Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
This is the third post in my series derived from a much longer, un-posted piece that I never had time to finish because it was getting way too long to deal with (Part 1, Part 2, Part 4). And this is the main culprit section. It is about basic science and math.
The concepts are not that hard and you can gloss over the actual calculating (hey! a back of the envelope is good enough for me and it SHOWS...).
The little things are the big things
I'm going to take up a lot of time on this topic as it is essential to writing good SF.
Writers mess up one thing so often we don't even notice it: dramatic license is given large sway and we forgive not giving an accurate portrayal of the way the universe actually works. That said it is very telling exactly how this gets messed up as it is an understood phenomena by everyone. You have a given body mass, which has an average density, or mass per unit volume. I will stick to the grams per cubic centimeter range for this, but it is applicable as a concept across all unit systems as the math involved dictates density of objects. And that goes with one of the most powerful concepts in mathematics. Let me try to explain.
One cubic centimeter of water has a density of 1.0 gram in mass, or 1 g/cc. A cube is a 6-sided regular solid with all edges being equal length and at right angles to each other, thus a sugar cube takes on a cube form as does the common 6-sided gambling die. The math is easy as volume is length x width x height, thus 1 cm per side is 1 cc. Thus for every cubic centimeter of volume, water to fill it is 1 gram at Standard Temperature and Pressure at Mean Seal Level.
Finally there is surface area which is just areal expanse of the cube, which is 6 faces with equal width and height, thus 6 x (1 x 1), or 6 square centimeters (cm.sq.).
With me on that?
Now double the side length to 2cm.
Volume goes to (2 x 2 x 2) or 8 cubic centimeters.
Surface area goes to (6 x (2 x 2)) or 24 square centimeters.
To fill that takes 8 grams of water.
Instead of doubling, divide the original length by 2 to 1/2 cm.
Volume goes to (1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2) or 1/8 cc.
Surface area goes to (6 x (1/2 x 1/2)) or 1 1/2 cm.sq.
To fill that takes 1/8 g of water.
When you double the side length the volume goes up by the cube of the volume change, while surface area lags only to the square of the change.
Likewise going down the volume goes down by the cube of the volume change, while surface area lags that by the square of the change.
This impacts everything that has volume and mass and is called the Square-Cube Law as it is just the mathematics of measuring surface area and mass per unit volume.
When an animal goes down in mass you get more surface area than mass relative to the a set standard size, and when it goes up in mass you get more volume than surface area. This means that small animals tend to lose heat very quickly as they have a lot of surface area for not much mass, and large animals conserve heat as they have a higher mass to surface area ratio.
This most simple of concepts that you know (why hummingbirds must consume their mass in caloric intake far more often than elephants or whales) is the single most abused item in science fiction, especially on film and other video medium. It applies to humans, bullets, starships, butterflies, galaxies, and sub-atomic particles: it is at the core of science as it is simple changes in proportion due to scale changes which are dictated by mathematics.
As you are mostly made up of water, your average density does not vary much from that of water, and is approximated AT water. Human bone is approximately 1.86 g/cc and that means that fat and other tissues are less dense than water, at about 0.9 g/cc and takes up more volume than water. You also have pore spaces between cells, and other lovely items which reduce the overall density of your body, like bone marrow and such. Human bone is not a complete solid and is part of the adaptation necessary to lower overall body density while allowing for structural cohesion and giving a framework, or skeleton, to which everything is attached. For a more or less average human being at 70,000 g, a little over 9,000 g is taken up in bone. (As a reference I used a 150lb base and rounded up to 70,000 g)
Now lets replace that skeleton, like in a Terminator, with a metal of some sort... as the Terminator is shown at near human scale (a bit on the large size) we can use averages and fudge a bit. Thus I will be rounding numbers horrifically, but trying to stay 'in the ballpark'.
Now take that 9,000 g at 1.85 g/cc, divide the mass by the density and you get the volume: 4,900 cc. That out of a body with 70,000 cc or 7% of the volume.
