By Professor 'Big Al' Jebbrah, Physics Dept.
Underground Martian Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) 3198
Chapter 1. The Basics
The hyperspace drive (HSD) is the only means of practical interstellar travel. Put in layperson's terms the hyperspace field generator creates a bubble of normal space which conducts a phase transfer into a transdimensional state.
This is known, colloquially, but rather inaccurately, as 'entering hyperspace'. Once in hyperspace, the drive alters the 'shape' of the normal space bubble containing the ship, so that it alters its dimensional parameters over time. This is analogous to movement in normal space, but much faster. Within the bubble, the physical laws of normal space continue - meaning that a ship can continue to accelerate or decelerate whilst in hyperspace, and can exit hyperspace in any orientation relative to the start position.
This technology has been developed to the maximum theoretical speed, which approximates to 1 parsec per day. That's roughly 1,200 times the speed of light, which is itself about 300,000 kilometres a second. So a vessel in hyperspace is travelling at 36 million km/sec. That's very fast. To give you an idea, if a vessel travelling at that speed were able to enter the Sun's gravity well (which it is not) it would cover the distance from Earth to the Sun in just over four seconds. Earth to Saturn would be less than one minute. The reason this cannot happen is
The M25 Limit
There is a limitation on the operation of hyperspace drives, that arises from part of the mathematical theory underpinning the operation of the drive. The key physical constant is known, in the maths, as M25 - and the limitation imposed by this constant as the 'M25 Limit'. This presents an operational minimum distance from a large mass that the drive will work safely.
Ship cannot operate their hyperspace drives within the M25 limit. Ships that tried this in the past this generally vanished without a trace. The M25 limit is directly proportional to the gravity (g) of the mass concerned.
The calculation M25 = g x 150,000,000 km (or the g in AU)
Eg. Sol has an acceleration due to gravity of approx 260 m/s/s (26g) so the M25 limit for the Solar system is 26 AU.
Any gravitational body, such as planets have an M25 limit (though much smaller) - so Earth would have an M25 of 1 AU (but since it is well within the Sun's M25, this hardly matters). Even asteroids with micro-gravities have small M25 limits - an asteroid with 0.001g would have an M25 of 150,000 km.
When moving through a system - to avoid (or reduce) the chance of collision with debris or rocks, most transits into and out of hyperspace take place well outside the plane of the ecliptic (where most of the matter is to be found). Typically, the transits are at 90o to the plane of the ecliptic, either stellar 'north' or 'south'.
Using the same technology, it is possible to modulate a micro-hyperspace packet, by using the hyperspace field generator that is part of every HSD. Each HS field generator has a unique hyperlynium vibration frequency (HVF). This means that messages can be sent 'to' a specific recipient, provided their HVF is known. These packets can be sent at a speed of 2 parsecs a day, but can only be received by functioning HS field generators. For this reason, all developed systems have one or more Hyperspace Transmission Stations (HSTS) situated just outside the M25 limit of the system. They then receive microwave or laser comms from planets and ships within the M25, and relay them via hyperspace to their destination worlds. The precise location of these small manned stations is often kept a secret, because of their vital strategic role.
' The Belter scientific base on Oberon (the largest moon of Uranus) led by Professor MEK SEMAJ announced in 2856 that they had achieved communication with alien intelligence; and expected to have built a practical superluminal vessel within five years. The resulting BATTLE OF OBERON (2857) to seize control of this technology resulted in the destruction of human presence on the moons of Uranus and much of Professor Semaj's work. It is possible that Semaj succeeded in building a superluminal 'star-ship' and escaping; though this has never been proved. When Peace was restored, the first few Hyperspace Drives (HSDs) were failures; the prototype ships [BIFROST PROGRAMME] managed the transition into high dimensional phase space, (colloquially but inaccurately known as hyperspace) but vanished never to return. It was after two extremely expensive failures that the M25 limit was discovered (and the relationship between the gravity well and HSD). The next five prototype vessels were recovered but their intrepid crews perished.
The first HSDs had an interstellar speed of 1 Light Year per week, or 52 times the speed of light (52c). The process of increasing interstellar speeds has been difficult and expensive, with long periods of no progress; and the approach to the theoretical maximum of 1 parsec (3.25 LY) per day (approx. 1200c) has been a slow and agonising one.
