FTL Faster Than Light Speed

PLOT DEVICES FOR SCI-FI / FANTASY WRITERS

T. E. Mark’s Blog

20-speed-of-light

FTL Faster than Light Speed

Essential if we’re ever going to reach another star system.

Crucial if we’re truly going to explore the universe or even our puny little galaxy.

Critical if we absolutely need to beat those Klingons to Beta-Gamma-Epsilon V in the Neutral Zone.

Really important if we want to get away from the nutty Earth of the 21st century, and come back sometime during the 23rd to see if we’ve made any progress towards sanity.

Kind of a treat for those wishing to punch holes in one of Einstein’s more famous theories.

Funding for lots and lots of additional research and cooler than cool equipment, if we can pull it off.

 

 A quick Q & A about FTL research:

 What have we discovered thus far?

It can’t be done.

Why not?

The Universe just doesn’t work that way. And besides, Einstein said so.

Are we certain we know enough about how the universe actually works to make such a claim?

Probably not. So, get your degrees in Theoretical Physics and start working on it, smart ass.

Are there ways to get to distant star systems without travelling FTL?        

Read ahead, didn’t you. Boy, there’s always someone.

What about warp-drive technology?

Watch a lot of TV, don’t you.

What about the new EM Drive I’ve been reading about?

Excellent question. Actually… No, wait! A spectacular question. Next?

What about wormholes?

Neat idea, and there is a body of evidence suggesting they may actually exist. Unfortunately, since we’ve never found or even observed one, they currently reside as great simulations in really nifty computers and exist as super Plot Devices in Science Fiction literature and films.

Do we really need to get to the other stars?

Need is a funny term. With scarcely an interest in sounding sarcastic, I’ll simply say that, if human beings only sought things they truly needed, we’d still be living in caves in sub-Saharan Africa, and maybe a few other fashionable places.

The Major Issues:

 Space is vast.

It’s so vast we don’t even have numbers to apply to its vastness. We use the speed of light, which is actually a speed, and time, which is actually a… uhm… time, to describe the distances. Neither of which are truly distance measurements. We call these light-years, by the way.

This is like saying it’s 471 Sprinting Cheetah minutes from London to Paris. Or, sixteen feisty dolphin days from Bristol to New York.

Think of it this way: That pretty, gently flickering, majestic, eerily sparkling star at the corner of Orion’s belt? The one with the whimsical green glow to it which seems to be calling out your name in some totally incomprehensible language which you, and only you, can hear or understand? Yes, well, it may have exploded and turned into something like a massive lump of x-ray spewing charcoal about the time the Pope crowned Charlemagne in 800 AD.

Light is not only fast, it’s like blazingly fast.

This may be like the understatement of all understatements.

Here are a couple of numbers for you.

Light travels at roughly 300,000 km per second. In America, that’s about 186,000 miles/sec.

To place that into perspective, if you aim a torch (Flashlight) into the night sky and begin counting, by the time you reach four minutes, your light beam is already zipping past Mars on its way to Jupiter.

Needless to say, we have some work to do if we’re ever going to conquer FTL speed and find ourselves out there traversing the galaxy.

Relatively Speaking and Einstein

albert-einstein_photo

Much of this conversation, and many of the conclusions drawn, are immediately attributable to Albert Einstein and his indecently difficult to understand Theories of Relativity.

There are two.

The first, your basic, every day, T-shirt and jeans theory of Relativity, called, idiosyncratically, General Relativity, is rather general and has little to do with travelling FTL. It will, however, help you the next time you’re out with friends calculating how much light bends in the presence of an immense gravity field, or how inconvenienced you are by the universe expanding at a faster rate than it was on your last birthday.

The second theory is rather a bit more special. In fact, even Albert thought so when he rolled it out as his Special Theory of Relativity in 1905.

Special Relativity and why FTL is a ‘no-go.’

Special Relativity says many things. (That’s probably why Al called it Special in the first place)

One of the more relevant things it states is that nothing can travel FTL – Faster than the speed of light.

Why?

Because matter (things – you know, you, me, rocket ships, grossly overpriced footwear) tend to expand as they approach light speed. Thus, as they get larger, they require more energy to go faster. And, as they go faster, they get larger, thus requiring even more energy.

This vicious cycle of; expansion-more energy, expansion-more energy, would continue, according to Special Relativity, right up to the moment you neared Light Speed, at which time, you, your rocket, and shoes would have reached an infinite size, thus requiring an infinite amount of energy.

A quick word about infinite

Something infinite is big. It’s so big, in fact, it may even be bigger than space itself, which, according to Douglas Adams in his cosmologically insane, mind-bogglingly brilliant Space Classic, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ‘is big.’

Thus, one immediately grasps the difficulty of peering at the concept of one day reaching Light Speed, or even ogling the concept of FTL.

Alternatives to FTL

There are alternatives.

EM Drive. EM stands for electromagnetism. Light, by the way, is a form of electromagnetism.

em-drive

The really clever guys over at NASA are currently working on it. They’ve made some progress, and if they succeed, this may very well be the answer. BTW, light travels at the speed of light. And since light is a form of electromagnetism, a propulsion system using EM (No rocket fuel needed) could at least get us to Light Speed and ultimately to the stars.

This is a very cool concept, writers, and certainly a worthy plot device for your next outer space novel.

FTL Warp Drive

ftl_warp-bubble

warp-drive

This is undoubtedly the coolest, most utterly implausible concept available. This is what writing, or reading, Science Fiction is all about.

The concept is straightforward enough. I mean, fold a hunk of space-time into a bubble, with you, your rocket ship, blender, and, you know, other important stuff, in the middle, and slosh on through from point A to point B like a reckless hyena on holiday in Spain.

