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space cadet
2008-Aug-13, 02:27 PM
Hey, Babblers. I've been working on a novel this summer, and unfortunately I've run into a bit of a wall. Maybe some of you tech-heads out there can help. The basic idea is, a twelve-year-old boy living in medieval England is given access to futuristic technology, which allows him to rig an archery contest to ensure his lovable but extremely untalented uncle will win. Obviously, I'm going to need to be allowed some degree of creative license, but I want it to be at least somewhat believable. To be honest, this is my first attempt at SF and I'm having a difficult time coming up with a solution to this problem without resorting to magic--something that does not exist in this story. It's intended to be a kids' story and not hard-core sci-fi, so there's no need to go into too much detail, but I at least need to explain the basic idea and understand the jargon well enough to make it sound convincing. Some things to keep in mind:

The technology can be a lot more advanced than what we have today, but it still needs to be somewhat believable.

The boy has access to someone who is familiar with the technology and can show him how it works.

The spectators as well as the boy's uncle can NOT be aware that the contest is being rigged. In other words, none of the technological components can be immediately noticeable.

It would make sense if the components they used were cannibalized from a device intended for some other purpose since they only have a limited amount of time to throw this scam together.

The first idea I played with was to have them modify some kind of transport device, which would have been used to transport the arrow to the center of the target the moment it was released. Obviously, this creates some problems because people would notice the arrow disappear, and I'd have to figure out some way to explain how the arrow rematerializes in the MIDDLE of the target without causing some kind of explosion (yes, I know. My grasp of physics is pretty minimal.) A more likely idea would be for them to plant an electronic receiver inside the target, but I'm not sure what the original purpose of such a device would be used for. Why would someone with futuristic technology have something like that sitting around anyway?

Any input would be greatly appreciated!

HenrikOlsen
2008-Aug-13, 02:45 PM
Fit the arrows with actively steering feathers so they seek the center where a transmitter is placed in the target , that's about the only one I can think of that's consistent with physics.
It will take tech that's slight more advanced that our current, but the difference is a matter of engineering the components small enough, not one of inventing anything actually not here already.

Take the components from the smartbullets from a gun.

Tog
2008-Aug-13, 04:08 PM
Would the boy have time to prep the contest grounds?

I'm thinking that he could lay a track of superconducting magnets under the grass that could guide the arrow tot he target similar to the way a Maglev train works. Real world tech, bumped up to an extreme level.

Or...

Use the steerable feathers mentioned above to allow the arrows to home in on an IR laser designator held by the boy. Basically the same system that laser guided missiles use, only scaled down.

jokergirl
2008-Aug-13, 04:26 PM
I'd catch the arrow in a tractor beam to keep it in the exact trajectory I want it to go in.

;)

jj_0001
2008-Aug-13, 05:41 PM
I'd go with the "adjust the feathers via nanotech motors and computers and use an aiming algorithm attached to a camera at the arrow's point" crowd.

That way, you can give them to Uncle as a way to be safe, i.e. you can't actually hit a person with them, ever, unless you do it at a 3" range. :)

Abbadon_2008
2008-Aug-13, 07:52 PM
I agree that creating 'smart' arrows is the best choice.

But you'll have to make certain that niether the uncle nor anyone else inspects them prior to the match.

The protagonist will have to swap the conventional arrows for the upgraded ones in sneaky fashion.

Jeff Root
2008-Aug-13, 08:04 PM
There are all kinds of reasons to have transmitters and receivers. People
posting in this thread have numerous of each. The problem is what can
realistically be done with the transmitted information to control the flight
of an arrow. And especially without it being apparent even to the boy or
his uncle that they are cheating. Desgning and building a mechanism to
alter the flight of an arrow is a job for a team of engineers and technicians
with experience and proper facilities, and would take time.

I'd suggest convincing the uncle that his problem is poor vision, and giving
him a pair of glasses that will help him see the target better. If he nocks
the arrow properly, he will know that he has the arrow aimed at the target
when he (but only he) can see the dot on the target from the thingumbob
(laser pointer) attached to the bow.

Even this goes beyond real science. Although such glasses have been used
umpteen times in TV programs and movies when someone wants to see laser
beams, there are no such glasses other than night-vision goggles, which
allow one to view infrared light, such as emitted by a TV remote control.

Alternatively, a transmitter in the target and receiver in the bow could cause
a tone, vibration, or other signal that could be sensed only by the person
holding the bow when it is properly aimed at the target.

