This just in, today’s train of thought has derailed somewhere in left field. The authorities are urging everyone to remain calm while their team of engineers work to get things back on track.
I was making my usual patrol around the reddit and came across the type of question I like to see.
Now I was already aware of the vague idea that heat dissipated really slowly in space. Heat transfer as us earthbound people think of it is from one object to another. From a heating element to a pot, from a radiator to the air around it, and so on. In the vacuum of space though, there really isn’t much matter to transfer heat to.
The top comment from a user called afcagroo said this:
The other mechanism is radiation. Your body is constantly radiating infrared light, carrying away heat energy. (This is known as ‘black body radiation’.) Black body radiation isn’t all that fast, so freezing in outer space will take a bit of time.
This gave me a couple of things. First off, it gave me a solid concept to hang the phrase “black body radiation” on. I mean, I’d heard the phrase used before, but I’m not a physicist and didn’t have anything specific to relate it to.
It also returns later to make me do some quick internet research that I’m not qualified to really comprehend. I wandered off on a weird tangent for a while but I eventually came back to this idea. I thought, Elite Dangerous has a heat mechanic, and it’s about space ships with a slight bent toward the realistic, did they actually consider this or just hand waive it?
I started with trying to determine how much “heat” an ship has in the game. Honestly it’s expressed as a percentage in the game and bad things start happening around 100%, but that’s not really a useful number. I decided then that 100% should be about 90c, figuring that’s around the temperate that modern microprocessors start having issues. Everything on the internet about this was using Kelvin so I rounded it off to 360k, which is really 86.85c but I’m just ballparking an idea anyway. I vaguely remember one of my ships running at 32% most of the time, my vulture probably, and went with that. 115.2k or -157.95c for anyone interested.
After some math involving the general volume and density of a diamondback explorer how long would it take to get from 360k to 115.2k? Over a month. That’s a super rough number with a lot of problems, but it answers the initial question of how close to reality heat dissipation in Elite is. It isn’t.
Now, I must admit, I expected this answer, but you never know. Having ruled that out it occurred to me that I couldn’t possible be the first person to ask this question, so I googled it. Sure enough it’s mentioned on the wiki. Ah well, it’s just a game anyway. Let’s face it, sitting around a system for a month waiting for your ship to cool down from a single jump wouldn’t be very much fun. We play games to escape reality, not recreate every frustrating detail.
So that’s what I did this morning. Ran around the internet with a calculator and google converting units of measure back and forth and approximating the size, density, and temperature of a hypothetical ship just to sate my own curiosity.