If we replace that with a low density metal, aluminum say ( density of 2.7 g/cc) and multiply it by the volume and you get: 13,230 g.
Thus a Terminator has a mass due to skeleton of 4,230 g higher than a normal person. Unfortunately we have the problem of Terminator skeletons taking a large crushing force and being a solid, thus no lovely matrix of bone and tissue like a human. Plus the shear strength of aluminum is quite low as compared to most steel composites, and we actually saw brittle fracturing of the skeleton in the first film but only when the skeleton was undergoing tons of pressure over a relatively small surface area and volume, so ever handy aluminum has to be set aside.
Turning to a high grade of steel, you get a density of 8.0 g/cc and a mass of: 39,200 g.
Thus with all else being equal a Terminator with a steel skeleton comes in at 100,200 g.
An average sized human (150 lbs) now comes in at a much higher mass (220 lbs) for a given size.
Now take a large, strapping man at 160,000 g and you get, via proportion, 11,200 cc for skeleton volume and at steel densities that is 89,600 g and you then add the difference in mass from normal bone to steel (89,600 - 20,720) to get 230,000 g. In the lbs. arena that is 500 lbs. for a man who looks like a good, solid linebacker. Small changes in bone volume when replaced with a denser material yield much higher mass.
There are problems that come with that metallic skeleton, also, and that is the necessary energy to move limbs and such: that extra density, thus mass, requires more energy to change the momentum for them versus rather low density bone. For a given amount of work, it is four times easier to move the mass of bone than steel, and requires less energy to stop it, too, and all that energy now has to be generated, distributed, used and then the heat from the waste energy at the power source plus overcoming internal friction and other things needs to be removed from the body. Picture a linebacker having to carry another linebacker around with him all day on his back and you get the idea of what is going on here, and the sweat is used to take heat away from the first linebacker's body to keep it at a stable temperature.
This turns out to be a huge, indeed enormous, problem for Terminators: they have lots of heat to get rid of when they are carrying the overburden of an infiltration/espionage package on their skeleton. Their skeleton, alone, is a lovely and complex radiator with all sorts of air space, gaps and curving parts that allow heat to be easily taken away from the main generator and the motive force replacements (the things moving the parts at joints). When you add in a water jacket of, well, water, that means it takes awhile for that water jacket to heat up, and to cool down. From what we have seen that outer layer is a form of water-based biological system, not that puncture resistant and it doesn't bleed much... which means there is a very low circulation of fluids within the structure, and most of that is done by heat and capillary action. From what we have seen it is, truly, an average density, although you expect there to be some chemical reservoirs for repairing the package and maintaining it somewhere in the body (yes, organs of a sort).
Start out on a nice, chilly day with the two linebackers, and the first few minutes the one doing the carrying is getting warmed up. Soon they are stopping for the first to start chucking his outer layers of clothing. Then, on a nice calm, cool, crispy morning, he is down to sneakers, shorts and t-shirt, if he doesn't get too hot... that is a Terminator after the same amount of time just walking around, not running or doing acrobatics and such. Instead of low density air next to the skeleton there is higher density water and it isn't circulating much, so internal heat builds up in the frame. That smell after an hour of moving around is the outer package starting to cook off.... if you increase movement of fluid you increase hydraulic pressure: the skin inflates and becomes red (or whatever the color of the stuff is). Plus a puncture wound doesn't dribble, it tends to flow at a pretty rapid rate due to the differences in hydraulic pressure internally and externally. We never see the Terminator panting or otherwise getting a constant airflow internal to external (how dogs and cats cool off). What evaporative fluid we do see is uniform, thin and has no smell to it, and you would really like something that dries quickly, like that, but that is easy to get... and water fits that bill... save he doesn't get enough of it as he would need to replenish his supply when active, or else the package starts to adhere more to the skeleton and cook faster.
