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Worlds of Design: Is There a Default Sci-Fi Setting?

The science fiction default setting is less clear than the “Late Medieval plus some Tolkien” fantasy default, but let’s talk about it.

futuristic-5930957_1280.jpg

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Months ago I discussed the fantasy default setting in "Baseline Assumptions of Fantasy RPGs.” A default may not exist at all in some of the sci-fi categories below, but I think it’s worth discussing.

The Automation Difference​

Keep in mind the big difference between fantasy and science fiction: automation. Stories are about people, not machines, even though automation is likely to be dominant in the future. We already see this happening today, with robotic explorers on Mars, and unmanned drones fighting terrestrial wars.

It’s also possible that science fiction novel and game authors spend more time describing their settings than fantasy authors do, maybe because there’s so much more deviation from a default than in fantasy. In general, there may be less emphasis on "monsters" and uncivilized "barbarians" than in fantasy worlds.

In no particular order I’ll discuss:
  • Automation
  • Transportation
  • Communication
  • Adventurers
  • Aliens
  • History & Change
  • Technology
  • Warfare & Military
  • Demography & Habitation
  • Longevity

Automation​

Let's start with automation. In sci-fi settings, automation tends to vary immensely. We can see robots as intelligent as humans, and other settings where automation has not reached the level of human intelligence. You rarely see automation dominating the military, again because stories are about people, not machines. In Frank Herbert’s universe (Dune), the Butlerian Jihad has eliminated automation where any kind of intelligence is involved.

Transportation​

Faster-than-light travel is most common; often even very small spaceships, such as shuttles and fighters, can achieve it, sometimes it takes a big ship. If there is no faster-than-light travel, then the setting is usually confined to one star system, or involves “generation ships.” Sometimes the ships have built-in drives, so they can go from anywhere to anywhere; other times they must use fixed links in some kind of natural or man-made network, whether it’s wormholes or something else.

Communication​

Most likely, communication is at light speed, or at travel speed, whichever is faster. Once in a while you get instantaneous speaking communication (as in Star Wars); but that gets hard to believe on the scale of an entire galaxy, if only for the potential interference.

Adventurers​

Are there “adventurers” at all? Maybe we should say, people who go on, or get caught up in, adventures? I don’t see a common thread for how numerous such people are.

Aliens​

There’s no default here, but most common is a human-centric universe, possibly with no aliens, possibly with aliens ignored by or subordinated to humans. We also see humans as subordinate to aliens, in some sub-genres.

History & Change​

Time frame varies from near-future to millennia from now. Rate of change is usually very slow in the latter, so that the setting can still have some familiarity to readers and players. The pace of change in the near future is inevitably quick, as we see things change so quickly in the modern day that we’d be puzzled by slow tech change in anything like our own society.

Technology​

No default here. The paranormal may be important. Much of what goes on is still familiar to contemporary people, because that helps make it easier to willingly suspend disbelief.

Warfare & Military​

This is all over the map. Conflicts are usually between worlds or groups of worlds. What’s notable is that authors are often stuck in some kind of earth-history model where ground forces are very important. Keep in mind, typical SF situations are lots of separate star systems, much like small islands. What really counts is the (space) navy, if anyone is willing to “blast planets back into the stone age.” If they are willing to do that, ground forces don’t matter/are on a suicide mission. If they’re not willing to bombard planets, then ground forces matter, but are at immense disadvantage when the enemy controls the orbital zone of the planet.

Demography & Habitation​

Terra-formed worlds or worlds naturally habitable, versus most people live in habitats to protect them from hostile environment. In the video game Elite: Dangerous, planets are just barren places to explore, space stations are where people live. Again, there’s no default.

Longevity​

I’ve always found it odd that Elves, with vast lifespans, are as willing to risk their long future in potentially lethal adventures as they seem to be in fantasy games. If the technology of the science fiction setting provides long life or even immortality, how does that affect adventuring?

