In E.E. 'Doc' Smith's classic Skylark of Valeron,

Dick Seaton and party are beset in space by disembodied intelligences. These intelligences working as they do on the 6th order of forces are able to travel with accelerations and speeds thousands of times fast than light (relativity has been proved wrong in the skylark universe)

Even after having developed his own 6th order ray projectors, fields of force and inertial dampeners etc mounted them in a huge 'spaceship' and created a house sized 'brain' of vacuum tubes to control it all. Seaton says he is unable to hurt the intelligences because :

"they can travel at the same speed as any force I can direct against them"

Any ray or field directed against them simply pushes them back. and he is

"unable to create a spherical field without cutting my own beams"

However he comes up with a plan. Communicating with Norlamin (a distant planet) he instructed the residents (super scientists all) to construct a similar space ship and travel towards him. Additionally he creates a 'bait' to attract the intelligences, mid way between the two ships.

The intelligences are attracted to the bait and trapped in a spherical shell of force one hemisphere generated by each ship.

The puzzle!

this story has always confused me. A. how can a ship generate a hemispherical field without "cutting its own beams" but more pertinently is it actually possible to capture the intelligences?

the nature of 6th order forces has not been entirely revealed so I offer a number of options/rules

1: its clear that the ships accelerate at certain rates. Greater than the speed of light/s^2, but not instantaneously. There is no top speed

2: the rays and the intelligences propagate at a speed relative to the ether. much faster than the ships would normally travel and instantaneously reached

3: the intelligences react instantly and are super intelligent (except for bait)

4: the universe is infinite and the speeds and distances involved allow us to treat the ships as points

5: the ships are essentially stationary relative to each other and the bait

6: communicating and sensing is all at 6th order speed, including 'triggering' the bait and detecting things

Can the intelligences be captured?

Is it trivial?

What are the key factors that enable escape or make capture certain?


closed as off-topic by Len, leoll2, xnor, mmking, Mark N Jun 29 '15 at 12:54

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  • $\begingroup$ "accelerations and speeds thousands of times fast than light" - I'm not going to even try to answer such currently seen impossibilities!... $\endgroup$ – Mark N Jun 24 '15 at 13:11
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it appears to be more of a science fiction question than a puzzle (more suited for Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange, although it may be too old to migrate). $\endgroup$ – Len Jun 28 '15 at 5:48
  • $\begingroup$ Although the back story is sci-fi. Essentialy its a geometry/pursuit problem $\endgroup$ – Ewan Jun 28 '15 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Ewan except for the fact that information can't travel faster than the speed of light, and these things are going much much faster than that, which makes it impossible and science fiction. $\endgroup$ – Mark N Jun 29 '15 at 12:56
  • $\begingroup$ well lions and zebras can't be zero size mathematical points either $\endgroup$ – Ewan Jun 29 '15 at 17:07

It actually is possible. The field becomes semimagnetic if and only if the two ships come at each other head on. Some of the intelligences escape, but that's standard for capturing swarms.

Like this, the two halves become whole. Simple geometry.

  • $\begingroup$ can you expand on 'semimagnetic' and maybr add some diagrams? $\endgroup$ – Ewan Jun 28 '15 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ Look up 'earth magnetic field lines' and you'll see exactly what I mean. $\endgroup$ – Nefer007 Jun 28 '15 at 17:57

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