Monday, April 13, 2009

Engine Management

Galactic North is a collection of Alastair Reynolds short stories, set in the Revelation Space universe. In the story “Weather” we have a light-hugger interstellar spacecraft under pursuit amongst the stars, with its Conjoiner engines acting up. Luckily the crew have a refugee Conjoiner woman on board who agrees to examine the (super-secret) engines. She explains the difficulty.

"I can't reveal the detailed physical principles upon which the drive depends, but I can tell you that the conditions in the drive when it is at full functionality are enormously complex and chaotic. Your ship may ride a smooth thrust beam, but the reactions going on inside the drive are anything but smooth. There is a small mouth into hell inside every engine: bubbling, frothing, subject to vicious and unpredictable state-changes.”

“Which the engine needs to smooth out?”

“Yes. And to do so, the engine needs to think through some enormously complex parallel computational problems. When all is well, when the engine is intact and running inside its normal operational envelope, the burden is manageable. But if you ask too much of the engine, or damage it in some way, that burden becomes heavier. Eventually it exceeds the means of the engine, and the reactions become uncontrolled.”



Could be a metaphor for relationship management in general, but maybe that’s an NT speaking.

Note: here's a cute, cynical, sadly accurate site for personality type descriptions.