Monday, September 07, 2015

On A Journey

Actually 2 journeys, plus that big long one we call life.

But we'll leave that life one for the philosophers for now.

Mix of very little game (I hope I don't digress!), a bit of real astronomy, a bit of theoretical Stuff and some actual real life travel gripe ...

Game ?

You'll know I've been on that Internet Spaceship game a bit too much. It so pretty. In its own way. So many pretty sparkly objects and gaps that an active imagination can fill in. Right now, my imaginary Starship Commander is propping up one of the bars in Hutton Orbital in the Alpha Centauri system after an epic journey to get there. It's supposed to be a resting time while waiting for Hutton Orbital Mugs to be made, hopefully so his dodgy right wrist recovers and gets less painful.

Too much time gripping the joystick me thinks.

Perhaps he should be drinking with a straw to not pick up those heavy glasses with the bad arm ? All the better to empty the glass quicker and make it lighter. I think my Imaginary Spaceship Commander might be an alcoholic and making up for me barely drinking alcohol at all.

Where is this Hutton Orbital and why has it become such a theme with Elite pilots ?

It's situated in the Alpha Centauri star system. Here's a link to lots of stuff on Wiki about it. At 4.2 light years distant, it's the closest star system to our own and is actually 3 stars linked together by their mutual gravitational attraction. (Detailed info in the link). The first two stars are designated Alpha Centauri A and ... you guessed it ... Alpha Centauri B. They vary in distance apart, closest approach is the same distance as Saturn to our Sun, farthest distance is Pluto.

The two stars are fairly Sol like. Our Sun is a Type G2V star right slap in the middle of the "Main Sequence" almost all stars go through in its life. That means there are millions or billions of years before it turns red, gets huge, eats the Earth and then dims, collapses and explodes into a nova, spreading the elements it has created into the cosmos to become the building blocks of more life. Alpha Centauri A is a G2V as well, B is a K1V which places it a bit further along on the main sequence. The 1/2V refer to the temperature relative to our sun and the V means they are main sequence stars. The actual characteristics are tied by laws of physics.

What's that mean ? It's highly unlikely any planets would form in a system like that. The interplanetary Stuff that organises itself in rings and then coagulates together is pulled apart by the influence of the two suns. It would never form a ring and therefore never form a planet. At least that's what I assume from my limited knowledge of astronomy. There's a cracking series by Prof Brian Cox that explains all this, I think it was Wonders Of The Solar System. Hopefully understandable by us mere mortals.

(They do actually think there's a planet around Alpha Centauri B, which shows how much I know)

So - no planets, no reason to go there ? Not quite. There's a third star in the system, called Proxima Centauri. It's 0.22 light years away from A and B. It's a red dwarf star class M6, which means it's small, dim and almost at the end of the main sequence. If a planet was around it, the planet would be pretty cold unless it was very close.

With current telescope technology, we can't refine our knowledge much past seeing the 3 stars even on a system as close as Alpha Centauri. We think there might be an exoplanet around AC B but it's too close to the star to be of any use (way too hot, hotter than Venus).

This is where the game comes in. For a game like Elite to be succesful, it has to have life. It needs population. It needs a galactic economy for traders to lose themselves in. It needs things to see, places to go. In the case of Alpha Centauri, they've placed a nearly dead planet called Eden around Proxima Centauri and there is a starport called Hutton Orbital in the skies above it.

Here it is, with my heavily armed trading Python the "Mel and Sue ..."
So there is life there, in the virtual domain at least.

If you make the trip to get there ... Hutton Orbital is 0.22 light years away from where you drop into the system. The game has its own form of warp drive to lessen the time taken to get to places. It barely takes any time to get from the entry point to stations maybe 100 to 10,000 light seconds away. This one is 80 light days or 6.9 million light seconds away. That takes 90 minutes to get there ... During which you're not doing very much. Apart from going to the shops for dinner bits, making dinner, having dinner, getting dessert, quick nap, facebook and twitter daily update.

So not many people go there. It's become a hotbed of activity over the weekend though, there is a Community Goal that involves taking scrap all the way to this station. Enough scrap and they make a new Rare Item (something in limited quantities that can only be bought in one place) to be sold here. It'll be the Hutton Orbital Mug.

I want one.

I want one in real life. Come on Frontier ! Make it happen !

So my in game personality is propping up the bar there because I really don't want to make that trip twice to pick up the reward for doing one trip. That suits me fine because the RSI tendencies in my wrist have been waking up with the stick time. (Boo hiss). Maybe I need to play some Shooty Game, that's been good therapy for it in the past. I also have Rendezvous With Rama to read and I've discovered an iPad game called Motorsport Manager which I've been enjoying.

I mentioned real life journeys didn't I ...

They're digging up the roads again. And this time is beyond insanity ... The plan is to make a new Metro Bus route, which will go very close to my place. Why they can't use the existing road system, I dunno. But they're doing widening works which for the short term, will cause havoc. Bristol has a few very strategic routes and exits to the motorways. If one of those routes or the motorway gets clogged, the result is massive gridlock as people get stuck in the traffic, as the traffic stretches back and blocks other strategic junctions, as people use alternate routes.

The other part of the insanity is that they've chosen to do this now, at the start of the school term, instead of starting it off in the school holiday. This is important because the traffic increases exponentially with parents doing the school run. I got into work at about normal time today but that's mostly because I used a Really Alternate Rarely Used Route. Actually never used this one before, won't do again. I went through a station which has extremely aggressive speed bumps.

Yep. Bit of madness from the Bristol city road planners again. We've got used to that over the years. They are actively hostile to road users, whether that be 2 wheel, 4 wheel or truck. You could say democracy has failed us there. We vote for the people making these decisions but if there are no sensible people to vote for, then democracy cannot choose a good leader.

Gripe. Whinge.

I came home by the normal route tonight, which actually went ok. But coming out of the area I live, the traffic was still mental. It all funnels into one big roundabout, which can't efficiently get everyone out of the area.

Virtual Life becomes more fun than Real Life again. Even if the trip in Virtual Life is 90 minutes watching a distance counter click down.

Hopefully tomorrow's trip into work will be better as people avoid the bottlenecks. I can't cos I'm in the middle of them. I won't be doing the virtual trip for a bit, I want to wait for that Community Goal to complete, then I'll have my pilot collect the reward and be out of there. Still a bit burned out on the Internet Spaceships though from the explore trip, although there are Spaceship Commanders coming out of the woodwork at work.

And I really must not continue the virtual journey that a character called Etherice (Iceangel was taken - boo hiss) started yesterday. Yep. I have an active WoW account again, even if it is a free trial 10 day period.

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