Saturday, March 14, 2015

Project Longbow - Reflections on an impossible project


The first time I read a reference to this secret Imperial project (in Gurps: Traveller), I thought nothing of it. Another secret project for background with potential for adventure and intrigue. Cool.

And then it percolated in the back of my mind, and I realized it was, essentially, an impossibility, at least in regards to the supposed data being collected and analyzed by the Third Imperium.

First, some background.

Officially, the project, if acknowledged at all, is brushed off as a communications research project by Imperial officials. But it is listed in the sources as a gravitics scanning project, designed and built specifically to trace Zhodani ship movements during their [Galactic] Core Expeditions. The source states there are two locations where the scanning arrays are set up, both being Imperial Navy Depots. One location I can't remember [I don't have access to the actual source book currently], the other is the Imperial Depot in Deneb Sector. It also references collected data being transferred to these Depots for processing.

So let us consider the distances involved. We'll start from Regina, in the aptly named Regina Subsector, Spinward Marches Sector. Practically on the border with the hated Zhodani. From this location it is around 12 full subsectors (120 or so parsecs) to the closest edge of the Zhodani Consulate facing the Galactic Core, at least according to the Traveller Map website. (For this example, we don't really need exact distances).

120 Parsecs at 3.26 Light Years per parsec is equal to around 400 Light Years.

400 LIGHT YEARS.

Now consider that the Zhodani's Core Expeditions have travelled several THOUSAND PARSECS towards the core.

Add a mere 1000 parsecs to our example above. That is another 3260 Light Years, for a total of at least 3660 Light Years.

Think about this.

That distance, as measured in Light Years, or just Years, IS LONGER THAN THE THIRD IMPERIUM HAS BEEN IN EXISTENCE! And this is only from one end of the Imperium. Add another 50 parsecs or so to for that gravity wave data to reach the Deneb Depot; that's another 168 Light Years.

This makes it IMPOSSIBLE for this project to work! There is no way the gravity waves generated by the Core Expeditions' ships' engines (gravitic maneuver drives, of course) can REACH the Imperium's sensors. Unless the gravity waves from these ships can travel faster than light. If they can, I think the Imperium has much bigger problems than those Core Expeditions...

This brings up a few possibilities.
  First, the Imperium is lying, and Project Longbow is... something else. What? Well, that would be up to the referee now, wouldn't it? ;)
  Second, the Imperium is using this project as a cover, for some purpose. Perhaps they really do have a secret communications research project in the works. Or perhaps it's a complicate trap, a lure to draw out Zhodani agents. That would be one expensive trap, given the supposed size of this project. As an Imperial ruler, I would put all that money into military development instead. Or better yet, the regional economies...

  Lastly, and this is probably the correct reason, they inserted this project as background, something for a referee to build upon, a mystery for players to figure out...

Whatever the original reason, this silly background device is not present in my campaigns.

[Note: Post edited to remove statements which could be interpreted as insulting to the original designers/creators of this background data. Not my intent at all. I claim lack of sleep as the excuse for my lapse, and apologize for it.]