1. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    The 4 [3...?] Fundamental Forces of Physics? [Sci-fi]

    Discussion in 'Research' started by BoddaGetta, Sep 7, 2012.

    In my slightly soft science fiction universe, characters are learning how to utilize the fundamental forces of physics: gravity, electromagnetism, strong interaction (strong nuclear force), and weak interaction (weak nuclear force).

    I'm reaching a block as to how a person in a technologically-advanced universe would go about using such forces of nature. I recall reading the following about a popular sci-fi's methodology of using at least gravity:
    Sounds nice and plausible, but I'd rather brainstorm something else without outright copying this method of manipulation. Also, I need a way to use all of the forces of physics. Separately is fine. Perhaps a way of manipulation on the quantum level?

    Also, are the four fundamental forces now three because of the recent discovery of the Higgs Bosen particle? I'm not sure I quite understand how it affects these things.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think the Higgs boson (sic) means strong vs weak nuclear forces will go away as concepts. Also, so-called "dark matter" is looking more and more like a fifth fundamental force, one that only dominates at interstellar/intergalactic scales.

    And that leads to the other point about the "fundamental forces". Really, these are different terms in the complex equation of state that defines all the attractive/repulsive force in the universe. Some terms (the strong and weak nuclear forces) dominate at extremely tiny scales (subatomic), some dominate on the everyday scale we are familiar with (electromagnetic and gravitational), and some only show their effects at extremely large scales (gravitational to dark matter attraction).

    I'll be perfectly frank. Your explanation sounds like the worst kind of technobabble since H.G. Wells' Cavorite. Element 0 is preposterous in itself, and you've dragged in everything but kitchensinkium on top of it. Unfortunately, it;s not even clever enough to be good comedy. You're far better off with no explanation at all.
     
  3. whiskeyjameson
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    whiskeyjameson Senior Member

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    You and most particle/ quantum physicists. I'd stay away from something like that. Like Cogito said..You're better off with less.
     
  4. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    My quoted explanation was from an established plot and universe already in use by some other media.

    I'm not completely going to do away with manipulation of the forces of physics. It's become a drive to some of my characters, and throughout the story many learn [and some don't] that too much power can lead to bad things. Sometimes [such as with gravity manipulation] things work out for the better, such as quicker space-travel. But more often than not, greedy people get their hands on this power and use it either for terror, control, or other seedy things. I'd rather not completely do away with it.

    Are dark matter and dark energy closely related, at least regarding the forces of physics? I know dark energy drives the entropy of the ever-expanding universe.

    I guess my issue is knowing how much information is too much in a sci-fi novel. I guess I could leave it with vague space-magic, but I like a tad of explanation. Not a full physics lesson. I recently read a novel by Alastair Reynolds that had accurate tech-talk, but a bit too much. It wasn't that he presented it in a way that I didn't understand, just that there were a couple of paragraphs of fluff before the meat of the story. And then there's Star Wars, a story with characters I love, but The Force is one of those space magic concepts. They did try to explain away with midi-chlorians, but that ruined the Force more than the mystery of how it works, at least imho.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That is very sad.

    By the way, this site requires you to provide proper attribution for any quoted material.
     
  6. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Wow, you guys just totally ripped apart a multi-million dollar video game franchise in three posts. The credit for that goes to "Mass Effect" published by Electronic arts, developed by Bioware.

    I thought they did a good job at inventing an explanation of what was happening in the game. Whether it is techno babble or not is sold far more copies than most books. Also there is a popular book series that spawned off of it.

    Which illustrates this point. Science Fiction doesn't need to have actual science in it to be successful. It just needs to sound like it has actual science. Or, just state what kind of sci-fi things are happening and leave it up to the reader to figure out whats going on. If you want to have forces of physics manipulated in your story, go for it. I'm sure you can figure out a way to make it sound good at least.
     
  7. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    I prefer science fiction that includes things we cannot prove nor disprove, but nothing that we can actually disprove. Don't get too detailed with your made-up science. Tell me you have a warp drive, but don't tell me that it uses a toroidal flux of Higgs bosons. Just give us enough to make us think the characters understand it but the reader doesn't.
     
  8. BBBurke
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    BBBurke Member

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    There's a big difference between a physics explanation in a video game and one in a science fiction novel. People actually read the novel and the whole point is what the words say. People in video games like to shoot each other. As a physicist (who's had a class with Prof. Higgs), I totally agree with Cogito's assessment of that statement.