You won’t actually travel FTL, but you’ll cover the same distance as if you did.

You might see this as yanking the North American plate over the Atlantic Ocean plate, bringing New York to just off the coast of Ireland, cutting your six-hour trip from the states to London down to about 45 minutes.

Or, folding the English Chanel and France into something resembling a biscuit, and hopping through it on your way to Rome in about the same time it takes you to find your keys in the morning.

Wormholes

Wormholes

This one gets used again and again in Science Fiction and Fantasy literature and is similar, in a way, to the FTL Warp Drive.

Simple explanation: Fold space-time into a horseshoe, and travel from point A (Earth, for example) to point B (Let’s say Proxima Centauri, for no particular reason) a distance of roughly 4.6 Light years, in about three minutes.

Sounds reasonable, right?

Obstacle one: Wormholes are purely theoretical. They’ve been manufactured in a laboratory, and, (Here’s a catchy little clause for you) ‘their existence is not inconsistent with General Relativity.’

This is pretty much like saying Charlize Theron and I could be dating soon, as, she being a woman, and I, a man, the possibility does not violate any known principles governing primitive Earth mammals.

Obstacle two: If we were to somehow, someday, manufacture a sizeable wormhole, to keep it from collapsing, we would need a vast amount of something called: ‘Exotic Matter.’

Since scientists have had about the same luck creating this Exotic Matter as they’ve had coming up with a reasonably original name for it, this is nothing one should expect to see or be gliding through in the near future. It is, however, a thoroughly useful Plot device. Though, at this point of the game, near pathologically overused.

Terminology (For readers and writers)

This is where I typically sprinkle you with flurries of whimsical terminology which you, the writer, can use to add legitimacy to your space novels, and where you, the reader, can feel less intimidated by these 80-kilogram terms when you run across them in print.

EM Drive Resonance Chamber: The chamber where the NASA guys are working on the EM Drive.

(Sample Novel Extract)

‘Commander.’

‘Yes, Captain McAfterparty. ‘

‘Are you honestly saying you and Major Issues sent a laser at FTL 1.5 through the onboard EM Drive Resonance Chamber?’

‘The experiment was nearly a complete success, Captain.’ The Commander peered sombrely towards the main viewer at the EM Resonance Chamber now drifting through the morbid but delicate folds of the Crumb Nebula. ‘That is,’ he followed up, ‘I mean, more or less, sir.’

‘Nearly?! More or less?!’ The Captain turned to the screen to see Major Sirius Issues float by still tethered to the Resonance Chamber. He cocked his head and considered waving, but held off. ‘And that’s?’

‘The Resonance Chamber, I’m afraid, Captain.’

‘And…?’

‘Major Issues, Sir.’

An overwhelming, ear-splitting, mind-rattling quiet consumed the bridge of the Atari Pong III.

‘Well,’ said the Captain, cheerfully – turning. ‘FTL is possible after all, then. Hey! Great! The first one’s on me tonight in 10 Aft.’

The crew broke into spontaneous applause.

Superluminal

Means the same as FTL but sounds better. Also gives you an alternative to writing ‘Faster Than Light’ that isn’t an acronym. People hate acronyms. I hate acronyms. I mean, BFD with all the SSDF acronyms.

Tachyons

High energy photons which presumably always travel Superluminal. (Star Trek TNG has used this one often and always incorrectly, and it still makes me happy.)

Transversable Wormhole

A manufactured wormhole that doesn’t collapse, thus allowing something like a spaceship to slip through it on its way to basically anywhere in the universe. This method of travel, if possible, would even leave FTL in the dust.

Highly theoretical, and, once again, heavily reliant on that elusive ‘exotic matter’ that just about everyone’s been talking about these days.

Phase Velocity

Basically refers to the velocity of an electromagnetic wave (an x-ray, perhaps) when passing through something other than a vacuum. Glass, for instance.

These can, and do, exceed the speed of light but are not useful, and just reading the explanation can, and usually does, cause permanent brain damage.

Regardless of the perversely obtuse definition, this is a great term for a Sci-Fi / Fantasy piece. And, trust me, no one will be ringing you up to tell you that you got it wrong.

Time Dilation

01 time travel machine

Overused, yes, but still a good one.

Refers to something becoming displaced in time – usually, but not always, due to travelling beyond the speed of light.

Quantum Entanglement

I’m really going to ask you to focus and stretch on this one. It’s important.

If two identical particles, say electrons, were separated by some huge distance – like galaxies apart but seemed to do whatever the other one did at exactly the same moment, one would have to assume they were somehow connected. Perhaps by a beam of energy.

But, at such a distance, the beam (tether) would most certainly be travelling much faster than the speed of light.

By the way, Einstein postulated this one and called it ‘Spooky Action at a Distance.’ And I swear I am NOT making this up.

 

Some additional, almost implausibly cool, terms for you without definitions: Use creatively – flagrantly – recklessly. Without remorse!

Microquasars

Blazars

Chernenkov Radiation

Gaussian Beam

Epiphenomenon of Quantum Decoherence

Quantum Tunnelling

Superluminal Communications

Evanescent Modes

Recession Velocity

Alcubierre Drive

 

Final thoughts:

I’ve barely scratched the surface of FTL speed in this issue. In all reality, this post could have been a novella.

As a Science and Science Fiction writer, I have an inexhaustible appetite for reading this type of research. I see great value in space exploration and feel genuine satisfaction when scanning recent developments in Physics, Astrophysics and Astronomy.

I believe we will reach the stars one day. And when I close my eyes after a long day, I see visions of our nations, fully united, splitting the vastness of space with Superluminal, EM Drive spaceships, exploring exoplanets, and quasars, and distant Galaxies, and having a blazing good time sending us dazzling photos via Transversable Wormholes.

