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 Various and Sundry Applications for Phlebotinum

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Gideon Shaw
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Concept: The Kicker of Asses
Race/Origin: Hybrid (Fae/Dragon)

PostSubject: Various and Sundry Applications for Phlebotinum   Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:33 pm

Okay, so to take myself away from the fantasy that is my usual stock in trade, I'm revisiting my science fiction universe(s).  I'll probably draw heavily from what I've already come up with for the Terra Legion, but I'm thinking of going in a different direction.  I wanna do a story on a ship.  I've already decided to reuse the Exsule, which is now the name of the aliens that I formerly called "The Makers".  I'm thinking that I'll keep the Kraken, too.  Who doesn't love spacefaring land squids?  I may even keep the Ergrahthah, but I might give them a name change and maybe just stick with a normal male/female reproductive system.  Don't know who the Big Bads are gonna be yet.  Still noodling through ideas.  Today, though, I sat down and started writing background stuff.  I'd been corresponding with Tom.  He said, "Write!"  So, I wrote.  Below is my first background post: Faster-Than-Light Technologies.

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Last edited by Gideon Shaw on Wed Feb 19, 2014 3:15 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Gideon Shaw
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Posts : 1041
Join date : 2009-12-30
Age : 47
Location : Magee House

Character sheet
Concept: The Kicker of Asses
Race/Origin: Hybrid (Fae/Dragon)

PostSubject: Faster Than Light Technologies   Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:35 pm

Faster-Than-Light (FTL) Technologies

A.  Travel: FTL travel is accomplished in one of two ways: Jump or Warp.

1. Interdimensional Supraluminal Conduit (aka “Jump” drive).  In simplest terms the Interdimensional Supraluminal Conduit is an artificially produced Einstein-Rosen Bridge (aka a “wormhole”) of sufficient size for a ship to pass through it and arrive somewhere a vast, interstellar distance away from the origin point.  Jump isn’t so much a faster-than-light “drive” as it is a shortcut that bypasses the great distances of interstellar travel and most of the time dilation effects of high relativistic speeds.

Interstellar Jumps can only be performed from the region of space around a star known as the heliopause, the point of the heliosphere at which solar wind’s outer momentum is counteracted by the interstellar medium.  Within this region of space universal forces are in such a chaotic, yet balanced, state that the fabric of normal space-time can be torn open by artificial means and a wormhole created.  The Jump engine “anchors” the local end of the wormhole within the originator point’s heliosphere while almost simultaneously creating an anchor point within the heliosphere of the destination point’s heliosphere.  The traveler then enters the Jump point at the desired velocity, disappears from normal space into “Jump space”, and reappears in normal space at the destination Jump point some time later.

From the point of view of the traveler, the Jump is instantaneous.  Jump space is outside of the regular passage of time.  Therefore, everything passing through Jump space enters a sort of temporal stasis.  From an outside perspective, a certain amount of time does pass between entering and exiting Jump space.  The interval of time that passes is a function of the sublight velocity at which the traveler enters the Jump point.  Entering a Jump point at velocities up to .1c (ten percent of the speed of light), transit time roughly equals one week per light year Jumped.  At an entry velocity that ranges between .1c and .3c transit time becomes roughly one and a half to two days per light year Jumped, and entry velocities between .3c and .5c reduce transit time to 12 to 15 hours per light year Jumped.  A traveler exits Jump at the same velocity which he entered the origin Jump point, and must then decelerate to rendevous at their destination or transit to another Jump point to continue their journey.  However, there are complications and dangers to entering a Jump point at higher and higher velocities.  

First, for some reason that we still do not understand, higher velocities disrupt the distance at which the exit Jump point can be targeted.  For example, low velocity Jump points have a maximum range of roughly sixteen light years, which would allow a Jump traveler from Earth to reach DEN 0255-4700, a brown dwarf sixteen light years away, in a single 16-week-long Jump (not that you’d really want to go there).  A medium velocity Jump (the .1c to .3c range) has a maximum Jump distance of roughly nine light years.  This means that a traveler from Earth could Jump to UV Ceti (roughly 8.7 light years away) in a single, two-and-a-half-week-long Jump.  High velocity Jumps (the .3c to .5c range) have a maximum travel distance of five light years, which means that a Jump from Earth to Alpha Centauri would take two days.  So, short hops between relatively close stars would be quicker than a single long Jump between relatively distant stars.

Another complication with higher velocity Jumps is the very real danger involved in exceeding .5c when entering a Jump point.  Ships that attempt to make the entry point of a Jump at higher than fifty percent of the speed of light are destroyed.  Spectacularly.  Molecular cohesion cannot be maintained within Jump space at that great of an entry velocity, which results in atomic fission.  In other words, the traveler becomes an exploding nuclear device.  Fortunately, there is rarely ever anything of value as far out as the heliopause.  So, the resultant detonation of an ill-advised high speed Jump won’t generally harm anything or anyone other than the idiot who thought it was a good idea.

