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Old Sep 7 2009, 10:18 AM   #1
ElectricDragon
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Default A realistic look at dragon attrition.

A feature of many speculative discussions about the Pernese air force has been the rate of attrition of dragons and riders. This has implications for features of the Pernese air force such as rate of reproduction of dragons, casualties among weyrlings, and potential longevity of dragons and their riders.

Dragon-riding is dangerous work. The level of technology involved is approximately equal to that of the infancy of aviation, particularly with regard to a rider's safety and environmental support while flying. Safety is entrusted to braided hide straps and cast or forged metal buckles. There is no effective environmental support: no pressurized and temperature moderated cockpits; no electrically heated flying suits; no oxygen masks, and no G-suits are provided. The average dragon-rider works with equipment that the early barnstormers would have found relatively familar.

Flying between makes dragon-riding uniquely dangerous even during an Interval. Training for Thread-fighting is essentially equivalent to air combat training, which is also uniquely risky, even during "peace time" such as an Interval. Dragons are based in Weyrs, which are uniquely isolated, and combine all the support services for the air force in singular units which are dependent upon resupply from without. These factors make a carrier-based naval air force a closer analog than a land-based air force for the Pernese air force.

A Weyr functions similarly to an aircraft carrier. Flying between makes a good analog for the unique aspects of carrier aviation (catapult launches, arrested recoveries, the pitch and roll of the landing platform, the complete lack of divert fields in blue-water regions) that contribute to a higher mishap rate than land-based aviation. Combat training always carries the hazard of mishap if even remotely realistic, no different than flaming mishaps experienced in Thread-fighting drills.

This makes naval aviation mishap rates a good analog for what we might expect of Pernese mishaps rates. The crudest level of technology for which we have documented mishap information is that of 1950, the late-prop/early-jet era. At that time the mishap rate was approximately 50 catastrophic accidents per 100,000 flight hours. What would a rate like this mean for the Pernese air force?

Let us assume it is an Interval. Dragon population is 1800; 300 per Weyr. Of this population, let us assume that 10% are weyrlings unable to fly and old pairs that seldom fly. Let us disregard flight within the Weyr Bowl as equivalent to taxiing and towing aircraft on the flight and hangar decks of a carrier.

If we assume that training time approximates actual conditions, drill days would amount to six hours of flight time outside the Bowl of the Weyr. This would be a grueling pace to maintain seven days a week, especially with no environmental support for the riders. In all likelihood, operating tempo would approximate that of a carrier which typically will spend four days "on the line" and three days off. Days "off the line" are not necessarily no-fly days; the tempo is, however, reduced.

A Threadfall lasts six hours. For the sake of argument, we'll take this as the benchmark for fighting dragons in the Weyr, four days per week, and spread another day's worth at this pace over the other three days of the week. This would mean 30 flight hours per week, per pair. Times 270 fighting dragons in the Weyr, times 52 weeks in the Turn, times six Weyrs on Pern, this makes approximately 2,500,000 flight hours per Turn for the Pernese air force.

Assuming a catastrophic accident rate of 50 per 100,000 flight hours produces 1264 pairs lost in the course of a Turn. This is a ridiculous 77% of the total population and obviously absurd. The mishap rate must obviously be lower.

A massive program of deliberate technological and training intervention reduced the mishap rate in naval aviation by 98% in 50 years, to approximately 2 fatal mishaps per 100,000 flight hours. Could Pern's Weyrs have any similar program to reduce the loss rate? Almost certainly not.

The Pernese are in no position to improve the technology of their "aircraft" in any way other than the gradual increase in size and stamina brought about by natural selection in the mating process. This eliminates any potential equivalents to measures taken in naval aviation such as the introduction of angled flight decks, Fresnel lens landing systems, steam catapults, the Naval Aviation Maintenance Program, System Safety Design, and the introduction of titanium, composites, and computer technology.

The Pernese are also in a poor position to improve the training of their "aircrew" in any effective way. They are forced to operate largely from lore, and most of that oral tradition due to the constant deterioration of their records. The corrosive effect of time—literally centuries between "wars" in the form of Passes—causes the original reason for doing things certain ways to be lost as those procedures ossify into traditions. Hidebound devotion to those traditions limits the impact of losing the intended purpose to a small degree, but it also stagnates innovation. It is very difficult—even for a leader—to "defy" tradition and make changes. Thus the Pernese do not have the equivalent of a centralized safety center collecting data and mandating procedures; they do not have a single centralized training facility that teaches every flyer the same procedures and rules; they do not have standardized manuals for the operation of their "aircraft;" they do not have individual unit safety programs reporting to a centralized safety center; they do not have a uniform human factors training program. Any of these things might be approximated in some fashion by an inspired and driven Weyrleader, but they would be highly unlikely to outlive the individual.

The only thing that could moderate the mishap rate would be the innate intelligence of the dragons. Aircraft are only dumb machines, even if crammed with computers. The dragons are thinking creatures and also have instinctive abilities to moderate the dangers of flight, and of flight between even if they are not immune to mistakes. For the sake of argument let us credit the dragons' intelligence with the ability to skew the numbers as effectively as the Naval Aviation Safety Program did.

Using 2 catastrophic mishaps per 100,000 flight hours results in 50 casualties per Turn for the Pernese air force. This is a high, but survivable loss rate of 2.7%.