For further reading, see Atomic Rockets. It’s a website describing various SF topics, often baring the fundamentals of what reality might demand. Such as why interstellar trade is likely to be very sparse or non-existent.

Your Turn: Have you devised a campaign setting for science fiction role-playing?
 

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Lewis Pulsipher

Lewis Pulsipher

Dragon, White Dwarf, Fiend Folio

meltdownpass

Explorer
Just imagine how society can look like in SciFi setting. Or even a modern one. Weapon laws which are at least nominally tracked (the way the US handles it is a exception, not the rule), camera surveillance coupled with other means of identifications ranging from futuristic like DNA scanner to simple ones like social security numbers and licenses.
Then there are other things like health care and insurance which might benefit the player characters in a modern or futuristic setting which are also ignored a lot. Or even worse, all those possibilities exist and are used from time to time as background flavor, but never when they matter or affect the PCs.

Some settings are better than others. Shadowrun features most of the things mentioned but things like Star Wars of Starfinder ignore those completely in favour for a fantasy setting pretending to be SciFi.
I guess the big question is "How much science (correct or wrong) must be in something to be considered science fiction"?

Just because we currently live in an evil dystopia doesn't mean that all sci-fi worlds need to be one.

Personally I think it's perfectly okay that we can handwave away certain things in order to tell certain stories. If we weren't able to do that, then every sci-fi game would have to credibly grapple with the problems of how monetary policy is used as a system of control and how centralized technology facilitates systems of control. Basically means you could play sci-fi games set in a worst-of-all-worlds 1984/BraveNewWorld setting, or Dune.
 

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When you've taken out Star Wars, Star Trek (how many gods are there in TOS?), and a few others I'd say you've beaten SF so far back that it's barely a meaningful genre.
If I'd done that, I'd agree. But you're doing that not me, and attributing it to me is extremely silly at best.

Star Trek doesn't have any supernatural gods or supernatural forces I'm aware of. There's weird science by the boatload, but that's fundamentally different to Shadowrun and 40K, which are explicitly anti-scientific in how their magic works. Star Wars, as I mentioned, is in a bit of a grey area because at times the Force has been explained in weird science ways (albeit at the moment it's largely a mystical thing), but it's regarded as the poster-child for science fantasy, hence I wouldn't have immediately classed it as a particularly relevant one for sci-fi.

Star Trek is clearly sci-fi. It has a rational explanation for virtually everything (barring the odd meta wink) and posits that there is one out there for difficult stuff, they just haven't found it yet. This is particularly explicit with the various "gods" who never actually are. Whereas in 40K they absolutely are, and the nature of the warp/Chaos is explicitly that it's not scientific or subject to laws (hence: Chaos).
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
The differences are what make them different, except the commonalities such as spacecraft and aliens, make Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Killjoys, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Alien, and The Expanse all similar. Not to say something outside of spacecraft and aliens can't be sci-fi, because it can, but for most sci-fi games these are common tropes as well. Even Gamma World one rocketed up to a Space Station and fought plague zombies.
 
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Stacie GmrGrl

Adventurer
The differences are what make them different, except the commonalities such as spacecraft and aliens, make Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Killjoys, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Alien, and The Expanse all similar. Not to say something outside of spacecraft and aliens can be sci-fi, because it can, but for most sci-fi games these are common tropes as well. Even Gamma World one rocketed up to a Space Station and fought plague zombies.
There is a Star Wars novel that had zombies in it.
 

If I'd done that, I'd agree. But you're doing that not me, and attributing it to me is extremely silly at best.

Star Trek doesn't have any supernatural gods or supernatural forces I'm aware of.
Then we have very different understandings of certain Star Trek TOS episodes, Q and the Q Continuum, the Bajoran Wormhole Prophets, and quite a lot of other aspects of Star Trek. Trek may occasionally pay lip service to there being rational explanations - but it's normally skin deep at best.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Just because we currently live in an evil dystopia doesn't mean that all sci-fi worlds need to be one.

