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Imagine your scientists have found a way to increase the space of your empire, literally: They are able to create an artificial inflaton field which locally creates a "space bubble" connected with usual space by a wormhole. In other words, from outside it takes just the space of, say, a star, but it's bigger on the inside. OK, so you now can have some extra empty space. But now the emperor wants to know if this invention has an actual use, or if he just wasted his money on that research.

So in short: Is there anything interesting (from the point of view of an empire) which you could do with such a space bubble?

Edit: I want to emphasize that my empire is a space empire, and the space bubble is in space, not on earth. Although the mention of star-sized wormhole in principle already implies that, I notice that I was probably not clear enough about that point.

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  • $\begingroup$ From an outside perspective, is mass preserved in this bubble? The answers involving cargo transports seem to assume so, but it isn't clear from your question. $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Feb 17 '15 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ Tangential book to read: Implied Spaces. $\endgroup$ – user487 Feb 17 '15 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ As of the time of this comment, half of the answers involve moving the bubble. Is the possible, or even feasible? Does it take as much energy to move a bubble with a planet inside it as it does to the planet alone? $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Feb 17 '15 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ Since the entry of the bubble is, as per assumption, a wormhole, it should be exactly as easy or hard to transport as a wormhole is. Unfortunately I don't know how hard it is to do that. But I don't think it should depend on what's inside the bubble. After all, you're not moving the bubble through space, but only the entry, that is, one end of the wormhole. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Feb 17 '15 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ You could have jist compared it with the ghost world in Hui Boo or the TARDIS from doctor who - small on the outside - big on the inside $\endgroup$ – BlueWizard Sep 12 '15 at 18:28
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Make a Maze.

A concept that comes up in a lot of fantasy novels is a sandbar maze outside of a harbor. This then lets you restrict access - outsiders don't know the patterns, and if they try to invade they ground their ships and you can then proceed to shoot them from a nice safe distance.

Expanding space could be used in the same way to protect important installations or systems in your empire. There could be one "safe" path that uses regular space and takes the normal amount of time. But if you stray off course you're into the vastly expanded areas, messing up your navigation and keeping you from getting where you want to go. Depending on how fine-grained the extra space is, this could be used to separate enemy fleets as they each take different times to cover the same "regular" distance - divide and conquer.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for ingenuity. An addition, depending on how much control one has over who passes the threshold of the bubble, this could be use to indefinitely trap ships without ever firing a shot. $\endgroup$ – WeRelic Feb 16 '15 at 20:28
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Oh boy! A pocket dimension! What can't you use it for?

Ok, you have a traversable wormhole to a big place. Call it a stellar-sized bag of holding. You can put all sorts of things inside it, perhaps even an entire solar system.

The main problem with a solar system for an interstellar empire, especially one with enemies, is defending star systems. Put the important systems in a pocket dimension, and suddenly you don't have to spend as much defending the systems - rather than many cubic AUs of space, you suddenly have just one or less.

You can hide all sorts of stuff in a pocket dimension too. Inconvenient prisoners, military research installations, battle fleets, and so on. Why hide a battle fleet in one, you ask? Well, just deflate the wormhole, tuck it aboard a harmless-looking freighter, then reinflate it somewhere inconvenient to your enemy, and presto! Instant fleet! You save on fuel too!

To go with the freighter idea, you could tuck all sorts of heavy cargo into the pocket dimension, deflate the wormhole and load it onto a freighter just big enough to hold the requisite wormhole control gear, and reinflate it anywhere you want, all with a cheap tiny freighter that - with the pocket dimension - can hold more than a thousand of the biggest freighters you ever built.

Hell, stuff a black hole into your pocket dimension and use the wormhole to sling the black hole at someone you don't like. This gives a whole new dimension (literally) to the saying "When faced with a stronger opponent, find a bigger rock".

Don't like the Jivipts in that galaxy over there? Pinch the Super Massive Black Hole at the centre of their galaxy and watch their galaxy literally fall apart. Or alternatively, pinch the SMBHs at the centre of a few other galaxies that you don't care about, and chuck them at the Jivipts' galaxy's SMBH. With a few SMBHs worth of extra mass, you can collapse their galaxy, or at least make it a bit more compact. Ok, maybe this one is not so practical, unless you're taking a really long view, like millions of years...

