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Old 11-29-2017, 07:03 PM   #1
cvannrederode
 
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Default [Space] Technobabble for my new campaign.

We're in the process of starting a new space campaign. I'm only including three super-science items, and wanted to give some technobabble explanations for them, to at least give some plausible sounding explanations on why they work the way the do, game wise.

The three systems are Reactionless drives (rotary, standard, and hot from spaceships), artificial gravity, and hyperdrives (with the "standard" behavior, 1pc/day, can't enter/leave near a massive body).

(The text also mentions the Engai, from 3e Aliens)

I welcome comments; I would like to know what people think about it:

Superscience technologies:
There are three superscience technologies in use by most races in the local arm. These are reactionless drives, artificial gravity, and hyderdrives. All three are made possible through meta-stable "hyperdense" elements, which can interact the fabric of space-time in unique ways. The most prevalent of these is as alloy of about 92% 293Cn and 8% 482Uhq. 293Cn by itself has a half-life of 42 years, 482Uhq has one of about 3 minutes. But when the two are properly alloyed, they have half-lives of about 420,000 years; physicists are still trying to figure out why. Indeed, all of the miracle properties of this "unobtainium" are unexplainable, and the miracles it provides are black-boxes to the younger races. Older races like the Engai may know, but if they do, they aren't talking. The usual name of this material is "Copernicium-UHQ alloy", with trade names like "Coper-Quadrainium 82". We'll just call it Copernicium for brevity's sake.
Reactionless drives
The first miracle of Copernicium to be discovered was the reactionless thruster. Take a rotor made of Copernicium and spin it just so in a strong magnetic field, then try to pass electricity through the center of the rotor using an induction coil. The whole assembly will then try to accelerate in the opposite direction as the flow of electrons, with a massive electrical resistance appearing in the induction system. The general consensus is that the system somehow is converting the electrical current directly to momentum. Some circles call it an inertia or momentum "ramp", but most people just call it a thruster.
The earliest ones can produce modest acceleration, generally much less than one g, but can "thrust" in nearly any direction by manipulating the orientation of the components. They used single, large diameter rotors, and were sometimes call "rotary" drives because of this.
Later models stack multiple rotors of a smaller diameter in a line, with the current flowing directly through multiple stages. They produce much more thrust for a given power consumption, but cannot be "vectored" without changing the direction of the entire unit. Recently, co-centric models have cropped up, where small rotors turn inside larger rotors. These produce even more thrust, but the space between the rotors spews photons, prions, neutrinos, and the odd hydrogen atom at near lightspeed, with the particles seemingly appearing out of the zero-point field. It's best not to stand behind one.
Better drives don't use more power, but convert power to thrust with greater efficiency (and may produce blast from part of it). Engineers believe with the right conditions, they can make ones capable of thrusting at hundreds of g. What that means for people in the ships is anyone's guess.
Artificial gravity
The second miracle to be found is the generation of "gravity" inside ships. If you enclose a volume with a mesh of braided Copernicium cables, then send a mild current from the "top" of the mesh to the "bottom", all mass inside the volume will accelerate towards the "bottom". It didn't take long for someone to line the hull of a space ship with this mesh, wire it to the power plant, and then walk around in apparent one g.
The system not without drawbacks. Openings greater than about 4 cm will ruin the effect. So, opening a door in a ship also turns off the gravity. Allowing something to fall and hit the bottom hard enough to punch through the mesh also turns off gravity, but the object keeps its inertia. And, no acceleration greater than ~19.873 m/s^2 can be created. Don't ask why, we don't know.
That doesn't keep people from being creative. Many ships have two sets of power points and two layers, that allow them to produce from –2 to 2 g along any line in the plane of intersection of the two power sets directions. One of these directions is usually the normal "up/down", the other is in line with the engines, to provide comfort during long maneuvers.
FTL Drive
The third, and least understood (if that is possible) miracle is FTL travel. Many theorists call it a brane drive although that itself is mostly a misnomer. Bulk drive would be better. But most people just call it a hyperdrive.
Using a complex arrangement of three rotors spinning amongst five stators, all made of copernicium and all colder than 2.3K, a precisely shaped pulse of electricity is sent through a superconductor cable running through the core. This will shunt the entire mass of the ship, and everything in it, out of our universe's brane, and into the bulk. All that remains is a standing wave (or inflection point, depending on who you ask) in real space that links the ship back to reality. Careful control of the pulse and EM fields around the drive unit allows you to impart something akin to a velocity vector to your mass in hyperspace. A drive unit can get you up to about 2.3399713 AU/s, or 202,173.517 AU per 24 hours (but see below). Keep current flowing through the core(s) and you stay in hyperspace, covering just under a parsec a day. Turn it off, and your mass snaps back to the standing wave in real space. Careful application of EM field changes while in hyperspace allow you to affect your momentum when you exit, to "match speeds" with your destination.
Where you come back to real space is complex combination of the "slope" of spacetime at both where you entered and where you exited hyperspace, the vector you gave yourself, and the geometries of hyperspace along the way (which we're still figuring out). Coming out earlier than you planed will not leave on the straight line between your source and destination. Ships have even been known to come out farther from their "course" than the distance they wanted to travel in the first place.
If you ask a very smart physicist that studies them to explain this better, you usually get a sarcastic "go ask the Engai" in response. (Are you seeing the pattern yet?) No current race that uses hyperdrives developed it on their own (or will admit to developing it if high technology); all learned it from another race somehow.
Hyperdrives don't work if the gravitational flux in the area is too great. So, you can't enter hyperspace too close to a massive body. And you try to come out too close, you'll get "bounced". They require massive power surges through the core to enter hyperspace, provided by large superconductive pulse generators. Banks of ultra-capacitors must keep the power through the core clean and even right after the shunt, until the ship's power systems can take over. Ships usually need about half an hour to charge and spin everything up safely, plus ten minutes for a "normal" survey and plot of the course.
There are hyperdrive systems that use multiple systems together, and can achieve greater speeds—usually to a multiple of the "parsec per day" speed. These systems can also be made to operate with only some of the systems. Military ships will make short assault jumps using one system, keeping the other charged on standby for a quick exit. Plotting these double jumps is difficult, and the fact that they're done under fire most of the time doesn't help.
And one last thing: don't look out a window while in hyperspace. Although there is no light detectable coming from within hyperspace, looking at the bulk is bad. It is both mesmerizing, and damaging to the mind of any sapient being with eyes who gazes on it.
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Old 11-29-2017, 11:03 PM   #2
starslayer
 