Personally I think it's perfectly okay that we can handwave away certain things in order to tell certain stories. If we weren't able to do that, then every sci-fi game would have to credibly grapple with the problems of how monetary policy is used as a system of control and how centralized technology facilitates systems of control. Basically means you could play sci-fi games set in a worst-of-all-worlds 1984/BraveNewWorld setting, or Dune.

Does having a social security number or driver licenses already mean a dystopian society? Sometimes I wonder what peoples definition of that are.
Some kind of control and tracking is required for modern of futuristic societies, for example to assign property, certify education, etc. But even those things are missing in some science fiction (fantasy) settings.
 

meltdownpass

Explorer
Does having a social security number or driver licenses already mean a dystopian society? Sometimes I wonder what peoples definition of that are.
Some kind of control and tracking is required for modern of futuristic societies, for example to assign property, certify education, etc. But even those things are missing in some science fiction (fantasy) settings.

Don't want to get too deep in the weeds at risk of derailing the topic, but any kind of sci-fi setting that has even present-day level technology is going to have to grapple with what life looks like in a world of omnipresent surveillance & tracking of virtually all financial activity. Even in near-future this is dumped into central databases pored over by ML/AI of state-corporate entitities monitoring and even predicting behavior using that data.

These things are all designed to make life more manageable from a certain perspective, which could also be described from another (storytelling) perspective as removing adventure.

Star Trek, which traditionally assumes a moral evolution of humanity such that the dystopian implications are no longer relevant, -- Even Star Trek tends to operate on the fringes of the Federation where the usual rules don't apply. Firefly, which is less fantastical in its treatment of human nature, explicitly has to put its heroes and adventures on the fringe of the tyrannical Alliance.

While I can imagine stories set inside an honestly-treated sci-fi setting, they generally tend more towards P.K. Dick's Minority Report or Kafka's The Trial. I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from playing such games if they are capable, but in my experience a social experience like RPG gaming is heavily weighted to lighter adventure games and not deep social commentary.
 

S'mon

Legend
Don't want to get too deep in the weeds at risk of derailing the topic, but any kind of sci-fi setting that has even present-day level technology is going to have to grapple with what life looks like in a world of omnipresent surveillance & tracking of virtually all financial activity.

The usual handwave is that planets may be like that, but not in SPAAACE.
One reason it's really important not to have routine FTL comms.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
While I can imagine stories set inside an honestly-treated sci-fi setting, they generally tend more towards P.K. Dick's Minority Report or Kafka's The Trial. I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from playing such games if they are capable, but in my experience a social experience like RPG gaming is heavily weighted to lighter adventure games and not deep social commentary.

Why would it be social commentary when futuristic world have the same capabilities as the real world has right now? And that does not mean China level of tracking but just people having a form of ID and licenses for driving and weapon possession and cars (spaceships) are registered to someone and it is possible to find out who that person is and for example if there are any warrants attached?
Even such basic things are ignored in some scifi settings, especially the fantasy inspired ones.

Then there are modern institutions and systems which are simply missing, yet would be of great value for adventurers. Health care for example. Even when you use the US kind of private health care it would change a lot of a PC could, after contracting some disease or getting shot up simply go into a hospital and be treated there for example.
Yes, that would make attrition based adventures near civilization hard to write, which is probably the reason why it and many other modern achievements are ignored, but I rather would have "different" adventures from generic hero story than playing a supposedly futuristic game where the societies are structured like in medieval fantasy times.
 

meltdownpass

Explorer
Why would it be social commentary when futuristic world have the same capabilities as the real world has right now? And that does not mean China level of tracking but just people having a form of ID and licenses for driving and weapon possession and cars (spaceships) are registered to someone and it is possible to find out who that person is and for example if there are any warrants attached?
Even such basic things are ignored in some scifi settings, especially the fantasy inspired ones.