As presented Terminators with the infiltration package are extremely menacing, but highly limited: their function dictates low movement rates and allowing for heat to radiate from the body. Normal terminators with no external skin, just skeleton, are great for the battlefield, although they, too, get very warm as they have all that metal to move around. That, actually, becomes a fun thing to work with as I did in the story I wrote... it drives the story at certain points. Going for dramatic effect and a good story need not be inhibited by the actual physics and mechanics of the real world, and can make for interesting digressions and motivations beyond that of the plot.
Now lets flip to the other end of the scale and go to starships.
The Constitution class heavy cruiser from Star Trek comes in at around 1 million metric tons (1 x 10^12 g) of mass. Its volume is broken up into two sections, the saucer and the engineering/secondary hull which have the intercooler pylons. Now I don't have the blueprints in front of me so will be ballparking some estimates on volume. The saucer section is approximately 12,500 cm (give or take, I'm going for an average) and while the ship is 7,200 cm high the forward section is about 1/2 that (visually) but squashing it down to 2,000 cm to get a cylindrical shape, (pi x r^2 x h) of 245,000,000,000 cc and a secondary hull that is just about that same length as the primary hull diameter (12,500 cm) and has a diameter about 1/3 that (call it 4,000 cm) which is approximately 157,000,000,000 cc or a total (without nacelles) 405,000,000,000 cc. Very rough and ball-park, seat of my pants and so on, add in a bit more for the nacelles and call it 4.5 x 10^11 cc. Thus the average density of a Constitution class heavy cruiser is: 2.22 g/cc.
Aluminum or close enough not to matter.
Consider that diamond is 3.5 g/cc and you get the idea of just what is going on in Star Trek.
Just like you are mostly water by volume, starships are mostly aluminum, by volume, and any design overview of a starship reveals most of the mass is in the skeletal superstructure, engineering and the heat transfer system (a huge 'heat sink' like the processor in most modern PCs have).
Now, as a sea based vessel must float, its density at equilibrium where the force exerted on the water is equal to the amount of water that is displaced. Thus the mass of that sea water being an average of 1.025 g/cc means a vessel may not have a greater density than that (mass per volume) or it will sink like a stone. Thus every water craft ever made that floats without aid of propulsion has a density lower than the medium it is in, although it does displace the medium so as to give the mass it displaces. That goes for the raft, the Titanic and all nuclear aircraft carriers: they float due to volume of size of a vessel so as to reduce overall density so they CAN float.
And as we have seen in ST:IV, 'transparent aluminum' is a synthetic carbonate incorporating aluminum with a carbon matrix at pretty high density. I use something a bit denser and steal the term for it from another universe: plasteel. Make my starship triple hull, if you would, and put a nice, self-sealing, low density material between the second and inner hull, please. Probably a foam of some sort.
There are (in the living area parts of the ship) 964 cu.m. per crewmember which isn't all that bad, actually, but a portion of that, say 10-15% is taken up with decking, walls, conduits, etc. yielding actual moving around space to, say, roughly 850 cu. m., and then take out the actual working environment (engineering, bridge, labs, etc.) that is probably 30% of that and you are still left with 500 cu. m. or so for all the other things: quarters, hallways, eating areas, etc.
Heating that mass requires heating the air and the inner hull (and if starship hulls are not at least double hull then normal space junk would be crippling the Fleet on a regular basis) and keeping that constant against the normal temperature of space which is 3 degrees Kelvin... 3 degrees above absolute zero. Getting all that warmed up takes awhile, but you got a lovely heat source in the matter/anti-matter reaction in the warp core which is nearly 57% efficient!! That means that 43% is waste heat. If you can get Nomad to run the ship... drop that back to, say 45% and you lose 55%, which beats the hell out of an internal combustion engine. No matter what you do you will NOT get 100% useful power: that is the law of thermodynamics at work and much of the energy will fly away as sub-atomic particles, including neutrinos.
