1. The Crazy Kakoos
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    The Crazy Kakoos Member

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    FTL Travel Methods

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by The Crazy Kakoos, Sep 28, 2012.

    I'm currently trying to develop a method of faster than light travel for a science fiction novel I'm working on. The one I was trying to dream up ended up being in all practical sense very similar to a warp drive. I read in a book on science fiction, a while back, that when writing science fiction one should avoid warp as an FTL method unless you are writing a Star Trek novel. The author believed that the concept of Warp was too unrealistic and that if an author can't come up with anything new then should just use Hyperspace, as it is more realistic, however, everything I've read recently suggests that Warp is the most plausable way to travel faster than light.

    Is warp, or warp-like, technology something to avoid when writing sci fi? Is it over-used? Or is it perfectly fine? What is your opinion?
     
  2. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    I had always been under the assumption that warp and hyperspace were equally far fetched. As is the Shaw-Fujikawa drive from Halo, and Wormholes, and Subspace travel, and instantaneous transferal, and bending points of space time etc. Point is, it's all pretty far fetched, at least for us right now. You can always go the way of generic FTL, (E.g We're traveling at FTL, how you ask? Um...Look! A bird!) Or you could develop something more unique. I don't think there's anything wrong with Warp, as long as you don't call it warp that is. As long as you're happy with it, it doesn't really matter.
     
  3. The Crazy Kakoos
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    The Crazy Kakoos Member

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    My sci fi takes place 700 years in the future. So far I'm relying on that for how these technologies are available since 700 years is considerable for technological development.

    Also this story would fall under the subgenre of space opera, not hard sci fi, so fun and entertaining takes precedent over the tech.

    But yes, I won't call it warp. :)
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Warp drive, as portrayed in Star Trek, violates general relativity. A jump drive, or wormhole FTL, are outside of general relativity (in both models, you pass out of spacetime and reappear somewhere else, without passing through point that in normal spacetime are in between).

    I'd avoid going into too much detail. Also, you might want to avoid asserting that it is instantaneous, because the entire matter of synchronizing time between two points is problematic (to understate it) under general relativity.
     
  5. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    It all depends on how hard of a science you want in the science fiction. The readers who prefer "hard" science fiction go looking over there, while fantasy, etc etc. Space opera doesn't necessarily have to operate on complete science channels. Imagination, etc are probably worth more to a reader then whether or not it's possible.
     
  6. GHarrison
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    GHarrison Senior Member

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    Just call it light speed rockets or something and move along with the story :D
     
  7. Bartleby
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    Bartleby Member

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    I kind of dig the Futurama thing, It's impossible to move faster than light. However, you can create a sort of device that moves the universe around you. That means you aren't moving faster than light. If the universe is moving around you there is no limit to how fast and far you could go. Or you can simply Bend space to your location. Enter that area and then unbend space putting you where you need to go. the logistics are all the same. There is always Entering a different dimension where distances are different and then exiting at another point allowing you to travel a long ways in our world where it would be really short in that dimension.

    Id call it the Multidimensional Skimming Device. or MSD for a space acronym.
     
  8. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unrealistic? Well maybe. But that's not preventing some scientists in trying to unlock Warp Drive. Recently it was announced that some scienitists, whose names I forget, have begun to experiment with the idea of Warp Drive. They believe that it just might be possible. You might want to look into it.

    But you may just want to call it a FTL drive and be done with it.
     
  9. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    But general relativity violates Newton's laws of motions. By 700 years in the future we might have found out all sorts of ways in which general relativity is wrong, and perhaps some of those mis-matches with reality may allow FTL travel.

    I'd guess that in real life that we won't find significant errors in general relativity, just slight inaccuracies at the margins. But fiction isn't real life.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Untrue. General relativity refines Newtonian mechanics into conditions under which Newtonian physics were observed to fall apart. Under what we consider normal conditions in everyday life, Einstein's equations coincide almost perfectly with Newton's.

    In other words, Einsteinian mechanics modified classical laws of motion to address observations that did not match the predictions made by Newton's laws. But the predictions of Einsteinian mechanics hold firm for large scale observations over the entire range of measurable velocities. Where it falls short are in very small scale physics (where quantum mechanic models dominate), and in extremely large scale (galactic and larger) where dark matter forces are hypothesized (but not yet well understood).

    What we can expect of future physics is that the equations developed will coincide with those of general relativity in the conditions we can currently observe effectively. And those conditions do not permit acceleration of any object beyond the speed of light, or any entity with nonzero mass TO the speed of light. Those conditions also treat time as a variable, covariant with the choice of inertial reference frame.

    These equations, to date, create a wide variety of predictions that agree with observed data to a high precision. If there are deviations, they must occur in conditions we cannot now even observe, which basically means outside of "normal" spacetime.

    I know this sounds very hand-wavy. English is not the language of choice for this discussion. But unless you are literate in higher mathematics (and more so than I am), I cannot accurately discuss where those limits might be.
     