Then there are modern institutions and systems which are simply missing, yet would be of great value for adventurers. Health care for example. Even when you use the US kind of private health care it would change a lot of a PC could, after contracting some disease or getting shot up simply go into a hospital and be treated there for example.
Yes, that would make attrition based adventures near civilization hard to write, which is probably the reason why it and many other modern achievements are ignored, but I rather would have "different" adventures from generic hero story than playing a supposedly futuristic game where the societies are structured like in medieval fantasy times.

More or less, it isn't credible in any future world that has cameras, identifiers on people and things, and has databases, that this type of information won't be made centralized and cross-referenced by the world's power institutions. Once that happens, the genie is out of the bottle. This information control will be used by bad actors leading to dystopian results. (The shade of dystopia of course depends on how rose-tinted your personal glasses may be.)

All of that is pretty much inevitable as a consequence of bog-standard tech that's been available for decades. What happens if we advance time by fifty or a hundred years... ? And that's without even positing anything of the sci-fi tropes like robots, AIs, trans-humanism, and other genre features.

Of course I'm only talking about trying to really grapple with what technologies in the game world are likely to do. A game ought dispense with setting-internal-consistency as much as it wants to story-consistency and enjoyment. The real trick is to avoid introducing elements into a game that won't later have negative downstream consequences to take players out of the narrative -- Players expect a little more consistency from industry & technology than from magic, so a sci-fi gizmo that does something awesome requires more forethought than a magic item in a fantasy setting.
 


Ixal

Adventurer
Tell that to all the space junk and the uncataloged asteroids
If those space junk (which we can track in orbit btw.) and asteroids had a drive and needed to maintain life support telling them would be no problem as they were clearly visible to the edge of the solar system.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
If those space junk (which we can track in orbit btw.) and asteroids had a drive and needed to maintain life support telling them would be no problem as they were clearly visible to the edge of the solar system.
Um, not really. There's tons of junk in near orbits that we don't know about, and, depending on the drive, it would be hard to locate very far away due to many issues. Running systems aboard would be even harder to locate. Energy dissipates according to the inverse cube of the distance. This means that even powerful drives can quickly fall below the background noise of the universe. Most "sensors" in sci-fi are technobabbly magic. The last season of the Eclipse had a great sequence of trying to track a ship -- they had to know precisely what it's vector was when it left so that they could scrounge that volume of space to see if they did something like change course. Even with this, they couldn't actually locate the ship, they could just math out it's course and hope that they saw it if they did light off their drive. This was pretty good stuff, because it acknowledged that they needed to know exactly where to look to see if the ship turned on it's pretty powerful drive because otherwise it would just be lost in the noise and hugeness of space.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Um, not really. There's tons of junk in near orbits that we don't know about, and, depending on the drive, it would be hard to locate very far away due to many issues. Running systems aboard would be even harder to locate. Energy dissipates according to the inverse cube of the distance. This means that even powerful drives can quickly fall below the background noise of the universe. Most "sensors" in sci-fi are technobabbly magic. The last season of the Eclipse had a great sequence of trying to track a ship -- they had to know precisely what it's vector was when it left so that they could scrounge that volume of space to see if they did something like change course. Even with this, they couldn't actually locate the ship, they could just math out it's course and hope that they saw it if they did light off their drive. This was pretty good stuff, because it acknowledged that they needed to know exactly where to look to see if the ship turned on it's pretty powerful drive because otherwise it would just be lost in the noise and hugeness of space.
No, not really. We can see the Voyager probe at the edge of the solar system which basically runs on a car battery in low power mode by now. No matter how low the emissions, against the backdrop of nearly empty space it stands out. And scanning the entire solar system does not take all that much time either.
I assume you mean the Expanse and not Eclipse? Either way, television shows are not a good source for science.
Here is a good article about it (when you can stand the 1980 web design)
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
No, not really. We can see the Voyager probe at the edge of the solar system which basically runs on a car battery in low power mode by now. No matter how low the emissions, against the backdrop of nearly empty space it stands out. And scanning the entire solar system does not take all that much time either.
Sigh. We can see the Voyager probe because we know exactly where to look and exactly what to look for. It's not because it's easy (or even very hard) to find, it's because it's impossible to find without the knowledge of precisely where to look.