What is the likely distribution of casualties? Simple population distribution would largely drive the loss rate between different colors. Half the dragon population consists of green dragons, so the Pernese would lose about 25 greens per year and proportionate numbers of senior colors. While accident rates do differ between different types of aircraft designed for different missions, the effective mission difference and design difference between dragons is negligible by comparison. Given canon references to the inherent differences in intelligence and behavior across the spectrum of dragon colors, it could be expected that loss rates for the more senior bronze and brown dragon pairs would be somewhat less than the more junior blue and green dragon pairs.

More significant is the distribution by flight time. In naval aviation we see approximately this:

>10,000 hours 10.4%
9-10,000 hours 1.7%
8-9,000 hours 1.3%
7-8,000 hours 1.3%
6-7,000 hours 2.5%
5-6,000 hours 2.5%
4-5,000 hours 3.8%
3-4,000 hours 5.0%
2-3,000 hours 9.4%
1-2,000 hours 14.3%
0-1,000 hours 47.5%

From our assumptions above, a dragon pair gets about 1,560 flight hours per Turn. Knocking off some hours for miscellaneous reasons including illness, call it 1,500 hours per Turn. Allowing for a reduced flight schedule for weyrlings as they build their strength and stamina, a pair ought to reach 10,000 hours in about 7 Turns.

This means of our 50 casualties each Turn, about half will be weyrlings—approximately three or four per Turn, per Weyr of the six or seven pairs lost to mishaps each Turn per Weyr. To maintain the replacement rate per Turn during Interval, at least one clutch of 6-7 eggs would be necessary in each Weyr, each Turn. This could also be accomplished with larger clutches at longer intervals, such as 12-14 eggs every other Turn, or 18-21 eggs every third Turn. This is the level of clutching necessary simply to replace losses from mishaps. Losses from age would aggravate matters and drive up the likely clutch size and mating frequency.

If, per the DLG (always a dubious source), a queen rises two or three times per Turn and clutches 10-16 eggs each time then one clutch would serve to replace the likely mishap casualties during the Turn, and the other clutch (or two) would be replacing casualties due to age. This would indicate an annual depletion of between 20 and 48 dragons per Weyr. Losses for the total population would be 120-288 per Turn, approximately 50 from mishaps and 70-238 from age. Overall losses would be 6.7% to 16% of the total force each year. That is rather too high. Each year, about 8/10ths of a percent of the human population of Earth dies. The highest death rate on Earth is a little over 3%. We would expect Pern's death rate to be relatively high given its medieval/frontier level of medical technology and hazard, and we would expect dragon-riding to be more dangerous than the average occupation, but this is ridiculous. The highest birth rates on Earth are just shy of 5%. More normal rates are just shy of 2%. Losing 6.7% of the population each year would be unsustainable, much less 16%.

Our numbers need to be changed and the first candidate for change is our assumption of flight hours. Dragons need fuel, just like aircraft, and lots of it, just like aircraft. A dragon that fights a complete Fall needs a big meal of several large animals. From canon references, this doesn't happen every day, especially during Intervals. In fact, it appears that the dragons tend to eat every two or three days on average. This would be entirely reasonable, because training at a level of exertion to match a Fall every fly-day would be grueling to say the least and would promote mishaps. Providing sufficient meat to fuel the dragons would overburden the Weyr's logistic situation. Just like wing and squadron commanders aboard carriers, Weyrleaders would chafe under the constant desire to get more flight time, and more training time, and be unable to do so for the limitations of aircraft, aircrew and logistics. There is never enough fuel.

So a more reasonable estimate of flight time would be about a third of that desired. Most aircraft training flights are less than two hours, and flights that simulate the five-six hours of the typical combat mission are rare. It would be the same with the Weyrs. So we can lower our estimate of flight hours per pair to about 500 hours per Turn. At this rate it would take a more reasonable 20 Turns to reach 10,000 hours. This also reduces the flight hours per Turn for the Pernese air force to about 800,000. With 2 casualties per 100,000 hours, this would mean 16 losses to mishap over the course of a Turn, or about 2 or 3 per Weyr, of which a little more than half would be weyrlings in early flight.

Making a pessimistic, but reasonable assumption of death rate given the available technology, medical knowledge and degree of hazard, we will assume a loss rate from "natural causes" of 3%. This means 54 pairs die per year from natural causes. Annual replacement needs to be 70 eggs to account for 16 attrition losses added to the natural losses. Divided by six Weyrs, this is an average clutch size of 11-12 eggs once per Turn, per Weyr.

Clearly, the DLG's numbers are not correct. A single queen, rising once per Turn could easily sustain a Weyr's population against both natural and mishap generated losses. Given the clutch sizes observed in canon, and other statements in canon, the Interval reproduction rate could very well see a single queen rising every 2 or 3 Turns and clutching two or three dozen eggs. If two queens were present in the Weyr, it would only be necessary to see a given queen rise once every 4-5 Turns; more queens and the interval between individual queens rising increases.

