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A near future large city state is surrounded by a far more massive forest that is semi sentient. How do I stop them from sending up satellites, or sending up weather balloons high enough so that they can see a good portion of the planet? I also want to stop them from flying past a certain point in the forests. Essentially I want them to to have their concept of the world be limited to the fact that there is a world past the forests but they cant really see it or get to it.

I also want to preserve radio communications such that having things like blimps to act as satellites or mobile towers, is a viable strategy that is used to fill in the gaps. Things like the internet, and phones should still work. The forest in this scenario is sentient, and automatically tries to kill human that tries to enter it, so it could extend its influence into the air as well.

The planet is not Earth, and takes place in another solar system entirely. As a result the forests don't have to obey by our normal definitions of what a forest can do, in fact that large growth and sentience of forestry around the city state is partially due to alien interference, (alien as in organic, so no aliens waiting in orbit to shoot down whatever comes up).

So far I currently have a combo of artificially induced Kessler syndrome, as well as the forest being able to manipulate wind patterns and potentially the heat of the environment. However in general jets can fly fast and resist head pretty well. Blanketing the planet in solar flares constantly removes the use of electricity and communications needed in a near future setting.

Answers don't have to be in pure hard science at all, the more rational the better. Essentially I want a reason as to why humans can't peer out the forest from the air and try to fly past the forest other than just "its just magic lol, deal w/ it".

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  • $\begingroup$ If Kessler syndrome is present, there may be enough stuff reentering for en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_burst_communications to work. Alternatively, if a moon is available, there's also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$ – GrumpyYoungMan Apr 19 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ @FIRE_ICE Internet wouldn't be a problem, you could just use like wifi and fiber optic cables. The bonus of this is that it would be completely contained to the city, using only short-range communication. I wouldn't be sure as to why they wouldn't receive radio signal from beyond the forest unless in generated random radio chatter, that would be really really cool, having a forest which generated random radio chatter, which would have the bonus of people not being able to communicate long range when they enter the forest. Not that it has any relevance to the question. $\endgroup$ – Madman Apr 19 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ @TheMadmanandtheFool thats actually interesting, im assuming this wouldn't effect landlines in the forest cause its metal wire essentialy rather than wireless communication. $\endgroup$ – FIRES_ICE Apr 19 at 6:48
  • $\begingroup$ Not an answer, because I really don't know how plausible this is, but I wonder if it's possible to have really low, really strong radiation belts... $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 19 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ VTC: Isn't it story based, u can do it in multiple ways, aren't u asking for a plot and story u have to tell - what makes it so special so it requires knowledge and expertiese and not a fantasy like rays of death from orbit, ring of mountains high enough and alike stuff which is easy to come by. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Apr 19 at 19:06
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Economy of Scale

Many modern technologies are only practical at civilizations bigger than a certain scale. Producing a space program costs billions of dollars and requires hundreds of industries in place to pull all of your resources, technology, and man power from to make it happen. However, city-states typically don't have populations in excess of a few hundred thousand people making investing billions of dollars into anything prohibitively expensive.

The smallest country in the world with its own space program is Norway. With a population of only 5.4 million, it took it's government a significant investment to make space travel possible, but even then, it was only economically feasible to build a space agency in Norway because they were part of a much larger world economy. In a world economy of 1 city state, there is no economic benefit of a space program, or even normal aircraft for that matter. Sure there would be tinkers like the wright Brothers who would invent small scale short range flying machines, but this is very different than being able to get the backing to produce a long range aircraft like a Boeing 777, much less put a satellite into orbit.

In all likelihood, your people invented flight, traveled ~100 miles in any given direction, and then turned back due to fuel/range constraints. Without the World Wars or anywhere to go, funding for flight based technologies would quickly dry up. Much like the Roman steam engine, inventing a technology will not get you very far unless you can think of some way to exploit it.

So basically, being kept at such a small size, your civilization has only invested in technologies that are of economic benefit over smaller areas. Your electronics, computing, and communications industries would not have the manpower behind them that our world did to see things advance to current levels so fast, but because THESE technologies are still valuable to an isolated city state, they may have developed this technology over the course of centuries achieving economy of scale not by producing a new chip set every year for millions of consumers, but by developing a new chipset every few decades that could be reproduced millions of times before the next generation of chips hits the market.