However, do not mind me, I'm only an electrical engineer specializing in communication systems.
I assume you mean the Expanse and not Eclipse? Either way, television shows are not a good source for science.
Here is a good article about it (when you can stand the 1980 web design)
Wait, you claim that a great example of good science in the Expanse (you are correct here) should be discounted because it's just a TV show, and then put out a link to a site which is dedicated to and often cited novels, tv shows, and other fiction works as it's raison d'etre? I mean, really?

Now, I happen to like that site, but it does some odd things, namely try to discuss different topics from different points of view or assumption sets without making it clear. For example, it notes that active sensors degrade at 1/r^4, which is the perfect case if I can send my signal out in a single line (no spread) and the target reflects perfectly. I, above, said 1/r^3, and that was for passive detection of a spherically radiating target, and this is because the energy density is being spread into that sphere, and so loses power accordingly. With an active detector, you have more power loss than 1/r^2 in one direction because the signal has a spread. We use the 1/r^2 and 1/r^4 terrestrially because it's a pretty good approximation for the very limited distances here, but, in space, distances are huge and this spreading factor quickly takes on importance. Still, in the beginning of the article, they call this out as important, but then hide the issue in the later section under passive sensors by imagining a sufficiently powerful computer that will crunch the enormous data (we can't even scan much of the sky at once now, like a degree of arc or less at a time, and it takes weeks and we miss lots and lots of stuff!). This pea, hidden under the mattress, is often overlooked -- it's a monumental problem that was swept under the rug in a single sentence!

So, then, how do we detect Voyager? Well, we know where to look, and Voyager is sending us a signal, using an antenna capable of a tight beam transmission, precisely aimed, so it's suffering as little spread loss as possible. Even then, that beam is wider than the Earth when it arrives here, much wider. But, it drags that loss down much closer to 1/r^2 rather than 1/r^3, and that makes a huge difference. In other words, we can detect Voyager only because we know where to look, and then we only see it when it's shining it's very bright flashlight at us, the one with all the mirrors that focus all the light in one direction.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Sigh. We can see the Voyager probe because we know exactly where to look and exactly what to look for. It's not because it's easy (or even very hard) to find, it's because it's impossible to find without the knowledge of precisely where to look.



However, do not mind me, I'm only an electrical engineer specializing in communication systems.

Wait, you claim that a great example of good science in the Expanse (you are correct here) should be discounted because it's just a TV show, and then put out a link to a site which is dedicated to and often cited novels, tv shows, and other fiction works as it's raison d'etre? I mean, really?

Now, I happen to like that site, but it does some odd things, namely try to discuss different topics from different points of view or assumption sets without making it clear. For example, it notes that active sensors degrade at 1/r^4, which is the perfect case if I can send my signal out in a single line (no spread) and the target reflects perfectly. I, above, said 1/r^3, and that was for passive detection of a spherically radiating target, and this is because the energy density is being spread into that sphere, and so loses power accordingly. With an active detector, you have more power loss than 1/r^2 in one direction because the signal has a spread. We use the 1/r^2 and 1/r^4 terrestrially because it's a pretty good approximation for the very limited distances here, but, in space, distances are huge and this spreading factor quickly takes on importance. Still, in the beginning of the article, they call this out as important, but then hide the issue in the later section under passive sensors by imagining a sufficiently powerful computer that will crunch the enormous data (we can't even scan much of the sky at once now, like a degree of arc or less at a time, and it takes weeks and we miss lots and lots of stuff!). This pea, hidden under the mattress, is often overlooked -- it's a monumental problem that was swept under the rug in a single sentence!

