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Team: Team Maximegalon

Leader: Andrew Hobson

City / State: Bristol

Country: United Kingdom

Team members: Andrew Hobson, Sue Hobson

Team MaximegalonI'm a 44 year old software engineer living & working on the South-West coast of England. I have a long standing interest in both science fiction and astronautics. I was president of the science-fiction society while at college and have been a member of the British Interplanetary Society for many years. I first heard of Mini-Space World in the society's Spaceflight magazine. A few years ago I won a competition held by X-prize contender Bristol Spaceplanes for a ticket into space. Although they did not win the X-prize I fully intend to claim my place as their first passenger as and when their Ascender project comes to fruition.

The other member of Team Maximegalon is my wife Sue, also a fan of science-fiction, who supplied invaluable advice and support in the process of producing our design. - Andrew Hobson


Team Maximegalon's

Basic Plan

Maximegalon Basic Plan_small

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Detailed Description

The scenes that have been chosen are some of the most well-known and influential in the development of science fiction over the past century and more. They are therefore likely to be recognised and appreciated by a great proportion of the viewing audience.

They also display a theme; science fiction has always understood the interdependence of society and its environment. Life will inevitably have an impact on its surrounding environment, and that will in turn influence the evolution of life. The two are part of the same system. These issues were being actively discussed in the science fiction of the day long before their importance was generally recognised.

All of the chosen scenes illustrate one or more aspects of this idea, as described individually below. In addition all of them naturally have a “space” connection, as is fitting in MiniSpaceWorld!

One side of the exhibit displays examples of the works of humanity; four very different towns which show the development of our ideas about how space travel can be achieved. Three of  these towns are on Earth. The fourth is a depiction of how a human colony may appear on another world.

The other side of the exhibit displays four very alien planets, each of which would provide a unique challenge to human life. In between the human and the alien sides of the exhibit stands one possible way of getting from one to the other: the interstellar ark, frequently portrayed in science fiction and perhaps one of the more realistic approaches to the problem of travel to the stars.

The first scene portrayed is Victorian London, specifically Primrose Hill, the headquarters of the Martian invasion in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. Wells' Martians come to Earth because  Mars is starved of water. Under the influence of centuries of industrial development, their bodies have become nothing more than containers for huge brains. They wear their machines like bodies, interchangeable for different purposes. They also bring with them the Red Weed, which begins to displace the native plants of Earth, until the Martians themselves succumb to Earthly bacteria. The Martian’s space ships are relatively primitive, little more than giant hollow artillery shells.

Alexander Korda’s Things to Come depicts a technological elite rebuilding after a devastating war destroys civilisation. This film was made in the years leading up to World War Two.  Despite the nineteen-thirties optimism that science could solve all problems, the film includes a portrayal of reactionary forces who do not accept the doctrine that the world can always be bent to humanity’s will. Space flight is still depicted in this film as being launched by a giant cannon, in a method that harks back to Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon.

Much further into the future, the massive structure of Earthport with its encircling Alpha Ralpha Boulevard is heavy enough to cause the rise of new islands off the coast of Florida were it stands. Cordwainer Smith's science fiction is concerned with the possible future evolution of diverse forms of intelligence, from robots and recorded personalities to surgically enhanced animals and humans adapted to live on other planets.

The adult form of the Aliens of James Cameron’s film of the same name are of a traditional  Hollywood style; humanoid monsters. But in this instance the shape of the aliens is dictated by its complex parasitic life cycle. Again there is the theme of a dependence on resources. In this case the resource is us.

An interstellar ark takes an Earth-like environment with it on its journey. The ark takes generations to reach another planet and spins to provide artificial gravity on its inner surface.  There are many novels that have dealt with this concept and most of them are preoccupied with the idea of a self-sustaining closed-loop ecosystem; literally an Earth in miniature. Amongst the many questions this raises arehow the population of the ark is to be limited to avoid overwhelming its limited resources, and how much of the real nature of their world the generations of travellers can be allowed to know without jeopardising the mission.