Now the Enterprise-D has approximately 8 times the volume and a snazzy energy system at, say, Nomad-driven levels at 57% and has an energy production system of 1.275 x 10^19 Watts, that has 5.48 x 10^18 W as waste heat... a Constitution class of ship at only 20% of the mass need proportionately less power or about 2.55 x 10^18 W and have 1.4 x 10^18 W as waste heat. So 25 W will heat 1 sq. m. of aluminum by 1 degree of exposed material (this is surface heating, but volumetric conduction also happens and the cubic meter rise is much smaller, this is just the instantaneous surface area rise), and you will want a double or triple hull to keep the heat in as it would also transmit that right out to space per hour. There are lots of square meters of surface on the interior of the living space of a starship: 23 decks worth on the old Constitution class. Just gross surface are is (2pi x r x h) which is saucer (79,000,000 sq. cm.) and secondary (157,000,000 sq. cm.) or 236,000,000 sq. cm. (or 2,360,000 sq. m.). Thus that 292 degree differential on the simple cylinder of surface area yields 1.7 x10^10 W/hr. Plenty of energy to spare. Way too much, really, and when you start actually using the ship's systems you will expect each of those to generate waste heat into the environment. Once you get an active warp core going on a starship, getting rid of heat is an issue... a huge issue.
This is an issue I have with the cloaking device: it does great on bending normal and even other background wavelengths, but nothing is said about IR. If it is IR transparent/redirecting, you might as well not have the thing as all that heat is now being reflected BACK to your ship on the inside of the cloak. Plus if you let IR out, then you stand out like a sore thumb in IR. It is great for sublight vessels with little in the way of heat management... but going at warp speed means that you do have a signature in the space you traverse, just like any normal starship. You only ditch that by slowing to sublight and shutting off the warp core... if the cloak isn't transmissive to IR you will roast in your own waste energy. Even distorting your IR signature doesn't help as it gives your general location and you still have a lot of waste heat to get rid of.
The exact same problem that plagues the Terminator, that of heat management, does the exact, same thing to a starship for similar reasons: too much energy contained in its volume, and not having enough surface area to get rid of heat. Starships and the intercoolers on the nacelles are the main means of transferring waste heat from the interior of the ship to lots of surface area away from the main portion of the vessel. They have also have got to stand out in an energy profile of a vessel as the majority of waste heat goes through that surface area.
There is a simple rule of thumb on this stuff: smaller objects radiate energy faster than larger ones per given surface area.
Do NOT discard old, proven technologies and social constructs
What do I mean by this?
Ok try this: laces, buttons, zippers AND Velcro?
How often do we see all sorts of whiz-bang stuff put into place that is nowhere near as good as what we have now in the way of technology?
Star Trek uniforms... without pockets?
Star Wars blasters are no more useful than modern handguns, rifles and shotguns and actually less useful than flamethrowers? Invent an armor that is bullet resistant, blaster resistant, AND won't let napalm stick on it to roast the occupant alive... I dare ya. Now try to walk around in it. Remember the armor Storm Troopers use are NOT air conditioned, either. They have the mass/surface area/density/heat exchange problem. Lord Vader gets A/C in the super-deluxe version, but then he has got to have a heat signature like you wouldn't believe.
Star Trek phasers are ever so handy and yet you always have the sneaking suspicion that there is really something drastically wrong with them as they can go from tickle to disintegrate, making a slight sneeze while adjusting your settings either comical or horrific. Plus just how can a phaser beam bounce off a rock? Is there a special 'warm rock' setting? It has done both in ST:TOS. The stun setting is ever so handy, if you have a decent aim, and just how DO you aim those things, anyway, without sights? The phaser rifle HAD optical sights, the hand weapons... well... no. Great for close-in shots, but after that it is problematical. Give me a shotgun with specialty loads over a phaser, I'll adjust to just the right mix and worry about what sort of mix suits me... rather than depend on something without sights, strange settings that really shouldn't be on a dial spectrum as a misread on the dial or a faulty dial lock and you get unwanted results.