Given that we know from canon references an individual queen can rise more than once per Turn, and from the dragon gestation period that more than twice per Turn is pushing it, there is a lot of excess capacity if a Weyr has two or three queens present. This makes the idea of Weyrs dwindling down to a single queen during Intervals reasonable. If about 10 Turns before a pass three queens went into reproductive over-drive and began rising twice each year, the Weyr would be overwhelmed in weyrlings in very short order. If, however, one queen began gradually stepping up to this rate about ten Turns prior, she would undoubtedly throw queens along the way as well, eventually getting up to three in the Weyr and accelerating the rate of clutching to meet a strength of 600 for the start of Pass, without overflowing the Weyr.

Assuming a single-queen Weyr commenced clutching an average of 13 eggs twice per Turn, 10 Turns prior to Pass, she would produce 260 dragons. Assuming she did not produce a second queen until the 100th egg (queens being approximately 1% of the dragon population) and assuming a three-year maturation period for that queen, the second queen would produce 91 dragons averaging 13 eggs per clutch and would be on the verge of producing her first gold egg in the first year of Pass. If either queen throws a gold earlier as is entirely possible and likely, the numbers go up (barring the death of the senior queen during this period). Thus only two queens, much less three, could produce 351 new dragons in 10 Turns rising only twice each turn, much less three times.

This does, however, call into question how long the queens sustain such high reproductive rates once into a Pass. This would partly be driven by losses in battle due to Thread-fighting. What would those losses be like?

The most extensive air campaign in history was the Allied bombing effort in the European Theatre in World War II. A total of 40,379 British and American aircraft fell out of 4,129,079 sorties flown over six years. This amounts to a loss rate over the campaign of 9/10ths of a percent. We know from canon that the Pernese air force can expect to fly approximately 6,650 Threadfalls per Pass. With a population during a Pass of 600 dragons per Weyr, approximately 90% of which are on-strength for fighting, and assuming one Weyr (on average) flying a particular Fall, the Pernese air force can expect to fly 3,591,000 sorties and anticipate losing 32,319 pairs in battle over 50 Turns. That means each Weyr would lose 5,386 pairs over the Pass to Threadfall. With each Weyr flying roughly 1108 Threadfalls, each Weyr loses 4-5 pairs per Fall. Each Weyr would fly an average of 22 Falls per Turn, losing about 105 pairs per year in battle. This is a staggering17.5% loss rate—worse than the infamous Schweinfurt-Regensburg Raid (15%) but not as disastrous as the Ploiesti raid (29%). However, both of those raids were considered to be ruinous due to losses.

We would expect a Weyr with a Pass population of 600 to experience 7 mishap losses and 18 deaths from natural causes each Turn. For the sake of argument, we'll set aside temporarily any possibility of combat losses overlapping these, although in reality, many natural deaths would be "averted" due to death by combat. Returning to the DLG's clutch size of 10-16 eggs, a Weyr with three queens rising twice per Turn would generate 60-96 eggs. Deducting 25 natural and mishap casualties, this would indicate roughly 35-71 combat losses per Turn, or an average of 53. This is an 8.8% loss rate in battle—or more if we assume that as many as 90% of the age-related deaths might be "averted" by death in combat before natural death can occur. A Weyr losing 35-71 pairs per Turn would equate to 1-3 pairs lost per Fall. This loss rate is still devastating and by the standards of World War II would have been considered unsustainable. The strategic bombing campaign in Europe was temporarily suspended because of such conditions.

Given that Pern has a much smaller population than the Allies did during World War II and far fewer people suitable to being "aviators" amongst that population, even 8.8% casualties seem absurd. Are there any ways to further mitigate losses? Actually there are.

During the winter, especially in the upper latitudes, many Falls are destroyed by freezing conditions. In the lower latitudes, many Falls largely expend themselves harmlessly in the sea. And there is always the mindlessness of Thread. The Pernese air force faces no threat of attack from the ground, and no threat from hostile escorts; it must simply destroy the "bombers" (although in reality the mission is akin to destroying the individual bombs, the Pernese having no ability to shoot the archer vice the arrows short of moving the Red Star). Also, individual Weyrs seldom fly an entire Fall alone, or all six hours of a Fall.

In a repeating pattern of 15 Falls as shown in the various Threadfall maps (ignoring the erroneous chart given in AoP) we see approximately the following:

Fall 1: 50% over water
Fall 2: 15% over water
Fall 3: 25% over water
Fall 4: 20% over water
Fall 5: 15% over water
Fall 6: 10% over water
Fall 7: 67% over water
Fall 8: 5% over water
Fall 9: 10% over water
Fall 10: 5% over water
Fall 11: 25% over water
Fall 12: 10% over water
Fall 13: 50% over water
Fall 14: 40% over water
Fall 15: 60% over water

Letting thread fall into water reduces the exposure of the Pernese air force by 28%. The benefit of freezes in the upper latitudes to mid-latitudes might contribute another 7%, reducing an 8.8% casualty rate to 5.72% or 23-46 pairs lost in combat per Turn at a rate of 1-2 per Fall. This is more in keeping with the majority of Falls we have seen in canon that do not take place during the immediate onset of a Pass when inexperience would produce higher casualty rates, or during other events such as erratic Falls or plagues.

A total of 32 mishaps, plus and average of 35 combat deaths, plus maybe 10% of the usual deaths from natural causes (most having been subsumed in combat losses since pairs tend to fly until they die), is about 70 pairs lost per Turn per Weyr. This could be sustained with 4-7 clutches of the size given in the DLG per Turn and would speak to a gradual decline in the mating rate during a Pass.

