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Old 03-19-2018, 07:34 PM   #1
acrosome
 
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Default Dirt Cheap Torchships?

So, I've given up on the Alcubierre drive. I'm just going to use a more conventional (Lorentzian?) wormhole network for my FTL campaign. (And yes I'm going to make it branching without loops, to preserve causality.)

So now, to meet my campaign design goals, I need really cheap and really fast STL travel within systems once a ship pops out of the wormhole way out at the edge of the system. So I remembered this discussion from a few years ago and... let's discuss Visser wormholes.

So, a Visser wormhole is flat, not spherical, and can be made using (sort of) zero energy. They can also be made so that any matter that passes through them has its chirality flipped.

I'll let that sink in for a bit. Because you're probably not thinking big enough.

Yes, that means that your amino acids flip from left-handed to right-handed. Which is weird enough. But stuff all the way down to the subatomic level has it's chirality flipped. Things like spin.

Which means that you put matter in and get antimatter out. On demand. Sounds handy, doesn't it?

So imagine a drive based upon a short microscopic chirality-flipping Visser wormhole. You can use almost anything you want as reaction mass while feeding tiny amounts of it through the wormhole to interact with the remass in some sort of nozzle, and poof you have an Antimatter Plasma Torch from Spaceships 1 p. 23. (Or at least the Antimatter Plasma Rocket.) But importantly the antimatter is dirt cheap so you aren't paying those exorbitant fuel prices. Instead of $12,000,000/ton for antimatter-boosted hydrogen you just buy hydrogen at $2,000/ton, or heck water at $20/ton. It also works great with ammonia, methane, or about anything else you care to throw out the back of your rocket. (It wouldn't work with rock powder, since the particles would be too big. But you could still just feed hydrogen through the wormhole, I guess.)

Another benefit is that your torch engine makes the antimatter on demand so there are no tanks of highly explosive antimatter sitting around. I thus don't think it would count as an "explosive system" in GURPS terms.

So, is this at all plausible technobabble? I like it because I'm a believer that good science fiction only breaks one physical law and then keeps it consistent. So, my one break is easy wormhole production. Other implications are a society with ludicrously cheap and abundant energy, so I have to think that through, too.

Last edited by acrosome; 03-19-2018 at 07:41 PM.
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Old 03-19-2018, 07:54 PM   #2
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Default Re: Dirt Cheap Torchships?

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Originally Posted by acrosome View Post
I thus don't think it would count as an "explosive system" in GURPS terms.
I'm not sure about the rest of it, but I think it would still count as a volatile system (And with the x10 multiplier!) if the engines are in-use. Any combat damage that sent anything into the wormhole could potentially result in a chunk of antimatter escape whatever containment you have and reacting with part of the ship. If that happens, it's going to be a rather bad day for anyone within a few kilometers of the engine.

I know nothing about wormholes, especially this peculiar type, so the only other potential issue I could bring up would be dealing with the substantial waste heat, but even most hard SF (And Spaceships itself) seems to downplay or ignore this.
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Old 03-19-2018, 08:10 PM   #3
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But you could still just feed hydrogen through the wormhole, I guess.)
You probably want to limit yourself to creating anti-hydrogen only. Throw a complex anti-nucleus at its opposite number and it probably just fragments when the first component particle hits an anti-particle. That would send high energy anti-particle nuclear fragments off who knows where.

You can use a smaller wormhole that way too. If it's not big enough for larger atoms to go through that's a significant safety measure.
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Old 03-19-2018, 08:14 PM   #4
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Default Re: Dirt Cheap Torchships?

Would the drive be larger than a regular Anti-matter plasma torch? Presumably there would be a large power requirement, but maybe the power requirement is limited to when the drive is starting up. After that the reaction would generate some reclaimable energy. The minimum distance required between the matter/antimatter reaction and the wormhole would determine how volatile the machinery was.

Then the are a whole pile of weapon based applications for the same tech, what happens if you fire a beam weapon through a visser wormhole?
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Old 03-19-2018, 08:32 PM   #5
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I know nothing about wormholes, especially this peculiar type, so the only other potential issue I could bring up would be dealing with the substantial waste heat, but even most hard SF (And Spaceships itself) seems to downplay or ignore this.
Is that really a problem for a rocket? You can use your reaction mass as coolant before feeding it into the reaction chamber, and then it gets thrown out and stops being your problem. It's certainly a thing for a power plant, though I wouldn't think any more so than any other sort of antimatter power plant.
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Old 03-19-2018, 08:33 PM   #6
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Default Re: Dirt Cheap Torchships?

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Then the are a whole pile of weapon based applications for the same tech, what happens if you fire a beam weapon through a visser wormhole?
Antiphotons? Is that a thing? It almost has to be a thing, doesn't it?