Alternatively, in James Blish’s Cities in Flight series many existing cities take flight and leave an Earth whose resources have been depleted, to roam the galaxy like the itinerant Okie workers of the nineteen-thirties depression, taking work where they can find it. Unlike the interstellar ark, the Okie cities use an advanced form of artificial gravity Blish called a “spindizzy”.

Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris is one of the few truly alien depiction‘s of life on another planet. The planet-wide ocean forms a single organism which the humans who have come to study it struggle to comprehend. The book predates the concept of the "Gaia" world-organism and questions whether humankind truly wants or is capable of facing the genuinely alien.

Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker is concerned with the development of life throughout the universe and its ultimate aim and purpose. The Nautiloids depicted are just one of the many races described in a book of enormous scope and vision. Central to the book is the relationship between life and the rest of the universe, showing them as parts of a single system.

From the elevated philosophy of Stapledon to popular children’s television, the planet Skaro has been devastated by war, like the Earth of Things to Come. The Dalek’s city is flanked by a petrified jungle wreathed in deadly radiation. The Daleks themselves are products of this war; like the Martians they are brains wearing metal bodies.

Once again harking back to Wells' Mars, the desert world of Arrakis (also known as Dune) is dominated by its lack of water. It is also the only source of the most precious substance in the known universe; the spice Melange. The lives of the native inhabitants, the Fremen, are entirely shaped by the need to preserve water at all costs. Frank Herbert’s Dune was influential in the development of ecological ideas in the nineteen-sixties.

The main concern in describing this design was that some of the models would be too ambitious. In the end we decided that to err in that direction was better than the opposite. In places we have made our own amateur suggestions as to how these subjects may be realised, but in the end we told ourselves that if the ideas are too absurd it is always possible for those with more experience to remove what cannot be realistically attempted.

As a final note, we are conscious that most of the subjects in this design are under copyright, as indeed are many of the images provided with this design. We couldn't find anything regarding the question of copyright on the MiniSpaceWorld web site and the examples displayed there suggested that this should not be a restriction. Therefore we have assumed that permission will have to be obtained from the copyright owners before the models are displayed to the public.

Maximegalon Detailed Description.pdf  70.54 Kb

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Highlights

1. Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill coverH.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds is one of the defining classics of science fiction, as demonstrated by its numerous portrayals and remakes in all possible media.

Primrose Hill in London was the site of the largest Martian encampment during the invasion described in the novel. One of the Martian cylinders has landed on the hill, creating a huge pit.  A small automatic digging machine is enlarging the pit. The earth it excavates is loaded into a smelter by a Martian in a handling machine. Bright metal ingots producedby the smelter lie on the ground next to it. Around the edges of the pit, the red weed is gradually overcoming the native plant life.

On one side of the hill stands Chalk Farm station, from which departs steam trains filled with panicked Londoners. The roads are similarly clogged with refugees on foot, horseback, in carts and carriages and the occasional motor car. Huge tripod fighting machines lay waste to the surrounding buildings with their heat rays, while horse-drawn artillery vainly tries to turn them back. At a scale of 1:100, a fighting machine will stand approximately 30 centimetres high. A Martian flying machine hangs in the sky above the scene, flat and broad, and very large.

Interaction: A button is provided which when pressed causes the Martian cylinder to unscrew, revealing the Martian itself attempting to crawl out.

Wells’ Martians demonstrate the interaction between the dominant species and its environment. The invasion is mounted because Mars is running out of a precious resource: water. After centuries of industrialisation the Martians have evolved into nothing more than huge brains, which wear machines like interchangeable bodies. When they come to Earth the red weed which they have brought with them willingly or by accident begins to dominate native species, until the Martians themselves succumb to Earthly bacteria.

Despite the superiority of their technology over that of Victorian England, the Martian’s means of interplanetary flight was relatively primitive. Their cylinders were apparently fired from a huge gun, or perhaps launched by a rocket sled, and their landings were imprecise and uncontrolled. After their rapid entry into the Earth's atmosphere they required several hours to cool before they could be opened and to allow the Martians to emerge.

Maximegalon Highlight 1.pdf  272.57 Kb

2. Everytown

EverytownAlexanda Korda’s prophetic adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come was made three years before the outbreak of World War Two.