Unfortunately, the only canon information we have for clutching over an extended period is for the singularly largest and most unusual queen, and therefore a statistical outlier. That queen appears to throw unusually large clutches, but the frequency is about one or two clutches per turn. In a three-queen Weyr, this would fit in with a frequency of 4-7 clutches per year, although the observed clutches of up to 70 eggs completely skew the numbers. However, it must be noted that during this queen's period of reproduction, she started as the sole queen of an understrength Weyr and that at least two other Weyrs were founded during the queen's period of reproduction largely from her issue, so perhaps the unusually large clutches are driven by lower population pressure.

This examination tells us several things.

First, the notion of a gradual decline in reproduction rate which results in queens rising only once every several years is consistent with reality-based mishap and death rates.

Second, the notion of a short ramp-up period of 10 Turns makes sense if it starts with a single queen in the Weyr and adds subordinate queens along the way, particularly if all three are at an accelerated reproduction rate; otherwise the Weyr overflows with weyrlings.

Third, the notion of the queens reproduction rate tapering off once a Weyr is fully populated for a Pass makes similar sense as only 4-7 clutches, not nine would be necessary to sustain the Weyr's population against the likely fighting attrition rate.

Fourth, the notion of each Threadfall producing one to three dozen severe and/or fatal casualties is ludicrous. The more likely rate of loss is only one or two pairs per Fall.

Fifth, the notion of massive casualties—some speculating that as many as a third or half are lost—amongst weyrlings is ludicrous. The more likely rate of loss is two or three pairs per Turn per Weyr during an Interval and twice that during a Pass.

Sixth, the notion of unusually long-lived dragon-riders is unlikely, as 10% of mishap casualties will come from riders with 10,000+ hours of flight time, i.e. those with 20 Turns of flying.

What assumptions should we draw for speculation from all of this?

First, queens normally clutch about 10-16 eggs.

Second, queens rise less frequently during Intervals than Passes, increase reproductive frequency leading up to a Pass and taper off once population pressure in the Weyr reaches a certain level. One queen can almost bring a Weyr up to fighting strength in that time rising twice per year and two queens are more than capable of doing so, much less three.

Third, queens rise more frequently during Passes, but do not necessarily increase clutch size dramatically.

Fourth, during Intervals a Weyr can expect about a 3% death rate from natural causes and a 2.7% death rate from mishaps. Half of the mishaps will be among weyrlings; 10% will be among riders with over 20 Turns of flying.

Fifth, during Passes, a Weyr can typically expect to lose one or two pairs per Fall. Naturally, this rate will not be constant. Some Falls they will lose none. Others they might lose a half dozen. Deaths by "natural causes" will "decline" due to those pairs dying during Falls due the "fly 'till you die" nature of the dragons' urge to fight Thread.

Overall, we should conclude that someone worked through these or similar numbers in the past; maybe the authors or friends of the authors. IIRC, this was, in fact, the case. Some of these numbers have been distorted through errors (such as the AoP and DLG are known for) and through plot points that are unusual, not routine events. However, overall the numbers are fairly workable and realistic.

All that said, you won't find a life insurance company that will issue a policy to a dragon-rider. Of course, they don't issue policies to naval aviators either.
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Old Sep 8 2009, 10:50 PM   #2
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

I'm pretty sure that F'nor and Canth get their insurance through Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The premiums are probably astronomical though, since they're decidedly 'out of state'.

He he OK, all teasing aside. . .

I'd like to congratulate you for writing that, and me for hangin' with it to the end! I especially like the idea of a centralized training academy for all weyrlings. I'm thinking like FLETC, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia that LE's go to for learning their stuff. Same thing for wildland firefighters- there are Fire Academies in every state and a national school in Montana. There's even an academy for us "education types" that work for the National Park Service, in Virginia. Most professions have some sort of training period, so why shouldn't dragonriders do the same thing?

The Craft Halls seem to already have a sort of 'centralized curriculum'; the Fort Hold Healer Hall teaches the same thing to students at the same time as the Healer Hall at Landing, etc. So 2 craftspeople of the same rank but who were trained at different places could potentially work together successfully. But could 2 dragonriders, one trained at Benden and the other at High Reaches, work together? Well, canon lit says so- there are examples all over the place. But really, now that you mention it, I'm wondering. Just for example, I bet the riders at High Reaches learn to handle the cold, thin air, bright sun and other challenges of high altitude (and become accostomed to it), while the Monaco Bay riders are used to the warmth and humidity and having lots of air to breathe. So they get together and what about that? Chaos, several thousand feet in the air!

P.S. One thing that I'd like to point out- Canth is not a piece of metal; dragons aren't machines! I bet that taking care of him is a full-time job, and that's before he gets off the ground, so really, I'd say that the weyrlings and maybe the adults would be lucky to get in 30 hours per week of active flight.
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Old Sep 9 2009, 01:55 AM   #3
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Weyrlady View Post
I'd like to congratulate you for writing that, and me for hangin' with it to the end! I especially like the idea of a centralized training academy for all weyrlings. I'm thinking like FLETC, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia that LE's go to for learning their stuff. Same thing for wildland firefighters- there are Fire Academies in every state and a national school in Montana. There's even an academy for us "education types" that work for the National Park Service, in Virginia. Most professions have some sort of training period, so why shouldn't dragonriders do the same thing?