So, then, how do we detect Voyager? Well, we know where to look, and Voyager is sending us a signal, using an antenna capable of a tight beam transmission, precisely aimed, so it's suffering as little spread loss as possible. Even then, that beam is wider than the Earth when it arrives here, much wider. But, it drags that loss down much closer to 1/r^2 rather than 1/r^3, and that makes a huge difference. In other words, we can detect Voyager only because we know where to look, and then we only see it when it's shining it's very bright flashlight at us, the one with all the mirrors that focus all the light in one direction.


Again, all of this is addressed already in the link. Every ship would send signals much brighter than the 20 watts voyager probe everywhere because of all the system it needs to keep running. And not knowing where it is just adds 4 hours to scan the entire solar system and have a computer check for bright dots.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Again, all of this is addressed already in the link. Every ship would send signals much brighter than the 20 watts voyager probe everywhere because of all the system it needs to keep running. And not knowing where it is just adds 4 hours to scan the entire solar system and have a computer check for bright dots.
I mean, sure, okay, you've read an internet page, so clearly I should defer to you on this matter. Ships radiate much more power than a dedicated transmitter designed to be heard across interplanetary distances, and it only takes 4 hours to scan the entire sky and pick out a ship radiating 20 watts at interplanetary distances. I mean, the fact that the power loss is 1/r^3, at the distance of Mars from Earth at it's closest point, a ship radiating 200 watts of waste power in a single spectrum (because, I mean, why wouldn't it radiate all of it's power in the same spectrum, right?) would have that signal knocked down to.. lemme see, 200 watts is 200 kg*m^2/s^3 divided by 5.5 x10^6 meters cubed (or roughly 125 x 10^18 meters) would reduce that signal strength by a factor of.... will you'll need to use SI notation because there isn't a name for that small a thing yet. And the background cosmic radiation strength is higher than that, even outside the microwave range.

So, perfectly, a ship radiating 10 times as much energy in a narrow spectrum at the distance of Earth to Mars is lost in the background.

The bit about finding Voyager is hiding a lot of information for the purposes of a poor argument on the webpage. Yes, the Green Bank telescope picked out Voyager in 1 second, but this is eliding the fact that it took a second for a telescope to even see the light from a dedicated and focused active transmitter when it both knew the frequency to look for AND was pointed right at it. It didn't scan the entire sky and detect the bogey, it was given precise instructions where and what to look for and it still, with some of the best algorithms for detection of anomalous signals, took a second to do it. With a 100m parabolic antenna dish.

Recall that your source webpage is intended to provide science-fiction writers some top cover for realism in their stories, where they can postulate lots of things that are near true or fantastical but lampshaded. It is not a scientifically accurate webpage, it's just a close enough for sci-fi webpage. It also makes a number of assumptions about things, like what a torchship is, an uses those assumptions throughout.

Let me unpack a bit about how we "see" Voyager. For one, the assumption set in that is that the signal falloff is much better approximated by 1/r^2 rather than 1/r^3. That means the signal will be a whatever the magnitude of the distance is times stronger from Voyager than from a similar signal evenly radiating into space. This makes a big difference. Secondly, Voyager is radiating on a specific frequency, meaning all of it's power is focused into that one frequency. This make detecting that signal much better. To give an indication, it's like everything's an even dull white color (random frequency background radiation) and I shine a red light at you from in this, it will stand out better because it's a specific color. Similar concepts here. So, Voyager is doing us some favors -- it's radiating using a focusing antenna that massively improves effective strength of the signal, it's doing it in a narrow frequency band, and we know where it is in the sky. This allows us to detect Voyager. And by "detect" we mean "hey, there's a strange signal there along this line of bearing." Contrast this with a ship, even assume you can say how much more power it radiates, that power will be radiating all around, so you won't get the favorable gain of a focused transmitter. Secondly, that power will be across a wide range of the spectrum -- so will be radio bands (and that's a huge band), some will be visible light, and some will be heat (infrared), so even if you say it's emitting a lot of power, you can't look across the entire spectrum because it doesn't add together like that. In any given spectrum you're searching, the actual radiated power will be much less.