The Everytown of 2036 has been rebuilt after the devastating war of 1940-1966. The subterranean city is the image of nineteen-thirties modernity; shining, white and clinical. The fashions of 2036 suggest the golden age of Greece and Rome. Every aspect of society is scientifically planned and technology just keeps making life better and better. A reactionary movement rejects this antiseptic scientific utopia and as preparations are made for the first expedition into space, an angry mob attempts to stop the launch.

Outside the city stands the giant space gun, the means for launching the expedition. This is ringed by roads and railways which join the Victorian London of The War of the Worlds and the far-future Earthport in the adjacent scenes.

Interaction: A button is provided which when pressed start the space gun loading sequence. The capsule is raised on a wire by the gantry next to the gun, then swung over the gun and lowered inside.

Things to Come was made at a time when many people believed that the future could be forced into the required shape by science and progress alone, and that the rational application of science would bring about a new golden age. In later decades this optimism was tempered with the realisation that the reality was somewhat more complicated.

Everytown space gunThe preferred method of launching a space ship in Everytown is still a giant gun; essentially the same system described by Jules Verne in From the Earth to the Moon. The space ship that we see being loaded into the gun is relatively small, since all the required velocity is supplied by the gun rather than the ship. In reality the sudden violent acceleration of this method of launch would certainly kill anyone on board the ship. This was often acknowledged at the time but it still continued in the popular imagination as a feasible means of getting into space, if it was admitted that such a thing was possible at all.

Maximegalon Highlight 2.pdf  127.66 Kb

3. Alpha Ralpha Boulevard

Alpha Ralpha BoulevardIn the distant future, the tower of Earthport rises above the city of Meeya Meefla (Miami) and the ruined highway of Alpha Ralpha Boulevard winds around it to its summit. Three tiny figures move up the boulevard, apparently oblivious of the break in the highway that lies above and in front of them.

Cordwainer Smith wrote many short stories and one novel set in his Instrumentality of Mankind, a society in which avoiding the stagnation that comes with achieving utopia has become the most pressing problem of the day.

As in Things to Come, the Earth of the Instrumentality has been devastated by past wars, a common science fiction theme during the Cold War. But Smith is more concerned with how technology may affect the future evolution of humanity. His world is populated with evolved animals, robots, computers imprinted with personalities and humans adapted for life on other planets. All these developments profoundly affect the nature of society.

Earthport was a twenty-five kilometre high pedestal, designed to allow huge spaceships to land on and depart from its upper surface without disturbing the city below. Although Earthport itself is a fantastic structure, the reasoning behind it shows a more realistic attitude towards space travel than that of the "space gun"; spaceships are likely to be large and powerful machines and accidents can happen, so the general population must be protected when things go wrong.

At a scale of 1:100, Earthport would be 250 metres tall, so the top can obviously not be displayed! The tower should rise as high as possible, perhaps all the way to the ceiling.

Maximegalon Highlight 3.pdf  107.85 Kb

4. Hadley's Hope

Hadleys HopeJames Cameron’s Aliens depicts a human colony clinging to existence on a hostile alien planet.

The main colony buildings huddle behind a protective blast wall which shields them from the colony’s landing field. On the horizon stands the giant Atmosphere Processing Station, the machine which the colonists hope will transform their world into one more hospitable to human life. On a scale of 1:100, the APS would be 3 metres in diameter and 1.5 metres high.

The only current signs of life are the dropship landing vehicle which stands on the landing field and the Armoured Personnel Carrier that roves around the colony.

Interaction: One or more buttons could be provided to control the movement of the APC between the dropship, the main colony buildings and the APS.

The design of Hadley's Hope is not concerned with the technical details of how space flight is achieved. Here it is assumed that Einstein was wrong and that planets orbiting other stars can be reached in a matter of weeks or months. Space travel has become almost routine and therefore ceased to be the focus of attention. The machines that achieve it are huge and over-engineered, more reminiscent of modern day cargo ships than the sleek rocket ships portrayed in earlier decades. The contrast between Hadley's Hope and Everytown could hardly be greater. Whereas Everytown displays huge optimism in the potential of planning and technology, Hadley's Hope is a dirty, working town, like a frontier colony from the Wild West rebuilt in steel and aluminium and shipped to another planet. Both are products of the age in which they were designed. The faith in the future displayed in Things to Come has been replaced in Aliens with an underlying cynicism.