The Craft Halls seem to already have a sort of 'centralized curriculum'; the Fort Hold Healer Hall teaches the same thing to students at the same time as the Healer Hall at Landing, etc. So 2 craftspeople of the same rank but who were trained at different places could potentially work together successfully. But could 2 dragonriders, one trained at Benden and the other at High Reaches, work together? Well, canon lit says so- there are examples all over the place. But really, now that you mention it, I'm wondering. Just for example, I bet the riders at High Reaches learn to handle the cold, thin air, bright sun and other challenges of high altitude (and become accostomed to it), while the Monaco Bay riders are used to the warmth and humidity and having lots of air to breathe. So they get together and what about that? Chaos, several thousand feet in the air!

P.S. One thing that I'd like to point out- Canth is not a piece of metal; dragons aren't machines! I bet that taking care of him is a full-time job, and that's before he gets off the ground, so really, I'd say that the weyrlings and maybe the adults would be lucky to get in 30 hours per week of active flight.
Re. Para 1. All instruction in the Weyrs for dragon riders appears to devolve on the Weyrlingmasters and the Wingleaders. In keeping with "Weyr autonomy" there is no centralized structure whatsoever. They could benefit from it, but the tradition of autonomy gets in the way. Not every Weyrleader will be hung up on the issue, but what are the odds of getting all six (or eight) on the same page and ensuring their successors hold to that page after the ones who implement it are gone? What little standardization exists appears to be regimented adherence to lore so old its original purpose is forgotten.

Re. Para 2. Part of the reason for having separate Weyrs would be to handle diverse conditions with Weyrs specialized to those regions and intimately familiar with the terrain and conditions. Certainly they can work together. Military professionals can almost always cobble something together--they're very organized, diligent people--but what they jerry-rig isn't necessarily as efficient as it should be.

Re. Para 3. I know dragons are big, labor-intensive beasts--but don't underestimate an aircraft's status as such. I had 100+ people whose purpose was to care for, heal and feed five of the things--all I had to do was fly them and break them. I deliberately started what I wrote with unrealistic assumptions to illustrate that they are unrealistic, and backed the problem into a realistic frame. Yes, a dragon rider--not having 20 maintainers to help him--is going to be putting in a lot of ground time tending that dragon. Of course, the dragon is intelligent where a plane isn't and that makes up a big chunk of the difference. So no, 30 hours per week of flight time isn't realistic. It's more likely they'll get 10 per week.

--

BTW, after that Red Star stunt, F'nor and Canth would have been canceled by BC/BS for failure to disclose a pre-existing condition: No Apparent Fear Of Death (NAFOD).
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Old Sep 9 2009, 04:07 AM   #4
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2cent Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

I have been reading slowiy over this thread.

If something when wrong, the Wyerleadership would take care of dragon problems. Some better than other I would say.

In DE/RSR Teglar Senior Queen was good at 'teaching the dragon' that they did something wrong.

In Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, Moreta teached the weyrling a lesson about not having 'airspace' coming into and out of between.

Also DF F'lar Wing was the only one to train properly keep order and train right on all known Dragon Laws. His wing trusted him.
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Old Sep 9 2009, 04:54 AM   #5
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

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Originally Posted by ElectricDragon View Post
BTW, after that Red Star stunt, F'nor and Canth would have been canceled by BC/BS for failure to disclose a pre-existing condition: No Apparent Fear Of Death (NAFOD).
Bwa ha ha ha ha ha! XD Would that apply to F'lar as well, with all the knife-fights he got into?
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Old Sep 9 2009, 05:37 AM   #6
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

Top Gun School for possible Weyrleaders?

My only quarrel with your stats is that I feel that (based on the threadfall charts) that each weyr flies one mission about every four days.
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Old Sep 9 2009, 09:25 PM   #7
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

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Top Gun School for possible Weyrleaders?

My only quarrel with your stats is that I feel that (based on the threadfall charts) that each weyr flies one mission about every four days.
Actually a solution like the Naval Fighter Weapons School (a.k.a. "Top Gun") would be outstanding. Each Turn, each Weyr sends its two best wingleaders that haven't attended the course. Said wingleaders are then responsible for going back to their Weyrs and teaching what they've learned to the members of their wing and other wings in the Weyr. That's actually the purpose of NFWS: it's not to make the best better; it's to get the best to bring along the rest.

--

Threadfall stats are a completely different kettle of fish and quite frankly--they don't work...and in so many ways I'm not even going to get into it on this post. Sometime when I've got the time, I'll dismantle that mess.
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Old Sep 10 2009, 12:51 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by ElectricDragon View Post
Re. Para 1. All instruction in the Weyrs for dragon riders appears to devolve on the Weyrlingmasters and the Wingleaders. In keeping with "Weyr autonomy" there is no centralized structure whatsoever. They could benefit from it, but the tradition of autonomy gets in the way. Not every Weyrleader will be hung up on the issue, but what are the odds of getting all six (or eight) on the same page and ensuring their successors hold to that page after the ones who implement it are gone? What little standardization exists appears to be regimented adherence to lore so old its original purpose is forgotten.
I know the actual chances of a centralized training academy are almost nil, but isn't it fun to speculate? Sitting in a very-ahem-boring timber permit meeting today at work, I had it built in my head. It could be like the Wildland Fire Academy; it could be cool. Not "just" firefighters go to the Fire Academy, a lot of "support" people do too- communications and public relations and timekeeping. . . Big project fires like those currently in southern CA are a huge and quite impressive operation.

