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A Beautiful Friendship Supplementary Materials

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A Beautiful Friendship Supplementary Materials
Post by Vince   » Sat Sep 17, 2011 10:00 pm

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Baen has a free short story by David Weber related to and an interview with David about A Beautiful Friendship on its home page.

Edit: Forgot to mention reading group and study guide on A Beautiful Friendship:
http://www.baen.com/ya_guides/beautifulfriendship_teachersguide.pdf

Direct link to the interview as one webpage: http://www.baen.com/interviews/intweber2.asp

Edit: Corrected the fact that the atmospheric pressure of Sphinx is given in the graphic as 1.39 ATM.

Direct link to the short story as one webpage: http://www.baen.com/index.html
Note this may change in the future -- that is -- the information the URL points to, not the URL itself. I base this on the generic URL they are using. (It looks like Baen is simply putting up whatever short story they are currently offering for free at the same URL. I may be wrong though.)

The short story has some additional links at the end, one of which is a Immigration Brochure from the SKM. One thing that caught my eye is the graphic showing Sphinx and some general information on the planet. Since Sphinx is habitable only because of an extremely active carbon dioxide cycle (The Universe of Honor Harrington by David Weber, More Than Honor) it did not surprise me to see the CO2 as 1% of Sphinx's atmosphere. What surprised me was to see the oxygen percentage as only 15% of the atmosphere (for comparison, Earth's oxygen percentage is a shade under 21%, source Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth). On Earth, at standard atmospheric pressure, an atmosphere that has less than or equal to 19.5% oxygen by volume is considered oxygen deficient.

Oxygen deficiency means that concentration of oxygen by volume below which atmosphere supplying respiratory protection must be provided. It exists in atmospheres where the percentage of oxygen by volume is less than 19.5 percent oxygen. Source: http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9765

Combining the much lower (relative to Earth) oxygen content of Sphinx's atmosphere (as given in the graphic --not the text-- of the SKM immigration brochure, the 1.35 gravity of Sphinx (as given in both the graphic and the text of the SKM immigration brochure) and a 20% faster metabolism of the Meyerdahl First Wave genetic modifications with its corresponding 20% higher oxygen demand (to fuel their 25% more efficient muscles), suggests the minor changes to the respiratory and circulatory systems of the Meyerdahl First Wave may not be so minor after all!

The Sphinx Planetary Conditions section of the immigration brochure mentions the higher 1.35 gravity on Sphinx and states in part:
Colonists from lower gravity worlds will be provided with portable countergrav units free of charge, and the government will subsidize the purchase of grav plates for household use as well.
But it makes no mention of the atmosphere's low oxygen / high nitrogen content or any equipment necessary to deal with the condition. The only reference to the low oxygen / high nitrogen content is in the graphic (given only as 83% N2, 15% O2, 1% Ar, 1% CO2 with no indication that this is low O2 or high N2 compared to Earth, or that it may present a problem to people), and only someone who knows what a oxygen deficient environment is and what it means for people exposed to it, or aware of the narcotic effect of higher nitrogen levels under higher pressures would catch it.

Both of the other links leading to the Sphinx Biology Database and the SFS Advisories mention the elevated carbon dioxide level of Sphinx's atmosphere that causes rapid breathing syndrome in new arrivals, but neither mention a deficiency in planetary atmosphere oxygen levels, or an excessive nitrogen level.

With that atmospheric oxygen / nitrogen content an unmodified human being on Sphinx without wearing a respirator that supplies additional oxygen would experience an inability to work strenuously at standard atmospheric pressure (in Earth gravity, keep in mind the higher 1.35 Sphinxian gravity) and their coordination may be affected. Source: http://www.gmitoxics.com/jan06_killer_article.html

If the atmospheric pressure / composition on Sphinx is considered oxygen deficient just lying down and being pregnant in that environment would almost certainly cause severe development problems for a normal (not genetically modified) human zygote, embryo or fetus as well as the normal mother. Even a modified human zygote, embryo or fetus would probably suffer from severe development problems if it was being carried to term by an unmodified mother.