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    $\begingroup$ +1 One practical issue to deflating and reinflating a pocket dimension is that, if the freighter and the equipment for reinflating the dimension are destroyed, then, depending on the technology's mechanics, you might permanently lose access to whatever was inside the space. You would lose whatever and whoever you were trying to move... $\endgroup$ – Kevin Feb 17 '15 at 5:52
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Not touching on any science here, but, these are what came to mind.

Transporting Cargo:

If they are able to "Expand" an area of space to a larger volume but keep the outer dimensions unchanged, then the technology could be used to increase the cargo capacity of the empire's ships. This way, a small shuttle could contain the cargo of a massive freighter ( depending on the extent of the expansion ).

Masking Military Movements:

Another use would be for the military to encapsulate a fleet inside one of these bubbles, which may or may not hide the ships due to distortions in space. It could even be used in conjunction with the above example, hiding a fleet in that small shuttle.

EDIT:

If the bubble were the size of a star or even a planet, then that empire would never have to worry about overpopulation as they could just use these bubbles to expand their habitable areas.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site WeRelic $\endgroup$ – James Feb 16 '15 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ Well, a shuttle the size of a star would certainly be quite conspicuous ;-) But then, of course smaller bubbles should be easier to make; and I admit it didn't occur to me that you might move them around. Good ideas! $\endgroup$ – celtschk Feb 16 '15 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ @James Thank you! I've been lurking for a while. Fantastic little section of SE that you've got here. Ah, I missed that part of it. Line of thought was that a smaller bubble would have to come first as a prototype. If it worked that way, the only issue would be mass/inertia of the shuttle. Good question! Got my brain firing for the day. $\endgroup$ – WeRelic Feb 16 '15 at 20:11
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Such technology would quickly put any space empire at the absolute top of the food chain. Depending on its limits, of course.

Transportation

If the field can be transported, a single high-speed transport would be able to move incredible amounts of materials. the size of the transport depends on how big the technology is to open and close (or 'inflate' and 'deflate', if you prefer) the space. If a 'container' can be inflated and deflated from any location, then the ship could be nanotech sized, as all it really needs is to be able to move really fast and be locatable by the right people.

But never mind moving stuff and people. How about planets? Find a nice planet, stick an inflated field in its path, and once it goes in, zip it up and take it wherever you want! Make your own solar system!

Defense

Which leads me to the next point. As Dan Smolinske pointed out, you could create a maze of large and small spaces that would make it very difficult to find your home planet. But why stop there? First, find a very chaotic part of the universe - somewhere with supernovas, black holes, new stars being born, and as much dangerous stuff as you can think of scattered around. Take that solar system you created earlier and set it up somewhere in the middle, still inside its field. Now, not only do you have a needle in a haystack, but your haystack is exploding! All the time!

To get in and out safely is a little tricky, which is why I came up with four possible scenarios:

  • Make a drawbridge with a long, tubular field (or multiple fields in close proximity). Extend the fields from inside your solar system (inside the maelstrom) to outside the maelstrom. When a ship wants to enter or exit, inflate the fields; this creates a thin path for the ship to follow, surrounded by a lot of empty space. Any harmful energy or particles will get bogged down in the outside of the "drawbridge", allowing the ship in the center to pass safely.
  • Make a ship in a bottle. The "bottle" is a field that surrounds the ship, protecting it from harmful energy or particles with very long distances. Similar to the drawbridge, except instead of a path, it's a point.
  • Make a gate. This would be the opposite of the drawbridge; part of the maelstrom would be inside an inflated chunk of space; deflating it would open a path. When the ship is safely through, re-inflate the gates and they slam shut.
  • Make a thin edge. This is the opposite of the ship in a bottle; instead of expanding the space around the ship, compress it, moving the ship from one side of the maelstrom to the other in a matter of seconds. When no ships need to pass through, the 'thin' spot can be inflated, stranding the system in the middle of a vast space.

