I was sent this the other day: CUSP, by Robert A. Metzger, a Nebula-nominated SF author who is also a frequent reader of the site. I’ve just started reading it, but so far it’s pretty interesting and starts with a heck of an opening scene, in which the sun sprouts an immense jet and high-tails away while the Earth finds itself quartered by immense pole and equator-spanning walls that sprout from the very ground. I suspect the Freemasons are involved.

Naturally, I’m curious to find out what Metzger’s going to do with this. That’s the fun of Hard SF, though, isn’t it: You create these immense technological doo-dads, now you gotta play with them, and from the first chapters at least, you can tell Metzger enjoys fiddling around with the geegaws.

Note to self: Create some awesome Hard SF thing to play with sometime. I’m thinking maybe a moon-sized block of cheese. Think of the possibilities.

20 Comments on “CUSP”

  1. A moon-sized cheese ball. Hmmm…

    Do different cheese varieties differ in specific gravity? Enough to make a difference in something the size of ol’ Luna? What is the SG of old English Cheddar anyway?

    Any … what, expect that any body of a different SG than ol’ Luna is going to change a few things. Orbital dynamics for one. Along with the tides.

    And what would the ASBs do?

    Then you have the social and psychological impact. But that’s soft-science so you could always hand-wave it.:)

  2. Well, see, that’s the question, isn’t it: Should the hunk of cheese be the physical size of the moon? Or should it be the mass of the moon. If it were the former, clearly the mass would be less (cheese — even the dense, processed kind — masses less than an equivalent-sized chunk of basalt) and that would have consequences for life on earth. If it were the latter, however, life as we know it here would continue much as it always has, but the moon would of course be much larger and probably have a much higher albedo, which would no doubt affect visible light astronomy, and possibly some noctural animals.

  3. Better yet, what if it was made of something with a very high butterfat content, like Brie or that triple-cream Camembert?

    What would the caloric content of the moon be if it was made of triple-cream Camembert?

  4. C’mon, we can take this a bit farther.

    For example, one should consider the, um, geophysics of the cheesy moon. While a nice pound of pepper jack might not have the same density as the moon, a moon sized piece of pepper jack would of course be much more dense, and hotter, at the center due to gravitational compression. One would expect volcanos of molten cheese. If you started with a mixture of pepper jack and cheddar, one question that you would face is whether you should be serving chips with your volcanos.

  5. What are the physics of highly compressed cheese? At extreme high pressures, will cheese maintain its integrity, or will it degrade into its component parts? Indeed, what are the chances that a hunk of cheese the size of the moon would simply blow apart due to massive internal pressure? I mean, you know what cheese does to your intestinal tract. Think of what it would do in the bowels of cheesy moon.

  6. What are the physics of highly compressed cheese?

    Isn’t that what they’re doing with the last few episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise?

  7. “Note to self: Create some awesome Hard SF thing to play with sometime.”

    As Larry Niven says that David Gerrold said, this is SF in the category of the “Great Big Thing”.

    You know, despite some crappy, unphysical Star Trek episodes, I’m not sure there has ever been a real, readable, novel about a Dyson sphere.

    The hard part is not using some “Bolognium” or something impossible.

    Like Ringworld and the fact that it’s made of “scrith” which has the tensile strength of an atomic nucleus! Since it has to rotate fast enough for one gravity…

    A non-rotating, or slowly rotating, Dyson sphere is still possible…

    Create the Great Big Economy, or, a world economy geared to both stellar colonization and the increase of standard of living of the Citizens of the World to at least literacy and eating regularly.

    Social Engineering is as important and useful as is starship engineering. And is Worthwhile SciFi!

    How do you create a social system where we colonize the stars?

    This goes back to my “Why do people suck?” question, and is part and parcel of the same.

    How do we create a society where mankind goes to the stars?

  8. Mark, we will create a society where mankind goes to the stars. I’m convinced of that. I don’t think you can set out to create it, I think it will grow and accrete, in the same way that pretty much everything else humans have done has grown.

