I've had a fairly complex world built up in my head for several years and finally writing a story in it. One thing I'm struggling with is explaining the galaxy's faster-than-light traveling. It's not necessarily hard science fiction, but not necessarily complete "ignore physics." In other words, it can bend the rules but not break them completely rendering everything we know wrong

Here's a general idea of how FTL works in my universe, straight from the source itself..

"Imagine this ship is space. The vast universe home to trillions.” Kandra nodded, her mom continued, “How can you get from here into where your luggage is” Kandra looked up at her mom. “I don’t know.” “There’s multiple options, you could walk back to where there’s a service ladder or maybe a ventilation shaft, or you can dig a hole in this floor? What would be the fastest?” “I guess dig.” Her mom smiled. “Right. What the warp drive does is essentially digs through the dark matter in space, making and filling millions and billions of holes per second. It’s not instantaneous because we can’t dig a hole through a planet or a star, we’d burn up or kill a planet. We can through dark matter. It’s something light can’t do.” “So, we’re smarter than light.” ... One more pull back, followed by a woossh sucking sound, the most powerful vacuum in existence sucking them inside of it. The blackness of space became a blue tunnel as they entered what was dubbed warp space.

I've called it a warp drive, but I know that may not be the right term for what I am using. Essentially, how it is described and works is almost like a combination of a wormhole, a warp/subspace, or maybe a alcubierre drive? I've also got an idea in my mind about traveling through a fourth spatial dimension that cuts down the distance. One thing about my universe, because it becomes somewhat of a subplot is that time traveling is not possible and considered fantasy by the alien races (a human scientist is mocked for bringing it up and it drives other plot points involving human-alien relations)

Add: I am going to drop the dark matter explanation.

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    $\begingroup$ The fluff doesnt seem to be working. Dark matter is dark because it does not react with matter in any way but gravitationally (as far as we can tell). Digging through dark matter is like digging through the air to get to your destination. What you really describe is perhaps a midpoint between an einstein-rosenveld bridge and the subspace trope, only instead of connecting 2 einstein-rosenveld bridges you connect it to subspace. You could let planets and stars have an impression in this subspace since it is warped by the einstein-rosenveld bridge but while there physics apply differenly. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Oct 29 '19 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the forum! How do you define plausible? As soon as you use the term "faster than light" it is automatically not plausible if you want a science-based answer. So we need to know what plausible means to you? Also, "digging through dark matter" does render everything we know wrong. $\endgroup$ – Vogon Poet Oct 29 '19 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ Oh ok. What I've imagined is light can only travel on a three-deminsional plane, but the drive enables them somehow to move through a fourth deminson. Think of it like "if flatland discovered flight." $\endgroup$ – snowymacie Oct 29 '19 at 23:47
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    $\begingroup$ So then, you're thinking more like "A Wrinkle in Time" or something else dealing with a fourth spatial dimension. $\endgroup$ – ReinstateMonica3167040 Oct 30 '19 at 0:36
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    $\begingroup$ @snowymacie Please drop the dark matter thing. The way you're using it is rather jarring for people that have some understanding in the subject (which would include quite a bit of the fans of sci-fi content). $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Oct 30 '19 at 19:05

The mother giving the explanation of the FTL travel is either not a scientist or even if she was her explanation isn't intended to be fully scientific. Certain parts of it can be taken with a grain of salt, or even plain discounted and ignored.

The key concept is the continuous process of "digging holes" in space (forget dark matter; it sounds wrong, though dark energy would be be better). This suggests the drive works by continuously generating wormhole pairs, somehow rapidly passing through them successively to cover distance greater than could be traversed at lightspeed, while the vehicle and its continuous sequence of wormholes are moving at velocities far faster than light. This could be considered as the vehicle creating a continuous wormhole that moves faster than lightspeed and carries the vessel along with it.

In simpler words, the ship generates a wormhole, its mass causes it to fall through the wormhole and the wormhole keeps stretches itself over increasing greater distances (basically because it has an object, the spaceship, with a positive inside it).

Please note while this isn't a description of wormholes as current science knows them. Future science might have other ideas about wormholes. Using the concept of a wormhole makes this faster-than-light travel appear half-way scientific, and this is what gives it a patina of plausibility.

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    $\begingroup$ The mother is not a scientist. She is a navy ship captain. It's the character's flashbacks to one of her first space flights so the mom is explaining it to a child as well. $\endgroup$ – snowymacie Oct 31 '19 at 16:33

Warp drive

It's not hyperspeed / hyperspace. Star Wars, for all its greatness, get that completely wrong. Hyperspace is the space between / space around the three physical dimensions. It functions on the same principle that traveling through wormholes does, insert common explanation involving a folding paper here. (My favorite is how its explained in Wrinkle in Time, they refer to it as 'tessering'.) Going through hyperspace lets you ignore physical barriers.

What you have here is called 'warp speed', which you may know from Star Trek. It is simply ignoring the commonly held belief that objects cannot exceed the speed of light by using what's commonly referred to as 'technobabble' to explain why you haven't actually violated the basics of the laws of physics.

