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Library: general post-light travel, theory and practice


Author: Ran
Date:Sep 19 1997

  There has been some babbling or debate about "faster than light" travel. 
This book attempts to explain some of the fundementals behind post-light
travel.  Please not that this is only one method of post-light travel.  While
other methods do exist, of those that are well known this is generaly
considered the simplest and most efficient.
  First, you have to understand the difference in ship engines.  A typical
"rocket" engine propells the craft forward by ejecting hot gas.  This is
typically made by mixing and igniting combustible elements, such as hydrogen
and oxygen.
  Regardless of how neat people here think they are, the main problem with
these engines is that the speed of the reactive thrust is relatively very
slow.  This means that a lot of mass must be used to achieve much of an effect
on the craft's velocity.  And this is reflected on the amount of fuel stored
and the engines poor fuel-efficiency.  Measured on the "e = mc^2" efficiency
equation, these engines are less than .0001% efficient in terms of the mass of
fuel they use.  
  In theory, an engine that propells a smaller amount of mass at a higher
velocity would be much better.  One simple way of doing this is by particle
accleration.  A single charged particle, such as an "alpha-particle" (helium
nuclei) is accelerated to at least half the speed of light, and then leaves
the engine.  The energy required to do this, per mass of ion, is rather high. 
And particle accelerators are large and massive, as well as precision devices
that do not take shocks well.  So in general, such a setup is impractical.
  Fusion is a "power-generation" method that works by forcing two atoms of low
"atomic-bonding-energy" together to form a single atom of higher
atomic-bonding-energy.  This typically results in the release of high energy
"photon" (light), as well as other particles left over form the combining of
two atomic nuclei.  For instance, a thermo-nuclear bomb combines two isotopes
of hydrogen in great number to cause a massive release of energy, in the form
of both photons (light) and nuetron-radiation.  
  Hydrogen is a plentiful atom that has a low atomic-bonding-energy.  As
hydrogen is combined to form Helium via Fusion, the strength of the
atomic-bonding increases, and the difference in energy is released in the form
of a high-energy photon.  
  Hydrogen has three isotopes, ordinary Hydrogen (no nuetrons), Duetronium
(single nuetron), and Tritium (2 nuetrons).  While they all exist in
equilibrium, Duetronium is less common than Hydrogen, and Tritium is
radioactive and less common than Duetronium.  Because of its radioactivity,
Tritium eventually degrades even in storage.  So for typical power generation,
Duetronium-Duetronium fusion is safe and widely used.
  Duetronium-Tritium fusion generates not only a high-energy photon, but also
a high speed neutron, an uncharged particle with an atomic mass of slightly
over "1.0".  The actual speed of the free neutron depends on some other
factors, but is generally very high relative to the gasses emitted from teh
gas-reactive drive described earlier.  The speed of this neutron is generally
between 0.2c and 0.6c, so while the particles mass is only that of a single
for it.  This results in much better fuel-efficiency, and much better
acceleration than the outdated gas-reactive drive.
  These engines are designed in a 'V' shape, with small, low-speed (0.02c to
0.05c) Duetronium and Tritium emitters on either side.  Out the back, the
engine emits high energy photons as well as a high speed neutron.  In addition
to being a propolsion system, it can also double as a weapon-system if the
need arises.
  Different permutations of such systems exist, but the principle is the same.
 By using some of the~d By using some of the atoms inherent atomic energy, it
propels a single (or more) subatomic particle to a high speed, resulting in
very high fuel efficiency (relatively).  While a gas-reactive engine might
take a year of continuos thrust to accelerate to .9c, which is imposible
because of fuel constraints, these engines could accelerate to .9c a matter of
  One dramatic problem with thsi rapid acceleration is that just about
anything, except the ship itself, will get compressed, contorted, and
generally shrunk to pieces.  Accelerations over 4 times standard gravity tend
to be rather uncomfortable for the crew, and ones over 12 to 15G tend to be
fatal to the crew, understandibly not desirable.  Likewise, other equipment on
the ship, such as controls and sensative systems including the drive itself
would be crunched by the rapid and prolonged acceleration.
