Sunday August 21, 2005
Book 7: Emperor Pius Dei — Part I: Big Schlock, Little Schlock, What Begins With Schlock?
Note: Thixatropic compounds, by definition, behave as if they are solids (technically "semi-solids," but think "solid" as in "solid ground" and you'll be on the right track) right up until the point that a kinetic shock disturbs the compound, at which point it flows like shaken ketchup.

Ketchup is a favorite example. Pounding on the bottom of the upended bottle when it won't pour will ensure that it suddenly pours very, VERY quickly. Pounding on the bottom while wearing white clothing or anything expensive will ensure that the bottle will expectorate more than 50% of its contents in one go.

More to the point, certain 21st-century terran cities, including Mexico City and Anchorage, Alaska, were built on thixatropic ground. Earthquakes there tended to be very destructive, with buildings bouncing around as if they were built on jiggling gelatin. The parable of the foolish man (whose house was built on the sand) and the wise man (whose house was built on the rocks) could quite naturally have included the uninformed and very unfortunate man who was careful to not build on the sand but who wouldn't know the meaning of the word "thixatropic" if you wrote it on a bottle of ketchup and poured it over his necktie.


Narrator: The grounded Mercenary Flagship Integrity, as seen from above.
Captain Tagon: Pilot, get us on the ground. We're in a bit of a hurry.
Captain Tagon: Put us down by the shipwrights over there.
Charter Pilot: You're the boss.
Captain Tagon: You're with Daysun Tingo Skywrecking?
Daysun Tingo 'Bot: Yes, and we have just completed some preliminary external scans.
Daysun Tingo 'Bot: It looks very bad. The ship's belly is flush with the ground.

That indicates settling of the superstructure, which is extremely costly to repair.

Daysun Tingo 'Bot: We'll waive our fee and take her off your hands though. We pay well for quality scrap.
Kevyn: Don't do it, Tagon.
Captain Tagon: Why not?
Kevyn: See how flush her belly is with the dirt and rock?
Kevyn: The ground on this plain is a mixture of rock and thixotropic clay. It was liquefied by the jolt, and flowed up under the Integrity, supporting her.
Daysun Tingo 'Bot: I believe you to be mistaken. The jolt of the crash would not suffice to liquefy the round as you describe.
Kevyn: No, but my antimatter bomb did suffice.
Daysun Tingo 'Bot: Regrettably, I am not programmed to be impressed.
Narrator: Another problem solved via the application of high explosives.