GENERAL DISCUSSIONS

Silly Techno Pondering

POSTED BY: ARAWAEN
UPDATED: Thursday, February 5, 2004 10:23
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Monday, February 2, 2004 7:57 AM

ARAWAEN


The Mule is obviously an internal combustion engine device in terms of the prop used. I think that within the Firefly Universe it uses some other form of fuel though. The reason is that terraformed planets shouldn't have 'fossil fuels'.

A silly, pointless consideration, I know, but that is the way my brain works.

Arawaen


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Monday, February 2, 2004 8:15 AM

BROWNCOAT1

May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.


You know that had crossed my mind as well when watching "Train Job" when it aired on Fox, but I did not think much on it at that time.

I guess that the need for fuels for internal combustion engines would still exist, especially out on the Rim. I suppose that they must use something other than gasoline and I imagine it would be something that could be bought or bartered for on most worlds.

"May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one."


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Monday, February 2, 2004 8:15 AM

KURUKAMI


Generally not, that's true... but who knows whether or not other planets might have once had life that got wiped clean by a cometary impact? The chances of that actually happening are rare, though.

On the other hand, the Mule could work off of hydrogen fuel cells or methane, either of which could be found on a planet without fossil fuels.

History doesn't always repeat itself. Sometimes it merely shouts "Weren't you listening the first time?!?" and lets fly with a club.

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Monday, February 2, 2004 8:16 AM

HOTPOINT


You can run a conventional internal combustion engine just as easily with Biodiesel from Oil Seed Rape

Or why not ethanol from sugar?

No need for petroleum in the 'Verse

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Monday, February 2, 2004 8:16 AM

JUSTDAVID


An internal cumbustion engine could run on alcohol, no fossil fuels required.

EDIT: You know, when I hit reply, there were no other posts yet, and I ended up fourth one down! Guess I need to type faster 'round these parts.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2004 2:50 AM

DRAKON


Quote:

Originally posted by Arawaen:
The Mule is obviously an internal combustion engine device in terms of the prop used. I think that within the Firefly Universe it uses some other form of fuel though. The reason is that terraformed planets shouldn't have 'fossil fuels'.



Good point, but...
There are other things that we can use to power an internal combustion engine. Grain alcohol will work, as will wood alcohol. And that is just what I can think up off the top of my head, 500 years before Firefly. There may be more ways to skin that cat, errr mule.

"Wash, where is my damn spaceship?"

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Tuesday, February 3, 2004 3:12 AM

ARAWAEN


You guys are right. Plus 'grown' fuels would fit with the expansionistic trends of the alliance. New wolrds can grow fuel for the central planets.

Would take a lot of cropland to supply something like Ariel city with fuel. Assuming that the Central planets have a similar population density across their surface (as opposed to a single large city).

Arawaen

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Tuesday, February 3, 2004 10:53 AM

LTNOWIS


Isn't there a way to make purely synthetic fuel, without actually growing it? I know you can make inferior synthetic rubber.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2004 11:14 AM

STATIC


Ummm. . .isn't Diesel manufactured? I can't remember.

Also, propane.

And while REAL mules ARE gasoline powered (I drive one here that runs on JP-8. . .aircraft fuel) could we be intended to assume that THEIR mule is electric perhaps? I mean. . .it's a possiblity, isn't it?

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Tuesday, February 3, 2004 11:28 AM

FORTUNATUS


Quote:

Would take a lot of cropland to supply something like Ariel city with fuel. Assuming that the Central planets have a similar population density across their surface (as opposed to a single large city).


If Serenity is powered by a fusion reactor, then one would assume that Ariel's main source of power would also come from fusion. Fusion reactors essentially run off of hydrogen, which is extraordinarily abundant.

Quote:

And while REAL mules ARE gasoline powered (I drive one here that runs on JP-8. . .aircraft fuel) could we be intended to assume that THEIR mule is electric perhaps? I mean. . .it's a possiblity, isn't it?