However despite their contrasts both towns are seeking to remake their environment through technology. The concept of consciously transforming a whole planet to be hospitable to humans (terraforming) is one of the most ambitious applications of the idea of technology altering the environment. The idea that people could affect something as large as an entire planet’s atmosphere seemed far-fetched, like many in science fiction, until real life began to catch up and the concept of global warming took hold.

Maximegalon Highlight 4.pdf  74.39 Kb

5. Interstellar Ark

Interstellar ArkThe interstellar ark, or generation ship, has been portrayed in many novels, including Captive Universe by Harry Harrison, Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss, The Book of the Long Sun series by Gene Wolfe, Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, Universe by Robert A. Heinlein and numerous other examples. Rather than displaying one particular version, a generic design could be displayed which demonstrates the general principles. This is an ambitious model. It represents a hollowed asteroid with a landscaped interior, 1 kilometre long by 200 metres in diameter, which would be spun at three revolutions per minute to provided an interior artificial gravity equivalent to the surface of the Earth. The model would be ten metres long and two across (not spinning!), essentially a cylinder with long cuts made in the sides to allow viewing. The landscape consists of two curving halves, mounted one on top of the other and facing each other. The exterior of the model would be coloured to represent the surface of the asteroid and one end would display a representation of the rocket motors that propel the ark.

Interior light and heat are often provided in portrayals of this type of ship by an elongated plume of fusing plasma. This could be represented by a line of several strip lights, supported by pylons at their ends, running from one end of the interior to the other. Artificial night and day is brought to the interior by light shades that rotate around the light and shield half of the interior at any one time.

Interstellar Ark sectionInteraction: A button could be provided to rotate the light shades.

Transport in the interior is provided by railways running along its length. For the model, the bodies of the carriages running on these tracks would have to be tilted to appear horizontal relative to the terrain on either side. Novels that deal with interstellar arks have a recurring themes: the need to preserve resources and limit the population so that the ship can continue in its flight for many generations.

An animation of the interior of an interstellar ark can be found on YouTube here.

Interstellar Ark Okie cityIf the interstellar ark is thought too ambitious, an alternative is a representation of an Okie city from James Blish’s Cities in Flight series. Since Blish’s provided his cities with a form of antigravity called the “spindizzy”, such a model should be essentially flat and round, presenting a much more straightforward construction. It should still be placed in the centre of the room if possible, representing its flight between worlds.

The Okie cities are the science-fiction equivalent of the itinerant workers of the nineteen-thirties depression in the United States of America. Responding to a world economy running sort of resources, they bodily leave Earth behind and go looking for work in the galaxy.

Maximegalon Highlight 5.pdf  154.93 Kb

6. Solaris

Solaris oceanStanislaw Lem’s Solaris depicts an entire ocean as a living organism. The ocean is in constant movement and outlandish structures rise to the surface and fall again. Possibly some of this could be reproduced using fans under the surface, dyes or lights in the water and submarine-like models.

A space station hovers above the ocean, the base from which people from Earth have studied and failed to understand this alien planet.

In the final scene of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film adaptation of the novel, an island appears in the ocean complete with a representation of the protagonist’s parents’ home. Having failed to comprehend the alien ocean, he accepts the familiar environment which the ocean has recreated for him.

Solaris SymmetriadLem’s novel is a rare thing; an attempt to depict the truly alien, rather than the anthropomorphic aliens so often seen in film and television. It asks questions about how humans would react to the truly alien, whether we could cope with it, understand it, or would simply retreat from it.

Maximegalon Highlight 6.pdf  243.05 Kb

7. Nautiloids

NautilusThe Nautiloids are described in only one small section of Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker, a novel of vast scope. They are an attempt to portray a completely non-humanoid form of life, adapted as they are, and completely shaped by, an alien environment.