In either case, the aim would need to be calibrated and adjusted for all
kinds of factors such as the fall of the arrow during flight, bending of the
arrow during acceleration, twisting forces, windage, changing distance
to the target, shaky hands (especially when weak muscles try to draw
back a heavy bow), etc. Some skill would still be needed -- just not as
much.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Jeff Root
2008-Aug-13, 08:19 PM
A remote-controlled superconducting magnet hidden inside or on the back
of the target might draw the arrow toward the bullseye once it is close
enough. It would have to be close enough, though -- say, within a foot
of the bullseye. Make the target of wood so that arrows already in the
target aren't pulled through it into the magnet when it is activated. Are
the arrowheads made of iron? Be sure no other iron is nearby. Remember
that an electromagnet needs a power supply, but those are standard issue
for time travellers.

Arrows pulled into the bullseye this way would end up at odd angles.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

space cadet
2008-Aug-13, 09:28 PM
These are all really good ideas. I especially like the one with the superconducting magnet hidden on the back side of the target--it seems like it would be the easiest one to set up. I'm not sure how the steering feathers would work without there being some kind of computer chip or whatever stuck to the arrow--if nanotechnology is a possibility here, I'm afraid it would open up a bunch of plotholes in other parts of the story. The idea with the glasses is good, but it wouldn't work for the uncle's character. The guy has to be completely clueless that anything with his equipment is out of the ordinary. All he knows is, he's suddenly a really good archer, and for some baffling reason, he can't seem to miss the mark. Hmm. Must be God or something. But would a superconducting magnet work on something moving as quickly as an arrow? And keeping other metallic objects away from the target might be difficult--of course, if it were remote controlled, the protagonist could just shut it off as soon as his uncle's round is over. How far away would a guy in a mail shirt have to be for the magnet to not affect him? Or loose arrows lying around on the ground or whatever? Is there some kind of formula so I could get a rough idea of how this thing would affect a variety of objects at different sizes and distances?

slang
2008-Aug-13, 09:45 PM
Use a hyperconducing dark matter attractor, and a bunch of dark matter contained somehow in the arrowhead. The attractor only affects the arrowhead, nothing else. I'd believe it :)

jj_0001
2008-Aug-13, 11:13 PM
Use a hyperconducing dark matter attractor, and a bunch of dark matter contained somehow in the arrowhead. The attractor only affects the arrowhead, nothing else. I'd believe it :)

Heck just use a dark matter black hole that only attracts dark matter, and some dark matter on the arrow.

Good luck pulling it out, though :)

Jeff Root
2008-Aug-13, 11:34 PM
The attractive force of a magnet drops off as the cube of the distance of
separation between the magnet and whatever it is attracting, so you do
need a very powerful magnet. If it was strong enough to pull an arrow in
flight over a distance of one foot from the target, it would affect compass
needles for a large distance around -- perhaps a hundred feet. A knife or
chain mail four feet away might be noticeably tugged. Two feet away and
it would be yanked hard. A few feet makes a big difference.

(I guess if someone was attending the target at an archery competition,
and they owned or had access to a chain mail vest, they might wear it,
just to get some use out of the blasted, heavy, expensive thing. But I'd
forget the mail and just make darn sure nobody was ready to shoot when
I go to the target, and move far, far away when the uncle's turn came.)

Funny -- sometimes I miss the target competely. But when I hit it, I
usually hit the center!

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

HenrikOlsen
2008-Aug-14, 01:06 AM
You don't need nanotech to make an arrow with actively steering fins, that's still way up in conventional scale, even if rather small.

Hmmm, the steering computer would easily fit in the arrowhead, use piezoelectric actuators on the fins which could be done fairly invisibly.
I actually think it could be built today.

space cadet
2008-Aug-14, 02:35 AM
Heck just use a dark matter black hole that only attracts dark matter, and some dark matter on the arrow.

Good luck pulling it out, though :)


Would it be possible to have an on/off switch? :)

space cadet
2008-Aug-14, 02:40 AM
The attractive force of a magnet drops off as the cube of the distance of
separation between the magnet and whatever it is attracting, so you do
need a very powerful magnet. If it was strong enough to pull an arrow in
flight over a distance of one foot from the target, it would affect compass
needles for a large distance around -- perhaps a hundred feet. A knife or
chain mail four feet away might be noticeably tugged. Two feet away and
it would be yanked hard. A few feet makes a big difference.