So maybe a Dragonrider Training Academy could work much the same way; who does much of the more formal communication in a Weyr? The Weyr Harper, and he or she is probably responsible for how the Weyr 'looks' to the rest of the world, and does a little PR work, even though they don't call it that. The Weyr Healer puts people (and dragons) back together when they need it, and the Headwoman is responsible for keeping things running smoothly on the ground. So maybe all those folks could go to a Training Academy, and all take different courses to learn the specialized skills they would need so the entire Weyr would run like as efficiently as possible.



Quote:
BTW, after that Red Star stunt, F'nor and Canth would have been canceled by BC/BS for failure to disclose a pre-existing condition: No Apparent Fear Of Death (NAFOD).
"No Apparent Fear of Death" is a pre-existing condition? A 'bad' one? Well, doesn't that sound just like something an insurance company would say- that sounds like he's being punished for being altruistic- he's lucky his life wasn't canceled. I wonder if the Pet Insurance would cover Canth?
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Old Sep 10 2009, 02:25 AM   #9
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2cent Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

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Originally Posted by Weyrlady View Post
I know the actual chances of a centralized training academy are almost nil, but isn't it fun to speculate? Sitting in a very-ahem-boring timber permit meeting today at work, I had it built in my head. It could be like the Wildland Fire Academy; it could be cool. Not "just" firefighters go to the Fire Academy, a lot of "support" people do too- communications and public relations and timekeeping. . . Big project fires like those currently in southern CA are a huge and quite impressive operation.

So maybe a Dragonrider Training Academy could work much the same way; who does much of the more formal communication in a Weyr? The Weyr Harper, and he or she is probably responsible for how the Weyr 'looks' to the rest of the world, and does a little PR work, even though they don't call it that. The Weyr Healer puts people (and dragons) back together when they need it, and the Headwoman is responsible for keeping things running smoothly on the ground. So maybe all those folks could go to a Training Academy, and all take different courses to learn the specialized skills they would need so the entire Weyr would run like as efficiently as possible.
<sinp>

Well with branch of differnt things dragons and riders can do after Thread?
Firefire/ResueSearch
Weyr Healer puts people (and dragons) working together
Or use a form a apprenticeships I am thinking of Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern.
Weather watching.
Transportation physical via the dragons or using the abilty in SoP.
Sky-smith are ready starting up.
Perhaps a few more.
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Old Sep 10 2009, 03:54 AM   #10
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

Thanks for a very interesting analysis, ED. I'm sure I'm not the only one who really appreciates the work you put into it.

I do think there's scope for tuning down the breeding rate of the queens, however - the twice per turn rate of rising is only mentioned the once in DF, and refers to the period where the population needs to be rapidly built up prior to a pass. It could hold true for the pass itself, but I have some doubts. First, anything in DF (or the DLG, for that matter) should be taken with a pinch of salt, both in terms of Anne's own accuracy in that early phase of the franchise and F'lar's status as not necessarily the most reliable narrator as far as Nemorth is concerned. Numerically, it's possible, but it's hard to make the numbers fit.

I think the first pass books provide a lot of both direct and circumstantial evidence. If Faranth had risen every six months, even allowing three years for a queen to mature rather than the more typical two years, Evenath (Faranth's first daughter, born in her third clutch) would have had three to four years of maturity and a good half dozen clutches or more prior to TFORH, which doesn't really fit in with the text, where she's described as having started rising only relatively recently - it's even worse if we assume that both golds matured at more like two years old. You also then have the problem of only one new mature queen over the first nine turns in which the original queens have been clutching, and another ten popping out over the next eight years - if anything, it should work the other way round, either with new queens popping out at a fairly even rate, or for the growing population pressure to reduce the birth-rate of new golds. You also have Sean's unbelievably low casualty rate to contend with - you can count on one hand how many dragons were lost by the twelfth turn of the first Pass, and still have fingers to spare, while the queens would've bred well over two thousand non-gold dragons in a minimum nine years of breeding, assuming two clutches of ten eggs twice a turn apiece. Tune things down so the queens rise every 9-18 months (and perhaps let Sorka's own frequent pregnancies influence Faranth's own fertility), and you can get a more realistic spread of queens being born, and also up the clutch size to the numbers more typical of those observed in Moreta - one to three dozen - and things can be made to fit the books a little easier. Fort'd still be overpopulated, but not as excessively as it might be...

Food for thought, anyway.
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Old Sep 10 2009, 04:33 AM   #11
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

It might help dragon numbers if, in the approach to a pass queens were allowed to be non-canon and lay more than one gold egg per clutch.

As a side line: the only way I can make the sexing thing work is that the bronze dragons X- and Y- sperm detirmine the sex of every egg except the queen who's born parthenogenetically as an XO.
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Old Sep 10 2009, 05:46 AM   #12
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

[OT]
Parthenogenesis is a pretty risky strategy...