Weapons

You can carry around an armada inside a baseball. Or a sun. Or black holes. That alone is enough to rule the universe, but there's still more; instead of destroying your enemies, you can take them hostage. Along with their homeworld. Or their home solar system. You don't even have to fire a shot.

Defense

Distance makes a great shield. If the technology is fast enough, a wearable suit (or a ship-sized net) could be designed that inflates space around the wearer when projectiles are detected; the projectile would simply travel past the wearer.

Stealth

If you can operate the technology inside the field, then your ships can shrink themselves down to a tiny point, as could operatives. Of course, you could also hide you planet like that.

And stealing information (or anything else) is easy when you can hide planets in the palm of your hand.

Living Space

Of course, you'd have all the living space you'd want; find a nice habitable planet, put it in a bubble with a lovely sun, and away you go. More people? Not a problem! Just stick some bubbles in living areas! A house could be no more than a doorway into an enlarged space. If you can stack bubbles, it's even easier; rows of doors, behind yet more rows of doors. Of course, you'll need a lot of oxygen and other resources, but as long as you have somewhere to pull those from, you can make 'shortened space' jumps to deliver it exactly where it needs to be.

In fact, if you make your spaces just so, you could literally step from one planet to another by shrinking the space between them in a small area.

Boundless trouble

Of course... none of this comes without risk. If it is the space that grows and shrinks, but not the objects inside, then a failed field could create an explosion as all the stuff inside is shoved into 'normal space'.

On the other hand, if the things inside shrink and grow with the field, you may well end up with material that isn't the same size as it used to be. A number 12 bolt may go into a field just right, but come out a little bigger. Joe Smith may take the 8:05 to work and the 5:20 home, and end up growing taller every day.

If the fields retain mass, then moving a planet around is going to be just as hard inside a field as outside, and probably harder - every time you shrink something big, you run the risk of making a tiny black hole. Or a not-so-tiny black hole, if you're shrinking solar systems.

A maze may work a little too well; if you forget the way out, you're stuck.

Communication will be almost impossible, unless you can invent something that doesn't interact with space itself. The ever-changing shape of 'space' near a field would distort radio signals, and a moving field would scramble radio signals into mush.

If something with a larger area than a cross-section of the field hit the field, the object would be torn apart; the outside dimensions would stay the same, be the inside dimensions would grow. 4 units of material stretched across 4000 units of space isn't going to last long.

And finally, great technology can put you far ahead of everyone else, but it can also make you a target. If you use this technology, weaponize it first, because everyone else is going to want to take it away from you.

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  • $\begingroup$ If something is in a space that's currently getting expanded, I'd expect that object simply to get ripped apart. Which I now notice would also make a quite good weapon. Anyway, lots of good ideas in your post, +1. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Feb 17 '15 at 22:34
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In addition to great answers already present:

1. Ruin someone's retirement fund

There is a common wisdom, that

you should invest your money in real estate, because it's the only thing we won't be able to make more

Let's not discuss here how much truth is in that statement, the important thing is that a lot of people believe in it and base their retirement plans on expected increase in value of the land they possess.

Now that we have a way to actually mass produce new land in vast quantities, the prices plummet and a lot of people are left penniless.

2. Ruin your neighbour's economy

Let's assume, that your empire has an agrarian society as an inconvenient neighbour. You can secretly dedicate that new land nobody knows about to grow vast amounts of food. Then you wait for a right moment, and you unleash your waves of cheap products overnight, ruining interspace food market.

Or even better, you don't do it, you just show your stockpile of food to their ambassador and tell him something like "Well, well, didn't you mention some trade agreement, that would be super-convenient for my empire? And while we're at it, we need some military assistance in some other part of space..."

3. Create Space Vegas! With blackjack! And places of negotiable hospitality...

Let's assume, that your empire has some very strict laws regarding morals and ethics. But everyone likes to party every once in a while, and nobody, nobody I tell you, can party like a government official who rides a moral high horse for a living.

But since a pocket dimension is within the empire, but technically isn't, but it sort of is, and then isn't, you can create legal grey area, where those officials are still in power, but less convenient laws don't apply.

