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Takes place in an advance sci-fi setting where old alien races have found new laws of physics. (aka the mcguffin to make this work)

I need some sort of material that is theoretically possible, but we cant currently accomplish/discover.

It needs to be easy to make and be powerful enough. That ships could use it to go between planets in days and fly in and out of planets atmospheres.

By easy I mean basically anyone (living in todays 1st world countries) could make it using household equipment or some new device that can be mass produced.

That way in this sci-fi setting even the poorest of people could make it.

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    $\begingroup$ If you include fictional materials the question self answers with a fictional material, thrustonium, which is cheap and easy to make and works well for power thrusters. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Feb 28, 2021 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ yeah, what's wrong with regular obtanium+, eh? $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Feb 28, 2021 at 9:54
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    $\begingroup$ Why not unobtainium++? That's even better :-) $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Feb 28, 2021 at 10:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Ash He wants the average Joe to be able to make this. Unobtanium is, by definition, hard to obtain in mass-production quantities. When you do get enough of it, it spontaneously transmutes itself into Obtanium. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Feb 28, 2021 at 10:29
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    $\begingroup$ @PcMan Ah... need to brush up on my Unobtainium reactions. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Feb 28, 2021 at 10:33

6 Answers 6

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Steal Iron Man's Arc Reactor,

It is ideal for your needs.

It is an ultralight, compact, radiation-free fusion reactor. In atmosphere, it provides unlimited energy and thrust, by extracting hydrogen from the atmospheric water and fusing that.

In space, you would need to feed it something. Liquid hydrogen would be ideal, but plain old bottled water would do just fine.

I don't know about your average Joe knocking one out in his lounge using household items, but an eccentric tech genius did manage to make one in a cave in the wilderness of Something-stan.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was going to suggest Mr Fusion from Back to the Future. I have been watching for that thing ever since. Looks like hover skateboards are coming, though! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Mar 1, 2021 at 1:49
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Helium 3

  • Abundance on the moon, but does also exist on Earth.
  • Ideal for use in a Fusion reaction.
  • 6.7 tonnes of Helium 3 fuel at 100% efficiency would provide 1.1 trillion kWh.
    • That's USA powered for a year.

This only powers the thrusters, you will need to use this power to accelerate some reaction mass. The fusion reaction does produce excess protons and helium 4 as a byproduct of the reaction, which could theoretically be accelerated at extremely high speed out the back of the rocket as the reaction mass.

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  • $\begingroup$ You don't necessarily need to accelerate anything here... the fusion byproducts from, eg. D-3He are going to coming trucking out at 0.04-0.1c. If anything, in order to get a decent thrust you're gonna want to slow em down, probably by directing those hot, fast ions into some more boring and conventional reaction mass like ice or ground regolith. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2021 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ Availability of helium-3 on the moon is wildly exaggerated. Reality is 1.4-15 parts per billion in the surface layer of regolith, so those 6.7 tonnes would require scraping up and processing about a billion tonnes of lunar regolith, covering a notable fraction of the lunar surface. It's also very, very difficult to fuse. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2021 at 18:54
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Steal Zebadiah Carter's Continua Device (Dimensional Drive)!

Step 1: read Robert A. Heinlein's "Number of the Beast", so you have a clue what I'm talking about.

Step2: Confuse reality by simultaneously imposing rotation on a gyro from 6 directions, independently. The Gyro does not know where to turn to, so it runs away, dragging the Ship it is attached to along in the process. At least, that's how I remember the Device working. Suffice to say, it is a higher order Handwavium device that causes translation along dimensions. If limited to linear dimension, it is an inertialess space drive. If moving along other dimensions, it goes....places. Like Oz, Barsoom, or Olympus.

Ingredients needed: A gyroscope, a couple of solenoids, 1 3/4 bucket of freshly-squeezed handwavium.

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Quantum black hole remnants and antimatter. Advanced physicists have worked out a quantum theory of gravity that has led them to understand how to make a quasi-stable quantum black hole remnant. The hole remnant weighs about a Planck mass (a few micrograms) so if it happens to explode the energy is only about what is in the gas tank of a car rather than, say, a nuclear bomb or an exploding planet.

The advantage of the hole remnant is that if you can shoot in bits of matter, they will form a mini mini black hole that instantly evaporates back out to a black hole remnant again. But half of the evaporating stuff ... can be antimatter! Hawking radiation is supposed to be a mix of both (and photons, which interconvert from matter + antimatter) So you can use this system to directly power a ship with matter as if it were antimatter. Or you can very carefully store up the antimatter in case you need to deploy a few photon torpedoes when you arrive for ... mining purposes.