Finally, given you place so much stock in the webpage, why does it say that the maneuvering thrusters of the space shuttle, which put much more power than anything we're talking about here, would only be detectable out to the asteroid belt? This is a specific, much higher power release, nominally in a relatively narrow spectrum, and yet your webpage of choice is saying that, when looking for it specifically, you'd only see it within a few AU? That, alone, should give you pause to consider exactly what set of assumptions that article is using. Everything they say could be true, if you unpack all of their unstated assumptions. The reality is that many of those assumptions are perfect for their examples and propose things that wouldn't actually be the case. Like stealth in space -- very, very doable, but not perfectly doable, and their point here is that perfect stealth is impossible, which is a rather facile argument to make to begin with.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
And as predicted, Nocill's Law is in effect
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any thread that begins by pointing out why stealth in space is impossible will rapidly turn into a thread focusing on schemes whereby stealth in space might be achieved.

You are free to post your calculations on rec.arts.sf.science (or whatever replaced usenet groups) as mentioned and be celebrated to be "the one" who figured out stealth in space.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
And as predicted, Nocill's Law is in effect


You are free to post your calculations on rec.arts.sf.science (or whatever replaced usenet groups) as mentioned and be celebrated to be "the one" who figured out stealth in space.
Ah, I see. You've read a webpage, and so have the understanding that you think you can assign homework (and it's the wrong homework problem, even) to others that point out your failings of understanding? Interesting tack to take. And I say you're assigning the wrong problem because it's the wrong problem. The methods of stealth in space are actually quite well discussed. The primary issue is masking of RF signals, as these are most easily detected. This is done in the modern military, and similar methods apply. The big issue is waste heat, which you have to vent. That's also been discussed, and usually involved cooling systems that allow you to direct heat venting, so you can vent away from where you think the people looking for you are. Given there's no atmosphere is space to absorb and reradiate, merely pointing it away from your opponents makes it very, very hard to detect (you have to hope that something crosses the transmission path and reradiates, like a moth caught in a spotlight beam briefly becomes very bright). These aren't new concepts.

Defeating active sensors again looks very much like it does today -- either capture the signal so it can radiate back, or make sure that you redirect the signal away from the source.

I mean, this isn't new stuff, it's just stuff you haven't been exposed to, but you feel that since you've read a webpage, I'm the one saying ridiculous things because it doesn't align with your layman's understanding of highly technical concepts that were glossed, very briefly and with lots of hidden assumptions, on a webpage you like.

I mean, whatever, right? I'm just now off to continue troubleshooting a satellite radio system, dealing with a known set of frequencies and a fixed geosync satellite, but where we're having a devil of a time figuring out why our signal strength is bouncing around between not seeing it at all, seeing it but not strong enough for comms, and good comms. It's not like I know anything. I'll just go cry with my spectrum analyzer about how badly I misunderstand how easy it is to find things in space.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
So, yes, recall when I said that webpage has some hidden assumptions -- here's a big one:
However, this counterexample is not true stealth. For something to count as stealth, it must be capable of making detection difficult even for a serious opponent in an operational context. A B-2 is stealthy because it is difficult to detect even for a serious opponent while on an operational mission. A B-52 is not stealthy even though it could fly over your house on a day without contrails without you spotting it. While there are many story and/or tactical possibilities in dealing with inadequate sensor networks, the lesson of this section is that sensor networks in space are both easy to create and extremely effective compared to similar networks on Earth.

They've defined "stealth" as very invisible even to a dedicated opponent while I a fully operational environment. This means they're defining "stealth" as "you are at or near full engine burn, at a range where releasing weapons is in progress or an immeninet danger and/or a critical bit of intelligence is at risk, and the opponent is both technologically sophisticated and very dedicated to locating you, presumably because of the whole weapons thing." This is a ridiculous assumption set, and is, as designed, of course impossible. However, "stealth" doesn't actually mean this, else the current militaries of the world would not be having great success with "stealth" that does not meet this definition.
 

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