(I guess if someone was attending the target at an archery competition,
and they owned or had access to a chain mail vest, they might wear it,
just to get some use out of the blasted, heavy, expensive thing. But I'd
forget the mail and just make darn sure nobody was ready to shoot when
I go to the target, and move far, far away when the uncle's turn came.)

Funny -- sometimes I miss the target competely. But when I hit it, I
usually hit the center!

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Yeah, I know it's not likely they'd wear chain mail to an archery contest. I was just curious. Wouldn't the speed of the arrow make a difference on how powerful the magnet would need to be? How would you factor that in? And what other uses would a superconducting magnet have? Why would someone have one lying around in his space ship?

Jeff Root
2008-Aug-14, 06:35 AM
If you are going somewhere from which you might not be able to return, you
take everything with you that you can think of.

I'm guessing that even in a future time, a superconducting magnet will need
to be cooled below ambient temperature. You may need a refrigerator, but
that again is standard issue for time travellers.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Drunk Vegan
2008-Aug-14, 10:42 AM
I'd say simpler is better, because:

a) it's a kids story. The simpler for them the more likely it is they'll understand the concept

b) It's a medevial person using futuristic technology. Simpler is easier.

c) You say they're going to "jury-rig" something. A complex system will require more parts and a more sophisticated working knowledge of technology

So I'd say basically the magnet idea. Just make sure the arrowhead is a metal which is strongly attracted to a magnetized object which is placed directly behind the bullseye.

When the man fires his arrow, if it gets anywhere remotely near the target board it will arc and hit the bullseye.

space cadet
2008-Aug-14, 12:46 PM
I'd say simpler is better, because:

a) it's a kids story. The simpler for them the more likely it is they'll understand the concept

b) It's a medevial person using futuristic technology. Simpler is easier.

c) You say they're going to "jury-rig" something. A complex system will require more parts and a more sophisticated working knowledge of technology

So I'd say basically the magnet idea. Just make sure the arrowhead is a metal which is strongly attracted to a magnetized object which is placed directly behind the bullseye.

When the man fires his arrow, if it gets anywhere remotely near the target board it will arc and hit the bullseye.

My thoughts exactly. Now I just need to figure out what they jury-rigged. It would be way easier if they already had something practical on hand instead of a bunch of miscellaneous stuff that may or may not come in handy--especially since the vessel in which this stuff was brought to medieval England needs to be pretty little, like the size of a small school bus at the very largest.

Jeff Root
2008-Aug-15, 12:03 AM
Or the size of a police call box.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Solfe
2008-Aug-15, 02:35 AM
Make the target change.

When the excellent archer fires, the target shrinks, when the uncle shoots it either stays the same or grows.

You could use light to change the surface, a hoop inside to really make it stretch and shrink.

Or some sort of dazzle effect (a light through a crystal/mirror flahses) to bother the better archers.

Solfe.

*edited for loss of focus and wrong words.*

space cadet
2008-Aug-15, 01:29 PM
Make the target change.

When the excellent archer fires, the target shrinks, when the uncle shoots it either stays the same or grows.

You could use light to change the surface, a hoop inside to really make it stretch and shrink.

Or some sort of dazzle effect (a light through a crystal/mirror flahses) to bother the better archers.

Solfe.

*edited for loss of focus and wrong words.*

Uh... wouldn't that make it obvious they are cheating? The point here is to make the guy look like he's good even though he stinks.

slang
2008-Aug-15, 10:57 PM
Use a nano technology super winch at the bullseye, attached with a mono-atom-thick string to the arrowhead. Winch winches the arrow to the target faster than the bow ever good, making the guy look awesomely strong too. I mean, in those days in the future, we'd all have a spare a nano technology super winch with a a mono-atom string attached to our belts, right? Just in case?

jj_0001
2008-Aug-15, 11:01 PM
Use a nano technology super winch at the bullseye, attached with a mono-atom-thick string to the arrowhead. Winch winches the arrow to the target faster than the bow ever good, making the guy look awesomely strong too. I mean, in those days in the future, we'd all have a spare a nano technology super winch with a a mono-atom string attached to our belts, right? Just in case?

Or we could posit a superelastic biocomposite, that would do the same thing, and that could be made to look good.

