in the way of a compelling but fanciful idea. Especially if it's selling books, videos, advertising or keeping you booked up on the lecture circuit.
 
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gaslampfantasy
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« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2016, 05:46:00 pm »

You could invent something for the pellets (solid Phlogiston?) It doesn't have to be real. But it would have to be something which, when burnt, extracts all of the potential energy. Steam power actually is not very effective. i think that it only extracts around 6% of the energy. If you could have a non-nuclear process that extracts all of the energy then you could get by with something only the size of a pellet.
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