Robots: Swimsuit Edition
I watched an episode of the original series Battlestar Galactica in which a Cylon patrol casually forded a river to chase down a crashed Colonial pilot. Given that they are at least cyborgs and possibly full robots, this struck me as somehow wrong. Then I thought of how blithely R2D2 (Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back) took a lengthy dunking in an alien swamp and kept on ticking despite being so sodden that it spat out great masses of mud and muddy water upon its return to solid ground. Then I thought of a Doctor Who episode I saw where Dalek troops concealed themselves just beneath the shallows of a lake to attack from ambush.
Now, I know that waterproof robots can and are built; we're using them to find famous shipwrecks and explore the ocean bottom. On the other hand, I also know how mere humidity can really mess up a cell phone's day. Water and electronics just don't mix well. I can see Lost in Space's B-9 environmental control robot being able to shed rain and handle soggy ground. It was designed to explore harsh, unfamiliar environments. But Cylons and Daleks are space soldiers, and R2D2 was designed to perform maintenance on other machines. Why would they be watertight? In the case of R2D2, it definitely wasn't watertight but it survived anyway. Wish the keyboard I'm typing on now was that durable.
Any machine designed for planetary combat would need to be sealed, not only against water but against the fine powdery sand present on the Moon, Mars, and probably elsewhere. Cylons and Daleks (technically cyborgs, if not organisms in mini-tanks) certainly wouldn't let liquid water compromise their effectiveness. R2 units were designed for the rigors of combat, albeit in a supporting role, so sealing off vital components improves their durability too. Not to mention, anything sealed against vacuum will also keep water out.
Also, Cylons, Dalek travel machines, and R2 units are products of an advanced technological culture, so perhaps their manufacturing processes seal off water-sensitive components, either as a byproduct or as a trivial step. Currently, waterproof electronic and mechanical devices cost extra, but it's hardly a cutting-edge technology. Then, too, modern electronics generally consist of sealed IC chips soldered onto exposed circuit boards; future manufacturing might produce completely sealed circuit cubes, optical components immune to water, or who knows what else.
Yeah, it depends a lot of what the robot is being designed for. As a rule of thumb, you can pretty much design a machine to function under any circumstances, if you are willing to make trade offs -usually in terms of size, materials, power usage, and cost. Cell phones are so fragile because they are small, lightweight, low power and cheap. Most compnaies expect users to upgrade their cell phones every couple of years, and the phones are not made to last.
In the case of Daleks, they are not robots, but living organisms inside a "survival unit". In order to do it's job, the survival unit would need to be protect the Dalek organism from hostile environments.
As for R2s, they are probably sealed to protect them from the oils, fuels and solvents used in the small fighters ships that astromech droids were built to maintain. Plus, droids in the Star Wars universe would be sold throughout the galaxy, and thus it would make sense for engineers to make droids that can function in a wide variety of environments. Both to ensure greater sales, and to ensure that prodyuct doesne't get sent back if somebody moves. Who would want a robot that breaks down every time you go to a different planet.
Cylons and Daleks obviously operate on planetary surfaces, and X-Wings often have
Originally Posted by seneschal
their bases there. Planets have a tendency to produce rain and fog, and if one has
to protect the expensive pieces of equipment from these sources of water anyway,
one can just as well go a little further and make all the vital parts completely water-
tight. Operations in great depth would require some additional preparations because
of the pressure there, but a basic protection from water should be easy for an ad-
Who would want a robot that breaks down every time you go to a different planet.
I don't know about robots (never got that book) but Classic Traveller was kind of quirky in this respect. While air rafts (anti-gravity vehicles) were ubiquitous and usable anywhere, ground cars (trucks, automobiles, etc.) were manufactured for specific planetary conditions and wouldn't work well if taken from one planet to another. Strangely enough, this wasn't the case with other ground vehicles such as ATVs (armored personnel transports).
My 15-year-old son, without any knowledge of this discussion, sat down to watch the same BG episode,and his reaction was the same as mine: "Robots wading waist-deep through a river? No way!"
The scriptwriters acknowledged the issue in part. The Cylon commander was eager to get off the planet because its dampness was causing himself and his troops to rust at a rapid rate. Given that the environment the adventure occurred in appeared to be the equivalent of England or Canada, if the Cylons ever did locate Earth they'd be very uncomfortable. ;) However, in an earlier episode set on a snowy ice world (always winter and never Christmas), the damp climate didn't seem to bother the Cylons at all. Maybe they had an extra supply of STP.
Sounds like a flaw in the logic. If the dampness was causing the Cylons problems, then immensing thsmelves in water would only make things worse.
Originally Posted by seneschal
Given that the environment the adventure occurred in appeared to be the equivalent of England or Canada, if the Cylons ever did locate Earth they'd be very uncomfortable. ;) However, in an earlier episode set on a snowy ice world (always winter and never Christmas), the damp climate didn't seem to bother the Cylons at all. Maybe they had an extra supply of STP.[/QUOTE]
Uh, snowy cold climates generally are not damp. They are dry. Dampness, or humidity is the water content in the air. Since water freezes in cold cliomates, there tends to be very little free moisture in the air.
Oh, while we are debating why astrometch would be weatherproofed (image what would happen to an airliner in a storm, if it's autopilot, and navigational equipment, and repair equipment wasn't weatherproofed) there is another hurdle with "swimming robots". Density.
Objects float if they are lighter than the amount of water displaced by their volume, and sink if they are heavier than the amount of water displaced by their volume. Now, since materials such as metals and plastics are heavier than water, and since most robots are fairly compact with little empty space, and so would sink like a rock. THis would make it harder for them to move through the much at the bottom of most large bodies of water. It would also mean that they would be subjected to greater pressures, and that would make them even harder to waterproof.
This would also assume Cylons were made of some sort of iron based metal rather than a more likely high tech non rusting alloy. I'm guessing bad writing (like that never happens). ;D
Originally Posted by seneschal
I would have to assume that in the case of Star Wars, most if not all robots have at least their vital components sealed. In "A New Hope" we see 3P0 get completly dunked in oil. "This oil bath is going to feel so good." So obviously, if even a protocol droid is designed to be completly submerged in oil, I would have to say its a common maintaince practice for Star Wars droids. And if you can survive dunking in oil, its not too far a streatch to have them surviving being dunked in water.
Just a thought.