EDIT- a quick google search reveals that they probably are a thing, but they don't act like matter/antimatter when they smack into a regular photon since they have no mass. But... in such a collision they might actually combine to form a particle that does have mass. Which is fascinating in itself.

Particle beams might work well, though. Antiprotons, positrons, antineutrons. Hard to collimate the first two, though just like their normal matter equivalents. (Well, in a vacuum, I mean. They might actually self-collimate to a certain degree in an atmosphere.)

I was toying with the usual trope of making the super science technobabble Easy Wormholes (TM) mechanism require relatively flat space, to keep some planetary shenanigans to a minimum. By which I mean shenanigans like firing an antimatter beam in an atmosphere. Society still has lots of dirt cheap energy from powersats, though. Plus that forces more conventional ground to orbit craft, which I like.

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Is that really a problem for a rocket? You can use your reaction mass as coolant before feeding it into the reaction chamber, and then it gets thrown out and stops being your problem. It's certainly a thing for a power plant, though I wouldn't think any more so than any other sort of antimatter power plant.
Well, you can certainly melt a rocket. But yes the mechanism described is very common and mitigates a lot. And even for a power plant you just need a hot enough radiator... :)

A question for the physicists: Would there be any issues with one of these Visser-wormhole antimatter rockets flying through one of these interstellar (Lorentzian?) wormholes? Would the engine have to be shut down and the Visser wormhole allowed to collapse to pass through, and then need to be re-initiated on the other side? Or is there no problem flying through?

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Old 03-19-2018, 08:46 PM   #7
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Default Re: Dirt Cheap Torchships?

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Antiphotons? Is that a thing? It almost has to be a thing, doesn't it?
Photons are their own antiparticle.
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Old 03-19-2018, 08:51 PM   #8
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Photons are their own antiparticle.
Really? I'm googling stuff on antiphotons. One source notes that helicity and chirality are different, in response to those who say that photons are their own antiparticle. Does that make sense to you? (It's Greek to me.)

EDIT- actually, I see a lot of arguing about this. But the authoritative consensus seems to be that you're right.

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Old 03-19-2018, 09:14 PM   #9
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Default Re: Dirt Cheap Torchships?

Yup. That is absolutely a consequence of being able to make small, light wormholes.

But, if you have small, light wormholes, there are other implications. Like - why do you need torch ships in the first place? Send one end of the wormhole to where you want to go, and then just step through. Sure, maybe you can use your antimatter thrusters as the rocket that pushes the wormhole, but those thrusters don't have to be on the spacecraft. they can be left at home, shooting its exhaust through the wormhole. By local conservation of energy and momentum, the wormhole end out in space with the rocket exhaust shooting out of it acts like a rocket itself. So you have a wormhole opening out in space, and the engines and reactors and sensors and crew and whatnot are all safely back on their home planet. The "crew" is more like the folks at mission control, who can go home to their families when their shift is over.

You might find some inspiration in my Vergeworlds setting, which explores some of the same technological assumptions
http://panoptesv.com/RPGs/Settings/V.../VergeTech.php (for the technological stuff)
http://panoptesv.com/RPGs/Settings/V...rgeHistory.php (for the tactical, strategic, and political implications of wormhole networks)
http://panoptesv.com/RPGs/Settings/V...s/TheVerge.php (if, for some reason, you are interested in all the rest of the stuff).

Of course, you could always suppose that wormholes are really big, like the mass of a small moon, so you can't keep them on a planet's surface. Now you get back to having to haul antimatter around with you, but at least it is really cheap antimatter.

Or maybe when wormholes collapse, they release most of their mass-energy as radiation. No one will want a potential 10 Gigaton explosive just sitting around in their city for a wormhole terminus, so they are banished to orbit. You can get a wormhole's mass down to probably something like the Planck mass, which will only release 500 kg TNT worth of explosive oomph (or maybe 100 kg TNT worth, depending on whether the base Planck energy or the reduced Planck energy is more relevant), so small wormholes could be kept on a planet in remote or highly reinforced locations - but they won't have enough mass reserve to send anyone through them and would mostly be used for communication, or transmitting power, or maybe making antimatter locally for a power plant. Now you can put the antimatter-making wormhole on your spacecraft. Just be aware that if it collapses, things will not end well for the spacecraft.

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Old 03-19-2018, 09:18 PM   #10
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Default Re: Dirt Cheap Torchships?

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so the only other potential issue I could bring up would be dealing with the substantial waste heat, but even most hard SF (And Spaceships itself) seems to downplay or ignore this.
The Atomic Rockets site has a page devoted to torch ships that covers the waste heat problem
http://www.projectrho.com/public_htm...torchships.php
In this case, you will need to shield the systems from gamma, pion, and muon radiation rather than x-rays and neutrons, but the concept is the same.

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