  One attempt at negating this was a device that generated
"gravity-pathway-notification" particles, the small, hard to detect
'particles' that exist between two objects that have a gravitational force. 
Or, by a different model, the particle/wave that actually warps space
"downward" around massive objects.  The device itself contains an
accelerometer and an emitter controlled by the accelerometer.  But there are
still definate limits, as well as a short time delay between acceleration and
negation.  so you still feel "jolt" (change in acceleration, or a-prime). 
This is why it's still very important to use all the safety restraints
provided on a craft.
  So, at 100-times-standard-gravity acceleration, it would take a few days to
reach .9c, and a few more days to de-accelerate back down to 0c.  Not that
"realitivity", known perhaps as the "theory of special relativity" here,
doesn't start to have a dramatic effect until you reachspeeds far exceeding
.95c, and therefore is of little import at this speed.
  So this covers how high sub-light speeds can be reached.  Next, there is
post-light speeds.

  At speeds around .9c, inter-system travel is simple, you can travel from one
end of a typical system to the other in slightly under 10 "hours".  But this
is no help when traversing great distances, because of all that messy (here
it's called "special relativity") stuff.  The end result of this is that as
you get closer and closer to, or "exceed" the speed of light, the passage of
time gets very skewed.  For instance, if I accelerate to a relative speed of
10c, an outside observer will only see me as going .999+ c, and my time slows
down compared to the passing of time in the outside "world".  This is rather
complex.  But the end result is like this:  If I get in a craft and accelerate
it to .999c, ~d it to a relativistic (what I see my own speed as) speed of
500c, for one,  it only seems to an outside observer that I'm going .999c. 
And if I wait one day and then slow back down, in the world around me, that
wasn't moving at .999c, a great many years or decades could have passed.  So,
feasibly I could take a ship to a star 100 "light-years" away, butand it would
only take me a week or so if my (relativistic) speed was 15 light years per
day, but once I stopped more than 100 years would have passed in the outside
world.  And if someone measured my speed, from either where I left or my
destination, they'd say I was only going .999c or so.  There's the problem.
  Solving this problem was quite a big thing.  There were many attempts, some
wierder than others.  Honestly, people wanted to explore within reasonable
time-frames, and not being able to was very frustrating.  Nobody knew the
answer, but there were a lot of desperate attempts.  Like one famous musician
theorized that all that was needed was really horrible music, and a team of
top scientists tried to create an artificial
"black hole".  But nothing worked. The musician went deaf, and the scientists
died in their experiment.
It was theorized that an object as dense as a black hole could warp the
relative space around it, but testing this theory was practically imposible. 
Other problems, such as how to generate and destroy such a dense object at
will existed.  So the admittedly workable theory was abandoned.  
  As for the bad music, the theory there was a bunch of "bullshit" I won't
even bother to go into.   Also, scientists noted that if it were possible to
exceed lightspeed, we would in a sense be going to the universe the way it
really was now, rather than the way we saw it to be.  And this would create
problems with navigation, since the light you see from a 25-light-year-away
object is its position 25 years ago, not where it currently really is.  There
was a lot of work to try to find a particle / wave, anything, that went faster
than the speed of light.  Even gravity was shown to affect things at the speed
of light.  
