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June 6, 2008, 10:19 am

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FTL and the wormhole thing


In pretty much every single sci-fi there is one thing common for all the seemingly different faster-than-light drives.

Why is it all about wormholes?

Seriously, most FTL drives in fiction employ some variant of wormholes. What I mean here is the jumping into some weird location full of special effects, enjoy the illusion of fast travel, and then jump back into normal space. But what if it wasn’t so?

If you travel from A to B, you need to be aware of all things between the two points, and around the route. The faster you travel, the more important this knowledge becomes. You surely understand, that with FTL arise new problems. First, all known ways of transmitting information so far known to us are slower than light or equivalent. And if a ship moves faster than that, it will inevitably miss some of the information.

So what is between A and B?

A ship traveling in space will be mostly in the good ole vacuum… but even in the deepest corner of space will it not be empty. There are particles, and there is the background radiation. There are atoms, and there is dust. Then there are bigger things.

If you are traveling at a high speed, all of them may become dangerous, and you need to deal with them. Your ship will have (no hypothesis there, just a statement) a shield on its outer side. It may have a forcefield/"energy shield", or some equivalent. Still there will be objects too big to be simply pushed aside, but not necessarily large enough for your sensors to detect fast enough. The result may be damage to the shields, a little crack on the front window, or simply a massive *Boom* that turns you into dust.

See? It is much easier to simply assume that a ship will be somehow magicked away to its destination. Stargate, Star Trek or Babylon 5, let them call it subspace or hyperspace, it’s really the same thing.

If one is to travel in the "real space", additional technologies and explanations are necessary.

Possible workarounds:

- negative grav shielding - whether through actual anti-gravity (and don’t get me started on the topic of artificial gravity), or through detecting it, and navigating against it, the ship slides through the universe avoiding anything with sufficient mass to cause trouble. It surely has also other support systems, for if navigating FTL is anything like the common thing, the passengers could be turned into ugly wall paintings.

- the particle approach - while traveling in this way, the ship is due to some enhanced relativistic effects no larger than a subatomic particle - at least to its ‘slow’ surroundings. With a low degree of interaction, it can theoretically fly through a planet without even noticing it. Stars and other bodies, that can become dangerous are easy enough to avoid.

- godly navigation - just risk it, and keep a good eye on anything bigger than your sock, predicting the trajectories of all bodies around the route. You’ve got to have SOME good computers, solid knowledge of travel corridors, and luck.

- route forecasting - before the trip itself, you will send other, slower or less valuable ships and probes to research that part of space, and map out all objects and phenomena that could be dangerous. Some routes may be only possible in certain intervals, allowing for regular events, invasions and cruises.

- FTL sensors - if the ship can fly it, maybe there’s a way of detecting trouble on your way as you come upon it. See also the grav shielding above for the troubles of navigation.

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Comments ( 4 )
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December 14, 2007, 9:34
actually, if you managed to manipulate gravity, you could simply create a gravitational sink in front of your ship, and a gravitational mountain behind it. ie, your ship wouldn't travel inside the wormhole, but would have a black hole in front and a white hole behind, the two joined by a wormhole to keep everything balanced!

That way, any obstacles would just get trapped inside the blackhole, go through the wormhole, and come out behind your ship. safe and sound.

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/research/warp/ideachev.html might give some more ideas.
December 14, 2007, 16:33
I feel my brain started to leak through my ears after visiting that website. Such a level of spacetime manipulation is quite scary!

Your idea may be workable in the same vein, though I have to wonder a little about the 'obstacles' encountered, whether those will be safe and sound once they pass through the setup.

And it still contains a wormhole. :D
January 6, 2008, 16:12
Something passing through a massive gravity sink is, in my opinion, very, very unlikely to come out 'unscathed'. Most black holes have a tendency to tear things apart by gravitational 'tides', and a rapidly-moving one would probably have some troubling side effects.

Mmm, gravitic bow shock. Weapon and drive all in one.
January 8, 2008, 2:38
Ohhh, I meant safe and sound for the _ship_!

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