The Great Cow QuestionSanders Schmittlaub
All of New Eden is currently waiting with bated breath for the great expansion of our time: Citadel. An entire new breed of structures, designed to replace and improve the long-lived Starbase mechanics of old. The expansion (and all its accompanying non-Citadel related changes) will forever change the face of New Eden.
A lot of groups are already preparing for the release of Citadels. Whether by simply collecting ISK to buy one off the market, harvesting resources to build their own, or even going so far as acquiring component blueprints to begin producing Citadels on a massive scale, preparations are well underway. My corporation, New Jovian Exploration Department (NJED), falls firmly into the second group.
In mid-December, I began getting spreadsheets together to calculate the material requirements for the different Citadel sizes. The result wasn’t exactly up to my usual standards (a pretty, self-updating, auto-sorting work of art), but they provided a list of stuff that would be needed. It broke the cost down into two categories: approximately 80% Planetary Interaction materials, and 20% minerals.
With NJED being as close-knit a group as we are, when I suggested we build a PI program to offset around 80% of the cost of our planned Large Citadel, everyone enthusiastically agreed that a few minutes of work per week each would be worth saving the corp around five billion ISK.
Another spreadsheet later, a program was devised for people to contribute, and POCO taxes were set to 0% for the duration of the program. I won’t go into the details here, because frankly they’re boring, but our plan worked brilliantly.
Just fifty days after the initial mail with details went out, we had collected 68 percent of the stuff we need, and expect to be done in another thirty days (more than thirty days ahead of schedule).
This all brings us to the question of the hour. Since day one of the PI program, we’ve been short on Livestock. (Note: the in-game picture of is a cow, and therefore in New Eden all livestock are cows). We had finally gotten over our shortage, and one of our members asked how many cows we needed for a Citadel. Numbers were crunched, and one of the most disturbing numbers I’ve ever seen in EVE appeared.
Building a Large Citadel requires forty thousand cows.
Not only that, but ten thousand of those cows have to be Genetically Enhanced prior to use. We’re talking about a space station – what possible reason could a space station require more cows than currently live in the state of Massachusetts?
This was a question I felt obligated to investigate.
It was suggested that the cows would be used as biomass for the onboard farms (or however it is they keep the station fed), but meat is a poor biomass in which to grow crops. Something about it rotting under ideal growth conditions.
It is possible they would just be used as food. My contacts who live on a farm advise me that a surprisingly small number of cattle are required for a sustainable herd: less than ten, so it’s possible. But the resources required to breed and maintain a state’s worth of livestock would be staggering – far more than the benefit of having that many aboard a space station. The main reason for this is that cows are big (source), and thus would need a huge amount of oxygen, water, and living space to live under even the most basic conditions. All of those things are precious commodities on a space station, because people need all three to not die (source).
Even if the size and resource consumption challenges were overcome, an average cow will provide 430 pounds of meat at slaughter, and the recommended max daily intake of meat is four ounces per person per day. That would mean each cow would feed 1,720 people their required protein for a day. I don’t believe the statistics for Citadel crew sizes have been published yet (looking at you CCP Ytterbium), but it is unlikely that the crew would be the proper size to eat a herd of 40,000 livestock into population stability (four hours on Wikipedia, a pen, and a napkin to doodle on says that herd can sustainably provide around thirty million days worth of four-ounce portions per year; or about 95,000 people worth of protein per year). 95,000 people could be the right size, but for a Large Citadel I feel the number should be far larger. A Large Citadel is intended to be the base of operation for entire capsuleer alliances, and each capsuleer ship can be crewed by anywhere from a handful of people for frigates to over ten thousand for capitals. The ship crews would eat into the station’s herd just like they’d rely on the Citadel’s supplies of air, water, spare parts, and other consumables.
“Literally every single part of this station, from the latrines to the CEO’s desk, had cows somehow involved in their production.”
So based on those numbers, the cows are probably not meant to be used for food. What for, then? A glance at my spreadsheets showed that cows are required in every single structure component, from Construction Parts to Docking and Hangar Bays. Literally every single part of this station, from the latrines to the CEO’s desk, had cows somehow involved in their production. A few options spring to mind. Leather is one, but forty thousand cows worth of leather could probably make a beautiful set of riding chaps for an X-Large Citadel, and there are only so many latrines in the station that require leather toilet seats (translation: all of them).
The next option that I can see is some sort of atmospheric maintenance system. Medical Centers, Storage Bays, and Laboratories (plus all the rest) all require a stable atmosphere fit for human habitation, but all of that can be more easily managed with mechanical systems. Cows are actually bad for a controlled environment. They suck up oxygen, smell… not necessarily bad, but very strongly, and produce impressive amounts of methane, which becomes explosive in the right concentrations. Sure, 40,000 cows could produce enough methane to help power the station, but in the age of fusion reactors or whatever runs the stations, cow-methane power can reasonably be rounded off to irrelevant. Since cows have already burned down at least one city (Chicago) simply because they could, there’s no telling how quickly they would take advantage of the opportunity to blow up a space station. So that’s out.
The only remaining alternative I can see is something so barbaric and terrifying that I shudder to even mention it – glue. It makes sense – glue would be required to construct every section of the station, like a gigantic model. It is clear how useful it would be in the maintenance of a space station (ignoring all the issues that standard glue has in zero-gravity vacuum environments, and there are many). The maintenance staff could be made up of ten-year-olds with Elmer’s Glue bottles and smoke sticks. The maintenance savings alone would be staggering, likely enough to offset the business lost when people hear the atmosphere is held in with the same stuff that holds model spaceships together.
“It can also be used as an economy wax for the station bowling alley.”
The Minmatar among you are likely freaking out that I suggest anything but rust and duct tape hold your stations together, but glue would work just as well. It’s an adhesive that, when properly prepared, can be used to temporarily affix hull sections before welding and then get chipped off later (or left as a sealant), or as a more permanent method for hanging wall decorations and keeping electrical cabling on the ceiling. It can be used to replace welding, rivets, nails, and even clamps; just drop a glob of glue on there, stick the pieces together, count to ten, and life is good. Glue can even be prepared as a form of sticky-tac to help keep shuttles from floating away in case of artificial gravity failure. Plus, it can be used as a sealant for wood or insulation to keep it from rotting away or suffering water damage, and a thin layer of it on any surface gives it a glossy sheen like fine polish at a fraction of the cost and makes it super easy to clean. It can also be used as an economy wax for the station bowling alley. The genetically enhanced cows would fit in perfectly here, since the genetic enhancement would likely cause the glue made with them to have different properties than standard cows.
The final option, and the one which I feel has the greatest merit out of all brought up in this discussion, is the state of the pool on board our Citadel. Who hasn’t fantasized about jumping off a diving board into an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled to the lip with Blue Jell-O? Doing so could in no way end badly for anyone involved!