The technobabble you are using to solve this problem is by assigning dark matter the duty of bending the laws of physics. Presumably, the dark matter lets the ship ignore it. It sounds more from you explanation that the ship is cloaking themselves in dark matter, and as long as they don't come into contact with normal matter (or large amounts of it - after all, space isn't actually empty, it's just mostly empty), they can behave like dark matter and ignore everything but gravity. Which also means they aren't traveling by vacuum, they're traveling by gravity engine - and note there's no 'woosh' sound because in space, there is no sound. (Actually, come to think of it, a magnetic field can flick aside the atoms in space so it can't touch the ship. But that might violate your established rules of the ship behaving like dark matter.)

  • $\begingroup$ Actually, "Hyperspace is the space between the three physical dimensions" is actually incredibly to what I've imagined as the technobabble for how the warp drive works. I may have a really bad metaphor. $\endgroup$ – snowymacie Oct 30 '19 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ The way FTL works in sci-fi is kind of like Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff - they keep coming up with new ways that seem plausible with handwaved future tech, and then it turns out that the underlying rules of the universe don't allow it and they've been running on air and not cliff for the past ten feet. And this keeps happening over and over. Honestly, if I ever wrote FTL travel, I'd just set rules in place and then never explain the reason for it, claiming it was too complex for anyone in-universe to understand save for the one who created it. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Oct 30 '19 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ "claiming it was too complex for anyone in-universe to understand save for the one who created it." That's one of the things I'm getting at in that even though the character's mom (this is a flashback) is a naval captain, she doesn't understand the science.I guess what I'm really trying to do is formalite the rules and explain it basically without explaining it. $\endgroup$ – snowymacie Oct 31 '19 at 16:23

That's a sorta-kinda-not-really Alcubierre Drive.

Your design has the same intention as an Alcubierre Drive, albeit the implementation is a bit off.

The Alcubierre Drive works by compressing the space ahead and expanding the space behind a given spaceship. This effectively creates a "bubble" wich distorts the space around the vessel, pushing it forward.

This drive is possibly one of the best bets for realistic FTL travels. The hards parts of an Alcubierre Drive can be explained away with some mild technobabble using negative mass matter or the Casimir Effect - both theoretical explanations on how to make this thing work.

If you want to make your drive unable to go through big things like planets and stars, you can explain that away by saying that deep gravitational wells interfere with the drive, making it unreliable/dangerous near objects like those. To Warp, one would have to get some distance away from the planet/star using regular engines and, once the distance was good enough, perform the jump.

Personally, I've been using the Alcubierre Drive as the explanation for teleportation devices some of Shadowrun characters can use on the games I host. I explained away on the Sixth World by having magic provide the hard-to-do parts of the drive, with regular engineering doing the rest.

  • $\begingroup$ "Casimir Effect" This might actually be fairly close who what I've imagined since I've pictured it like going in-between something like it's a fourth spatial dimension. I may have to stick with one or the other. $\endgroup$ – snowymacie Oct 30 '19 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ @snowymacie you can ping me on chat later tonight for a more one-on-one discussion about this. I would be happy to help you brainstorm this. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Oct 30 '19 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, so I'm definitely going to drop the dark matter, and I think I'm going to with something like the Alcuberrie (which if I'm not wrong sounds like a more technical warp drive) that creates a Casimir Effect allowing it to travel faster than light? $\endgroup$ – snowymacie Oct 31 '19 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ @snowymacie The Alcubierre drive doesn't "create" a Casimir Effect. The Casimir Effect is one of the theoretical ways you could create an Alcubierre Drive. My recommendation is to avoid explaining your drive too much if you're not at least somewhat proficient on the subject. Saying your drive bends the space around the ship to propel it forward should be enough. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Oct 31 '19 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ @snowymacie Here, have a reading on this. It has some details on how such a warp drive could work. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Oct 31 '19 at 17:12

I have an answer within science-fiction, but not really science-based. Fortunately this question does not ask for a science based answer.

What kind of FTL travel is this?

What the warp drive does is essentially digs through the dark matter in space, making and filling millions and billions of holes per second. It’s not instantaneous because we can’t dig a hole through a planet or a star, we’d burn up or kill a planet. We can through dark matter. It’s something light can’t do... The blackness of space became a blue tunnel as they entered what was dubbed warp space.

This is really the same concept as Star Trek's concept of subspace with different terminology. "Subspce" doesn't exist in reality, and nothing suggests that dark matter exists everywhere either (remember "dark matter" is just a name we give to the unexplained extra gravity in the universe - it's not possible to characterize it as matter in any sense from what we know). Your concept of "warp space" is called a "warp bubble" in Star Trek. "Making and filling holes" is only slightly different than what Star Trek does - they "shrink" the space in front of them while "expanding" the space behind them. It has the same end result.

Is this plausible?
From a scientific standpoint, it is not. But it is just as plausible or more than what Star Trek does. At least you are hand-waving the holes using real physics terminology - dark matter - rather than the completely invented idea of "subspace"

At some point you may need to tell people what kind of shovel you are using to dig these holes, but that won't become an issue until you decide to make this hard sci-fi.

Also, this is nothing like the hypothesized "Alcubierre drive."


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