I am something of a science fiction writer. In the process of creating my own universe I had to tackle the problem of how the various life-forms would quickly cover the huge distances between point A and point B with none of that pesky “Universe advancing a bazillion years while you only advanced ten minutes.” The current tried and true options available are Warp Drive, Hyperdrive and Wormhole. The first two have been implemented to death and Stargate has pretty much got the Wormhole aspect nailed (though I will be using a derivative of it in my universe) so I pondered awhile for something original. Then I got an idea. I call it Reverse Relativity. What this means is that instead of time slowing down as you approached the speed of light it would speed up, so from the spacecraft’s POV it would take months to reach a destination whereas only a few minutes pass to an observer outside of the spacecraft. Persons traveling aboard the spacecraft would spend this time sealed away in something like a cryogenic freeze so that when the spacecraft arrived at its destination no significant aging would have occurred in either the Universe or the crew.

Now that you’ve got the back story, I’d like to put this question out to the board: Is there any theory out there on how to reverse Relativity and if so how does it work? Failing that information, what would you call a device that would allow a spacecraft to do this?

How can the observed speed of light be preserved in this way? You might as well get rid of the light speed limit all together if the observed speed is variable. From the planets point of view the spacecraft would appear to be travelling faster than light.

  1. Ask yourself if this needs to be changed. If it’s going to be a plot point, or make more sense than current explanations feel free, but remember normally it’s best to use a cliche, because everyone knows instantly that hyperspace cuts travel time, but only works outside gravitational firelds, etc.

  2. What ‘device’? I thought you were changing the rules of physics so just going very fast would be all that’s needed.

  3. It’s a nice idea.

  4. But changing physics is almost certainly going to open up a galaxy sized can of worms in so many ways. If they get from Sol to Alpha Centuri in a couple of days, then, well, they travelled faster than light from our perspective, which I don’t think is what you want.

  5. I tried to think of a way to get whaty you want, which would be cool, but I can’t think of anything yet.

Don’t worry about the accuracy; worry about the plausibility. If you write a good enough story, readers will accept the premise if you just mention it.

Ultimately, the characters and the plot that you build around this premise are what will make the story succeed or fail. Use the idea without apology or rationalization – but use it well.

Don’t worry about the accuracy; worry about the plausibility. If you write a good enough story, readers will accept the premise if you just mention it.

Ultimately, the characters and the plot that you build around this premise are what will make the story succeed or fail. Use the idea without apology or rationalization – but use it well.

You can call it whatever, you want. Spindizzy is taken, though.

Acutally I found a rather good explanation for faster than light travel from Stargate. It happens when Daniel goes outside with a guy from an advanced culture (Omac) who needs to send a message to a planet a few thousand light years away and does so with a light beam.

Daniel: I’m no astrophysisit but doesn’t light take a long time to get to someplace that far away?
Omac: Here, he grabs a stick from the ground and puts his hands on either end these two points seem far away, until you do this he bends the stick so his hands are together.
Daniel: Oh, I remember this from college physics, your talking about actually bending space!
Omac: …No. You wouldn’t understand.
Daniel: Yeah, probably not.

Sometimes the explanations are better left unexplained.

But if you do need something try along the lines of creating ultra dense singularities outside the ship (black holes) to bend space and make the distances shorter, so you can travel at .5c and still make it to Alpha Centurai in time for tea. You can just say the engine collapses photons to create negative mass that in turn reacts with positive mass to form unstable singularities in space that appear momentarily giving pilots just enough time to hit the gas. Since your in the bent space at the time that the singularity disapates your ship is stretched out in space and snaps back together in the direction your trying to go. For a visual aid, take an elastic band (your ship) in your left hand (point A) and then move your right hand (point B) over and grab the band (bend space) then stretch your right hand back out to where it started (disipate the singularity) and let go of the band with your left hand (snap out of the bent space). Congrats, you’ve just travelled across hundreds of lightyears in a few seconds.
(Please note that the first part about negative mass is crap, but the last thing may actually be possible)

For faster than light travel, if you naively put v > c in the standard relativistic corrections for time dilation and distance dilation, you get imaginary values for elapsed time/distance. The physical interpretation of this is ambiguous enough that a science fiction writer such as yourself should be able to do something with it.

The tougher question is how to get faster than light. The equations go to infinity for v = c, so you somehow need to get v > c from v < c without passing v = c.

Or, you can go the hyperspace route, but modify it a bit: Have your ships travel in 4-dimensional space, so they can take shortcuts outside of our observable universe but still stay in reality.

It works really well if you present the Universe as an onion: We live on one hyperthin (little fourth-dimensional width) three-brane that’s layered with other three-branes to form a four-dimensional Universe, like an onion’s nearly two-dimensional skin is layered with other thin skins to form a three-dimensional onion. Travel in the Universe is done by `jumping’ towards the center at an angle, so you come back up to our three-brane in a far different place from where you left. Ergo, you can observe Einstein’s Constant while still being able to get from galaxy to galaxy in time to wage the essential battle.

If you need a visual aid, imagine a magnetic balloon with metallic ants living inside it. An ant has two ways to get someplace: It can run around on the balloon’s skin (straight line in two-space), or it can take a more direct route by jumping (straight line in three-space). The ants don’t get lost in the balloon (a ship drifting in four-space) because they are attracted to their magnetized balloon skin (the drive is anchored in our three-brane).

This has a bonus: You can imagine whatever the hell you want living in other layers of the Universal onion.

Although it may be easier on the average reader, there is no physical reason to limit it to 4-d.

If you want to think of the 3-space + 1 time curvature of GR as being embedded in a higher dimensional space (analogous to the way that the curved 2-d surface of a sphere is embedded in 3-D space), then you have to have a total of 10 dimensions to be able to provide the arbitrary curvatures demanded by general relativity. (The curvature tensor has 10 free parameters.)

Frank: Yeah, but 4-space is all I need for the onion to work. I know about higher-dimensional physics.

There is actually a theory now that the speed of light is variable. I don’t remember the details of the theory, but there was a big article about it in discover magazine a few months back.

According to Joao Magueijo of Imperial College, London,
(not a fringe scientist)
the speed of light was possibly different in the very early days of the universe- but as nothing that resembles life as we know it existed at that time, there could not have been anyone around to use the effect to travel around at unusual speeds.

(if the speed of light varies when there is no one around to see it does it really stay the same?)

SF worldbuilding at

By variable I meant variable between different reference points.

Maybe you could just make the speed of light a lot faster…

It’d still make no sense, but most people’d understand.

how about this, the ship converts it’s self, it’s passongers, ect. into negative mass, then it actually require more energy to go slower. it would convert the mass from when it was positive to energy and store it. the energy it cariies would serve to limit to whatever speed limit would be best for your plot. upon reaching it’s destination it could convert back to positive mass using the energy it carried. the acceleration would not be felt by the crew as once in negative mass mode they would be instantly at super luminal speeds. once in positive mass mode it would instantly be at subluminal speeds.
you could call it the tachyon drive.