 

Two Final Questions:

What will it take to convince our governments to scrap all military spending, and direct the absurd amounts of money we spend on weapons into things like, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, cleaning the atmosphere, and finding our way to those brilliant bulbs that speckle our night skies?

(and)

Where do I go to sign up to be on one of the first missions into deep space?

I’ve specifically enjoyed writing this issue of my PLOT DEVICES FOR SCI-FI / FANTASY READERS AND WRITERS, and hope you’ve been at least modestly, if not entirely, enriched, intrigued and entertained.

If my work pleases you, consider sharing this with your networking pals and maybe picking up one of my six recently published novels:

‘Love in the Time of Apocalypse’ (Published – June 2017)

‘Alina’ (Published – May 2017)

‘Never a Sun Rises’ (Published – April 2017)

‘Fractured Horizons: A Time Travel Odyssey’ (Published – Jan 2017)

‘…but then, why Mars really?’ (Published – Dec 2016)

‘AHNN’ (Published – Oct 2016)

T.E.Mark

T.E.Mark is a Science Writer, Author, Language Teacher and Violinist. He has written novels for Young Readers, Adult Readers, and continues to write science articles for national and international magazines.

 

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Nanotechnology

PLOT DEVICES FOR SCI-FI / FANTASY WRITERS

T. E. Mark’s Blogs

nanotechnologyrevised

Nanotechnology

Think small…

I mean like, really, absurdly, preposterously small…

No-No-No-No-No.  Even smaller…

C’mon! You can do better than that…

Okay, maybe a comparative table and a few analogies will help you place this into perspective. Then we can move on to the rather important bits.

For writers, this will be from where you’ll be acquiring elements of Nanotechnology research to add to your next plotline.

That one.

Good.

Progress.

That Perspective I Spoke of:

When I say small, I’m not just referring to your ordinary, run-of-the mill, head of a pin, recalcitrant dust speck on your glasses, need a microscope to see it, small. That’s nothing when it comes to Nanotechnology.

That pin-head I spoke of?

Yes, well, look at it closely – it’s roughly 1,000,000 Nanometres across. (Now, that’s the small I’m talking about)

Here’s a table for you: Perhaps this will help

One metre  = One long step  (a bit more than three feet in America)

One centimetre = One 1/100th of a metre  (Not even close, but, getting there…)

One Micrometre = One 1/1,000,000th of a metre.  (Hmmm. Additional Progress!)

One Nanometre = One 1/1,000,000,000th of a metre    (Ta da!)

Needless to say, we have a bit of work to do before we’ll be fully wrapping our heads around this one. Suffice it to say, that something Nanoscale, or Nano-sized, in almost painfully, illogically small.

And to consider working with something this small is comparable to…. Similar to…. Quite possibly in the neighbourhood of…. Much like…

Well, besides defying the physical laws governing the use of similes, let’s just say that working with something at the Nano-scale is probably really hard.

Hey! Let’s do a little historical review before we get to those important bits. The hypothetical ways in which you, the masterful Sci-Fi / Fantasy writer, will use this material in your next spell-binding, sure to scare the Nano-sized crap out of everyone, novel. Or the way you, the reader, will read that next Nanotech novel feeling eager, determined not to be intimidated or overwhelmed.

Historical Review: It’s brief – It’s rewarding – It’s even brimming with accuracy.

1959 – The beginning

Richard Feynman, rather quite like the smartest guy in the Galaxy during his lifetime, and for several decades afterwards, gives a speech at Cal-Tech on 29 Dec, titled: ‘There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.’

Mr Feynman spoke about the future when we would be able to manipulate atoms and molecules at will. This spawned the concept of Nanotechnology.

People were in awe.

(We’re still trying to decipher the title of that lecture to determine how it relates to Nanotechnology.)

  richard-feynman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1974                                                  

Professor Norio Toniguchi coins the term Nanotechnology.

(Though mere speculation, it is presumed that Professor Toniguchi drew the connection between Richard Feyman’s rather obscure 1959 lecture title, and messing around with really small stuff.)

 1981                                                  

The Scanning-Tunnelling Microscope is developed. We can now see atoms and molecules! Nanotechnology officially leaves the starting gate!  

(By the winter of 83, everyone has one. They even top Atari Pong on Holiday wish lists.)

scanning-tunnellin-microscope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1986                                                  

K. Eric Drexler writes his famous book ‘Engines of Creation,’ in which he details many visionary possibilities coming from the study of Nanotechnology. His book is prescient.

His predictions are far-sighted. (He cleverly makes scientists in this burgeoning field, and your humble narrator, giddy with excitement while scaring the passive reader into a paranoid frenzy.) Good job, K. Eric!

***

At this point, I feel it useful that we explore some of the recent advances in this appreciably ARCANE field while dribbling with… I mean, of course, dabbling with, some of the visionary concepts.

 

Applications: Current

Nanoparticle sunscreens.

With Nano-sized materials, we have improved sun-blocks. (I will attempt no humour here as sunscreens prevent cancer – something I’m categorically opposed to.)

  nanotechnology7

 

 

 

 

 

Self-cleaning glass                         

Quite useful, and very cool. (Unless, of course, you’re a window washer) With Nanoparticles, the glass can be made photocatalytic and hydrophilic.

(Cool and useful terms, by the way. Writers. Use them. Your readers will think you’re really smart. And that’s the whole point of being a novelist, isn’t it?) 