In this way the economy would naturally reward the production of the technologies you want to see, and punish the development of technologies that would get you a view of the world as a whole.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wish I could give more than +1 for this! Being limited to a small city state creates massive limitations on science - instead of being able to compare geological formations, plants, animals, fossils, views of space etc from across the planet, this civilisation has only single data points to work from. Many basic science fields (geology, evolution, astronomy) will be very retarded simply for lack of data to even propose theories, let alone confirm them. Lack of basic science makes it hard to develop tech, even if all required resources are miraculously available in relatively tiny area. $\endgroup$ – KerrAvon2055 Apr 20 at 0:25
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Mountains, Rival Ecosystems, and Death Rays:

The forest extends up to a certain altitude, at which point a different ecosystem takes over - an intelligent, hostile alpine ecosystem. THIS ecosystem is neutral to the lower forest ecosystem - they have a sort of non-compete arrangement, or a détente. The upper ecosystem defends itself from the lower sending flying attackers at it by using an Archimedes death ray system or organic lasing set-up. Anything that flies above a certain elevation gets shot down, and even rockets come under very efficient attack by thousands of reflective mirror-like leaves or grown crystals concentrating sunlight. I could even imagine some kind of rocket-powered exploding seed missiles launched from bio-zeppelin missile platforms. Low altitude craft aren't attacked because the alpine ecosystem isn't looking to start a war with the forest ecosystem, only defend the mountains.

Your humans could understand this, and not want to antagonize the alpine ecosystem. They limit their craft to areas/altitudes that don't invite attack.

This works best for your city if it is positioned where there are mountains on multiple sides of the city (like in a valley) since even the best death ray systems are likely to be somewhat short-ranged. While your people may have to deal with the forest's flyers at low altitude (allowing simple reconnaissance), high-flying causes them to come under the big guns of the mountain ecology (which might simply mistake humans for an incursion by a rival ecosystem).

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  • $\begingroup$ Despite various works using them to excellent effect, it's unclear whether "solar death rays" are actually viable. I'd suggest sticking to lasers 🙂. (Does this system have to be organic? Another option might be an ancient, badly programmed defense system.) $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 19 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew I had concerns about the range of the death ray, but perhaps an intelligent living plant making reflectors adjusting on the fly would make it work better than a bunch of ancient soldiers with shiny shields. I was going organic because of the living forest theme, and going with high-tech defense system may violate some premise of the world I don't know about. Visually, a bunch of missile-launching blimps hovering over the landscape would be super-cool: Maybe they are even grown imitations of weapons the humans used and that the ecosystem copied. Forests adapt too... $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Apr 19 at 16:07
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Is there a chance the plants could have made some kind of acidic cloud that floats above the city?

Maybe "venus fly traps?" Except they're more like those phalanx defense guns

You have your pick of projectiles. Nature doesn't use metals very often because it's very energetically expensive to shape metals, break those bonds, move around those atoms. That's why our bones are basically made of chalk and not something more durable. The reason bones are so strong is that our cells build our bones atoms at a time. But if this organism had the energy to spare and the biology it could pull something like that off.

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Over the level of the forest there are high winds.

Once you get over the level of the trees, there are immensely high winds. The city could not exist without the forest sheltering it from the wind. The trees buttress themselves against each other and the forest is very wide. At the treetops, the wind is what limits further upward growth of the forest.

This ferocious wind sometimes carries things that fall into the city. These are unusual things from far away - floatsam from distant lands. These things are how this city has any idea of what exists in the world outside the forest.

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Not being able to have satellites is quite reallistic. I asked a question specifically about it once:

A moon that is hard to orbit

As for going past a certain height or distance, the limit is based on how much fuel you can take with you. If fuel is hard to come by for your civilization, then ships should not be designed to go very far - or very fast. While a balloon might be able to go around the world, atmospheric conditions - possibly related to the forrest - can make such trips unfeasible. Maybe the forest is acidic, so the natural rain on the planet is acid as well. This might damage aircraft, thus keeping the civilization grounded.

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Religion and tradition

In most cases throughout history, development has been hindered easily by religion or mysticism - or simply tradition.

Perhaps as the city grew from its origins, the populace were intensely afraid of the forest and therefore had a very inward looking culture. It makes sense if the forest killed anyone who ventured into it - this would be quite traumatic for a developing culture.

So perhaps:

  • No-one dares venture out due to being killed (or having anyone they know or children killed) leading to a complete rejection of any reliance or even discussion about exploration
  • Even gazing upon it could be forbidden, to the degree that any buildings face inwards away from it, there are 'exclusion zones' surrounding the city.
  • Regarding height, there may be a leadership preventing anyone from exceeding the canopy height out of initially fear of viewing, followed by cemented in legislation. It need not be rational, only based on an antiquated cultural fear that later became deemed 'fact'.
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