Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Intra Universal Transit Tunnel System (Hurrah!)

Jump Drives, the go to FTL of the Traveller game will take you from one to six parsecs in a week. It always takes one week. Period. The designers probably set it up that way because it was an easy way to quantify things. I dunno. It always bothered me though that a jump took you a week regardless of distance. It seemed counterintuitive but it did make things easy to run so I filed my doubts under 'if it ain't broke don't fix it. But for forty years I idly pondered a real world analogy for the Jump Drive.

Until recently. I found it.

Consider the Universe viewed from a fourth dimensional (or whatever higher dimensional space you choose to occupy). What if it was like the skin of a balloon or the surface of a planet?

Well for one thing it explains those silly flat maps. That's what the distances compute to if you flatten out our three space into a two space. Also if you have a few billion years to kill you could travel in a straight line and come back to where you started from. Though I'd rather spend the time watching Netflix and seeing if Breaking Bad really never gets old.

The reason I used a planet as my analogy and not a balloon (yes forget the balloon, now it's a planet): say you were to dig an insanely deep tunnel connecting say, New York city to Honolulu. Standing on either end of the tunnel it would appear to slope downward. If you laid track and set up a rail car on it it would roll down that tunnel moving faster and faster under the effect of gravity (which balloons are deficient in, see?) At the midpoint of your journey, moving really fast you would start to slow down (again due to gravity). You'd arrive at Honolulu in 43 minutes (I doubt anyone from Honolulu would jump to come to Brooklyn but I digress.)

Drill a tunnel from any point on the surface to any other point and the trip will take 43 minutes regardless of distance. Sound familiar yet?

So when you're making a jump you're basically digging a tunnel from Star A to Star B. The better the jump drive the longer the tunnel you can dig (and the more energy it consumes). A mysterious para-gravitic force operates in Jump Space propelling you to your destination.

A deep transit tunnel on a planet would also need to be evacuated and run on a frictionless system like a maglev or friction would slow down the car and keep it from reaching its destination. So the jump fuel not only lets you 'dig' further it replaces losses to this pseudo friction. If you make a jump and try to short the fuel costs you go nowhere or remain in Jump Space till your quarks rot.

Misjumps are caused by proximity to gravity wells or improper maintenance. Maybe the tech crew was watching Netflix. Misjumps are capable of far greater ranges than a nice sane, controlled jump. To continue with my planet analogy perhaps planets and other large bodies are like volcanic or tectonic activity. If you jump too close to them you get subducted by magma/jump currents and come out a few parsecs beyond God-Knows-Where.

The possibility exists of 'caverns' of normal highly curved space existing in Jump Space. A misjump could propel you to one of these or a very precisely charted jump from very close to a planet.

I leave it to you to make up some more tunnel analogies for jumps. Why should I have all the fun?