1. Valery Faye
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    Valery Faye Member

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    The laws of physics - thrown out the window

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Valery Faye, Aug 4, 2015.

    Hi, all!

    I'm used to writing fantasy, but have recently developed an interest in writing science fiction.

    The story I'm about to describe is probably more like a space fantasy (I'll get to sci-fi eventually!). Anyway, in my story, there are these omni-dimensional, omni-universal beings who basically police the universe. Though, they won't bother interfering with anything smaller than an interplanetary conflict. (For example, one character asks why they didn't interfere during either of the World Wars.)

    So, these creatures are pretty much exempt from the laws of physics, and I made it that way on purpose. But the biggest thing is that they can travel faster than the speed of light. I know that might be too cliche, but it was the only way I could think of for them to travel back and forth between their assigned planets and their birth nebula.

    I was more okay with their travel speed until one of them took a human along as a passenger. So. The laws don't affect these beings, but they'll still affect humans, no matter what. Once the human character realizes how fast they're going, he freaks out - because 1. light speed is the universal speed limit, 2. the closer you approach this limit, the slower your time/age is relative to everything else 3. he has no idea what happens to something if they were to ever break that limit.

    In the end, he's okay, though. And I kind of ignored that fact that as fast as he was going, thousands of years would have passed by the time he returned to Earth.... But would you buy this at all? As silly as it sounds, I'm a little worried about the "believeability." Should I restrict these omni-dimensional beings a little?

    Or am I thinking about this too hard? -.-
     
  2. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Q in Star Trek may provide a pattern or a starting point for your characters. He can move people around instantaneously, which is much faster than the speed of light.

    http://en.memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Q_%28species%29
     
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  3. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Well this is probably much more science than you want, but here goes:
    The reason you can't go faster than light has to do with this guy here E=mc^2 and I'm sure you know this. This is the part that matters c^2. Because the speed of light is constant, when you go faster it flips to a negative number. Then when you square root it your mass become an imaginary value. No one really has any idea what it would mean if your mass were imaginary, but that doesn't mean that your character can't find out.

    But it gets better! Because negative mass could theoretically move at faster than light speeds! It has a whole bunch of other (incredibly) theoretical properties as well, such as moving in the opposite direction of any positive force put upon it. No mater what you did to it, it would be completely impossible to move. There's no reason your space police couldn't be made of negative matter, and that opens up a huge well of opportunities for you.
     
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  4. Valery Faye
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    Valery Faye Member

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    Ah! Thank you! That is definitely worth getting into, and that is exactly what I needed :D
     
  5. Valery Faye
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    Valery Faye Member

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    But there's still one thing - What about the passage of time relative to his time? How can I make it so that when he returns to earth, he isn't thousands of years into the future?
     
  6. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Well I'm just spinning bullshit here, but I imagine that when he flipped his mass imaginary it would only have been affected by anti-time. So he couldn't age or change in time, because there isn't any anti-time (in this universe ((that we know of))).
     
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  7. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The way I prefer to explain it is that the speed of light is a constant that is independent of the inertial frame of reference of the observer. Which is illustrated by this thought experiment:

    Scenario 1: you are standing still on a path. Someone is running 2 m/s on this path. He is moving 2 m/s relative to you.

    Scenario 2: you are walking 1 m/s on a path. Someone is running 2 m/s on this path, in the same direction. He is moving 1 m/s relative to you.

    Scenario 3:

    Turn on a flashlight and lay it horizontally on the edge of a table. Stand still. The light waves are moving 299,792,458 m/s relative to you.

    Now start walking 1 m/s in the direction of the light waves. You would think the light waves are now going 299,792,447 m/s relative to you, but in fact, they are still going at 299,792,458 m/s relative to you.

    Now start running 2 m/s. The light waves still go 299,792,458 m/s relative to you. Now start running 3 m/s. Still the same.