Jumps generate a lot of high energy “residue”, both visible light and other electromagnetic emissions.  So, if someone happens to have a powerful telescope pointed in just the right direction, hours after a Jump event has occurred they will see a rather spectacular light show that announces the departure or arrival of a Jump traveler.  However, Jumps also generate a rather energetic burst of faster than light tachyon particles at the exit point of the Jump.  Though not instantaneous, tachyons can be detected with the right equipment much, much faster than the visible light show that accompanies a Jump point.  Sufficiently advanced civilizations use “tachyon traps” as a means of early warning against unwanted Jump travelers.

Jump travel must have an active star generating a heliosphere at both ends of the Jump wormhole.  One cannot jump into interstellar space.  In order for an exit Jump point to form, a heliopause space must exist.  One cannot, also, Jump into a system where the star has gone nova because this disrupts the heliosphere enough to destabilize the heliopause space.

2. Alcubierre Warp Metric Drive (aka “Warp” drive).  Proposed by theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre (and subsequently named in his honor), Warp drive changes the geometry of space by creating a wave that causes the fabric of space ahead of a traveler to contract and the space behind to expand.  The traveler then rides within the wave inside a self-contained pocket dimension of “flat space” known as the warp bubble.  Within the warp bubble, the traveler does not move.  Instead, the region of space around the traveler moves, carrying the traveler along due to the actions of the drive.  To the universe at large, when the traveler activates the drive to enter Warp, they cease to exist.  The warp bubble is invisible to outside observers, just as the outside universe is invisible to those within the bubble.  Tremendous amounts of energy are needed to form an initial warp bubble, but significantly less is needed to maintain or reform an already initiated warp field.  Rapidly dropping and reforming a warp bubble, known as “flickering”, allows a Warp traveler to “see” where they are going, to navigate while in “motion”.

Warp drive is not dependent on being in a specific location to activate.  When sufficient power is available for the initial formation of the warp bubble, the drive can be activated and used.  However, in the initial nanosecond of warp bubble creation objects in contact with, but not contained by, the warp field can be violently affected.  For example, within an atmosphere, in that instant of transition, the warp vehicle is both there and not there.  Air wants to rush in to fill the “vacuum” created by the sudden absence of the vehicle.  At the same time, air molecules in contact with the warp field are either disassociated into their constituent atoms or are vigorously shoved away from the warp field.  This interaction of forces can result in spontaneously generated wind storms, tornadoes, and a general disruption of local weather patterns.  Because of this unfortunate side effect, warp drives are not generally used while within the atmosphere of an inhabited world.  The exceptions, of course, are in an emergency situation or as an improvised weapon of mass destruction.

The average interplanetary “speed” of a warp vehicle is about one light hour every hour or the speed of light.  So, a warp ship could travel from Earth to Pluto in less than a day or out to the heliopause in a little more than a day.  Higher warp speeds can be attained by pouring more energy into the warp field.  Depending on how much power one has available, a warp ship could make the trip to Alpha Centauri in four years, four months, four weeks, four days, etc.  Of course, doing so takes geometrically more and more power the greater the apparent speed of the warp field.  The average interstellar flight time for a warp ship is approximately one light year per day.  The high end speed record, though, is two light years per hour.

Within the warp bubble, time continues to pass for the traveler at a normal progression.  Relativistic time dilation is not a factor.  However, during transit, the traveler continues to use up their consumable resources, i.e. air, water, & food.  Fuel for the power generators is also being constantly used to maintain the warp bubble.  In short, Warp is fast, but fuel intensive.

3. Comparisons between Jump and Warp.  Jump will only work from specific locations within a star system.  So, a Jump traveler must spend days boosting from their home planet to a Jump point location in the outermost edge of their star system before they can make the Jump.  Then, after the Jump, they must spend a number of days decelerating toward their destination within the target system or transiting to the next Jump point.  A Warp traveler can enter Warp relatively close to their home world and exit Warp relatively close to their destination without any kind of actual acceleration involved, which greatly reduces actual travel time.

For example, a Jump ship and a Warp ship are both traveling to “Station Zebra” in Alpha Centauri.  The distance from Earth to Station Zebra is roughly four light years.  The Jump ship must use its sublight drive to accelerate away from Earth and build up to a .3c velocity by the time it reaches the heliopause.  The trip takes a minimum of two days.  Then, the Jump ship generates is Jump point.  Transit time for a high velocity Jump is two days.  Upon exit, the Jump ship must now decelerate for rendevous with Station Zebra.  Once again, this takes of two days for a zero-zero intercept.  In all, the Jump ship needed six days to make the trip from Earth to Station Zebra.  The Warp ship enters warp at a minimum safe distance above Earth’s atmosphere.  Four days later, it exits warp at a minimum safe distance from Station Zebra.