Kadava
2008-Aug-18, 05:01 AM
I'd suggest that you have a super magnet that is attractive to only certain metals/substances - preferrably exotic. Then you have the arrow head - and nothing else nearby - made of this material. You might need some sort of remote control in the hands of the child, or put something in the tail of the arrow to trigger a pulse of magnetism when the arrow is released from the bow.

HenrikOlsen
2008-Aug-18, 08:40 AM
I'd suggest that you have a super magnet that is attractive to only certain metals/substances - preferrably exotic. Then you have the arrow head - and nothing else nearby - made of this material.

To be honest, this is my first attempt at SF and I'm having a difficult time coming up with a solution to this problem without resorting to magic--something that does not exist in this story.
Exotic magnets are magic, don't do it.

Actually, using a magnet at all would be clearly noticeable as the arrow would come in and hit the target from an angle, because the deflection would only happen at the very last moment.

Tog
2008-Aug-18, 09:12 AM
Early on, you mentioned that the thing that stopped you from using a teleporter was that the arrow would seem to vanish and reappear. What if you were to add a hologram to that?

Have the arrow teleported away from a spot about 10 feet in front of the bow, then have a hologram track the arrow from that point to the target only to replace the arrow about a foot in front of the target to have it pulled in by the super magnet. Could that work for you?

Jeff Root
2008-Aug-18, 11:40 AM
Too complixated.

If the traveller can travel in time, have him/her go back to the uncle's
childhood, find a good archery teacher, and pay him to tutor the future
uncle until he is an expert archer. :p

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

agingjb
2008-Aug-18, 11:46 AM
Yes, I feel that, having introduced time travel, it is a trifle inelegant to use technologies that are still only possibilities in our future in order to influence the past.

Jeff Root
2008-Aug-18, 01:00 PM
(I just noticed that the non-word "complixated" I used in my last post just
above looks exactly like an accidental typo, hitting the "x" key instead of
the "c" key. But actually it was intentional silliness... Maybe I got the idea
for that spelling from having seen it as a typo many years ago. I meant it
as a combination of "complex" and "complicated".)

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Roving Philosopher
2008-Aug-18, 02:01 PM
Since it is from a spaceship, could the magnet come from a boot (or maybe a portable handhold) used during external maintenance?

Tobin Dax
2008-Aug-19, 12:22 AM
space cadet, I'm starting to like the "guided arrow" idea. How small does your nanotech not have to be? I'm thinking that you should do something like a guided missile, but on a smaller scale.

Jeff Root
2008-Aug-19, 08:29 AM
A mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, a computer programmer, a
master machinist and a couple of additional people, with access to the
necessary facilities, could design and build guided arrows that would closely
resemble ordinary arrows, using mid-21st-century technology, in less than
a month, I think. Good enough? (Using current technology, I'd estimate
that one to two years would be required, though I think the arrow might
have to be overly fat. Both assume that most of the software is already
written, for use in similar applications.)

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Tobin Dax
2008-Aug-19, 11:15 PM
A mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, a computer programmer, a
master machinist . . . .
What is this, a joke? :) (Sorry Jeff, couldn't resist.)

Jeff Root
2008-Aug-20, 02:48 AM
It wasn't until I read my own post immediately after posting it that
I realized it reads that way. I'm glad I didn't notice before I hit the
"Post" button, or I might have wanted to change it.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

TrAI
2008-Aug-20, 04:23 PM
...

I'd suggest convincing the uncle that his problem is poor vision, and giving
him a pair of glasses that will help him see the target better. If he nocks
the arrow properly, he will know that he has the arrow aimed at the target
when he (but only he) can see the dot on the target from the thingumbob
(laser pointer) attached to the bow.

Even this goes beyond real science. Although such glasses have been used
umpteen times in TV programs and movies when someone wants to see laser
beams, there are no such glasses other than night-vision goggles, which
allow one to view infrared light, such as emitted by a TV remote control.

Hmmm... there are infrared lasersights available today that could be used with light amps or IR sensitive goggles. Such goggles are rather bulky though, but I suspect that it would be possible in the near future to create such tools in the format of more normal glasses, and have built in screens/laser projectors to overlay the IR image from a camera on the real world.

How useful a lasersight would be on the bow really depends on many variables. It wouldn't work very well without the archer being familiar with using it, I suspect. At least, it would be hard to keep the knowledge of the cheating from the archer...

Perhaps some sort of laser guided arrow could be made, and have someone in the audience paint the target with an IR laser...