While reacting with UV light, (Photocatalytic) the particles attack and munch on the dirt. (This is called Nano-munching) As rain contacts the glass, the particles react with the water, (hydrophilic) spreading it out helping it wash away the dirt. (This is called unemployment by window washers)
scratch-resistant-windows

 

 

 

 

 

 

UV Protective clothing                 

Adding Nano-particles (usually silver) to clothing helps by reflecting away Ultra Violet rays which are the wavelengths of light responsible for sunburns

(I mean, who wants to be putting on sunscreen beneath your un-Nanofied clothing anyway?)

Scratch resistant coatings

Great idea. Chuck those fancy cutting boards and slice those veggies right on that Nano-fibre counter. Lose that ultra- delicate chamois and clean those glasses and that laptop   screen with a sackcloth or a brick. (I could go on and on with this one – but, I’m not going to do it. Yes-Yes! You’re welcome.)

Anti-microbial bandages              

I honestly see no need to expound on this one. (Just as long as they make sure the Nano-sized Sponge Bob is still visible I’m Okay with it. You know?)

  sponge-bob

 

 

 

 

 

 

Future Applications: The Neat Stuff

Self-Replicating Nanoscale Robots (Nanobots)

At the Nanoscale, these could be formed from almost any material – to perform almost any task.

Environmental                               

Nanoscale, self-replicating, robots could clean the atmosphere, lakes and oceans. They could be programmed to consume any known pollutant. Goodbye Global Warming, Climate Scientists and Environmental Activists.  (Party on Polar Bears and Arctic Seals!)

Waste                                              

Self-replicating, Nanoscale robots, or Nanobots, could virtually eliminate waste dumps and landfills, literally solving our waste disposal problems overnight.

‘Did you take out the trash dear?’

‘No, honey. I fed it to the Nanobots.’

‘Thanks, sweetie!’

Medical                                            

These little Nanoscale engines of creation could be fabricated inside your body and programmed to clean a clogged artery, or repair a degenerating disk, repair the damage to your organs, or dissolve a malignant tumour. And much-much more.

(Goodbye cardiovascular surgeons – hello egg-Mc Muffins with bacon.)

Replicators                                      

Not just Tea or Arcturian brandy, Captain Picard. These babies could, theoretically, produce anything. Tools. Appliances. Clothing. Gold? Diamonds? Insanely expensive electronic devices? Cash?

(Needless to say, scientists may encounter some resistance with this one.)

Human Augmentation   (Neural)              

Nanoscale robots could enter your brain and increase, exponentially, your cognitive abilities. You could be enhanced to function at the rate of a supercomputer.

No humour here, but a plug for my recent novel ‘AHNN.’ A fun and witty, though thoroughly provocative, exploration of Artificial Human Augmentation and a computer-run society. – https://www.amazon.com/AhNN-T-E-Mark/dp/1539552942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476823226&sr=1-1&keywords=AHNN

  neuroscience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Human Augmentation   (Physical)               

Nanobots could be programmed to augment your current muscle structure. Once attached to your biceps, triceps,  etc, and after a short period of self-replication, you may be carrying the Mini out of the garage for that next trip to the market.

Thus far I’ve covered the basic principles, provided a brief historical review, described the current applications and offered just a glimmer of future apps.

Now, pulling much from K Eric Drexler’s book, “Engines of Creation,” and my own Nano-sized imagination, I’ll dip into the scary bits, which should give you, the no-nonsense Science-Fiction writer, abundant fodder for your next or future novel. And you, the avid Sci-Fi / Fantasy reader enough concern to cause panic attacks, rabid paranoia and a potential nervous breakdown.

I’ve titled this next section, conveniently, coincidentally, premeditatedly, ‘The Scary Bits.’

Future Applications: ‘The Scary Bits’

(‘Warning! Don’t get too weird about this stuff. We may not be there… yet.’)

Self-Replicating Nanoscale Robots

Nano-Robot Assassins                  

Nanoscale robots could be constructed from any material – anywhere. Even from atoms within living tissue. Yours, for instance. They could be programmed to attack your organs rather than repair them. They could gang together with their self-replicating robot buddies and block arteries – like the really special ones which take blood to and away from your heart, rather than clean them.

There’d be no trace.

That clever lot on CSI would be stumped.

(The only upside? And this is quite a stretch. No scary guys with ridiculous looking rifles taking guys out from six-mile away rooftops, or lurking in the shadows with nifty revolvers fitted with equally nifty silencers.)  

As I said… a stretch.

  sniper-image

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nano-Robot Mass Annihilators                          

Since the Nanoscale robots could self-replicate, a number of these Nanosized annihilators (perhaps even one?) could be placed into an enemy’s water supply. The end result would be grim.

(No humorous titbit here)

Nano-Robot Mass Disruptors (1)                     

With a destructive breed of Nanoscale robots; programmed to, say, munch on building materials, (iron – Masonry) there’d be no reason for hijacking planes. 9/11 would be, in effect, the English Long Bow, or the Musket.

(No humorous titbit here either)

Nano-Robot Mass Disruptors (2)                        

The energy grid would be easy prey for terrorists armed with self-replicating, destructive, Nanobots.

(I’ll again spare the humour)

Nano-Robot Mass Disruptors (3)                          

Nuclear power plants. This one is too scary for me to add detail. Suffice it to say, that Chernobyl could be made to look like nothing more than a fender bender on the motorway.

Nano-Robot Communications                                   

Much of this speculation was eluded to in K Eric Drexler’s book. I claim credit here only for the hypothetical elaboration.

Self-replicating Nanobots could be programmed to form little machines. This is well-understood and has already been stated in my article, and elsewhere. These little machines could very well be communication devices. They could enter your body, lodge in your brain, making you, essentially, an ‘always-on’ cellular phone. Only… tuned to the frequency of your brainwaves.

This one even scares me, thus, I’ll again avoid the humorous addition and allow you, writers and readers, to fill in the blanks with your own imaginations.