The first communications were by HSD ship carrying messages - it was only in the years from 2890 to 2900 that the technology of the hyperspace field generator as a transmitter was developed - achieving interstellar communication speeds the same as in modern times, i.e. of 2 parsecs/6.5 LY per day.
Following the violence at Uranus, a Peace Conference was held in 2858 and agreed what became regarded as a highly satisfactory and constructive outcome.
UTOPIA CONGRESS of 2858 UC
1. Remaining fragments of Semaj's work to be shared freely between all of Humanity. Communication with the unknown ' alien intelligence' was never officially restored, (although listening has taken place intermittently ever since) but this information led directly to the development of superluminal travel, and communication, by 2870. The first step was the construction of CAMERON STATION, the very first Hyperlynium Accelerator, at Lagrange 5 in earth orbit, which was completed in 2860.
In addition, Semaj had collected clues as to the location of several 'Earth-like' worlds; listed in what became known as the SEMAJ CODEX, this added impetus to a technological race to build practical interstellar vessels and hence colony ships.'
' Technology In 2870 LeTappier's engineering and science team built the first completely successful prototype superluminal ship ('star-ship') 'PROMETHEUS' using Semaj's allegedly alien-inspired theories and new discoveries made by Earther scientists, including hyperlynium from the L5 Accelerator and Chen Kim-Prescott's discovery of the 'M25 limit'. Only a few months after the launch, in 2871, the crew of 'Prometheus' discovered the second earth-like world in the Alpha Centauri system; (1.3 parsecs) it was named 'GUSTAV' in honour of the First Citizen of the Solar system. Euphoria gripped Humanity; but the colony was destined for a sad fate only thirty years after foundation ' ' Its close range to Sol made a colony a very practical proposition, and the newly formed ALPHA CENTAURI COMPANY (predominantly a Japanese and American enterprise) arranged for millions of colonists to move to Gustav. This process was aided by the development of the first pair of Hyperspace Transmitter Stations (HSTS) at the M25 limits of Sol and Alpha Centauri.'
So we can see from the Codd History that by three hundred years ago the key building block components of modern 'superluminal' or as it more often known today, FTL (faster than light) travel had been laid. Since then Progress has been gradual, refining the technology and making it faster, safer and cheaper.
I think it's important to get this bit straight because I know not all of you will be as smart and knowledgeable as what I am. I am dead good at hard sums and I am happy to talk loudly in restaurants because I am never wrong about anything. So:
The Totality of Known Reality (sometimes known as 'The Multiverse' or 'The Space-Time Continuum' or even 'Creation') contains multiple 'hidden' spatial dimensions.
Our Universe (which physicists call 'Normal' or N-space) has twelve dimensions. Three we can see, (up-down , sideways, in-out) and eight hidden ones; 11 of them in total, plus Time as a twelfth.) N-Space has all bar three of the spatial dimensions 'folded up' inside the three we normally experience. These extra dimensions are tacked on to every point of the familiar extended dimensions. In addition, there are a further fourteen spatial dimensions which, while not exactly 'folded', exist in parallel to those of N-Space, and are accessible by way of phase transfer. It is difficult to imagine this, as human brains are not designed to think in more dimensions than our familiar three. Unless of course you're a genius like me.
One way to think of it is to imagine an analogy. Let's say you are a being which lives in a two-dimensional world. Let's imagine you are an intelligent ant and you live on a long string of spherical beads stretched between two mountaintops. You can walk freely left or right but you cannot travel 'up' or 'down', (only round the circumference of each bead, which is so short a distance that you don't perceive it as motion). Although that third dimension exists, you cannot clearly perceive it. Now let's imagine a force exists which can cause one 'bead' to pop loose from the string. If you are standing on that bead, or even inside it if it's a hollow bubble, you will fall down to the earth, or fly up into the sky if the wind catches you. In essence, you will be able to travel through what would previously have seemed to you to be an inaccessible multidimensional matrix. This is (very roughly) what happens when you travel in hyperspace. Although with a bit of luck you can steer your little hyperspace 'bead'! Instead of crawling along that string and then down the mountain's slopes, fly straight down and visit those other ants who live on the ground below you! You clever little ant you!