    In fact, no matter how many times you speed up by 1 m/s, the light waves will still be going 299,792,458 m/s relative to you. Therefore, there is no way to "catch up" to the light waves.

    Which is, of course, counter-intuitive, and that is part of why I like this explanation. Niels Bohr said "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it" and I think the same applies to relativity, to a lesser extent.
     
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  8. Valery Faye
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    Valery Faye Member

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    I am endlessly shocked by quantum physics. -.- But thanks for the thought experiments~

    Also, is it known as to why the light waves behave that way and why we can never "catch up"?
     
  9. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    That's were the whole relativity part happens.
    Pretend you were on a train, traveling one mile an hour less than the speed of light. On this train is pitching legend Aroldis Chapman with his 100 mph pitching speed. A terrorist stands up to take over the train and Aroldis throws a rock to knock him out and save the day.

    But that ball can't break the speed of light, so it breaks the universe instead. The ball leaves his fist, and the space in between the ball and the terrorist stretches while time slows down. The ball takes 99 hours to travel from the pitcher to his head, where it knocks him out.
     
  10. Valery Faye
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    Valery Faye Member

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    Holy hell.
    So.... to the ball, the travel time is 99 hours. But to the terrorist, is it still 99 hours?

    (I'm sorry for all the questions~ I'm just very curious)
     
  11. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Ah, I see your problem. To the people on the train it happens in a split second. In actual time (or that is, time relative to people at rest ((or at rest as one can be stuck on a rock hurtling in multiple directions through space))) it takes much longer. Remember that the train is moving at near light speed, so time is contracting to deal with that just as much as with the thrown baseball. The relativistic time differnce happens at any speed, it's only measurable near the speed of light. There are a bunch of equations I don't know in order to figure it out, but it would be several hundred years.
     
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  12. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The best answer I have ever managed to get is "it just is that way." Einstein proposed the idea to solve the mathematical problems of how physics was understood at the time. (This was the beginning of his development of his theory of special relativity.) When we make that assumption, the math works. And it is consistent with every observation ever made. Therefore, we believe it is true, at least until it is disproven.
    Very slightly different thought experiment to answer that question:

    Two spaceships, A and B, are floating side by side in space with their thrusters off. Spaceship B turns its thrusters on. Later, B is moving away from A at almost the maximum possible speed. B turns its thrusters off. Now, B is drifting through space at a constant (and extremely high) speed away from A.

    Aroldis Chapman is in spaceship A and Bob Feller is in spaceship B. (Using alphabetical names here.) Each one throws a ball as fast as he can at wall 100 feet away.

    In Aroldis' frame of reference, Aroldis' ball hits the wall less than a second after Aroldis throws it. In Aroldis' frame of reference, Bob's ball hits the wall a long time after Bob throws it.

    In Bob's frame of reference, Bob's ball hits the wall less than a second after Bob throws it. In Bob's frame of reference, Aroldis' ball hits the wall a long time after Aroldis throws it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2015
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  13. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I say this whenever subjects like this come up - but it sounds like the genre you're writing in is "Space Opera" (a la Star Wars/Star Trek) - which can play far looser with physics than Hard Sci-Fi. I mention it primarily because Space Opera comes with it's own sets of tropes that differ both from fantasy and Hart SF (or rather stradle both) and is worth a little research to see how others execute it. Space Opera uses a lot of "Handwavium" to cover physical limitations - meaning the insertion of pseudo-scientific techno-babble to make it SOUND like there's science behind the technology when really there isn't - whereas in Fantasy you can just dismiss physics with magic, and in Hard SF you can't dismiss physics at all. The classic stereotypical example of Handwavium use is Star Trek's constant mention of the "inertial dampeners failing" whenever the ship gets hit by a phaser blast. No one knows what an inertial dampener is or how it works, and it's never explained. BUT the existence of said device is a wink and a nod to the fact that, in the real world, the law of inertia would hurl everyone against the back wall of the bridge every time the ship jumps to warp speed. Hence, referencing an "inertial dampener" is a way of telling the more scientifically inclined audience members, "Yes, we get that it doesn't work, but just roll with us here." (Although some day in some Star Trek movie, I would love to see a catastrophic inertial dampener failure...just saying..).

