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History on a Math Shell

There are times when I’m writing my stories that I have to get all geeky for real.  The Foundation Chronicles actually takes place against the backdrop of our world of 2011, so there are times when things are referenced as being something real in my world.  Which is why, during the little time I had to write–driving a few hundred miles in the day tends to make you tired by the time night rolls around–I was able to come up with a short history of Professor Elenore Karasek, one of the school’s former flight instructors, and how she used her love of the city of Chicago to rename the school’s race courses after three mass transit lines.

You can't tell your race circuits without a map, right?

You can’t tell your race circuits without a map, right?

What you have in the picture above are two of the three school race course:  the Green Line (which is the solid line closest to the wall) and the Blue Line (the inner solid line).  I don’t have the third course up, the Red Line, only because designing it will be insane, and no one’s racing the Red Line right now.

(Oh, and in the picture above you’ll see, off to the right, that light green mat is Selena’s Meadow and, right below that, the Flight School.  Doesn’t look like much of a walk, but it is.)

Why go through all this?  Because I knew there would be a part in the current novel where racing was going to come into play, and that time is now.  Which means I have to do my prep to set everything up so I can write about what’s going to happen in the Great Illegal A Level Race of 2011.  And not only do I have a course, but I know the names of  the different sections of the course.

Always good to have a nice little cheat sheet of the neat racing names for your course.

Always good to have a nice little cheat sheet of the neat racing names for your course.

Just like an auto race track has its names for their straights and turns, the Green Line has the same, and the notes I have above show the areas that’ll get passed during the scene.  Most of those names are pretty literal, though you may wonder why there’s a section of the track named Graves . . .

"Don't worry, kids.  It's not like a turn called 'Graves' could mean anything bad . . ."

“Don’t worry, kids. It’s not like a turn called ‘Graves’ could mean anything bad . . .”

Like I said, some are very literal.

There is one part of the upcoming scene where a couple of my kids will race down a long, semi-straight stretch known as West End.  Why?  Because it’s on the west end of the school, that’s why?  It’s two kilometers long–that’s one and a quarter miles for you metricly challenged–and it’s the section of the course where one will get the most speed out of their PAV.  If they are of a mind, that is.

There it is, the West End, Girls.  Sorry:  bad 80's music pun.

There it is, the West End, Girls. Sorry: bad 80’s music pun.

How much speed are we talking?  In what I’ve already written for the scene, Annie recalls when Kerry and she were trying out the course a few weeks before, and they managed to reach about one hundred and seventy kilometers and hour without even working up a sweat.  She mentioned that she knows enough Imperial Units to know they were flying along at about one hundred miles an hour (one hundred and five, to be exact) and that probably would have gotten them in trouble if they’d been caught.

For this scene I want to know how long it would take Kerry to get up to a much higher speed, and how long he could fly down West End at that speed.  For that I head over to the Tutor 4 Physics site, which has a lot of nice calculations that I’ve used in my science fiction writing.  How will I used this?  Let’s look at what Annie said:

If they came out of Northwest Passage (that bend at the very top right of the above picture) as a speed of sixty kilometers an hour, and accelerated at forty-five kilometers an hour, it’ll take them seventy-eight meters, or two hundred and fifty-five feet, to get up to 170 kph.  That’s just under the length of a football field, so that’s some good acceleration.  And with those numbers, it’s easy to calculate they could cover the entire distance of West End in about forty-three seconds.

Of course Kerry will be going a lot faster, which is why I need to know just how much time he’ll have to think about what he’d going to do next.  Ergo, calculations are needed.  Which is why . . .

You tell 'em, Jessie.

You tell ’em, Jessie.

All to get a few thousand words into a story.

Yeah, I’m like that.

13 thoughts on “History on a Math Shell

    • For my flight over from Amsterdam to Boston, I checked actual 747 flights from and to those airports, and figured in the time I’d need for my people to be airborne. If I get to the second novel, I’ll need to do the same for another flight.

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