Since we know Honor's mother Allison Harrington did exactly that with Honor (without benefit of grav plates to reduce the felt gravity of Sphinx to that of Earth) and we know Allison does not have the Meyerdahl First Wave genetic modifications and no normal human being is mentioned as having to wear an oxygen supplying respirator on Sphinx, I suspect that someone in the Star Kingdom of Manticore's Home Office, Ministry of Immigration made a transcription error in the Pamphlet SKM-GR-1517-S (Excerpted) 19 July, 1517 PD (AL 58.02.22).

If the 15% O2 number is valid, the only explanation that I can think of (but don't have the experience and knowledge to know if it makes sense) is the higher atmospheric pressure (Edit: 1.39 ATM, in the graphic) mentioned in the SFS Advisories makes up for the lower percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere.

I do know that oxygen becomes toxic at higher pressures such as found underwater Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_toxicity, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximum_operating_depth).
The articles state that reducing the percentage of oxygen breathed under higher pressure can avoid oxygen toxicity symptoms, but a straight proportional increasing of nitrogen gas while reducing oxygen gas in the mixture (which is what the graphic implies) is narcotic.

Any experienced divers, or doctors with experience in hyperbaric medicine know if the atmospheric composition numbers as given make sense, given a higher (Edit: 1.39 ATM) atmospheric pressure? If it doesn't make sense, and if it isn't a transcription error, I suspect it is a editorial error. If neither a transcription or editorial error, I suspect it is a continuity error. If it isn't an error at all, the MWW has some explaining to do. Biological nanotech, if it is involved can only explain so much.

If the higher atmospheric pressure of Sphinx doesn't make up for the lower oxygen percentage, I suspect (assuming typos / transcription errors) the atmospheric composition of Sphinx is 73% nitrogen, 25% oxygen, 1% argon 1% carbon dioxide. Human beings can tolerate higher levels of carbon dioxide than normally found on Earth if the oxygen content is maintained, with a 1% carbon dioxide content in poorly ventilated environments causing drowsiness in some people. Source: http://www.inspectapedia.com/hazmat/CO2gashaz.htm

The oxygen content of the atmosphere cannot be too high, as the chance of spontaneous combustion increases with increasing levels of oxygen. If the graphic is correct, the entire planet qualifies as a Permit-required Confined Space under current day USA OSHA regulations, under standard (Earth) atmospheric conditions. No company in existence today would allow a known pregnant woman to enter such an environment. If they did their safety and legal departments would probably freak out.

Comments?
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Re: A Beautiful Friendship Supplementary Materials
Post by kzt   » Sun Sep 18, 2011 3:30 am

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The percentage of 02 in the atmosphere doesn't matter. It's the partial pressure of oxygen than matters. Deep divers use breathing mixes at several hundred feet that do not contain enough oxygen to sustain life at atmospheric pressure.

For example, the partial pressure of O2 at sea level is ~160mm of mercury.

At 200 meters of depth a breathing mix of 1% O2 would have a partial pressure 02 of ~152 mm Hg, which is perfectly adequate, about what you get at 1000 feet above sea level. A normal air mixture at 200 meters would have a partial pressure of O2 of ~3200 mm Hg and will almost certainly result in rapid development of CNS O2 toxicity and you will go into convulsions.

On Sphinx surface the partial pressure would be ~158 mm Hg. Or about what you get at a few hundred foot elevation on earth.

So no, the atmosphere is perfectly fine from an oxygen point of view.
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Re: A Beautiful Friendship Supplementary Materials
Post by Vince   » Sun Sep 18, 2011 12:45 pm

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kzt wrote:The percentage of 02 in the atmosphere doesn't matter. It's the partial pressure of oxygen than matters. Deep divers use breathing mixes at several hundred feet that do not contain enough oxygen to sustain life at atmospheric pressure.

For example, the partial pressure of O2 at sea level is ~160mm of mercury.

At 200 meters of depth a breathing mix of 1% O2 would have a partial pressure 02 of ~152 mm Hg, which is perfectly adequate, about what you get at 1000 feet above sea level. A normal air mixture at 200 meters would have a partial pressure of O2 of ~3200 mm Hg and will almost certainly result in rapid development of CNS O2 toxicity and you will go into convulsions.

On Sphinx surface the partial pressure would be ~158 mm Hg. Or about what you get at a few hundred foot elevation on earth.

So no, the atmosphere is perfectly fine from an oxygen point of view.