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Default Re: [Space] Technobabble for my new campaign.

For the reactionless drive you can actually stick to some pretty 'hard' science and just say that the EM drive actually works, and actually can be scaled.

Stupid thing has even passed a NASA test so its doing something interesting at least (now will it turn out that something interesting is actually an atmospheric or gravity well based reaction, who knows?)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RF_res...avity_thruster

Referencing something that actually has NASA testing behind it and MAY actually work can help you remove a lot of technobabble requirement.
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Old 11-30-2017, 07:52 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Space] Technobabble for my new campaign.

Great pseudoscience explanations! I will steal these! I especially like the reactionless thruster. Did you come up with this on your own?
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Old 11-30-2017, 08:39 AM   #4
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: [Space] Technobabble for my new campaign.

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Originally Posted by starslayer View Post
For the reactionless drive you can actually stick to some pretty 'hard' science and just say that the EM drive actually works, and actually can be scaled.
The thing you need to do with the EMDrive isn't "scaling" it's radical improvement.

I took what data was available and tried to come up with Spaceships stats and came up with something like "uselessly weak". About all I remember was that you could run one for the entire 200 year lifespan of a fusion reactor and it still wasn't better than any alternative but a pure photon drive.

It was better than a photon drive though so there might be some useable principle there. The OP's current technobabble is better though.
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Old 11-30-2017, 01:22 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Space] Technobabble for my new campaign.

The best superscience technobabble I've seen for permitting reactionless drives, artificial gravity, and FTL is some mechanism for mass manipulation. In particular, there's Mach's Principle, that inertial mass is a non-local gravitational effect of “distant stars”. The Woodward Effect is based on this and allows for brief inertial mass variations connected to energy flows. If you synchronize this mass fluctuation with a vibratory motor that pushes on it while its mass is at minimum and pulls on it while its mass is maximized, you can generate a net force aligned with the vibration.