"The males are programmed to carry sperm for the whole range".

I'm quoting from memory here, but that does suggest that sex, color and metallicity are sperm-derived factors. One way it could work is if you start with an uneven distribution of metal vs. non-metal chromosomes carried by the sperm. The right hormonal combination in the queen could allow one metal embryo to take on the female gender. Hormone secretion by a developing embryo/fetus is very rapid, and it'd be easy enough to use that to switch off the production of more gold eggs

This way, you'd have:
50% XX = infertile female, all green.
50% XY = male, with colour variations
Of that male half of the clutch, the relative proportion of chromatic (XYc) to metallic (XYm) could either be pre-determined by the sperm, or be a function of the eggs. Either way, you could then add some extra special condition to convert one XYm -> XYm* = fertile female. It's less bizarre than you might think if you assume all embryos are nominally female, like crocodiles. The male gonads would get switched on only in the presence of an unmodified Y chromosome, but in the case of Y* they'd stay female.

Alternatively, you could go to something like the cat route, and have ovulation triggered by the sex act itself, which requires a really SPECIAL flight to get a gold egg ovulated, and could also be a single-egg-limited system. Or, use this route to determine the relative proportions of metallics, with lots of bronzes forming from good flights, and let hormones prevent more than one gold egg developing, if any.

This is the kind of stuff you can hand-wave any number of possible explanations for. It's nice and loosely open-ended.

[/OT]
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Old Sep 10 2009, 10:45 PM   #13
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

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"No Apparent Fear of Death" is a pre-existing condition? A 'bad' one? Well, doesn't that sound just like something an insurance company would say- that sounds like he's being punished for being altruistic- he's lucky his life wasn't canceled.
Actually, it's a real condition that will get you thrown out of flight school. There is a point where a person is too brave and will end up killing themselves and others by not making an escape decision until it's too late.

The classic case was a student who dead-stick-landed (landed an aircraft with dead engines, no power, and no power assist to the flight control hydraulics) after the instructor pilot ejected. He was very brave, but too stupid to realize it was only blind luck--and, at the end, ground effect--that saved his dumb ass. Good thing he was already aimed straight at the runway because too many control movements and he would have bled off the residual pressure in the hydraulic system and wound up a smoking hole in the ground.

Calibrating your "seat of the pants" sense isn't easy or precise. I once had a sharp lesson about being a little too calm in a crisis when I found out two guys with 15 and 20 years of experience were a half a second closer to ejecting than I was.
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Old Sep 10 2009, 11:06 PM   #14
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

I'm not interested in rationalizing any particular incident in the canon, but the general architecture. People and events depicted in canon are typically atypical individuals and situations. I'm more interested in how the system works normally.

Take, for instance, Ramoth. Ramoth blows all the numbers. If you try to rationalize Ramoth within the norms of the situation, the numbers you get are utterly and completely out to lunch. Of course, this is like attempting to predict average human height based solely on the example of Yao Ming.

If, instead, you reject Ramoth as an example of what is typical and consign her to being the statistical outlier that she is, you can construct a much more realistic picture. What I'm looking at is what is that 95-99% of Pernese Weyr history we haven't seen like, not the 1-5% we have.

So I don't care what Ramoth did, or Orlith or Faranth in a particular instance. Attempting to construct a model on statistical outliers doesn't work.
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Old Sep 11 2009, 02:01 AM   #15
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

Well just before the pass, say ten turns or so the gold/queens, have large cluches, in order to have the fighter needed to fight Threadfall.

Mid-Pass you have them to keep the dragon at "fighting peak' say mid size clutches, and till the pass ends.

Interval or say after thread stop fall, you need more control to the clutch smaller in order to keep the population stable to continue living, and healthy.

There are many other jobs that dragons can do with their riders, and hattching grounds and weyrling quarters are needed in order to have a stable health population and where there is the will there is a way.
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Old Sep 11 2009, 03:42 AM   #16
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

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Originally Posted by ElectricDragon View Post
So I don't care what Ramoth did, or Orlith or Faranth in a particular instance. Attempting to construct a model on statistical outliers doesn't work.
Which is why I'm correlating the first pass numbers with the TOTAL number of queens present in the Weyr. Surely looking at the full sample of breeding queens is a sensible constraint?

A minimum of ten breeding queens at the start, laying ten-sixteen eggs twice a turn, would repopulate the entire Weyr in two years flat. The system NEEDS more slack than that, and cutting down the frequency at which queens rise during a Pass is the most useful component of the model to tweak.

Still, I don't expect you to make any adjustments to your own figures here, just pointing out a spot where you could actually strengthen the model. But if you'd rather just leave it as it is, go right ahead. Your loss.
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Old Sep 11 2009, 05:16 PM   #17
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

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Which is why I'm correlating the first pass numbers with the TOTAL number of queens present in the Weyr. Surely looking at the full sample of breeding queens is a sensible constraint?

A minimum of ten breeding queens at the start, laying ten-sixteen eggs twice a turn, would repopulate the entire Weyr in two years flat. The system NEEDS more slack than that, and cutting down the frequency at which queens rise during a Pass is the most useful component of the model to tweak.