Thanks kzt.

Would I be right in surmising that the increased atmospheric pressure and nitrogen levels on Sphinx would be insufficient to produce a narcotic effect (the narcosis of the deep that divers experience when diving at deep depths using a nitrogen-oxygen [not nitrogen-oxygen-helium] mixture?

I'm also guessing that the same holds true for the increased CO2 levels at Sphinx's higher atmospheric pressure (no adverse effects that the human body can't adjust to). Am I right or wrong in this as well?
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Re: A Beautiful Friendship Supplementary Materials
Post by Tenshinai   » Sun Sep 18, 2011 3:22 pm

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Vince wrote:it did not surprise me to see the CO2 as 1% of Sphinx's atmosphere. What surprised me was to see the oxygen percentage as only 15% of the atmosphere

OMG!!! The CO2 level alone is enough to cause people to get a bit sick(reduced biological activity which means getting fatigued very quickly at best and getting sleepy, unfocused and possibly nauseus at worst), even with earthnormal levels of oxygen.
Modern work health norms is that CO2 levels should not go above 0.5%(or around there depending on country).
And that is considered potentially dangerous for people with heart conditions(and some other conditions).

And with just 15% oxygen, damn that´s really vicious conditions.
Lets hope the 1% is a "rounded up" figure and the 15% is rounded down.

Vince wrote:If the 15% O2 number is valid, the only explanation that I can think of (but don't have the experience and knowledge to know if it makes sense) is the higher atmospheric pressure (Edit: 1.39 ATM, in the graphic) mentioned in the SFS Advisories makes up for the lower percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere.

The higher pressure alleviates the problem somewhat, but i dont remember how to calculate the effect properly, but i dont think it´s enough to remove the issue.

Vince wrote:If the higher atmospheric pressure of Sphinx doesn't make up for the lower oxygen percentage, I suspect (assuming typos / transcription errors) the atmospheric composition of Sphinx is 73% nitrogen, 25% oxygen, 1% argon 1% carbon dioxide. Human beings can tolerate higher levels of carbon dioxide than normally found on Earth if the oxygen content is maintained, with a 1% carbon dioxide content in poorly ventilated environments causing drowsiness in some people. Source: http://www.inspectapedia.com/hazmat/CO2gashaz.htm

Humans CAN acclimatise to higher CO2 levels to some degree, 2% is likely the limit for longterm though, with 4% being the limit for a few weeks at most.
But healthy or a good idea for a place that requires more exertion than normal, it isnt.

kzt wrote:So no, the atmosphere is perfectly fine from an oxygen point of view.

If it was the only difference, it would perhaps be ok, but i very much doubt that i would call it "perfectly fine".
I´m trying to find my old notes on "viable planetary conditions" but those seem to be somewhere im not looking, anyway, based on a quick check(that i hopefully calculated correctly) i get a figure of around 0.9-ish ( earth sealevel being 1 ) for oxygenation effectiveness based on pressure and O2 content?

While that isnt terrible, combined with high gravity and a massive amount of CO2, its a rather awful combination.

Also, that amount of nitrogen isnt great either, there´s good reason why deep divers tend to use fancy gases instead of nitrogen.
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Re: A Beautiful Friendship Supplementary Materials
Post by kzt   » Sun Sep 18, 2011 3:34 pm

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That level of nitrogen should not impact people in a noticeable way. You typically need to exceed two Bar of pressure, though I'm sure there are rare exceptions.

No real idea about CO2, but it sounds "interesting" in the bad way. You want a very low amount in breathing mixture for diving. Wiki says that 1% to 2% produce drowsiness to a mild narcotic effect. OSHA safe level is 0.5%. This effect is probably also linked to partial pressure, but elevated CO2 is not anything you want in a breathing mixture so it isn't discussed in anything I can remember. Elevated CO, CO2, SO2 are all the kind of things that should not end up on your air tank.
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Re: A Beautiful Friendship Supplementary Materials
Post by wastedfly   » Sun Sep 18, 2011 3:58 pm

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That CO2 level is damned dangerous. Add in the increased pressure due to gravity and its gotta be close to deadly for extended periods.