    But that's not to say that it couldn't work in a book. As has been said before, the important thing is that the rules you set up for your world are consistent. If you have lots of ridiculous science explanations and you realize they are ridiculous (and your story doesn't take them seriously), then it could work. But if you want any sort of realistic 'vibe' then you need to get the basics of science much better or you should avoid explanations completely. Any explanation of future science is ultimately unrealistic since we can't really do that yet. But there are different levels of plausibility and different degrees of effort that go into convincing the reader.

    My advice is to make sure you know as much as you can about what you're trying to write about, but only go into detail that you feel is simple relative to that knowledge. That means if you know your s#@t real well you can provide some explanation. If you don't know it, don't try.

    And for the record, the Higgs boson merely confirmed theory that has existed for decades. It doesn't actually suggest anything new. There are ultimately two fundamental forces: gravity and electric/weak/strong which are unified at high energy. At least that's what we know right now.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    By the way, the science fiction market is loaded with physics experts and students. If your science is BS, they will call you on it. Larry Niven has a pretty decent knowledge of physics, but he made a significant blunder in the orbital mechanics of the Ringworld. In his case, he was able to turn the blunder into a key plot element of a follow up novel, The Ringworld Engineers.

    Always respect your readers. BSing them insults their intelligence. They will nail you on innocent mistakes, but they will generally respect you for all efforts at realism and signs of actual research.
     
  10. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    Not being nit-picky, but this game is an RPG, a genre of game way different from things like Call of Duty. Most of the time I use biotics or tech abilities and don't even shoot a gun. 1/2 the trilogy's gameplay is dialogue, NPC interactions, and cutscenes. I also linked a VERY GENERAL description of how "space magic" works in the video game's universe. I actually liked it because it reminded me so much of the old Star Trek [and NG] in the talky-techy aspect. And like Cog said, even though the explanation might be ludicrous, it's consistent within its universe and is only expanded on if the player/reader desires. Such as these codex entries.

    Sorry, got off on a tangent. So if I found some cohesive way of simply explaining--if an explanation is even needed--it wouldn't be completely awful for the physics to be...slightly made up? I'm not trying to write a dissertation. I'm more interested in my characters' interactions within my story's universe, rather than entertaining a possible PhD physics professor that will probably never read this. I'm brainstorming, not publishing. Is it bad to write a character-driven science fiction story?

    I am a biology graduate student at a university. I enjoy Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park series, even though some of the genetics in it is a bit far-fetched. I doubt he went through multiple genetics courses and labs at a university. If every author had to do that for a good book, I don't think many would finish their novels! I'm not trying to be lazy about research by any means. It's one of the reasons I posted this thread.

    I guess I could do away with this manipulation of physics altogether, but its power is one of the main driving forces of one of my characters, and has also caused some obstacles for other characters to overcome. I still want to make it slightly believable, even if it does have some made-up aspects within the science of the story.
     
  11. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I think it sounds like a neat idea. (I use something similar in one of my stories, though it's a fantasy setting so I can get away with some inaccuracy.) My biggest bit of advice is to read particle physics. At first you won't understand it very well, but if you're like me, at some point it'll 'click' and start making sense.

    Here's my understanding of the four fundamental fources:

    Electromagnetism - this and gravity are the two longer range forces. Electromagnetic force can attract or repel, and the two polarities cancel out. It also only affects certain kinds of matter. Certain particles have positive or negative charge, the most common being the negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons. Other particles, like neutrons, are neutral charge, and are unaffected by electromagnetic forces.

    Gravity - this one is an oddball one. It only attracts, never repels, and as a result it can't be blocked. However, it's force is incredibly weak compared to the others, so it's essentially only important in the large scale, not the small scale. It's also weird because it bends spacetime, which is essentially how it pulls things. Kind of like a funnel, from what I understand.

    Strong nuclear force - this one is the 'glue' that holds together atoms. It's the reason that however many protons and neutrons will stick together and be an atom (and then electromagnetic force from the positive protons attracts electrons to orbit the atom nucleus).

    Weak nuclear force - this one is what tears atoms apart in nuclear fission. It's another oddball, because while all the other forces are symmetrical (it's just as likely for the force to pull left as right, that sort of thing) it's asymmetrical. It's thought that this asymmetry is the reason the universe exists, because it gives matter a slight advantage over antimatter, which accounts for the preponderance of matter over antimatter in the universe.

    I won't claim I'm an expert on particle physics, by the way. This is just from my reading of the topic.
     

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