In the above example, the Warp ship was two days faster than the Jump ship.  However, the Jump ship did have some advantages, even though it was technically slower.  First, Jump takes less energy to perform than Warp.  The Jump points draw a significant amount of the energy required for their formation from the chaotic yet balanced forces found in the heliopause.  The Warp ship has to constantly feed some kind of energy generated by the ship itself into the warp field to maintain the integrity of the warp bubble.  Second, during a Jump, the traveler is in temporal stasis for the duration of the transit, which means that no air, water, food, or fuel was consumed during transit.  Though in this example both ships spent the same amount of time using consumables, four days, the Jump ship didn’t spend its entire transit time using up its consumables.

Jump is the more common form of FTL travel.  It is less expensive to create, easier to use, and tends to make more sense to physicists when they’re doing the math.  Warp, on the other hand, is relatively rare because so much math exists that says, “yeah, this could be possible, but it’s so very improbable that we shouldn’t even research in this direction.”  Warp is also dependent on the existence of technologies that can create artificial mass effects through energy manipulation (like negative mass).  Most starfaring civilizations figure out how to Jump before they ever start messing with artificial gravitons and mass effects.

Jump ships are limited in where they can go.  They can only jump from one star’s heliopause to another.  If the heliopause is disrupted or doesn’t exist, the Jump points won’t form, and the Jump won’t happen.  Warp ships, though, are the all terrain vehicles of interstellar travel.  They can go everywhere, even if going there is a really bad idea (i.e. to a system where the star has just gone nova or to a black hole or a pulsar, etc.).

4. Theoretical “Third” Method of FTL.  Theoretically, one might be able to combine Warp and Jump into a third mode of faster-than-light travel.  The result, though, of entering a Jump point while traveling at Warp is a point of contention.  One school of thought is that the result would be similar to entering Jump at a velocity greater than half of light speed, only more spectacular.  The worst case scenario would either be the detonation of one’s own sun or the instant heat death of the universe.  The other school of thought is that combining Jump and Warp would result in something like instantaneous interstellar teleportation.  No one has really cracked the math yet on this combination of FTL travel forms, but it is believed that this is the method used by the Exsule to show up where they are most needed, when they are most needed.

B. Communications.  Faster-than-light communication is achieved by means of either a device that utilizes quantum entanglement, one that propagates a signal through some kind of hyperspatial medium, or one that physically carries the message by means of an FTL drive from point A to point B.  Typically, the first is called an “ansible,” the second is known as “subspace radio,” and the third is a courier.

1. Ansible.  When two particles become synched through quantum entanglement, no matter how far apart those particles are separated, they remain synchronized.  In other words, if some force is applied to Particle A-1 on Earth, Particle A-2 on Station Zebra in Alpha Centauri exhibits signs of the same force having been applied to it at the exact same instant, and the reverse is also true.  The quantum entanglement of synchronized particles is the foundation of the interstellar communicator known as the Ansible.  The device is named in honor of the interstellar communicator created by science fiction author, Ursula K. Le Guin.

Ansible communication is instantaneous or close enough to it to make no difference.  Information is exchanged between ansibles in a binary digital format.  Data can be transferred at a fairly high bit-rate, around twenty to thirty megabits per second depending on the “bandwidth” of the two ansibles involved in the data transfer.  Bandwidth is a function of the number of synchronized particles used to construct the “guts” of the ansible.  The data transfer rate is high enough to allow real-time visual communications or live video feed broadcasts or the transfer of massive data documents.  In other words, a pair of ansibles work together like high speed internet.

Ansibles must be created in groups of at least two, but may be created in batches as high as several hundred.  The actual guts of an ansible is usually a crystalline matrix that contains the synchronized particles.  The interface component of the device can contain one or more of these crystals, which gives the communicator the ability to “tune” in to different channels.  Not all ansibles can communicate with one another, only with other units that have similarly synchronized crystals.

The process of creating synchronized crystals for ansible communication is incredibly expensive.  Therefore, ansibles are typically owned by government agencies, military organizations, or wealthy corporations.  Ansibles are rare and expensive enough that the military will typically install them in only the biggest, most heavily armored and well protected battleships.  Fleets usually use ansibles to coordinate strategic maneuvers and transmit orders and battle plans.  More localized command and control communications are handled via subspace radio.