Another useful analogy is that you are a blind slug who lives on the surface of a cabbage. You can slime about forever and you never realise that there is anywhere else to go. Sad. Then one day a bird picks you up - that's like opening up a folded dimension. The bird swallows you. You now have much less room to crawl - you're inside the bird/bubble - but you can go faster, because as a 'passenger' you can fly! Well, until you get digested, anyway. This is a bit like a phase transfer into hyperspace. If you are so revoltingly slimy that the bird sicks you up, that's like re-entering N-Space. Why are the examples physicists use in pop science books so patronising? Like faster-than-light travel itself, this is one of the Mysteries of the Multiverse.
It is important to realise that, as in the case of the VCR, Humanity is able to make use of the technology of hyperspace without fully understanding how or why it functions.
Firstly, the Hyperspace Field Generator (HFG) activates. This causes a small section of N-Space, centred on the HFG, to be enclosed by a spherical transdimensional field effect- formally a 'LeTappier Transdimensional Phase Transfer Field' but known colloquially as a 'Bubble.' The size of the 'Bubble' is determined by the energy input to the HFG, but it has a theoretical maximum size, with current fusion technology providing energy input, of 102 metres in diameter. The field will usually grow to its maximum extent at a speed of roughly twenty metres a second, or 75 kph, giving a delay from engagement of the HFG of roughly five seconds. While the Bubble grows, it passes 'through' normal matter without any interaction.
B (bubble size) = hK/G+1 = 102m
Where h-bar is the Planck Constant, K is energy input in megajoules, and G is the LeTappier Variable.
It is still a matter of controversy among physicists, but is a possibility, that the 'Bubble' now exists within a Universe with a full 25 extended spatial dimensions; though current technology is able to recognise only eleven of them.
As grisly accidents occasionally show, anything at the boundary of the 'Bubble' when it reaches its maximum size is severed with extreme force. Care must be taken that no astronaut is on the hull when the HFG is engaged
The Bubble does not, strictly speaking, 'exist' in N-space. Technically, it is a 3-D sphere inside a multidimensional object called a Calabi-Yau space; which is (probably) undergoing several billion flop transitions per second. Each flop transition will cause the space-time continuum of the object to tear and reform. External observers will see the vessel apparently 'pop' out of existence and once inside the Bubble the crew may communicate only by 'hyperspace packet' - modulating the hyperlynium vibration of the hyperspace field generator, which can be picked up only by another HFG. The crew are able to detect gravitational fields and it is with these data that they are able to navigate. See Chapter 6 below for more information about what it is like to be inside the Bubble.
Hyperlynium is an essential catalyst in the HSG (Hyperspace Field Generator) and is therefore an essential component of a HSD (Hyperspace Drive) or HSTS (Hyperspace Transmission Station).
A very dense (ten times that of lead) silvery blue metal, it is manufactured from a source of heavy elements by bombarding them with h-neutrinos and Higgs Bosons inside a VHEP (Very High Energy Particle) Accelerator, a very expensive piece of kit usually built in orbit and currently restricted to the Home Worlds.
If the HFG is not linked to a Drive Engine, the Bubble may be very small (e.g. <5cm in diameter) and is used purely as a communications device: the HSTS (hyperspace transmission station). The HSTS operates on a different principle to a Drive Engine because only the propagation of energy is involved; but everything the HSTS can do can also be done by a vessel with a functioning HSD.
The hyperlynium, a mixture of isotopes in a unique combination for each HFG, vibrates, thereby emitting h-neutrinos at a unique frequency. These move at exactly 2Q - and these are broadcast throughout all eleven dimensions in a mode analogous to radio signals in N-space. If the HVF (hyperlynium vibration frequency) of a HSD (a vessel) or HSTS is known, it may be communicated with in absolute security as such signals cannot be intercepted or tapped by any known technology, and indeed tapping is held by many physicists to be utterly impossible.