I should note in response to the peanut gallery: the quantum black hole remnants are a catalyst received from some external source, possibly aliens. For example, let's suppose that the idea of primordial black holes is real. However, these were quite small and decayed a long time ago, leaving behind black hole remnants, some of which have not yet decayed. The aliens have let slip how to obtain them - perhaps they can be spotted with infrared studies of Saturn's rings and mined, or perhaps their cargo delivery drones passing near the Solar system have occasionally run into stray photon torpedoes left over from the mining operations.

Now how can matter possibly get into a black hole remnant, that is so much smaller than its own wavelength? Well, how does electron capture work? How does an NMR machine use a radio wave to ask an atomic nucleus which way it's spinning? Occasionally, the remnant just interacts with some kind of matter, perhaps the nucleus of a very heavy element that has the right kind of resonance in there somewhere. It momentarily takes up a nucleon, forming a higher-energy intermediate that is a black hole, before saying no, nevermind and giving the energy and/or mass back again with a random baryon number. The result is occasional antimatter-matter annihilation, not to mention fissioning some ordinarily stable isotope.

Now, some of the rubes who originally picked up these things were so entranced by having total conversion equipment in their starship that they didn't really look at the details. Heat up a reaction chamber, use a heat engine to extract limitless energy from tiny amounts of matter, use it to run an ion drive. We're talking large, bulky jalopies there.

But if you want to build a proper flivver, you need decently strong radio broadcast equipment to orient your nuclear spins properly, as well as a UV module to orient your catalyst. Then you build your reaction chamber out flat, with a very thin wall so that your gammas radiate to space. With the right magnetic field setting, you can have tolerable settings for these resonances and control the emission patterns of your antiparticles so that when they annihilate the gammas usually go the right way. Since much of the propulsion here is a photon drive, one of these needs more quantum remnant catalyst for the same thrust. You have to recycle your plates more often to recover catalyst. But you need essentially no moving parts - it's a very simple system to use and maintain. The ships can be tiny and maneuverable, in case you need to avoid running into any photon torpedoes.

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  • $\begingroup$ A black hole with planck mass has an event horizon not much larger than the planck length. That makes it rather difficult to stuff anything back inside it. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2021 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ Old alien races have found new laws of physics ... McGuffin ... can't currently accomplish/discover... If that's not enough license I don't know what is! I do admit doubt that anything actually passes through an event horizon, let alone that a remnant exists, let alone the ability to target it that way. But who am I to tell the aliens that? $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2021 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ I shudder at the though that " basically anyone (living in todays 1st world countries) could make it using household equipment" and "Quantum black hole remnants and antimatter" being put together so cavalierly. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Feb 28, 2021 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @PcMan can I interest you in a household strangelet dispenser? $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2021 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ Sure the best answer for this Q, was looking to downvote this Q, but no more, the A saved it. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Feb 28, 2021 at 17:14
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Black hole-powered generator and capacitors.

You have found a way to create black holes, the kugelblitz for example (concentrate enough light on one point to create a black hole). Upon creation a tiny microscopic bit of matter is absorbed by the BH, which almost instantly vaporizes due to hawking radiation. This is converted to electricity and stored in (super)capacitors and batteries. Since you are converting light and matter to energy, you can fuel it with anything you want. An old sock would provide decades or more of power. The most perfect method would be to create many many BH's after another, each absorbing just a few molecules and converting it to energy for a more continuous flow and an easier regulation of energy distribution.

The method of acceleration for a ship is a simple one: launch matter out one end to propel the ship in another, just like any thruster basically does. You use particle accelerators that you point in the right direction to move the ship, these are powered by the electricity from the BH.

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Changing laws of physics

When I was younger I once read that they suspect the laws of physics change over long, long times. It's gradual, but can be gradual in a way that a river can change It's course in a day after years of eroding something.

The alien races could use this. You can have either:

  1. Things created when the laws were different that still work and can provide you the energy/substance required.
  2. The laws changed and energy is suddenly more readily available. You can pull it from another dimension, a black hole or helium becomes 10.000 times more potent under special conditions.

Why this? Because we can't discover or accomplish it now. Afterwards you can make basically no plot holes as the laws change to your will. And it's the only way you could explain anything that can be made in your kitchen and still can move you from one solar system to another, let alone from your house to another country. You have some surprisingly energetic stuff at home, but relatively to space travel it's just not enough energy except with too high tech stuff and even then next to impossible.

A rocket for going into space with relatively small payloads has insane amounts of energy and only takes you to orbit or the moon. It takes months to years to go to Mars. Going to another planet in days just takes way too much energy.

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