  11. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this is a different way of looking at it. Newtonian mechanics predicts that faster than light speed travel is possible. You just need to keep applying more propulsive force than there is retarding force, and your object will continue to accellerate. Not "to infinity and beyond" but beyond light speed. That general relativity predicts that travel at FTL is not possible shows that the two models are incompatible. And that's what I mean by saying that General Relativity violates Newton's laws of motion. In the same way that a theory allowing FTL travel might violate general relativity.

    I'm not saying that I disagree with general relativity or think that it will be significantly disproved in the future. In real life. I'm just saying that I don't think it's unreasonable for authors to suggest exceptions to relativity will be found in the future, and some of these fictional exceptions might allow travel at the speed of plot.
     
  12. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    That's how star trek warp works, the ship is wrapped in a bubble of warped space, or subspace, so not 'normal' space-time, which mitigates the relativistic effects like time dilation. The average reader isn't going to care about all that tho. Especially if it isn't hard sci-fi.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I fully expect that FTL travel will be possible. But I believe it will require stepping OUT of spacetime, and not following any contiguous path through normal space. In other words, you could surround your starting point with a closed surface, and reach your destination outsde that surface without passing through that surface at any point. The time to travel depends on your external observer, and for some observers, the traveler could arrive before he leaves. But that observer could not under any circumstances communicate that information to the traveler before he starts his journey, because of the restrictions on the observer's spacetime relative to the traveler's. Got a headache yet?

    Traveling AT the speed of light would be easy, in theory. Nullify the traveler's mass to zero, and the traveler can travel at no speed other than the speed of light. Trouble is, absolutely no time passes for the traveler, so it is impossible for him to stop traveling at that speed. At best, quantum uncertainty may cause the traveler to drop back to normal mass randomly, but the exit point is inherently nondeterministic. It could be theoretically interesting, but is of no practical use.

    My science fiction always uses variations on the "jump" model, which bypasses the worst of the problems of a "warp" model. Besides, I can create some very useful restrictions using the jump model to make life more interesting for my characters, and without making the physicists squirm too much.

    No, the warp bubble passes along a path traceable in normal space. That just won't reconcile with general relativity.
     
  14. Auren
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    Auren New Member

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    I find myself in a similar predicament in my own sci-fi concept. I figured out though, that none of my characters would actually be involved in the science of FTL so I figured I could fudge it. Something along the lines of:

    The science was all very confusing. The best he could make of it had something to do with quantum mechanics and folding space. He recalled something his teacher had said a long time ago about "probability clouds" and "the quantum state of particles", but it wasn't his job to know these things so he just smiled and nodded as the discussion continued.

    Of course it depends upon the characters and their roles; but I find this to be a rather elegant solution. Especially if you're not too worried about explaining every tiny detail of the tech in your work.
     
  15. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    You might want to look up Alcubierre drive

    It's sort of the concept of a warp drive, though Rodenberry created the warp drive before the Alcubierre Metric.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  16. TheTrain
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    Yeah, there's some theories about actually bending space. For example, if you have to travel in a straight line from point A to point B it takes X amount of time. However, if you move point B to point A, then it's instantaneous. It's not FTL, it's something else. The way I would do it is to have gates for different areas of space, and two gates connect between each other so flying a starship through one takes you to another. There could even be a way to tell the gate where you want to go before entering and some gates are off limits and require access codes...which would make for an interesting point in the story when the main character has to break the law to save the galaxy. XD

    Everything has been done before, the gates have been done before in movies and games, but don't be worried about that. It's good that it's been done before because then people are familiar with it and it makes sense to them; you don't have to break new ground, just dig a little extra where it's already been broken and do something slightly different with a used idea. I'm reminded of a certain South Park episode called "The Simpsons Already Did It". The point was that it was okay that everything had already been done, and even if the Simpsons hadn't done it, someone else did, so it's best to build on what's been done rather than be worried about it. ;)
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Rodenberry did NOT create the concept of the warp drive. He merely popularized a widespread piece of wishful thinking indulged in by many other SF writers. For example, James Blish's spindizzy drive is pretty similar in concept.
     
  18. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I'd completely forgotten about spindizzy, but if memory serves me it's a large scale antigravity drive based on spinning magnetics, even if he used it to exceed light speed, not a spatial compression drive. However I wasn't suggesting that Rodenberry invented the concept of spatial compression drives, just that he took what was only an off the wall theory and converted it into a well worked construct as the warp drive which has become a staple of popular culture. And at present it seems that the Alcubierre Metric is actually theoretically feasible, and that it came after Rodenberry had created Star Trek.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    We'll just have to disagree on that. I don't find the "theory" at all persuasive.
     
  20. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I wasn't really that hopeful either, but I kept a check on warp drives from time to time anyway, and about three weeks to a month ago a whole raft of articles like this one came out suggesting that the drive is not just theoretically possible but also less energy costly than anticipated.

