Inklings: a tumblelog

The skip drive: an FTL transport mechanism for a soft sci-fi story or novel

On the way into work this morning, I was thinking of what a relatively plausible method of FTL transport would be for a relatively soft piece of science fiction. I’m not really planning on using this in anything as I’ve no plans to write a story featuring it any time soon, but it seems to me to be something somebody out there might entertaining.

The drive is called a skip drive or bunny hopper. The idea behind the drive is that in the universe it’s used in, folding space is beyond the capabilities of current tech, but it is possible to take advantage of pre-existing folds in space to instantaneously move between two points in space.

It does this by altering its phase (I’m not sure of the correct terminology as yet) in such a way as it can pass through the fold. Thus, the topology of settlement differs, quite drastically in some cases, from the obvious topology of the universe. After a number of skips, the drive must enter a heat dissipation cycle to avoid the craft cooking everybody inside, or worse still, collapsing into a singularity.

One important thing to keep in mind about all this is that the amount of power needed to travel from one point to another isn’t tied to how far it is or how quickly you’re travelling, but to how accurately you can get to your destination. Thus, if you wanted to be sure you managed to skip close a gas giant in a particular system, you’d have to expend much more power than if you were just trying to do an emergency skip get out of a tight spot and didn’t care too much where you ended up. It would be very easy to end up lost.

An equally important implication is that the folds may have something akin to eddies due to the gravitation effect of objects in space, and gravitational singularities even more so.

Now, there’s not much science behind any of this. In fact, I’d say any physicist would laugh at much of this. However, but it seem to me that such a technology would have interesting plot implications for a story it’d be used in.