Its water vapor content that keeps the earth warm not C02. As the earth's oceans become saltier and saltier the earth will cool off more and more. The higher the percentage of salt in the ocean = less water vapor in the atmoshpere. IE higher vapor pressure required to evaporate water into the atmosphere.

Sphinx, if it had very little salt in its oceans would have a far greater water evaporation rate and therefore a far higher water percentage in its atmoshphere, thus creating a far warmer planet.

Likewise it is VERY likely that the early earth was so warm due to 1) no giant glaciers = low salt content in oceans and 2) whatever caused the ice age dumped all that fresh water on the continents and when melted pushed ENORMOUS amounts of salt into the oceans increasing salt content of the oceans and decreasing water in the atmosphere, cooling the earth down from the uber super tropical climate that used to be present in the early history of our planet. Since the end of the Ice age our planet has been fairly stable with variances we really can't explain aside from volcanic eruptions or possibly the sun. Of course the sun could have been far hotter early in our history as well and it has nothing to do with water vapor, salt, or C02.

kzt wrote:That level of nitrogen should not impact people in a noticeable way. You typically need to exceed two Bar of pressure, though I'm sure there are rare exceptions.

No real idea about CO2, but it sounds "interesting" in the bad way. You want a very low amount in breathing mixture for diving. Wiki says that 1% to 2% produce drowsiness to a mild narcotic effect. OSHA safe level is 0.5%. This effect is probably also linked to partial pressure, but elevated CO2 is not anything you want in a breathing mixture so it isn't discussed in anything I can remember. Elevated CO, CO2, SO2 are all the kind of things that should not end up on your air tank.
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Re: A Beautiful Friendship Supplementary Materials
Post by Werrf   » Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:26 pm

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wastedfly wrote:Its water vapor content that keeps the earth warm not C02.

Tell that to Venus. Atmosphere of 96.5% CO2, water vapour concentration of about 20 ppm, and a temperature to melt lead vs Earth's atmosphere of 0.039% CO2, water vapour concentration of around 0.4%. CO2 can do the job on Sphinx just fine, thank you.
wastedfly wrote:As the earth's oceans become saltier and saltier the earth will cool off more and more. The higher the percentage of salt in the ocean = less water vapor in the atmoshpere. IE higher vapor pressure required to evaporate water into the atmosphere.

Salinity of the ocean has been stable since around 2 billion years ago.
wastedfly wrote:Likewise it is VERY likely that the early earth was so warm due to 1) no giant glaciers = low salt content in oceans and 2) whatever caused the ice age dumped all that fresh water on the continents and when melted pushed ENORMOUS amounts of salt into the oceans increasing salt content of the oceans and decreasing water in the atmosphere, cooling the earth down from the uber super tropical climate that used to be present in the early history of our planet.

I don't follow. Ocean salinity has been stable for billions of years. In the precambrian period, it was around 1.5-2x the modern value, and surface temperatures were on the order of 55-85 celcius (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031018204005905)

It's quite possible my pop science information is out of date, though, so please do enlighten me if I am mistaken on any of this - links would be appreciated.
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Re: A Beautiful Friendship Supplementary Materials
Post by Vince   » Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:55 pm

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kzt wrote:That level of nitrogen should not impact people in a noticeable way. You typically need to exceed two Bar of pressure, though I'm sure there are rare exceptions.

No real idea about CO2, but it sounds "interesting" in the bad way. You want a very low amount in breathing mixture for diving. Wiki says that 1% to 2% produce drowsiness to a mild narcotic effect. OSHA safe level is 0.5%. This effect is probably also linked to partial pressure, but elevated CO2 is not anything you want in a breathing mixture so it isn't discussed in anything I can remember. Elevated CO, CO2, SO2 are all the kind of things that should not end up on your air tank.

I remember reading that US submarines in WWII in the Pacific that were under attack while submerged would do two things. One was to spread limestone (I believe it was crushed, possibly down to sand - the book used sprinkling as the verb) around the sub to absorb the CO2 being produced by the crew. The other was to increase the pressure by releasing compressed air into the interior of the sub. The idea was to keep the O2 level high enough relative to the CO2 level that the lungs of human body would continue function normally (taking in O2 from the atmosphere being breathed and releasing the CO2 produced by the body back into the atmosphere being breathed).