2. Subspace Radio.  Although matter can only enter Jump space within the stellar sweet spot of the heliopause, energy can be shunted there much more easily from just about anywhere with the right kind of equipment: the subspace radio.  The name comes from the ever popular Star Trek series, where it was a reference to Warp theory.  However, in practical use, its function is more a matter of extradimensional interactions than the folding of space-time.

The “guts” of the subspace radio is a miniature version of the exotic matter lens that allows a Jump drive to open Jump points and create a traversable wormhole.  The hole that the subspace radio’s exotic matter lens creates is pinprick compared to a Jump point, too small for anything larger than a subatomic particle to pass through.  However, like a Jump drive, the subspace radio creates a wormhole or a network of wormholes between two or more units that allows a more traditional radio signal to pass through.  The data transfer rate is along the lines of high speed, broadband wi-fi, depending on the power of the subspace transmitter.

Normally, radio waves are limited to the speed of light.  At interplanetary distances, never mind interstellar distances, lag time begins to become an issue.  For example, depending on the time of year, Mars is anywhere from four to twenty-four light minutes from Earth.  Sending a signal to a device on Mars takes anywhere from four minutes to a half hour or so for said device to receive said signal, and double that time for confirmation to make its way back.  Now, if you want to control your Mars Rover in real time, you can either install an ansible, which costs ten times more than your entire robot, or you can install a subspace radio, which isn’t cheap, but it ain’t ansible expensive.

Subspace radio isn’t instantaneous, but at certain ranges it’s so close that you can’t really tell the difference.  Within thirty-seven light minutes the signal is as instantaneous as two powerful walkie-talkies within line of sight of one another here on Earth.  Between thirty-seven light minutes and seventy-six light minutes, a noticeable one second of lag creeps in.  At a range of 243 light minutes (a little over four light hours), signal lag suddenly drops to about a ten second delay.  Nearing twenty light hours, signal lag becomes about one minute.  Out to three light days, signal lag is five minutes.  At a light week, lag time is about fifteen minutes.  At a light month, it becomes a day or two.  At a light year, the lag time is around a week to ten days, but at this point the signal’s power has degraded to the point of being unintelligible.  A powerful enough broadcast station, on the order of the broadcasting power of every radio station on Earth, located at the edge of our Solar System, could transmit a subspace radio signal to Alpha Centauri in a little over a month.

As a result of growing lag time and long range signal degradation, subspace radio is usually limited to FTL comms within the confines of a star system.  Unlike the ansible, any subspace radio unit can be linked to any other subspace radio unit or even networked together with hundreds of thousands of units.  Subspace radios can be cross-linked to normal sublight transmitters, like radios or lasers, and serve as re-broadcasting relays for sublight communications traffic.

3. The Courier.  The oldest form of information transmission across distances is the courier.  Basically, you take a guy, either tell him your message or give him a letter, and he takes your message to its recipient.  Until the invention of the telegraph, the courier was the fastest means of communication across great distances, limited only by the means of transportation at the courier’s disposal.  The telegraph, the telephone, radio, and the internet pretty much bypassed the need of a courier to relay information.  Still needed the courier to deliver physical matter, though, i.e. the mail, FedEx, Amazon, freight shipping, etc.

The ansible and the subspace radio both have limitations such as expense, effective range, and, frankly, security.  The ansible operator is gonna know exactly what you’re transmitting, and his company will likely keep a record of it.  The subspace radio is effectively limited to in-system comms traffic, and anybody else with a subspace radio could possibly tune in to yours.  So, you want to send a secure message to somebody on Station Zebra in Alpha Centauri, but you don’t want everybody all up in your business.  So, you go low tech.  You write a letter, hermetically seal that sucker, pay a spaceman who’s going to Station Zebra to carry it for you, and within a few weeks, your secure communication has arrived.

On the other hand, some starfaring civilizations haven’t figured out how to make ansibles yet, and even though they have Jump drive, they haven’t gotten the idea yet to try to use it to speed up radio signals.  So, they use couriers to communicate with one another.  Typically, the courier takes two forms: a manned courier ship or an automated courier drone.

A courier ship is typically little more than a powerful sublight engine, a cramped living space, a Jump drive, a radio transceiver, and a pretty significant data storage capacity.  The courier tends to lurk near Jump points.  Data is transmitted to him via normal space radio signal.  Then, he boosts up to the appropriate velocity, goes to Jump, and on the other side transmits his data.  Then, he waits to start the process over again going back in the other direction.  The courier drone just cuts out the biological element, replacing it with a sophisticated AI.  The main difference between the two is that courier ships can also be used to carry small cargos on occasion, usually at an exorbitant premium.  Drones, though, are capable of boosting at higher accelerations than a biological might find survivable, which cuts down significantly on the transit time.

_________________
Ragnar Lothbrok wrote:
Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.


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