The Nautiloids’ planet is close to the centre of the galaxy. It is very large and gravity is very high. The surface is covered by a shallow ocean dotted with low archipelagos.

Nautiloid clipperThe Nautiloids themselves are mollusc-like creatures, perhaps originally not unlike the nautilus of Earth (see image above), but they have evolved a sail-like membrane with which they can control their navigation of the ocean. Their shells are described as like the hull of a nineteen-century clipper ship. Their tentacles act as arms at the front and rudders or propellers at the rear. They hunt in the sea and practice a form of agriculture, and build stone harbours and workshops on the shores. When they meet in the open ocean it is often to fight or to mate. At birth the children are launched in pairs like boats, one from each side of the mother.

Maximegalon Highlight 7.pdf  108.34 Kb

8. Skaro

Skaro Dalek cityThe planet Skaro has been depicted several times in the TV series Doctor Who, including the very first series of that programme in a story called The Daleks, written by Terry Nation.

The Dalek City on Skaro, like Earthport and Everytown, is surrounded by a landscape devastated by war. It is bordered on one side by a petrified jungle and on another by the Lake of Mutations, from which it draws its water supply. The remaining two sides are protected by the Drammankin mountains. The city is made entirely of metal and designed to aid the mobility of its Dalek inhabitants.

Just as the landscape is the product of the Dalek’s warlike nature, so the Daleks are products both of their history of war and industry and their highly radioactive environment. Like H.G. Wells’ Martians, they are little more than brains housed in machines they use as bodies.

Individual Daleks periodically patrol the outskirts of the city. Somewhere in the petrified jungle is an incongruous blue police telephone box; the TARDIS.

Interaction: A button is provided which, when pressed, will mobilise the Daleks, causing a number of them to swarm out of the buildings and frantically search the city.

Skaro closeup Skaro interior

Maximegalon Highlight 8.pdf  123.11 Kb

9. Arrakis

ArrakisLike H.G. Wells’ Mars, Frank Herbert’s Dune is a planet overshadowed by its lack of water. The novel’s ecological themes and obvious analogy with the contemporary politics of oil made it influential in the rising counterculture of the nineteen-sixties.

The city of Arrakeen resembles a traditional city of North Africa or the Middle East. Buildings are mostly low and dun-coloured, seperated by narrow alleys. The largest building is the Governor‘s mansion. In front of the city is the flat landing field, on which stand sleek rocket ships. Hovercraft groundcars shuttle between the landing field and the city. The city is protected from the desert storms by the natural rock of the Shield Wall. Beyond the Wall is a sea of sand dunes. A giant bug-like harvester factory trundles through the dunes on independent sets of wide tracks, shovelling and filtering the sand for its precious spice. Insect-like ornithopters circle overhead, keeping watch for the predatory worms of the desert. However they have apparently not yet seen the sandworm stalking the harvestor, intent on protecting its territory. Since an attempt to construct a model of the worm would be ambitious, it could perhaps simply be suggested by a hump in the sand. On a scale of 1:100, an adult sandworm would be between 1 and 4 metres long and the harvestor would be 1.2 metres long and 40 cm wide.

Across the desert lies a low ridge of rock which hides the entrance to a Fremen cave complex, or sietch, and the windtraps they use to capture moisture from the air. A group of Fremen survey the scene from the top of the ridge.

Human society on Arrakis is split into two groups. What is generally thought of by the outside world as the mainstream of society is only there because of the precious spice, melange. They huddle behind the protection of the shield wall and mine the desert for the spice, which is then shipped offworld. They are constantly at war with the environment, the scarcity of water, the destructive effects of the sand on machinery, the devastating storms, and the hostile local forms of life, the sandworms. By contrast, those who are thought of as the lowest level of society, the Fremen, have learned to adapt and live with the desert environment. Their entire society is shaped around the necessity to conserve resources at all costs. They ride on the back of the sandworms wherever they please. They plan for the ecological transformation of Arrakis and it is they who will eventually take control of the planet.

Maximegalon Highlight 9.pdf  68.35 Kb

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Maximegalon_Image_References.pdf  45.30 Kb

 

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