Now there is an interesting artifact for the military, that is little known and is directly violated by Star Trek, plus a few other SF shows: no matter what the era, the personal equipment load remains between 50-75 lbs. Spartans, Roman soldiers, medieval footmen, Revolutionary war soldiers, Civil war soldiers, soldiers in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, the Balkans, OEF, OIF... you name it, you are lugging around 50-75 lbs of equipment. 'Away Teams'? They gots their uniforms, their phasers, their communicators and the poor sap with the tricorder. Not even a CANTEEN. Or hats. And folks wonder why security personnel don't live that long in Star Trek: they don't have the necessary back-up and sustainment equipment for when their main equipment fails them. Or to go on a short hike! Going into a hostile environment, which could be the desert, jungle or South Side of LA? Something will fail, count on it, Murphy still rules far too often in real life (and gets too big a workout in fiction in unnecessary areas and too little in the necessary ones where everything magically works). And if you don't have a jacket, bedroll, a few days of rations, eating utensils, and some manual survival pieces your chance of surviving once something DOES go wrong drops very, very quickly. That is suicide, and even pilots and crew ditching from aircraft that had been shot out from under them had and have better equipment for survival than security members on 'Away Teams' in Star Trek. Yeah, they would be better off with 1940's era back-up equipment than the high tech gee-whizzery they got. Not even JACKETS? For a planetary surface that has an atmosphere and this thing known as 'weather'? No jackets, hats, canteen, pocket survival blanket (remember when the transporter went 'bad' and made 'good' and 'bad' things? What is the different between a 'good' blanket and a 'bad' blanket personality-wise? Yeah, the team on the surface could get the basics... which they didn't have to start with, if memory serves).
Federation starships don't need 'Away Teams', it needs MARINES. You know, people USED to surviving in hostile conditions and THRIVING on that?
Then there are the stories that take place in our current to near future that have characters not using what they know and have around them. How do you destroy a Terminator if you don't have a tank, explosives, or a lovely metal press? You can do it, and I examine how, and reveal something that a character that has been running around since the 1930's in fiction has missed a piece of technology that was known and old THEN that could be adapted to his uses very easily. And his modern counterpart would ALSO find it just as useful as it was then and would have it as a mandatory piece of equipment. And its flashy, too! Too flashy, but works very, very well. If an industrialist doesn't know a damned thing about welding technology, especially in the '30s, then the character is not that smart, not too interested in technology (although he purportedly IS) and just really blind to the necessities of his line of work. Mind you nearly every single writer from the 1930's onwards has missed it... still DO, as a matter of fact. Can't have one of the smartest characters in fiction actually think about the basics in his work... just won't do...
No, not the Crocodile Dundee type, although the Klingons wisely carry that sort around with them, nor even the Ka-Bar and other military knives of today, though those would be handy, too. No, I'm talking about the Swiss Army Knife sort of deal. Have to strip cabling, dig into ground, make a spear point, cut some cord, or do the million and one things that a small blade is useful for and just what, exactly, do you have in the Star Wars or Star Trek universes? Set your phaser on 'corkscrew' or use the light saber for nail clipping? Good luck with that, I tellya. One of the first tools of mankind and it was made to do all the things that fingers, toes, stomping, punching, and biting just couldn't do. Gotta love how Spock, Kirk and McCoy get stuck on a planet and it is only Spock who knows flint-napping! Not a Swiss Army Phaser to be seen in the lot of them. Really, just slide one of those in your pocket and you have such a handy tool always with you... oh... wait a second... that's right, no pockets. The reason we have not replaced knives with, say, strings of wire in frames, is that a knife with a cutting edge and physical blade can do things ever so well and that nothing we have invented has replaced them. And we have thermonuclear devices!