  Anyways, the theory went that "space" was like a infinately long and wide
sheet, and that the gravitational bodies were like heavy lead balls, pulling
the section of the sheet down.  An objects locational potential energy is
based on how high up on the sheet it is.  And this kind of thing has to be
redone for different objects, a more massive object has greater differences in
locational potential energy, and some like light, practically mass-less, has
very little difference in locational potential energy.  Anyway, gravity didn't
pull two distant objects closer together, instead it warped the space around
those ~d pull two distant objects closer, instead it actually warps the space
both objects.  No big deal, even here this theory was thought up by some
"einstein" guy or someone as the logical result of general and special
  Anyway, by that theory, a black hole is so heavy it seperates a section of
the sheet from the rest.  So, this is where the theory that said that
generating a black hole so that the "event horizon" surrounded your ship would
"rip" the space around your ship and let you leave the "sheet" or the
locational potential energy 'plane'.  This was imposible to test because even
if a rotating black hole had a finite lifetime, and would eventually disipate,
so a probe could eventually escape from a specially constructed black hole,
the tidal forces (the difference in gravitational attraction between the near
and far end of an object) were simple too great for anything to withstand. 
The only thing that could negate the gravity from a black hole was another
black hole, and if two black holes were placed near each other and the probe
in between them, it would still be torn to pieces by the tidal forces.  The
gravity negation devices standard on ships were of no use since they worked
purely by emitting the opposite of the inertial force they detected, so even
if they were "tuned" to "listen" to the gravity-notification-particle, they
couldn't stop it from affecting the object.  They were also not powerful to
negate the tidal force themselves.
  With all the research being done on black holes for faster-than-light-travel
purposes, there was also a host of research into using black holes for other
purposes.  While a naturally occuring black hole is many, many times the mass
of a typical sun, a manufactured one was far under that, and very short-lived.
A black hole was manufactured with the help of a "defensive grid", detailed in
the book "combat."  The main reason for being so short-lived is that as the
very destructive object was released, and started "sucking up" matter, it
would start to spin faster and faster and eventually break apart of expand due
to centrifugal force.  Part of the reason has to due to with the fact that
nothing went straight into the black hole, it always came in at a slight
angle.  And once the object starts to spin, it continually "warps" the space
around it, causing the matter it sucks up to form more of a spiraling path
rather than a straight one.  This makes the black hole rotate faster and
faster.  When the object finally collapses (loses it's critical density), it
was spinning extremely fast for something its size, on the order of a
million(?) or so rotations a second.  Since black holes were generated at the
nuetron-level, there was no need to worry about generating a mini-supernova or
something really nasty like that.  
  Anyways, about 24 large ships were built, which, all working properly
together could form a black hole and then pull back.  The main importance of
this was not for weapon technology, but someone's idea that you could form an
artificial planet by "firing" a black hole through a large gas giant planet if
it came out the other side before it broke down.  If the calculations were
done properly, the planet could be put into a proper orbit about the same
distance away from the sun as our home planet (too hard to spell out).  The
black hole had to be generated at a very fast speed relative to the gas giant,
since it would be slowed down tremendously once it started absorbing matter
off the gas giant.  There were a few botched attempts that sent the newly made
"planets", which consisted of a many different elements, rather than just
hydrogen, helium, and other light gasses that made up gas giants, into the sun
where they were promptly engulfed.  But once all the math behind it was
perfected and the process actually became workable, two new planets were made
and put into the same orbit (minor adjustments had to be made) of my home
planet.  That were named something close to "UO" and "UA".  
  The reason this is important to post-light travel is because it easily
allowed the creation, on a large scale, of any element from nothing more than
a few light gasses.
This allowed the creation of stronger, denser elements with different
properties.  Likewise, there was also advancements in the
acceleration-negation-devices, that allowed accelerations of around 200 so
long as the "jerk" (change in acceleration) was kept low.   Properly built
probes were used to do "broken-space-physics-research" (in contrast to
"bent-sapce-physics-research", and a lot of theory was finally developed using
manufactured short-lived black holes.  Since the probe entered the event
horizon of the black hole, no communication was possible until the black hole
dissipated naturally.  Research indicated that a single black hole actually
broke and joined the space around it, in a rather complex fashion. 
Controlling how it does this isn't feasible until you have multiple black
holes interacting with each other, and you can vary the mass of each.  Using
this theory, huge semi-portable generators were built that generated a
variable-mass (the mass can be increased, but not decreased) black holes. 
