Saucer-Shaped Space Ships.

I have been thru numerous websites that claim to have evidence of extraterrestrial space ships visiting earth. I am very skeptical of them all. But one thing I have noticed is most of the space ships they claim to have evidence of are saucer-shaped. And this got me to thinking: If an advanced alien race were to build a space ship, one that was capable of inter-stellar (or even inter-galaxy) travel, what are the chances it would be saucer-shaped?

I honestly don’t know what would be the best shape. But I somehow doubt it would be the saucer shape. Am I wrong? And what would be the best shape for such a mission?

Thank you in advance to all who reply :slight_smile:

Why not a sphere ?

Depends if you are planning to land or not. If not, a sphere is the most efficient structure in terms of space, as Doc. Smith said in 1919. But I’d expect any culture who could travel interstellar distances would have landing shuttles.

Saucers would seem to be aerodynamically unstable, but I could be wrong. In any case, what we would see (if we actually saw anything) would be different from the interstellar craft - which we should be able to have picked up by now.

That’s about the only thing Independence Day got right.

I would think ideal shape would be heavily dependent on your propulsion technology.

Well, all the “evidence”, so to speak, that we have indicates that flying saucer technology laughs at aerodynamics with the same gleeful abandon with which it thumbs its nose at gravity and all the other restraints of physics.

Be that as it may, a saucer shape seems at least as good as any other. It would be harder to see at a distance than a sphere or some other bulkier shape, and present less a problem with regard to wind resistance and friction-related heating at low altitudes.

I’d say there are quite a few cylinder or torpedo shaped UFOs reported. Prolate spheroids rather than the more common oblate spheroid shape.

There’s even a cylinder shaped one described in the Bible: Zech. 5:1.

It’s quite an interesting chapter. It also gives a good account of an alien wiseacre pulling the wool over poor old Zechariah’s eyes while an alien femme watches the scene from an open hatchway.

Dear old Zak. What a rube he was:D :wink:

The best shape for a spaceship depends upon its engineering requirements. I don’t know how to put it better than that. We build airplanes and spaceships so that they can do efficiently and inexpensively what they must do. I’ve read plenty of articles about space ship engineering. There’s an interesting subclass of such writing where people try to justify after the fact the engineering of a ship designed just to look cool. (Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle talk about that in “Engineering the Mote in God’s ye”, and they talk about that when justifying the shape of the original Enterprise from Star Treks).
So does your ship resemble a sphere, or a dumbell, or a spermatazoa? Depends upon the design constraints.

The “Flying Saucer” shape is interesting because, although there was some anticipation in SF writing and art beforehand, the original impetus was Kenneth Arnold’s 1947 dewscription of the objects he saw near Mt. Rainier skipping along “like a saucer on water”. He did NOT say that they looked like saucers. IIRC, he described them more as boomerang-shaped. But the “Saucer” part was what caught everyone’s imagination, and that’s what stuck. And because it WAS so different from descriptions of familiar spacecraft, it caught on. When they made the movie versions of The Thing and The Day the Earth Stood Still and This Island Earth, they made the spacecraft Flying Sauvcers — Even though the spaceships were NOT “Flying Saucers” in the original stories. But it had become an accepted image, a shorthand way of saying “unearthly aliens”, just like the way H.G. Wells’ martians were unfamiliar with the wheel and didn’t use it in their engineering (and so ended up with Tripods), although that idea never really caught on with the public.
So Flying Saucers became the accepted SF cliche basically because They Looked Cool and Weird, not for any sound engineering reason.

I don’t know enough about aerodynamics to understand why, but there have been various attempts over the years to make real saucer-shaped aircraft. See here and here. Apparently they were all dead ends.

I was led to this book by somebody here. The author, a rocket scientist who also developed the first flying platforms for the US military in the 50s, starts with the premise that “unconventional flying objects” are real and behave in the same manner as they are described, then he tries to reverse engineer them. I can’t recall the advantages of the saucer shape, though one could be very maneuverable, and his flying platform design, intended to get individual soldiers into harm’s way, operated rather like a flying saucer without the fancy bodywork.

He also suggests that at least some of the cigar-shaped craft are really disks viewed on edge, but that shape would, to me, be useful for the larger “mother ships” that don’t need to turn fast.

Fun book, even for “non-believers.”

From one of BG’s links:

No, no, no; obviously the most succesful and efficient spaceship design, is of the style that brought us to Earth.

A sphere would be a terrible thing to fly in the atmosphere. I’d expect that something with wings would be a more reasonable approach - but I suppose that if you can laugh at inertia, anything is possible.

For interstellar ships, it all depends on the power plant. If you’ve got a nasty one, that you want to keep away from people, then a long ship like Discovery in 2001 makes more sense. If not, the sphere has the advantage of allowing you to spin it to keep people attached to the floor - unless you have artificial gravity. It also is nice and symmetric to allow steering to be done more easily, assuming you change course by spinning the ship and pointing your engine in the right direction, not pretending you’re in the atmosphere like the Enterprise D. (ST-TOS actually did this better because they couldn’t afford the effects shots, I think.)

I seriously, seriously doubt that any of the people using Flying saucers in the 1950s movies had either VTOL or radar stealth in mind.

And it’s not clear at all to me why the saucer shape would be a good engineering design for either.

I see what you did there… :wink:

The flying saucer shape is most common because:[ol][]It’s easy to hoax – a button, hubcap, dinner plate, frisbee, or hat thrown into the air looks like one, and []Because of past hoaxes, it’s what everybody expects to see.[/ol]

Ya, so sue me. :stuck_out_tongue:

The movie guys were using flying saucers because that’s what the newspapers called them and the public expected saucers. No movie guy ever had a thought of his own. Stop thinking about bad sci-fi movies and start visualizing on your own. :wink:

VTOL is easier when the thrustline is right down the middle of the craft–think of helicopters and remember that the boom is there to keep the fuselage from spinning in the opposite direction from the rotors. Or think of rockets, which don’t need to counter that particular application of Newton’s Third Law. Flying vertically, a balanced disk is more inherently stable than most other shapes–similarly round shapes like a ball or a rocket’s cylinder being exceptions. Other shapes can do it but it’s easier to balance a circle around the center of thrust than a square or rectangle. Once airborne you tip the craft–flying saucer, helicopter, or Harrier–to climb in a particular direction (Hill gives the math and claims there have been observations to corroborate his assumptions) then you vector the thrust backwards once you level off so drag is reduced (not so important outside an atmosphere).

As for radar stealth, the idea is to present as small an area perpendicular to the radar beam and receiver (assumed at the same location) as possible so the beam bounces somewhere the receiver isn’t. A surface curved both laterally and longitudinally presents only a single point to the beam. This stops working so well when the tracker has multiple, networked radar sets.

I know how radar stealth works, but

a.) There’s nothing inherently special about a saucer shape that makes it good for this

b.) Stealth technology wasn’t around in the 1950s

And I;'m skeptical about your assertions about saucer shapes on VTOL.

I thought those were responsible for bringing our Thetans to Earth, not us ourselves. However, my theology might be lacking.
And by the way, everyone is aware that the association of UFOs and saucers was not originally that they were shaped like saucers, but that they flew erratically like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water, right? The original sighting was that they were boomerang or crescent shaped.

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