Looking forward: (Into my article, I mean)

In each of my earlier posts, I’ve sought to inform, entertain, instruct (a little) and provide inspiration for the writers and readers of Science Fiction or Fantasy literature.

As a Sci-Fi writer myself, I’ve also tried to offer my own speculative ideas for plot lines.

And, for writers to add colour and a bit of legitimacy to their next novels, I’ve typically offered tables of cool and relevant terminology, which if used judiciously, should augment your stories making them sound infinitely more credible, authentic, and even legitimate.

I will not diverge from this format here.

Before I wrap this one up, here are some useful terms for your next book with brief definitions and/or additional silliness, intended to share with you my theory, that, if you keep them laughing, at least a little bit, they’ll keep turning pages.

Cool and potentially hazardous terminology:

Fullerenes                                       

An early term describing Nanoscale materials. More recently called ‘Nanotubes,’ ‘Carbon Nanotubes,’ and sometimes, on those more poetic and whimsical days, ‘Bucky tubes.’

(Cool term – They should never have sought to modify or replace it)

Nanosystems                                  

Nanoscale machines operating on the molecular scale. Essentially refers to combining really, really small simple things, like carbon Nanotubes, with similarly small things, like other carbon Nanotubes, into very complicated, but very small, machines.

(The key element here is size. This is an area in which size does in fact matter – a lot!)

Mechano-synthesis                      

Refers to hybrid Nanosystems of silicon technology and biological molecular machines.(Basically, Nanoscale systems constructed from living tissue. Presumably within a living organism. Like a human being )

Nanodevices                                    

Any device constructed at the Nanoscale with a specific interest of being small, doing something important, and even possibly (hopefully) beneficial.

(I have no comment to add to this one – the humour is already there – feast away.)

Nanoelectronics – Nanomechanics – Nanophotonics                             

Areas of research and development within the field of Nanotechnology.

(For those feeling the need for elaboration on these terms, after making it to this point in my article, please consult the internet and/or consider picking up a copy of ‘Engines of Creation, by K Eric Drexler.)

Nanoionics                                     

Refers to Nanoscale Nanostructures and Nanodevices with fast ion transport. This one is mostly used in the field of Nanoelectronics. and refers, generally, to the movement charged sub-atomic particles.

(Oh, hell, writers, just toss the bloody term in somewhere! Anyone who doesn’t know that a charged sub-atomic particle is called an ion probably won’t be reading a Sci-Fi novel anyway.)

Final thoughts:

We’ve seen, over the last 20 years, perhaps longer, such things as electronic devices, (Cellular phones and laptops come to mind) getting smaller and smaller. Smaller has indeed become the new ‘big’ in technological development.

It was only a matter of time, when you think about it, that scientists would start fiddling about with trying to make things, like machinery and tools, at the atomic scale.

Like you, I’m mystified, but I also feel a slight twinge of concern.

I read ‘Engines of Creation’ in my teens, and again a few years ago. It intrigued me the first time but scared me later on.

Here it comes: 

My hopes are, that right-minded people, and only the people I would categorise as right-minded, work in this field, as I would love to see Nanoscale devices which dissolve tumours, repair arteries, and solve our energy, pollution, and waste problems.

Like all scientific developments, there exists, in this field, the potential to do wondrous things – miraculous things, and, unfortunately, terribly destructive things.

For me, the eternal optimist, I’ll assume our men and women of science will have learned from the past. That they’ve seen how their great achievements in science and technology have been turned, again and again, into destructive devices and weaponry.

I’ll assume, that when asked if they can use this new technology to develop a new type of weapon, in whatever form that may be, their answer will be a strong, resounding. ‘No, not really. But, you know, we might be able to see that no child, not even yours, ever dies from cancer again. Ever!’

I’ve specifically enjoyed writing this issue of my PLOT DEVICES FOR SCI-FI / FANTASY READERS AND WRITERS, and hope you’ve been at least modestly, if not entirely, enriched, intrigued and entertained.

If my work pleases you, consider sharing this with your networking pals and maybe picking up one of my six recently published novels:

‘Love in the Time of Apocalypse’ (Published – June 2017)

‘Alina’ (Published – May 2017)

‘Never a Sun Rises’ (Published – April 2017)

‘Fractured Horizons: A Time Travel Odyssey’ (Published – Jan 2017)

‘…but then, why Mars really?’ (Published – Dec 2016)

‘AHNN’ (Published – Oct 2016)

 

T.E. Mark

T.E. Mark is a Science Writer, Author, Language Teacher and Violinist. He has written novels for Young and Adult Readers, and continues to write science articles for national and international magazines.

Wormholes

PLOT DEVICES FOR SCI-FI / FANTASY WRITERS

T. E. Mark’s Blog

 

tt_blog_pic_3

Worm-Holes

First: The Skinny on Wormholes

If space is shaped like a horse shoe, (See image above) though there’s really no proof that it is, but, if it was, a trip through a tunnel from one end to the other, would be much quicker than taking the long way around. It would obviously take less time, require less fuel, cost less, and would allow us to convince people that we actually travelled faster than the speed of light. (We really wouldn’t have, but it would certainly sound cool.)

Second: The bummer of Reality

The bummer with Wormholes is: ‘They don’t exist!’

At present, they remain nothing more than a theoretical concept, generated from Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which, if you’re really, really smart, you can deduce, as Al did along with his buddy Rosen, that their existence is mathematically feasible.

(But, with that reasoning, I would be well within my right to expect a call, at any minute, from either Shakira, or Charlize Theron, wondering if I’m free Friday night.)