Firearms are plenty flashy, just add tracer and incendiary rounds! The latter burns stuff up real nice, too. Yes, Lord Vader slashes across the incoming stream of bullets that disintegrate into pieces of white phosphorus that then proceed to burn into his armor/uniform/helmet/cape... how quickly Lord Vader is hopping around screaming in pain while he sizzles, no? Yup an envelope of super-hot plasma would do just as well (but blasters are unspecified and not of the David Drake system of things) but those then have the problem of letting their energy go at the slightest obstacle, a leaf say. Great if you are trying to damage a tree, not so hot in a jungle. The only reason we don't see bow and arrows on the battlefield is due to physical pull needs, plus lack of high rate of fire... although the Hwacha addresses that pretty well, but has a low reload time and is really just a multi-fire rocket system with explosive payloads, attached to arrows. So does the Chu-Ko-Nu, which is a rapid fire, magazine fed, direct pull crossbow. Imagine updating that with carbon fiber technology and titanium shafts.
So if you are a Storm Trooper on a jungle world, which would you rather have: a flashy blaster without sights and having little penetration ability in dense foliage, or an M-16 that has sights, selective fire and does a good job in foliage? Dr. Who does a better job in this realm, as many Earth colonies are equipped on the cheap which means effective, low cost weapons: firearms. Yes the big baddies are armored, but then even energy weapons have problems against them, although I'm still guessing that white phosphorous would be effective just due to its heat. The armor might not melt (might) but the heat that gets inside? Hmmmm.... what is under that armor in the way of circuitry and such? Or the equipment mentioned for the 1930's character, THAT would still be HORRIFICALLY effective. Some very small devices of that and anyone could disable a starship, kill a Dalek, Cyberman, or armored baddie of your choice just by using them at a few key locations. And on starships they are handily located in Engineering which no one patrols because everyone depends on computers save for when the lights go out, or out in the unpopulated areas of the ship by the intercooler pylons. No one would ever do anything there to hurt the ship. Really!
It isn't like we don't have energy based weapons today, we do. Chemical ones, yes, but chemistry remains very effective as everything is made up of atoms that have some physical basis to them. Sealed ammo with a physical ignition system can't be 'shut off'. And since it is an oxidation reaction, it really can't be stopped due to the reaction happening between the chemicals. They still expand and generate force, that force can be applied to a physical object and that object will gain momentum due to that force. They also work in space, too, and can be a small engine in case you are left stranded: a mass driver where the bullet goes one way and you get a bit of momentum in the opposite direction. Primitive? Yes. That doesn't mean its useless. Particularly in survival environments where complex equipment only needs one tiny thing to go wrong and it becomes a hunk of plastic and metal. That goes triple for tricorders: nothing replaces your hearing, vision and other sensory systems in your body. Ever go camping and know you will be out of contact with the rest of the world for a week or two? What do you take? Probably about 50-75 lbs of equipment, supplies and emergency goods... so why don't the bozos in these SF worlds treat going to a great, unknown place as something that is NOT a walk down the street but a potentially lethal environment?
I really do wish writers would get off their butts, mentally, and treat stories about people as if the people just might have an ounce of sense sloshing around in their noggins.
In the realm of social institutions we have the military: it is the most conservative institution on the planet, has been around longer than any religion, and is fighting tooth and nail with the oldest profession for who is actually the older and more conservative. Save those that become backers of coups, and such, but those tend to be small forces that are corrupted by politics and money, and rarely from professional military groups who know what a horror politics is, and rightly want a much cleaner and professional profession without the politics, tyvm. If you think war is hell, just look at politics...
Professional military organizations serving a Nation tend to be conservative in nature. Hitler had to work very hard to get the German Army (not the SS) to adhere to him. For all of being 'militaristic' there is a difference between rhetoric and fighting, and the professional army does not want to fight, strangely enough, until they absolutely have to. The differences between corrupt military organizations and those that are professional are stark, and it is the unwillingness to take part in politics and running the Nation where the dividing line happens. Military organizations generally do a piss-poor job of running Nations, and need civilian help to get them organized not only after a war, but in captured territory during a war. Meanwhile, civilians who castigate the military tend to be unprofessional and much cruder in their approach to society than the military is. It is the conservative ethos of military organizations (if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and if it works figure out a way to break it) that has a social component all its own so that hidebound conservative views can often stultify military organizations (cf. France post-WWI, IN RE: The Maginot Line).