All the information I found by searching the Internet on the toxicity levels of CO2 refer to poorly ventilated areas (usually enclosed spaces). That means as people breath the air, the relative levels of CO2 and O2 are changing at the same time, with the CO2 level rising and the O2 level falling, although the information did not explicitly mention this. This would not be true outside on Sphinx. Instead you would have a continuously elevated CO2 level (relative to Earth), but with a constant level of O2 in the air being breathed.

Can anyone with naval, diver, medical or other relevant experience please share their information?
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Re: A Beautiful Friendship Supplementary Materials
Post by JohnRoth   » Sun Sep 18, 2011 5:32 pm

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Werrf wrote:
wastedfly wrote:Its water vapor content that keeps the earth warm not C02.

Tell that to Venus. Atmosphere of 96.5% CO2, water vapour concentration of about 20 ppm, and a temperature to melt lead vs Earth's atmosphere of 0.039% CO2, water vapour concentration of around 0.4%. CO2 can do the job on Sphinx just fine, thank you.


I think he was referring to the fact that water vapor is a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.
Werrf wrote:
wastedfly wrote:As the earth's oceans become saltier and saltier the earth will cool off more and more. The higher the percentage of salt in the ocean = less water vapor in the atmoshpere. IE higher vapor pressure required to evaporate water into the atmosphere.

Salinity of the ocean has been stable since around 2 billion years ago.
wastedfly wrote:Likewise it is VERY likely that the early earth was so warm due to 1) no giant glaciers = low salt content in oceans and 2) whatever caused the ice age dumped all that fresh water on the continents and when melted pushed ENORMOUS amounts of salt into the oceans increasing salt content of the oceans and decreasing water in the atmosphere, cooling the earth down from the uber super tropical climate that used to be present in the early history of our planet.

I don't follow. Ocean salinity has been stable for billions of years. In the precambrian period, it was around 1.5-2x the modern value, and surface temperatures were on the order of 55-85 celcius (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031018204005905)

It's quite possible my pop science information is out of date, though, so please do enlighten me if I am mistaken on any of this - links would be appreciated.


A couple of facts. First, radiation from the Sun is increasing by about 10% per billion years.

Second, a large proportion of the Earth's heat comes from radioactive decay in the core. This, of course, goes in the opposite direction from the Sun - heat of formation + radioactive decay goes down while heat from the Sun goes up.

Third, the technical terminology is that we're in an interglacial. The current ice age began quite a while ago, and will continue for a good long time. I think the reason was that South America split from Antarctica, letting the Southern Current form and plunging Antarctica into the deep freezer.

As far as long term climate stability goes, look up the term "Snowball Earth." Chilling. The planet has had wild climate swings, most of which might be due to the way the continents shift and the ocean currents shift around them.

I know just enough about climate science to take anything more specific than "we're going to have a miserable time for the next few decades" with a great deal of skepticism.

The meta-comment here is that DW designed the Manticore system close to 20 years ago, so there are several things that looked pretty solid back then that are looking rather shaky today.
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Re: A Beautiful Friendship Supplementary Materials
Post by kzt   » Sun Sep 18, 2011 6:28 pm

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Vince wrote:All the information I found by searching the Internet on the toxicity levels of CO2 refer to poorly ventilated areas (usually enclosed spaces). That means as people breath the air, the relative levels of CO2 and O2 are changing at the same time, with the CO2 level rising and the O2 level falling, although the information did not explicitly mention this. This would not be true outside on Sphinx. Instead you would have a continuously elevated CO2 level (relative to Earth), but with a constant level of O2 in the air being breathed.

Can anyone with naval, diver, medical or other relevant experience please share their information?

Significant amounts of CO2 in a breathing mix is bad. It should need to be measured by parts per million, not percentage. It's not as bad as getting SO2 or CO in the tank, but it is toxic.

CO2 total flooding systems are used for fire suppression in some extremely sensitive or dangerous places. They are horribly lethal to anyone caught in them, as the room almost instantly becomes filled with an opaque white fog as all the moisture in the air condenses from the very cold CO2. If you take a single breath you will lose consciousness. Due to series of idiots doing idiotic things supervised by penny-saving morons DoE in Idaho managed to turn off all the safeties and alarms on the total flooding system in a lab under renovation. And then the incorrectly installed system flooded the room without any warning. It didn't end well.
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