Third: The seriously ARCANE terminology

 ARCANE Terminology                   Highly Simplified Definitions

Einstein-Rosen Bridge Wormhole

(Once they realised no one was buying their concept, they saw the prudence in removing their names from it. From where they got the term Wormhole, beats the heck out of me.)

Space-Time To go from point A to point B, it tends to take time, therefore, we who like sounding smarter than everyone else, tend to group these terms together.
Theory of Relativity Fancy way of saying: Speed is Relative (Other stuff too, but for now, let’s just stick to the basics.)
Negative Mass Wormhole This may even exceed the realm of ARCANE concepts, but I’ll give it a try.

Remember Algebra? Positive numbers, which were real, and Negative numbers, which weren’t, but proved useful when working equations, and guaranteed your Maths teacher a job?

This is kind of the same thing. (Sort of)

Exotic Matter Though no one, at present, will clarify this one for me, not even the tragically smart guys over at NASA, I will assume that Elon Musk has already patented it, built a mega factory to produce it, and is already using it as rocket fuel over at Space-X, or putting it in the batteries over at TESLA. (I just hope he’s not feeding it to his engineers)
Negative Energy Density This essentially goes along with Exotic Matter. I thought I’d throw it in, simply because it just sounded way too cool to pass up. (More later…maybe)

Now that we’ve defined these terms, well, briefly anyway, let’s delve just a bit deeper into the possibilities, and how they might be useful to the Sci-Fi writer. I’ll also attempt more in-depth explanations of each term.

Wormholes (Einstein-Rosen Bridges)

If we ever do find a wormhole, one that’s sizeable enough for a craft, or even a person, the potential would be unbelievable. (I really had to fight off the inclination to use the word astronomical here, I hope I’ve gained your respect.)

Travel to and from other solar systems, galaxies, even other universes, would virtually be within our grasp. We could indeed go where no-one has gone before, (Thank you Mr Roddenberry) and do it in rather quick order too. (See below)

Time Travel would be almost a sure thing, since we would be, in a convoluted sort of way, eclipsing the speed of light. Falling back on Relativity here, this would indicate a slowing of time, thus, we could, conceivably, embark on a journey into a wormhole, exit on the other side, spend a neat weekend at a Sandals resort hotel on another planet, and return, conceivably, before we ever left. (Jeff Bezos could easily market this one)

To add to the above, for the serious Sci-Fi writer, this instantaneous, intergalactic travel, could also lend itself to us (as the travellers) being in two places at the same time. (This one I see as rather obvious – I’ll leave the further interpolations and extrapolations to you.)

Space-Time

As I said above in my brief description, it takes time to go from point A to point B. Whether from your flat to the nearest tube stop, or from Earth to, say, Pluto, some amount of time is being expended.

Now, if we consider space like a quilt, with two colours of thread woven together, red for distance, intertwined with the black for time, then, if we travel very slowly, we cover very little distance, but expend very little time. Conversely, if we travel very quickly, we cover a great distance, but, we also cover a great amount of time. (Yet, our fast and slow travellers, might depart and return simultaneously.)  Did you follow that?

This plants us smack dab in the middle of Relativity, and to avoid the use of ARCANE equations, and risk losing you, I’ll just leave you with this:

Time is not always the same thing. A second at a slow speed, is not a second at a greater speed. To use the analogy I used in my first post, a second could be a simple tap of your foot, or it could be 100,000 Earth years – or more. It depends on the speed at which you’re travelling.

Theory of Relativity

Pretty much covered this one, so let’s move on.

Negative Mass Wormholes

Suffice it to say, if you’re travelling in outer space, you want to avoid these.

Exotic Matter

This may actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Could be dangerous. Certainly nothing you want add to your fuel tank at your next fill-up, but, as they have created small amounts in the lab, Exotic Matter may be the element needed to stabilise worm holes, and keep them from collapsing, while we’re making that next voyage to the Andromeda Galaxy.

Hurdles of course exist:

  1. We have yet to find a worm hole.
  2. We’ve only been able to create about a gram, or so, of this rare material called, Exotic Matter, and it cost about a quadrillion dollars to so. (May need to launch it on the NASDAQ)
  3. Someone definitely needs to come up with a better name for this stuff. (Try selling the need for a grant to some Government Agency, to study ‘Exotic Matter.’)
Negative Energy Density

Trust me, you don’t want to get me started on Negative Energy Density. This is a very emotionally charged subject for me. I’m still undergoing therapy on this one, so…there it is!

 To Sum Up

There will be complications with this endeavour, rather severe ones, primarily running into that exotic matter, but, with some engineering ingenuity, a little financial backing from a couple of American software tycoons, and that kid who invented Face Book, I am certain these could be overcome.

Once we’ve discovered those elusive wormholes, gathered that funding, renamed and manufactured enough of that material previously called ‘Exotic Matter,’ and learned how to tell the difference between a good old-fashioned wormhole, from a dangerous Negative Energy one, we’ll be bounding around the universe at warp eight, perhaps even nine or ten.

Then, the only problem we’ll have to contend with, besides figuring out how to tell time while we’re travelling the universe, will be, making certain we get there before the French do. Uh-Huh? Remember the New World – Remember America? Can’t afford a replay of that in another Galaxy, now can we?

I’ve specifically enjoyed writing this issue of my PLOT DEVICES FOR SCI-FI / FANTASY READERS AND WRITERS, and hope you’ve been at least modestly, if not entirely, enriched, intrigued and entertained.

If my work pleases you, consider sharing this with your networking pals and maybe picking up one of my six recently published novels:

‘Love in the Time of Apocalypse’ (Published – June 2017)

‘Alina’ (Published – May 2017)

‘Never a Sun Rises’ (Published – April 2017)

‘Fractured Horizons: A Time Travel Odyssey’ (Published – Jan 2017)

‘…but then, why Mars really?’ (Published – Dec 2016)

‘AHNN’ (Published – Oct 2016)

T.E. Mark

T.E. Mark is a Science Writer, Author, Language Teacher and Violinist. He has written novels for Young and Adult Readers and continues to write science articles for national and international magazines.