    So, young padawan, learn handwavium you must! (See what I did there...)
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2016
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  14. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    ...and to your actual question. I wouldn't restrict your omni-dimensional beings. If you want you character to return to his own time unharmed, then obviously your beings need to exist outside time and be able to manipulate it. Whoever said Q in Star Trek is your example hit the nail on the head. Q actually pulled this stuff off on multiple occasions. You might also look at the concept of "The Nexus" in the movie Star Trek: Generations. The Nexus was a moving temporal distortion, and once someone was inside it, they were able to get off at any point along Nexus' route, either where it had been or where it WOULD GO. Past and future were both options. They used this to plausibly facilitate a meeting between Captains Kirk and Picard - who in the Star Trek Universe exist in different centuries - and I thought they pulled it off well.

    Also if you're playing with temporal distortions and beings that exist outside time, you can solve your light-speed/time-movement problem by asserting that he actually HAS moved forward thousands of years in time - but then the beings put him back where he started after showing him some cool momentary future revelation or whatever.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2016
  15. Valery Faye
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    Valery Faye Member

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    Thanks everyone, so much ^___^

    If I come across more questions - and I'm sure I will - you'll see me pop up again ~.~

    Lastly none of you would happen to be interested in beta reading at all, would you? I could read and critique a work of yours in return :3
     
  16. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Just a thought. But what if your hyper beings weren't actually travelling faster than the speed of light. What if they were simply shifting dimensions - stepping outside the universe for a bit - and when they stepped back in it was somewhere else? Your passenger was merely brought with them.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  17. Valery Faye
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    Valery Faye Member

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    That's also a pretty solid idea ^__^
     
  18. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    My reading schedule is already overloaded so I can't alpha or beta read a whole book - but I can certainly look over individual scenes or chapters if you're looking for specific feedback.
     
  19. Valery Faye
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    Valery Faye Member

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    I'll keep that in mind :)
     
  20. Masterspeler
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    Masterspeler Active Member

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    I love the idea. One of those where I wish I could write about it (I may do, but for therapeutic reasons. I do love writing for me and me alone. I hope you wont hate me. Maybe I shouldnt have mentioned that, I just thought some flattery would be nice. I know I love getting some)

    The thing I wanted to say is just because a theory says something doesnt mean that A) it can't be broken B) can't be bent or C) is right to begin with. There are a LOT of holes in relativity. I wont go into them (but will gladly go over to anyone that will challenge me to fisticuffs lol. Usually though it's those that are not educated in physics or math that do so) but there are a few simple examples to throw doubt, and a few even simpler explanations to certain events (Like clocks that move out of sync).

    The idea of these beings able to move instantly or slip in and out and through dimensions is a good one. Think of the flat landers Alice and Bob in a 2D world and how we might seem to travel instantly from one side of the paper to the other. So multi dimensional beings (that instil order and such, like Q or the Founders) could conceivably do so.

    Besides, sci-fi can be the first step. Its why Microsoft is working on holodecks or even warp drive that was proposed by Alcubierre, a prof down in Mexico. He freely admits to being inspired by Roddenberry's notions from Star Trek. So who knows, maybe something you write would inspire the next major breakthrough in physics! (Why do I sound so...preachy or I dont know. I guess I'm upset with academia and how physics is a popularity contest. Nothing new is every accepted if it challenges current notions, and the only answer given is because that's how it works which as a mathematician I find unacceptable!)

    AB
     
  21. Adrian Perron
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    Adrian Perron New Member

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    I like this idea because in a way I agree.
    I dislike light speed barrier, I read the science and I (more or less) understand it. However I find it illogical. I do not even care to concern myself with why is it time is what changes as opposed to light? We can not create time, but we can create light. We can control light and change its direction. Absorb it and release it, but time is more or less constant.