Those of you who grasp multidimensional objects will realise that the reason that energy travels at double the speed of matter while inside the Calabi-Yau space is that while matter must traverse the diameter of all eleven (or is it 25, pace Ibrahim!) dimensions, even if some of them are at zero, energy radiating from a fixed point can traverse the radius of such a space, thereby halving its journey, or doubling its speed if you will see it that way.
In the case of a Drive Engine, the Bubble is, naturally, made to travel! Drive is engaged and the Bubble very rapidly (within one microsecond) attains its maximum theoretical speed relative to N-Space of Q (1 parsec per day.) This is roughly 1,200 times the speed of light. For many decades this theoretical maximum speed was unobtainable. Fine tuning the Drive controls has led to this incredible speed becoming the norm.
The energy fed into the LeTappier Field causes the Bubble to shoot through the transdimensional flux at a speed of Q and in a direction relative to N-space desired by the pilot. The motion is the result of two forces - positron wave pressure P and h-neutrino flux pressure F - acting at the multidimensional equivalent of right-angles.
Q = K[½P½F] - G
Where Q = maximum speed, K = energy input, G is LeTappier Variable.
It is similar to a sailing ship which progresses with velocity Z because of a balance between two vectors: wind pressure X and keel resistance Y.
Another popular analogy is 'squeezing a lemon-pip between the fingers', causing it to shoot off along the line of least resistance.
The nature of navigation in hyperspace is an immensely involved topic in itself, but in essence it is a matter of selecting the optimum mix from among the 11 sensor-visible (of which 8 normally hidden) dimensions of travel. As you will have realised by now, unless you're a total thickie, the shortest line to navigate through hyperspace linking two points in N-Space is a complex line in 11-dimensional space, though it is still, in a sense, 'straight'. The pilot 'steers' the vessel by a judicious combination of application of raw energy from the fusion generator to the flow of positrons and h-neutrinos through the hyperspace field generator, and keeping a weather eye on local gravitational fields. For, as we shall see below, the 'Bubble' is exquisitely sensitive to gravity.
For reasons that have never been made entirely clear, significant gravitational distortion of the local space-time continuum causes the HFG, and hence the HSD, to fail to operate, or even worse, to malfunction catastrophically. The limit for 'significance' was discovered experimentally, at huge risk, by foolishly intrepid engineer Chen Kim-Prescott. Once it had been discovered, mathematicians demonstrated that owing to the curvature of space, or possibly the total number of dimensions in the Multiverse, this number is a key constant in determining the operation of any hyperspace field, and cannot be ignored or dodged. The limit is known as the 'M25. ' This was either because Kim-Prescott discovered the maximum limit was 25 million gravitons per cubic centimetre per second, or her colleague Gaskin expressed it as a gravity well incline of 1 in 25. Or possibly another physicist called Ibrahim theorised that for the maths to work, hyperspace had to contain 25 dimensions. It matters not and I don't want to take sides in what is a very well-worn controversy, OK?*.
M25 = g x 150,000,000 km (or the g in AU)
Sol has an acceleration due to gravity of approximately 260 m/s/s [metres per second, per second] (26g) so the M25 limit for the Solar system is 26 AU. That of an Earth-sized planet is one AU (though this is usually academic as such worlds are practically always within the M25 of their parent star. More practically, bodies with large M25 limits such as supermassive O or B-class stars, or Black Holes, are major hazards to interstellar navigation. Dense nebulae also pose severe problems as large zones may exist where a vessel is never outside the M25 limit of one or other gas or dust cloud or proto-star.
Another problem is that of microgravity of asteroids and even man-made structures . A large lump of rock, say 50km in diameter, may have an M25 of over 100,000 kilometres, and a large space-station built into a relatively small asteroid (e.g. Welcome!Base® at Disneyworld®) may have sufficient mass-gravity of its own (not to be confused with the 'artifical g' centrifugal force generated by its spin) to make it dangerous to engage HSD within a few kilometres. Luckily, there is a level of mass, just over eight million tonnes, below which mass does not cause an M25 limit. Naturally all HSTS locations and all interstellar space vessels must themselves be below this mass, though it would be impossible in practice to pack so much mass inside an interstellar vehicle's Bubble'.