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/09/warp-drive-plausible/

    And since they mention NASA as part of their source information I have to give them some credence.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  21. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I wasn't really that hopeful either, but I kept a check on warp drives from time to time anyway, and about three weeks to a month ago a whole raft of articles like this one came out suggesting that the drive is not just theoretically possible but also less energy costly than anticipated.

    And since they mention NASA as part of their source information I have to give them some credence.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  22. Calint
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    Calint New Member

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    NASA has confirmed that there is a possibility that warp based motion systems are possible, you'd just need a big old ring of exotic matter...which is very hard to make at the moment. As for potential FTL methods...what's to say FTL travel occurs in our universe? Check out Brane Theory ;)
     
  23. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Well, the real problem isn't necessarily getting to Point B faster, but making the time survivable. So other than FTL travel you could always 'suspend' the crew for a long period of time. I just read 'Across the Universe' by Beth Revvis and it was spectacular, because the people on the ship created a new civilization because there were so many new generations on the ship they kind of 'evolved'.

    Bottom line is your imagination. Who cares what is plausible. Who knows what is plausible?

    700 years? That's an eternity. Could you explain to Christopher Columbus how an iPhone works? No. you'd just say, 'Push this button and play Angry Birds'.

    Make it up, throw in a yet-to-be-explained principle, and your done, move on with the actual part of the story that people care about. ;) Good luck!

    J. J.
     
  24. jsipprell
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    When you boil it down there are four possible handwaves used to escape the causality violation placed upon FTL communication by Special Relativity (and FTL travel is really just a specific form of FTL communication). These handwaves are in the form of some extra, currently unknown, property that must be added to the universe(s) to make FTL work.

    • Parallel Universes - The destination of any FTL communication (that would violate causality) occurs in a parallel universe. You can kill your own grandfather, but not in this universe.
    • Causality Protection - The universe disallows causality violation; any attempt to perform such a violation will always fail for at least one reason. If you try to kill your grandfather the gun will jam.
    • Restricted Reference Frames - FTL is restricted in an acyclic fashion. An pre-existing network of wormholes could be posited such that you can never return to a particular origin (all wormholes one-way with no possible patterns that form a circle or some such). Questions about how the network of wormholes was created are problematic. Once you leave you can never return to where your grandfather lived.
    • Special/Universal Inertial Reference Frame - There exists some sort of universal or special reference frame that is shared by all FTL participants i.e. subspace, hyperspace, etc. This reference frame always answers the questions of simultaneity and causality. You cannot go back in time to kill your grandfather because events in subspace are causally linear.

    In scifi the most common handwave is certainly special reference frame. Warp drive obviously uses it, as does "space folding" as the "now" of two points in space-time folded on to each other must be in the same reference frame in order to have any meaning. SRF is in direct conflict with General Relativity so it's a particularly bad candidate for the required magic.

    Wormholes typically don't use SRF, but they are also the easiest form of FTL to convert to time machines (just take one end of the wormhole and accelerate to relativistic speeds, traveling in a giant circle and you have a time machine when you return to the origin). Wormholes are thus probably the least plausible mechanism without some significant restrictions such as pre-establishment and immobility.​

    Parallel Universes might be difficult to use in terms of plot continuity; at least as an FTL hand wave.

    Some forms of Restricted Reference Frames have the origin problem mentioned above (who built the network of stargates?). Other naturalistic forms are actually specific applications of Causality Protection (some attribute of the universe prevents you from "jumping" back to your origin).

    Causality Protection is probably the least problematic. There is some theoretical basis for such mechanism, but only at the quantum level (and elevating quantum principles to the macroscopic world should be a capital offense). It does raise some issues in the arenas of Free Will and determinism.

    It should be noted that there are some FTL schemes that don't run afoul of SR. For example, superluminal travel to a region of space-time that is completely outside the origin's light cone. That is to say disconnected from the origin, such as an area of the universe which is so far away and moving so fast that light from it will never reach the origin. This may place too great a restriction to be useful in story-telling.

    Finally there is the option of dropping causality -- perhaps with some sort of assertion that causality is an illusion created by perception. Unfortunately, this does raise the ugly issue of needing some type of shared objective reality which is substantial and reasonable enough to support an actual story plot. I'm not sure how you do that without causality -- or rather, how you handle characters experiencing what they perceive as causality violations.
     
  25. jsipprell
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    Extrauniverse (whatever that means) postulates like "Brane Theory" are just Special Inertial Reference Frame handwaving dressed up. Anything "extra" in this fashion posits some sort of special unique reference frame shared by FTL participants in order to avoid the relativity of simultaneity problem created by Special Relativity (i.e. there is no universal "now"). Seeing as Relativity requires that all inertial reference frames be equally valid and interchangeable there cannot be some magical, special, universal (or "meta") frame.
     

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