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In the Known Space universe, General Products hulls are supposed to be a single molecule manufactured in one go, then equipped afterwards. How is that supposed to work? Since they're indestructible,* you can hardly cut holes in them to put your stuff in. Since they're supposed to protect everything inside, there should be no opening. Was this ever explained, am I missing something?

* except when they're not

  • 8
    duct tape. lots of it. – Ferruccio Jul 7 '11 at 11:58
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    But duct tape can have a sharp edge, what does Puppeteer duck tape look like? – geoffc Jul 7 '11 at 19:33
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    Puppeteer duct tape is composed of a single artificially generated molecule, the molecule reinforced by a miniature power plant embedded in the tape. Since the tape is impossible to cut by normal means, it can only be broken into sections with a special tool called a "flashlight-laser-of-plot-necessity". This tool must be wielded by the future descendants of the Warlock in order to function, and this operation must be performed while screaming and leaping. (Those of you who didn't get that, read more Larry Niven pronto!) – neilfein Jul 8 '11 at 3:48
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There are openings. In Ringworld it is stated that the Lying Bastard has been built with its engines outside the hull in order to minimise the number of breaches. Each hull is built to order, with the holes that are specified by the purchaser. (citation)

  • True, there must be openings. But wouldn't that also limit the protective power of a hull? Presumably anything you'd stick in/through those holes would be less than indestructible, especially anything of human manufacturing. Since I imagine there must be some rather large holes to get all needed machinery inside, that seems like quite a weak spot. Also, is there a reference for your built to order claim? – deceze Jul 7 '11 at 7:34
  • No, I have no reference, just inference. If the hulls can't be damaged by anything, and different hulls have different configurations of openings, then the openings have to be created during the manufacturing process. – Mike Scott Jul 7 '11 at 8:08
  • Although the hulls are largely indestructable, they DON'T provide complete protection; just warrentied indestructabilty. Several stories involve damage through them, including via a gravitic tide, lasers, etc. The main ships in the stories, however, also had a Statis field that was activated, leaving them effectively invulnerable while it was active; that's what made them so safe; the hull was just a very good hull. – K-H-W Jul 7 '11 at 16:48
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    @deceze - citation for 'built to order': freewebs.com/knownspace/g.htm – so12311 Jul 7 '11 at 18:23
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    @deceze - This is correct, holes for people and drives and conduits do compromise hull integrity, this is why GP made an attempt to minimize them in the case of the Lying Bastard. Later books go even further, using teleportation to move passengers in and out, as well as fuel and other consumables. – neilfein Jul 8 '11 at 3:44
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If you read the Fleet of Worlds series, they actually talk about this a bit more.

Basically, GP hulls are giant super molecules, when they are built. There is some reinforcing that occurs, including some done by an embedded generator. Even the slightest imperfection in this stage can cause problems.

Presumably, the hull is constructed, then cut, then reinforced.

Any opening is a potential disaster, which is why the Lying Bastard has the minimal number of holes.

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