Star Trek starts with that in ST:TOS, and those three years point to the strong Naval tradition being expanded into space. Of ground forces we see very little in Star Trek... only in those episodes dealing with tyrants and such do we see ground forces and in a negative light. A big, old Heavy Cruiser pulling into orbit should quell the natives, just like in the British Empire... but trying to run a native planet is best left up to the natives, no? How can Star Fleet be benign and yet powerful without ground forces to help settle squabbles? Is the threat of being bombarded from orbit always the unstated trump card (ala Aliens, 'nuke them from orbit, its the only way to be sure')? And when that bluff is called... then is it all Picardian smiles and 'lets work out our differences' and happy endings? The Philippine-American War, at the very least, shows that not to be how these sorts of affairs go. Ditto the various colonial problems of the British Empire, of which the American Revolution should be a stark consideration. If Start Trek is based on a benevolent British Empire concept, then there will be colonies that will not only break away from authoritarian 'pulling the Heavy Cruiser to give a show of force' deal, but will actually rebel against the Federation and succeed... if you adhere to the Prime Directive, that is.
And the military, in this case Star Fleet, will want to ACCEPT THAT as it is a POLITICAL MATTER. When the politicians FAIL (really, they will, take a look at Earth history for something a tad more complex), and the threat of force ALSO fails, then what? The Fleet will want to step away unless this is a serious threat to the Federation as a whole, but a member planet (or non-member system) wanting to do so is NOT something the Fleet will want to stop. And if the Federation doesn't have ground forces to back that up, then turning a civilization into a glass sphere is not going to be accepted. This forms a crucial problem in formulating a future society with a 'progressive' military: it will resort to force, or be so weak as to exert no influence if you want it to be 'progressive'. Being all smiles and helpful did not help missionaries from advanced Nations in the 19th century, and even gunboat diplomacy had its limits without firing guns.
The Star Wars universe tries to go Nazi/Fascistic and overthrows the professional military (Jedi Knights) with the drafted and then cloned military system of irregulars. The Jedi Knights faced the exact same problem as Star Fleet does in the Federation: if they don't fight they are useless, if they do fight they need ground forces to back them in numbers. The Republic in Star Wars was taken over very quickly (with lots of artistic license) but the Republic was no winner if it could fall apart to a rather high level coup. You are stuck with the Jedi being so nice as to be ineffective (and there is some backing for that, needless to say), or were so effective as to have sapped any planetary sovereignty to the point where a high level coup would have them fall into line (and that is how the artistic license goes). The Jedi were pushed into a corner, yes, and that points to sloppiness on their part: they had become hidebound and stultified in their professionalism and easy tools for the political class to use. Too many 'mind tricks' had got them used to easy victories in backing politicians, thus planetary systems didn't have much sovereignty left to BEGIN WITH. When a high level coup happens their very effectiveness in the past had left them unable to deal with a traditional falling out backed by irregular soldiers. And the inability of Storm Troopers to hit a broad side of a barn points to just how irregular they were, too. The professionalism of the Jedi had become a Guild form of professionalism: so long unchallenged as to be brittle and unable to cope with sudden changes. Very much like the French military after WWI, and building a Maginot Line: all reason said it had to extend from Switzerland to the sea, and yet it was only in place along the direct border. Because, of course, no German government would ever sweep through the Low Countries like had happened in WWI...
When an organization becomes that orderly, that sure of itself, it becomes, as was stated by an unfortunate mid-level officer in SW IV, a 'religion'. It was too, so sure of its orderliness and rightness that it was no longer a military organization because it was cock sure that nothing would ever go wrong with any in its order. And when something did go wrong ONCE the entire thing fell apart completely. Even the Roman Catholic Church demonstrated more resilience than that.
That is as far as I had gotten before life got busy here.
I do have more, much more, along these lines, but haven't had time to organize my thoughts and write them down.
Yes, I do make pointed criticisms of some works that people adore.
Yesterday was the last day for complaints.