It's a possibility, but the mule sure sounds like it's powered by a combustion engine on the show. I think the biodiesil or methane option is quite reasonable, considering the low-tech nature of many of the rim worlds and the relative simplicity of the internal combustion engine.

As for diesil being manufactured: all oil-based fossil fuels are manufactured to some degree. That's what refineries are for. For that matter, the production of alcohol-based fuels requires manufacturing as well.

A side note: toward the end of WWII, the German Army equipped some of their trucks' combustion engines to run on wood.

_______________
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Tuesday, February 3, 2004 12:13 PM

KASUO


Fossil fuels are a pretty good source of fuel because it has a lot of stored energy in a compact form. In the FF universe, since they are able to terraform, it is likely they can develop synthetic foss fuels in massive quantities similar to what we use today -- or, potentially, better.


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Tuesday, February 3, 2004 12:18 PM

KOZURE


The problem with methanol and ethanol in bare-bones existence situations is that you might end up using up more energy growing corn or wheat to create the alcohols in question than you get once you distill it. You expend energy as a farmer overseeing the crops, feed the animals who pull the plow and the threshers, burn wood to heat the still. I've read a few studies recently where it was strongly suggested that some of today's ethanol-based fuels are actually less energy efficient (in terms of overall energy conversion) than the amount of effort expended to produce it and that, in effect, they're only really worthwhile when you have a glut of corn or wheat.

Not to say that grain-alcohols aren't possibilities in the Firefly 'Verse, but if food is so rare that people kill for it on the Rim (ref: "Serenity") one might wonder if using high-energy grain crops to make fuel is cost/energy-efficient on colony worlds.

Hydrogen cells are also a possiblity, but you need a heck of a lot of energy to "crack" the water into hydrogen (and byproduct oxygen), which brings back the whole energy cycle thing.

I guess another way to look at it is to consider the idea of having energy converted into small, efficient forms (petroleum products) vs. long-term but less efficient users of energy like horses or grain alcohol stills.

I think it's great that people on the frontier would have to consider the worth of using a combustion engine-powered vehicle vs. animal strength. "Should I take the 'mule' or the actual mule?"

One will get you there faster and carry more load, but the other won't require spare parts, expensive fuel, or frequent mechanical maintenance (Though I'm sure most mule-skinners would argue the "convenience" of using horses and mules as your standard hauler).

Solar or wind power might power the hydrogen crackers on colony worlds, but another possibility is for hydrogen cells to be manufactered in centres where energy is plentiful (access to fusion reactors) and then shipped to the colonies, the expense of which might explain why people are opting for horses and oxen.

Of course, really bad energy sources might explain why horses can catch up with hovercraft and laser pistols run out after a few shots in "Heart of Gold".

Kozure the Kamikaze Highlander

Proud Citizen of Canada-That-Was

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Wednesday, February 4, 2004 2:03 AM

DRAKON


Quote:

Originally posted by LtNOWIS:
Isn't there a way to make purely synthetic fuel, without actually growing it? I know you can make inferior synthetic rubber.



The thing about growing it, is that it becomes a renewable resource, instead of a one shot deal. Fuels might be mined from a variety of sources, but in those cases, its a one shot. Use it and its gone.

Grown fuels release carbon dioxide (in combustion engines) which plants need to breathe in order to grow and make more fuel.

"Wash, where is my damn spaceship?"

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Wednesday, February 4, 2004 3:47 AM

TEELABROWN


Quote:

A side note: toward the end of WWII, the German Army equipped some of their trucks' combustion engines to run on wood.


Didn't Russian tanks run on most anything? I remember hearing that on History Channel, or something like that.

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Keep flyin', and remember, THEY can't take the sky from US!
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Thursday, February 5, 2004 10:23 AM

LTNOWIS


Quote:

A side note: toward the end of WWII, the German Army equipped some of their trucks' combustion engines to run on wood.


They also did this in occupied Paris, and possibly Sweeden, due to fuel shortages.

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