Still, I don't expect you to make any adjustments to your own figures here, just pointing out a spot where you could actually strengthen the model. But if you'd rather just leave it as it is, go right ahead. Your loss.
One the first dragonriders understand how to manage the flights. By the way Kath, I loved you Pern Fic on that.

They had a second one with 6 more + the 17 orginal cluch. To start out DD and CoP: FF.
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Old Sep 16 2009, 10:09 PM   #18
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

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Actually, it's a real condition that will get you thrown out of flight school. There is a point where a person is too brave and will end up killing themselves and others by not making an escape decision until it's too late.
Let's just say that I've had it 'up to here' with insurance companies and their ridiculous rules. And I don't get the ultimate pleasure of dealing with it every day!

OK, sorry, side-tracking I know, but I'm still thinking about the "Dragonrider Academy" idea. I like it. A school would definitely improve the quality of the whole deal. Why didn't anyone think of this before? Or did someone? Did Weyrleader Sean try to make a standardized training academy in DD?

I am writing a story (and I know that I keep saying that, but it's not a fib!), and a lot of it focuses on training-because darn it, the girl has to learn to fly somehow, doesn't she? So, this interests me. . . maybe I should send 'em to school.
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Old Sep 16 2009, 11:54 PM   #19
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

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OK, sorry, side-tracking I know, but I'm still thinking about the "Dragonrider Academy" idea. I like it. A school would definitely improve the quality of the whole deal. Why didn't anyone think of this before? Or did someone? Did Weyrleader Sean try to make a standardized training academy in DD?
If Pern had remained a centralized and technological society, things like this probably would have been instituted and/or maintained.

But if you think about conditions on Pern after the First Pass, they were lucky to survive at all. Dislocated, with much technology lost/left behind, scattered in isolated, more-or-less accessible locations, without reliable communications across an entire continent and probably numbering at some point (between losses to Thread and the Fever Year and the subsequent plague that precipitated loss of contact with the dolphins) around 8,500 people, just surviving commanded most of their attention.

Each Hold was hanging on autonomously by the skin of its teeth and the leadership of its chief holder. The Weyr was scratching to forage meat for its dragons and getting what the Hold could spare to support its people. Solving practical problems like carving the Weyr and then other Weyrs out of extinct volcanoes and Holds out of caverns commanded whatever creative and organizational talent existed. Sean probably died before he could complete a fraction of what he wanted to, and we don't know as such an idea would have occurred to him. He came from people who rabidly defended their independence, so centralized authority may have been anathema to him.

Much of what developed on Pern probably developed by accident as much as design, and then it ossified into tradition. The person most likely to conceive such an idea, the foremost pilot on Pern, was murdered very early on.
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Old Sep 17 2009, 01:34 AM   #20
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

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If Pern had remained a centralized and technological society, things like this probably would have been instituted and/or maintained.

But if you think about conditions on Pern after the First Pass, they were lucky to survive at all. Dislocated, with much technology lost/left behind, scattered in isolated, more-or-less accessible locations, without reliable communications across an entire continent and probably numbering at some point (between losses to Thread and the Fever Year and the subsequent plague that precipitated loss of contact with the dolphins) around 8,500 people, just surviving commanded most of their attention.

Each Hold was hanging on autonomously by the skin of its teeth and the leadership of its chief holder. The Weyr was scratching to forage meat for its dragons and getting what the Hold could spare to support its people. Solving practical problems like carving the Weyr and then other Weyrs out of extinct volcanoes and Holds out of caverns commanded whatever creative and organizational talent existed. Sean probably died before he could complete a fraction of what he wanted to, and we don't know as such an idea would have occurred to him. He came from people who rabidly defended their independence, so centralized authority may have been anathema to him.

Much of what developed on Pern probably developed by accident as much as design, and then it ossified into tradition. The person most likely to conceive such an idea, the foremost pilot on Pern, was murdered very early on.
Well they did have something of how the Weyr were run, in DE/RSR with adjustments for where the Wyer was located.

Centralized his most important thing would be the dragon/rider pairs. For he would say "We need dragon and riders every fall" Like dragon like rider.

Sorry I can't be more help here.
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Old Sep 17 2009, 02:18 AM   #21
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Default Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

Something like a major Dragon Hall?
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Old Sep 17 2009, 02:41 AM   #22
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Post Re: A realistic look at dragon attrition.

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Something like a major Dragon Hall?
Well Sean, learned what he could from the folks from Fort Hold and learned what he could from the tapes they did had.

He created records on how the each fall would for each one was different, wind, weather, and other factors, using the wings to the best coverage could do. For at least the First Pass the dragons couldn't last a full fall, the blue and greens. He passed that knowledge they the Fighting Wing dragon/riders to the weyrling dragon/rider pairs they were teaching.

He also worked with other on number of dragons 30 with a Wingleader and two Wingseconds and that they should know all their dragons in their wing and send the ones (mostly) blue and greens who were lighter more movable but tired easier.

I would think, that the injured dragon/riders would have work hard to get back in flighting ability. Also the wyerling pairs, for they are still growing/learning.

Also any dragon/rider can make mistakes, at any time, in their life. But if both are tired it can make the problems even worst.

They did rotated the wings in DE/RSR to give the most 'real' experiences
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