  9. While some have inquired on the dynamics of highly compressed cheese, it is critical to realize that such a cheese-based moon would have been bombarded by the solar wind for the last five billion years, slamming it with a steady flux of helium-3 isotopes. All cheese is a porous stubstance with pore size following a typical fractal distrubution, ie. pore size ranging from 1 centimeter to 1 nanometer, with each order of magnitude decrease in pore size having a population tens times greater than the pore size above it.(1) Helium-3 being a highly mobile and small isotope will diffuse into the smallest pores, resulting in a nanometer-sized matrix of suspended helium-3 isotopes. I think it is quite obvious to see where this is going, but for the sake of those physics-challenged, if one were to apply an oscillating electromagnetic field to the cheese moon (easily supplied by a fleet of moon orbiting satellites) a sympathetic vibration could be generated in the moon causing the helium-3 ions to oscillate about their mean positions, eventually fusing with neighboring helium-3 ions when the oscillations reach a critical threshold – called the cheese critical implosion point. The heat generated by the intial fusing of helium-3 causes pore size to further reduce as the cheese starts to melt, pulling the helium-3 isotopes closer together, which further increases the rate of isotope fusing and reduction in isotope separation. The cheese moon quickly turns molten, going through a temporary fondue stage (2), at which point the organic molecules in the cheese lose cohesion, all hydrogen-carbon bonds breaking, and the free hydrogen enters into the helium-3 fusion process, and the cheese moon ignites in a classic thermonuclear stellar reaction. This results in the Earth suddenly having a second sun, and the moon-facing side of the Earth during the moment of ignition being splattered with cheese to a depth of nearly 100 meters during the outer corona cheese flash-off. (3)

    1. Elton, Herman, Little Known Cheese Facts, Houflin-Hilton Publishing, New York, 1978.
    2. Spivak, Laurel, Fondue in the Nuclear Age, Ladies Home Companion, June 1967.
    3. Bertram, J.A., et al, Mutual Assured Cheesing, NASA Abstract B-2234, June 23, 1964.

  10. My God! Could we possibly generate enough nacho-style corn chips to shield us from the ensuing cheese-based carnage? This requires a massive rethinking of our agricultural infrastructure! We must get this information to the Secretary of Agriculture!

  11. Heh. I was going to do something on the cheese-moon, Bob, but you beat me to it. Probably just as well, as I wouldn’t have done it half as well. :)

  12. re: Nacho-style corn chips. We’ll probably be SOL since it is my understanding that corn likes to sleep (I read somewhere several years ago that growing corn in Alaska has proved to be untenable because when it’s warm enough to grow crops, there’s also midnight sun so corn can’t get it’s 40 winks). Therefore, given the increased albedo of the cheese-moon, corn is unlikely to be a significant crop.

  13. Cheese is dead in SF. Heinlein and Asimov did a now hard to find colaboration called, “The Harsh Moon is built on a Foundation of Cheddar”. It was the definitive hard SF about large mass cheese and it still is.

    I hear avacado is hot now. The avacado has a pit and you can use that somehow.

  14. “You know, despite some crappy, unphysical Star Trek episodes, I’m not sure there has ever been a real, readable, novel about a Dyson sphere.” Mark Ensley

    I though “Saga of Cuckoo” was a wonderfull read about a dyson sphere. Most bigger libraries have it… give it a shot. It also has a great representation of an “orion style” detonation-propusion system spaceship in action.

  15. Here’s the real quandary: Not what sort of cheese or its densiity or its compression or whatever claptrap, but whether to make sandwiches or pizza! And how to find a big enough salami for either? Maybe Mars …

  16. I’m surprised (and, frankly, disappointed) that no one has so far speculated about the revolutionary origins of Scalzi’s extraterrestrial cheese. I’ve no doubt that astronomer Fred “panspermia” Hoyle, assuming he hadn’t left the party so early, would’ve had at least something entertaining to say on the subject of herbivores in space.

  17. Metzger,

    Now that’s certainly going to change orbital dynamics etc. Then there is the matter of lost mass. Depending on when the (cheese) moon goes up ol’ Luna may lose enough mass to shut fusion down.

    As for the cheese that impacts the Earth; depending on where it lands it could have a great, uhm, impact on religious life.

    How so?

    Think about meat and dairy products on the same plate for observant Jews.

    As for astronomical bodies going POOF…

    Once did up a scenario where our descendents first built a beanstalk. Followed it with more beanstalks. Figured out how to build beanstalks away from the equator and ended up roofing over the world. Everybody moved to the top of the ‘roof’ and life was fine.

    Space travel using hydrogen powered engines also became popular, and hydrogen remained the fuel of choice regardless of technology. Eventually there were thousands of hydrogen powered spacecraft out here.

    Until one day when a conceptual, paradigmatic breakthrough was made and a new power source using space-time topography was developed. Naturally everybody switched over. But at first you could only get the new engines at Earth.

    So they arrived in great numbers, to get the upgrade and dump off the excess hydrogen. With all that hydrogen being stored under Earth’s shell.

    There were no survivors.

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