4. Create the biggest dumpster ever

Ok, let's assume a worst case scenario: we have a huge, barely controlled, bubble of empty nothingness, where nothing can survive, nothing can be build, and whatever you put inside, can never be pulled out.

Well, a huge empire like that probably creates a lot of waste. And when it comes to storing that waste, everyone and their garbageman are yelling "not in my backyard".

Look there, now we have a place which is nobody's backyard. Let's put your waste there!

And on a side note, it's a nice setup for an invasion: "We were putting our dump there for generations, and then the dump got intelligent and attacked us!"

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how this "space bubble" implies that you have created new land. $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Feb 17 '15 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on what it's borders are made of.Assuming it's a sphere with a hole for entering/leaving, if you continue to go forward, you are going to hit some sort of border. What is it? Is it dense? Can you stand on it? does it have gravity? Everything depends on it. Also, you can create planets inside it by hurling asteroids on one another - something you wouldn't risk around your own planet. And if there is no way to use it that way - you have answer 4. $\endgroup$ – Darth Hunterix Feb 17 '15 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ @DarthHunterix: You don't hit some border. You eventually arrive where you started: At the wormhole. Think of the surface of earth, just in three instead of two dimensions. However if I understand the Wikipedia article about the inflaton correctly, it should leave some new matter in the newly created bubble, which, with sufficiently advanced technology, one might be able to use for building new planets. So points 1 and 2 are not completely impossible. Point 4 is possible, but a black hole is sufficient for that. But +1 for point 3. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Feb 17 '15 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ A bubble might be much more safer to use than a black hole if there is smaller chance of being sucked into it unintentionally. $\endgroup$ – Darth Hunterix Feb 17 '15 at 22:10
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Land is power

*usually*

In most cases, land is power. If a country doesn't have much space, it will not have enough resources to thrive.

More people

More space = more houses and more farms = more people you can support = more (and bigger) armies.

More resources

If the bubble comes with pre-made planets on the inside, you have lots more resources to mine. Otherwise, you can at least fit more planets inside if you can manage to buy/steal/permanently borrow them, or you can fit more fusion reactors to make some iron and carbon for manufacturing.

More space to put stuff

With more space, you can fit more factories, maybe entertainment to keep your people happy (depending on how nice you are), some farms so no one goes hungry, etc.

Another note

With such a "pocket dimension", you don't have as much area to defend! The outside of your empire will have the same surface area, but it will have much more volume inside. Normally, increasing volume also increases the amount of surface area to defend. Note that this comes at a cost: You also have less space to transport goods in and out of your empire. (This is like how diffusion works in a cell and the reason there are no 50-foot cells. They would not have enough supplies.)

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Further research into the laws of physics by creating universes with different parameters for the laws of physics. A civilization that has found, studied and controlled inflatons has access to magic level tech compared to ours; we for whom the inflaton is still a hypothetical field. Still, let's assume they haven't been able to probe the multiverse, yet.

Researchers at first assumed that the characteristics of the space bubbles needed to share the characteristics of our universe but they found this wasn't the case. Sure, you could make space pockets that mimic our own but that's boring. What happens if you tweak the laws of physics in a space bubble so that the laws of conservation of energy don't apply or entropy works in reverse leading towards ever increasing order instead of disorder? How about if the Planck second is half as long or twice as long as Planck second? Researchers found they could create custom universes on the other end of the wormhole.

More importantly, what happens when you bring mass or energy from the bubble back into our universe? Does the mass decompress in a giant explosion? Does time move faster or slower in the bubble? As a plot device, translating from our universe's physics into the bubble space's physics allows all kinds of crazy things to happen. Stasis bubbles, perfect armor, free energy, free mass.

Example

The Empire is looking for a new energy source and antimatter just isn't cutting it anymore. MOAR POWER was the constant cry. So the researchers found a way to create Big Bangs on command in bubble spaces then using wormholes, port some of that energy back to our universe. Big Bangs make convenient power sources because it is THE most powerful event in the history of our universe.

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