Tests were performed far enough away from the system, and at high enough
speeds that the frequent accidents didn't matter that much.  There was still
one major problem, that the black hole itself, and hence the meteriel carried
around to make it in the first place, was so massive that it caused the ship
to be quite sluggish.  So it very much hampered the ships acceleration. 
Likewise, using the "black-hole-drive" (as it was called) inside the system
caused undesirable effects, as did moving around such a heavy ship within the
system.  The planetary orbits had already been skewed and corrected enough,
but if space was split between a planet the planet could theoretically end up
in multiple pieces, which is highly undesirable.  So, it was assumed that the
ship would have to accelerate normally and get a safe distance away from the
system before using the "black hole drive", and as heavy as the ships weighed,
this was just taking much too long.  Far-orbital space stations were built far
from the last planet in the system, but even if a ship were to find a system
they wanted to explore, or one that was inhabited and they wanted to invade,
all they could do is sail by at a very high speed, since stopping such a heavy
thing would take forever.  So, the only current workable solution was for the
huge ship to be built at a speed of about .95c, going in the direction you
wanted it to go.  It was assembeled by many smaller ships, each carrying a
small piece of the necessary matter, and construction was long and ardous. 
When it finally got to the destination system, it would eject a small probe
which would then de-accelerate and explore the system.  And the huge ship was
wasted, it just went sailing off into space.  
  This was also extremely wasteful of natural resources.  Every time an
artifical planet was generated and "mined" for its elements, the gas giant
lost a significant amount of gas, and it's orbit often had to be corrected. 
So, only one of these ships were built.
  So the final thing that made "post-light travel", as we know it today,
possible is that drives even better than the "fusion drive" were generated,
and an "grid" technology (see the book "combat") was improved.  A craft could
generate a huge but weak "grid" that was funnel-shaped and larger than a small
moon.  If enough power was avaliable, the size of the thing was limitless,
governed only by the power used.  This grid could be used to collect "free
gas" (mostly hydrogen) that's sitting around in space.  Except in a nebula,
there isn't a terrible amount of "free gas", estimated about 1 atom per square
kilometer, so going to an extremely fast speed and waiting a while is
necessary.  But, this matter can be collected and fed to the black hole
generators, and then ejected when no longer needed.  So, the
"accelerate-to-post-light" procedure follows.
  1) Leave system, get at least three times away from the sun that the
farthest planet is.  2) Continue accelerate, and deploy "funnel grid" to begin
collecting the "free gas".  3) The gas collected by the "funnel grid" will
slow you down, you'll need to keep the drive on full to maintain a high speed.
4) Wait until "black hole drive" has collected enough matter.  Currently, this
generally takes several hours at .95 to .99c.  5) Engage "black hole drive",
keep standard drive at full power.  6) Halfway to destination, turn ship
around (backwards) and keep standard drive at full power, slowing you down. 
7) When close to destination, disable the "black hole drive" and dump the
extra mass.  8) De-accelerate normally, enter destination system.

NOTE:  While "free gas" is generally a renewable resource, if you use it up
faster than its renewed, you will cause problems for everyone, since ships
will have to go out further and further from the system, and therefore spend
longer, to collect enough "free gas" to engage the "black hole drive".  So
it's considered polite and "responsible" to dump a probe along with the extra
matter when you dump the extra matter to disable the "black hole drive".  The
special probe will alert a nearby "garbage control survey ship", if possible,
and break it back down into free gas.  Even if there are no nearby "garbage
control ships", you should still dump the probe along with it so someone can
reclaim it later if they so wish.  

Please not that there is generally no communication once you engage the black
hole drive.  Also, typical communication with faraway places requires high
speed probes, since even "compressed" or "dense" radio signals travel no
faster than the speed of light.  In some places, networks of probes exist, but
in other places (like most) you must send your own, if you wish to

This book written by Ran.