If a pilot tries to enter hyperspace very close to the limit, massive damage to systems and hull will probably result from multidimensional shearing; the phase shift will not occur and the field will fail to form cleanly. If an HSD is engaged well within the M25 limit, the vessel disappears and is never heard from again. Nowadays most vessels are fitted with gravimetric inhibitors, which prevent inadvertent engagement of the drive; but in former days hyperspace travel was extremely hazardous and even today it carries a certain frisson for many passengers. Frequent spacers like me are more relaxed, knowing the chance of a malfunction is one in a billion; except for certain dodgy Sirian spacelines which I wouldn't use if it were the last flight before a supernova.
No-one knows exactly what happens when the vessels disappear and none have ever been recovered. As you may imagine, even if volunteer crews could be found, sheer expense prohibits further tests; and so this will probably remain a mystery. Theories abound as to what transpires. Kropotkin (see below) maintains that within the M25 limit the 'miniature universe' inside the Bubble is automatically created with physical laws which are radically different from that pertaining in N-Space. The crew die instantly and the vessel may well cease to exist in any meaningful sense. He maintains that if a vessel is within the M25 limit on exit, the 'Bubble' collapses to a singularity - and may even reappear in a parallel Universe. Either way, we currently have no way of knowing.
*It was Gaskin of course; only engineers and idiots disagree.
All physical laws remain exactly the same as in N-Space, to eleven decimal places; no 'Bubble' experiment has ever been able to detect any variation from known physical laws. From inside the 'Bubble' the boundary between the two forms of space appears as a milky-grey, slightly misty and reflective field. Any matter touching it is instantly converted into its hyperspatial equivalent and leaves the 'Bubble' - therefore any careless astronaut doing external maintenance is in danger of losing a hand or foot. On the other hand, it does make disposal of 'gash' (space rubbish) quick and hygienic, and no vessel has (yet) been given a ticket for littering hyperspace.
Energy of the electromagnetic spectrum is also able to leave the bubble, albeit only in utterly random Heisenberg quanta. This means no signal of any kind may be sent this way as it cannot be modulated. On the other hand, the h-neutrino vibration of hyperlynium is able to leave the Bubble and be detected elsewhere by anyone with a HFG.
Vessels can thus avoid filling the bubble with hot plasma from engine operation; but no-one knows exactly where the energy or matter goes. In theory it is dissipated by random vacuum fluctuations into the interstices of the multidimensional matrix, but this remains unproven.
Everyday life inside the 'Bubble' is very similar to life in an interplanetary vessel in N-Space, or on an orbital station. The vessel can choose to fire its engines to accelerate or decelerate relative to its position of exit from hyperspace. Alternatively spin may be imparted to the vessel to create artificial gravity, which is the preferred option for long voyages.
The current record for the longest single hyperspace voyage without a break is 285 parsecs from The Long End (Quadrant 1) to D'Has (Quadrant 5) by Imperial Exploration Vessel 'Tiger Nine', Captain Josh Whiteleaf, in 3101. Whiteleaf's crew contended with fusion reactor problems and an attempted mutiny during this epic trip.
And what of the future? It has been theorised, notably by Dudley Kropotkin and his followers, [though it is difficult to see how it could be proved], that each 'Bubble' is in fact a miniature Universe, frozen in an embryonic form. If this is correct, then it is possible that one day the technology may exist to create full-scale 'Universes' similar to our own, in which runaway inflation and expansion will result in a 'Bubble' billions of light-years across, and which has denizens who will be able to communicate with us here in N-space. Even more oddly, it is held by Kropotkin that some 'Bubbles' will act as gateways to other Universes parallel to our own which co-exist with us. Gail Ibrahim's work at UMIST, published posthumously, provides mathematical support for these startling ideas.
We await experimental data!
Edwin A. Abbott, Flatland - A Parable of Spiritual Dimensions
(Thanks to John Rutherford for
The Universe(of Starship Marine, Starship Strike and Plan A) is © Jim Wallman 1996-2011. You may freely use this material in other games, works, websites etc for your personal entertainment - with appropriate credits as to authorship and copyright. It may not be resold or distributed with any publication for sale without the express permission of the copyright holder.