For artificial gravity, I'd draw inspiration from “gravitomagnetic” forces — that is, something that is to traditional gravity as magnetism is to electricity. Get a cyclic mass flow, such as a torus of rotating rings, and you can generate a concentrated “down” gravitomagnetic force in the center of the torus, in exchange for a more dispersed “up“ gravitomagnetic force outside the torus. Mind you, this normally requires the rings in the torus to be superdense materials rotating at near-light speeds; but with the right mass manipulation superscience (say, a conductor made of a special material such that an electrical current passing through it generates a significant “mass current” as well), it might be doable without having to resort to neutronium or its equivalent.

For FTL drives, l'll just note that the two most promising FTL drives being researched today (the Albucierre Warp Drive and traversable Wormholes) rely on the concept of negative energy densities.
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Old 11-30-2017, 01:47 PM   #6
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Default Re: [Space] Technobabble for my new campaign.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JazzJedi View Post
Great pseudoscience explanations! I will steal these! I especially like the reactionless thruster. Did you come up with this on your own?
All on my own. Some of the ideas have been bouncing around in my head for years. First time they've been put on paper (so to speak).

The short story is that it's meant to explain the "default" GURPS behavior of items, as sprinkled around, especially in Space and Spaceships.

The big thing that I brought from real life is Copernicium and Unhexquadium. They are both theorized as being on the "island of stability" (or the second island, in the case of uhq). Their half-lives are totally made up, since the isotopes listed haven't been seen yet. And the "magic" alloy of the two with it's miracle properties is also pure fiction.

One of my players is a PhD Astrophysicist who did his doctoral thesis on the R-process, so I'll see what he thinks of it.
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Old 11-30-2017, 02:37 PM   #7
AlexanderHowl
 
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Default Re: [Space] Technobabble for my new campaign.

How do you prevent shuttles from becoming relativistic weapons that can crack planets? I would suggest capping maximum velocity to 20 mps × Acceleration. It would be more than sufficient to get off the ground but would prevent terrorists (or minor state actors) from using remote controlled shuttles to destroy entire continents.
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Old 11-30-2017, 03:10 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Space] Technobabble for my new campaign.

Wouldn't the rings wear out extremely quickly, and have to be replaced constantly, because they spin so fast?
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Old 11-30-2017, 03:12 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Space] Technobabble for my new campaign.

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
How do you prevent shuttles from becoming relativistic weapons that can crack planets? I would suggest capping maximum velocity to 20 mps × Acceleration. It would be more than sufficient to get off the ground but would prevent terrorists (or minor state actors) from using remote controlled shuttles to destroy entire continents.
You keep an eye out for them and hit them in mid flight with your own kill vehicles. Relativistic flight is bright, takes time, and once you're up to speed, you maneuver like a freight train. They smack something into you, and you turn into radiation. When you pair this with FTL travel, its really easy to mess up a KKV.
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Old 11-30-2017, 03:20 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Space] Technobabble for my new campaign.

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
How do you prevent shuttles from becoming relativistic weapons that can crack planets? I would suggest capping maximum velocity to 20 mps × Acceleration. It would be more than sufficient to get off the ground but would prevent terrorists (or minor state actors) from using remote controlled shuttles to destroy entire continents.
The RAW don't limit reactionless vessels other than saying they can't reach c. Most ships in my campaign will be using the "rotary" drive from spaceships, so they'll all have less than 1 g. Many will have only 0.1 g. Only a few will have standard (0.5 g per system), and only the military will have hot drives.

Yes, given enough time, you could get a small shuttle up to a faction of c, even with 0.1 g (0.1c in 350 days?) and do some real damage. The question is, how practical would this be, in the face of a TL9 or TL10 battlefield. How cost and time effective would it be compared to other weapons available.

FWIW: I remember a Man-Kzin Wars story, where the Humans had a ramship transit a Kzin controlled system at a high fraction of c. It's secondary weapons where metal rods dropped off, that would impact with nuclear weapon level energies.
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