 

Antimatter

PLOT DEVICES FOR SCI-FI / FANTASY READERS AND WRITERS

T. E. Mark’s Blog                                                                                                06 Sep 2015

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ANTIMATTER

This is a very deep concept. The physics involved is not only ARCANE, it’s insanely ARCANE. And, as I have your attention to this point, and since I’d sincerely like to keep it, let’s begin by listing the problems with those elusive particles, or excuse me, anti-particles, we call, Anti-Matter. (I’ll also attempt to offer vaguely coherent solutions.)

Problem                                                              Vaguely Coherent Solution (VCS)

Antimatter is extremely difficult, and thus very expensive to produce. Award the contract to Wall-Mart. Within a brief time, they’ll have it in anti-containers, with anti-labels, stocked on anti-shelves at amazingly anti-high prices.
Every anti-matter particle has a matter twin. ie electrons / anti-electrons, protons / anti-protons, etc. Once they meet – immediate annihilation. Create antimatter containers, for anti-matter particles, that prohibit the mingling of these particles with their twins. (Cruel, but necessary)
Antimatter, if created in vast quantities, could fall into the hands of anti-terrorists. Develop an anti-homeland security division, if they haven’t already, to deal with this.

Now that we’ve solved the basic problems with Anti-matter, I’d like to ask that you really stretch your imagination, so I can delve deeper into the problems, and the possible value of antimatter research.

First, a little history:

According to Paul Dirac, he’s the guy who, in 1928, if you can imagine that, first predicted the existence of the anti-electron, or positron, which ultimately led to the theory, that all particles, you know, (protons, neutrons, Miley Cyrus outfits, etc) have mirrored particles we call, anti-particles.

This, of course, led to waves of debate, and a deluge of really cool images, like:

  1. Antimatter worlds. (Don’t scoff, we live in a world where same-sex couples, have to deal with creepy, recalcitrant, Kentucky clerks for a legal marriage license, but, documented nut-cases can pick up an assault rifle, at a local flea market, on the way to the movies.)
  2. Anti-people. (This one lends itself too easily to humour, so I’ll let it go – for now!)
  3. Antimatter fuelled space ships. (Great fodder for Sci-Fi writers – I hope you’re taking notes)
  4. Antimatter weapons. (Boy, killed this debate in a quick, didn’t I?)

As my interest with these articles, is to be enlightening, provide ideas to other writers, have fun, amuse, and be brief, I would like to use the remaining time, to cover just a few details, I feel would lend themselves to good use in Science Fiction writing.

Anti-matter worlds: In the early universe, supposedly, there were equal amounts of matter and anti-matter, but nobody seems to have a clue as to where all that antimatter went. (Maybe, it’s still here. Maybe we just can’t see it, or, perhaps that’s where we go when we dream.)

Anti-people: Besides the fact that many politicians, reality TV stars, and an irrepressibly obtuse relative of mine, may fit this description, since we are all made of matter particles, logically, we should all have an anti-self out there – somewhere. (Just as I was writing this one, I had several really cool plots race through my mind, or, was that through my anti-mind? How would I know? Maybe thoughts themselves are anti-matter. Whoa! Ever have an anti-thought?)

Anti-matter fuelled space ships: This one is guaranteed to supply the Sci-Fi writer, who is desperately searching for a way to conquer inter-galactic space voyages, in one of their stories. I don’t feel the need to expound here.

Anti-matter weapons: As a confirmed pacifist, anti-nukes, anti-guns, anti-war, anti-killing, etc. I can only see one possible bright spot here. And even I admit difficulty with the implications of this one.

Some theoretical physicists consider anti-matter, simply matter moving backwards in time. If this theory prevails, an anti-matter weapon, would, for all intents and purposes, be useless, as the destruction it would have caused, if deployed, would already have been undone before it was unleashed – fired – dropped – or what-have-you. (Were you able to follow that? Read it again. If that still doesn’t work, read it backwards.)

 To sum up:

Whether to uncover alternate universes, realities, fuel sources, or detestable, loathsome weaponry, the anti-matter quest is a fine addition to the Science Fiction writer’s tool box. The idea of an anti-matter world, where your anti-self, is at this very moment, reading my anti-blog post, is supremely stimulating – and great material for a fresh manuscript.

One Caveat:

There is a fundamental law of physics, known as the Principle of the Conservation of Mass. This law states, unequivocally, that mass can neither be created nor can it be destroyed. It can only change states.

No one, to my knowledge, argues with this principle, at least nobody I know to be psychologically stable. With that said, if we have been able to create anti-matter, and it finds its twin here in our matter-stable universe, and they are annihilated, well, hasn’t our universe just lost a bit of that matter? Have we not just defied that long-standing, uncontested conservation law? And if we have, will there be a price to pay?

I hope you’ve enjoyed my newest post, and have extracted from it something useful for your next Sci-Fi story.

Parting thought: (The premise of my newest Sci-Fi novel) If we are indeed visiting an anti-matter world when we dream, then maybe, we’re dreaming now, comfortably sleeping, in our anti-beds, awaiting our anti-alarm clocks, to summon us to prepare for an anti-Monday, and yet another anti-week. (How would we know? Perhaps, we, and our perceived universe, are actually comprised of anti-matter, and our dreams are whisking us off to a world of matter.)

I’ve specifically enjoyed writing this issue of my PLOT DEVICES FOR SCI-FI / FANTASY READERS AND WRITERS, and hope you’ve been at least modestly, if not entirely, enriched, intrigued and entertained.