    I say that the light speed barrier is a myth because: In the calculations for velocity and speed it is a variable. Also because IF you move at FTL speed you would leave point A - TAKE TIME - then arrive at point B later than you left point A, THEN you would leave point B - again take time - then arrive at point A at a later time than you LEFT point B = Thus a later time than you left point A. You would not incur a paradox. We (assume) that time changes inverse of velocity because of atomic clocks differing between Earth and satellites. Yet it is a fact that gravity distorts time and space thus could account for the difference in time as well as the curving of light.

    True light moves at a constant, as all waves do. However I see no reason to assume that it is equally impossible for a physical object made of matter to be limited in this manner. The closest explanation I have heard for the physical limitation is because at the speed of light, matter would begin to lose cohesion due to the propagation of the waves which hold matter together. Thus you would turn into atomic dust at the speed of light.

    Now I can see, of course, that the relative viewpoint of time may appear slower / faster depending on speed as your perception / reception of light and thus information is changed drastically based on your speed relative to light. However I do not see this as affecting the actual velocity at which you travel. As such I have a hard time supporting FTL as impossible.

    These are all my own thoughts and ideas. I am a dreamer and I am aware some may think me ignorant to believe in a possible universe, but I refuse to decide that earth is the greatest distance that humanity will reach. I believe in the beyond. Just because we have not discovered the method or the result does not make it impossible.
     
  22. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    Going off what others said above re: the Q from Star Trek: this is one way to do it, namely, have your beings powerful enough not only to break the laws of physics, but to insulate themselves and anyone else from the consequences of breaking the laws of physics. After all, if you're going to throw some of the rules out the window, why not all of them?

    The only downside to this is that you risk the "over-powered" phenomenon, where if they can literally do anything that you can imagine, then why don't they? Why don't they resolve all the conflicts driving your plot before your characters are even aware of them, etc. You could solve this problem by giving them some kind of alien psychology, where we don't and can't know why they do or don't do things, but then you have to stick with that, and not have them become a deus ex machina at the very end after a whole book of acting totally unpredictably.

    Anyway, not saying it can't be done, just some things to think about.
     
  23. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    "The laws of physics - thrown out the window" - just ignoring the whole FTL discussion for a moment and referencing the thread title directly, I would appreciate some thoughts on one specific aspect of "The Martian". The story was written by an engineer I believe and he kept things as real as possible I think, and I really don't remember exactly how the book wrote the scene I am concerned with, my memory of the movie is much fresher. Towards the end, the Martian propels himself towards another astronaut to be hauled in with a hole in his suit. In my opinion, even overlooking the lack of a nozzle* to control the air flow, I don't think there would be enough propulsion to actually significantly move his body. I am thinking purely of Newtonian physics, the force exerted by the escaping air is very small and almost insignificant compared to the force needed to move the mass of the Martian himself.

    PS: Sorry about saying Martian, too lazy to look up his character name.
    * - "October Sky" has permanently changed my understanding of nozzle, that is a great story BTW
     
  24. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    No, you clearly do not.
     
  25. Masterspeler
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    Masterspeler Active Member

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    @Adrian Perron , I'm not sure I understand your stance. Movement is very tough to describe (one of the toughest if you ask me) without relying on Newtonian concepts at the macro level. Anything at the quantum level (quarks, light, any standard model object) moves by apparently random rules.

    When I say that I dont buy the light speed barrier, I mean it in the sense of practically getting from star A to B in a reasonably amount of time, not that matter or light could travel above 300.000 km/s. I dont know if I understood the break down to dust argument you made. There arent any analogies to use, so don't feel bad about that lol.

    In fact the only thing that "goes" over c would be the initial expansion of the universe after the big bang, and even that gets fuzzy in terms of "visualizing" since it relies on relativity.

    AB
     

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