If my work pleases you, consider sharing this with your networking pals and maybe picking up one of my six recently published novels:

‘Love in the Time of Apocalypse’ (Published – June 2017)

‘Alina’ (Published – May 2017)

‘Never a Sun Rises’ (Published – April 2017)

‘Fractured Horizons: A Time Travel Odyssey’ (Published – Jan 2017)

‘…but then, why Mars really?’ (Published – Dec 2016)

‘AHNN’ (Published – Oct 2016)

T.E. Mark

T.E. Mark is a Science Writer, Author, Language Teacher and Violinist. He has written novels for Young and Adult Readers and continues to write science articles for national and international magazines.

The Anthropic Universe

PLOT DEVICES FOR SCI-FI / FANTASY READERS AND WRITERS

T. E. Mark’s Blogs                                                                                       30 Aug 2015

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The Anthropic Universe

Now here’s a topic I’m certain you’ve bandied about with your colleagues, friends, and family on numerous occasions. In fact, I’m betting right now you’re already considering dispensing with my post. ‘Old news,’ you’re thinking, right?

Well, let’s cater then to the frivolous few, who have somehow missed, or intentionally avoided, this all-important, life changing topic. Let’s begin with the classical definition then, shall we?

The Anthropic Universe: The Universe is as we perceive it, because if it was any different, we wouldn’t be here to perceive it.

(Now, I’d like you to take a few minutes, days, or decades to absorb that – then we’ll move on.)

Okay, where to start? Ah! I have it! Let’s clarify something right off the bat. The word ‘Perceive’ is simply a polite, and very diplomatic, way of saying ‘know,’ as, it would be considered, at this point, flagrantly egotistical for anyone, anywhere, to claim that they ‘know’ the Universe.

With that out of the way, now we can concentrate on the decidedly ARCANE implications with this term, and its uniquely esoteric definition.

Time for a couple analogies, and a little thought experiment: If the universe was, say, a large block of limestone, I imagine few would argue the point that, we, in our carbon based containers, could scarcely be clinking along drinking fruit smoothies, arguing the pros and cons of having Donald Trump as the next President of the United States.

Analogy two: If the universe was perceived, (known) as a vast, deep, dark chocolate mousse, well, though a fascinating image, one needn’t stretch too much to see that we probably wouldn’t be milling about, comparing how many friends we have on Face Book, or the number of followers we have on Twitter.

So, how does this ARCANE concept provide fodder for the Science Fiction writer?

Let’s go back to the first analogy. The Universe is a large block of cream coloured limestone. Now, all but those with exceptionally expanded imaginations, ie Sci-Fi writers, would assume the universe to be lifeless, meaningless, and dead. But then, would it be? Add to that, why would we be so sure?

As far as I know, there is no law stating that life, even intelligent life, must comprise Carbon atoms, require water, and an extra shot soy latte in the morning to reach a sentient state. With that said, a universe comprised of Calcium Carbonate, (CaCO3), could as easily be teeming with sentient life, albeit probably at the atomic level, as our universe – you know, the one we perceive of as having stars, galaxies, solar systems, water, oxygen and iPhones.

This gives rise to a number of really ARCANE conclusions.

  1. We may not be the only intelligent life in our universe. (Perhaps not even on our own planet) That finely proportioned, limestone lintel above your front door, may be a universe in itself; teeming with intelligent life – its scientists, searching endlessly for similar, Calcium-based life forms, completely unaware of our existence, simply because we don’t fit their search criteria.
  2. Our search for extra-terrestrial life in the Cosmos, with that narrow criteria, that we first find liquid water, may be, well, limited and somewhat obtuse.
  3. (This sort of goes with No 1) Universes, different than the one we perceive as our own, may exist within other universes. This gives rise to No 4. The Chef salad of Hypotheses.
  4. With all of our Theoretical Physicists, Astrophysicists, and Astronomers, struggling to determine what existed before the Big-Bang, (essentially what was in existence around that sub-atomic particle, that purportedly exploded, went through various stages of expansion, and formed our Universe – you know, the one we perceive) could it have existed within a limestone Universe? Perhaps within a lintel above someone’s door? A door in another Universe?

To sum up: Except for a few very prescient Greeks, Pythagoras & Aristarchus come to mind, and later, Copernicus, Bruno, Galileo, Kepler and their ilk, people were quite convinced the Earth sat perfectly still at the centre of the Universe. They were not unintelligent – simply saddled with conceited, and severely compressed imaginations.

So the question arises: Are we any better?

Perhaps, just perhaps, we should consider expanding our search criteria, as we gnaw away at that Anthropic Universe, looking for that perfect habitat on another celestial body, replete with fresh water, oxygen, and all the other necessities for organic life.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my newest post, and have extracted from it something useful for your next Sci-Fi story. I’m going to go now, to attempt communication with the desperate scientists, locked within my limestone fence. Hmm! I wonder if they communicate using electromagnetism. If not, what else could they use? (Perhaps this is a question Earth scientists may consider, as well.)

If my work pleases you, consider sharing this with your networking pals and maybe picking up one of my six recently published novels:

‘Love in the Time of Apocalypse’ (Published – June 2017)

‘Alina’ (Published – May 2017)

‘Never a Sun Rises’ (Published – April 2017)

‘Fractured Horizons: A Time Travel Odyssey’ (Published – Jan 2017)

‘…but then, why Mars really?’ (Published – Dec 2016)

‘AHNN’ (Published – Oct 2016)

T.E. Mark

T.E. Mark is a Science Writer, Author, Language Teacher and Violinist. He has written novels for Young and Adult Readers and continues to write science articles for national and international magazines.