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In an Electric Universe, where space is plasma soup and electromagnetism is the "magic" that can defeat the laws of physics, all stars are connected by invisible Birkland currents. Picture the rope that forms when you touch a plasma ball:

enter image description here

These natural electric currents are exploited for FTL travel. In simple terms, starships travel inside a magnetic bubble along an electric current to a nearby star, drop the bubble just in time to turn via gravity/slingshot, and then follow another electric rope to the next star.

A few star systems (early Type II on the Kardashev scale) have created super-highways by strengthening the weak Birkland current between two distant stars. They can now skip past the connecting stars and travel directly hub to hub. Assuming navigational stars are average 5 light years apart, let's estimate a super-highway at 20 to 25 light years.

My question is about the devices they use to do this.

the device, I think...?

I am picturing something like AC transformers, a mega-structure in space that converts the stars' electricity to a higher voltage, with a synchronized transformer at the other end. I'm not an electrical engineer so please correct me if I'm using the wrong electrical analogy.

This is my placeholder artwork from an earlier draft:

enter image description here

According to Electric Universe pseudo-science, all stars should have an ion jet at their magnetic poles. I want to pin the device above one of the poles (both if the star has two connections) using magnetic flux against the star.

The device's own magnetic field is so strong that it defeats gravity around it (wacky space). Parts of the device are discontiguous, but it all probably rotates as one large object. It is powered by the star's ion stream, and converts part of that stream to the "high voltage" Birkland current.

why does it matter, in context to the story

In the story, a robot protagonist has to journey into the device to repair an AI. It serves as a hero's journey to heaven/hell mythos. My goal is not hard science, but I'd like the electricity analogy to make sense, and inform how I structure the device.

the question, specifically

What is the general structure of the device? What are the physical and electrical parts? How big is it? Does it spin crazy fast?

Is the AC transformer analogy a good model? Would it impact the stars at all to wire them up in sequence?

Disclaimer: I am not trying to honor any beliefs specific to Electric Universe Theory, so perhaps Teslapunk would be a better genre description. I'm also fine with calling it "magic that is analogous to electricity".

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    $\begingroup$ Did you draw that yourself? If so, that's spectacular! Otherwise, you should give credit to the cat, as appropriate. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 7 '17 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ Hahaha. Yes, my artwork, but not my cat. $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Mar 7 '17 at 19:06
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You want a pair of step up/step down transformers

First off, I am assuming you want not-real world science, but real world engineering, to make the protagonist's story and repair duties reasonable. In that case I am going to handwave the science and describe equipment that would work by analogy.

Using the pseudo-science electricity analogy, you want to use transformers for long range power transmission. Here on Earth, $P = VI$; power ($P$) equals potential or voltage ($V$) times current ($I$). High current leads directly to power losses due to resistance. So the best way to transmit over long distances is to lower the current as much as possible. Given the power equation, this can be done by raising voltage. Therefore, you want your stations, instead of increasing the current of plasma between stars, to in crease the 'potential' between the stars.

Note that this is more like DC than AC, because you don't want your interstellar plasma reversing directions (or else your travellers will never get anywhere).

Transformers (more than meets the eye?)

The simplest way to make a large (very large) transformer is to do it with a shell type transformer (Source).

none

There are basically three components: a low voltage winding that picks up the plamsa-magnetic energy from the star, the high voltage winding that broadcasts that energy into space, and the conductive core that transfers between the two. The core would not at all have to be as simple as shown. Here is a real life transformer:

enter image description here

It is not a great picture, since the vanes you see in the foreground are what brings high voltage electricity out of the transformer, but it helps give a picture of the overall complexity.

Still the overall picture is that there will be a lower coil connected to the Birkland stream coming from the star. This 'ion jet' will have high current but lower potential, but since the particle density will be higher it will be more obviously visible. Then there will be an upper coil of facing in the direction of the next star. The plasma emitted from this will much less dense, but have much higher energy. It might be barely visible to the naked eye, but shine like a torch in the X-ray spectrum. I imagine these two coild are placed one inside the other in the center of the structure, with the high-voltage coil (which needs more loops) inside the low-voltage. Plasma would be pulled from the sun's surface to surround the outer coil, while a narrow high energy beam is emitted from the inner coil.

The core will be a complex structure of a pure metal (iron works great, if you have that in your universe). It would have many loops of differing configurations, each designed so that the 'eddy current' and various losses inside cancel with other components and does not affect the transmission of plasma.

We need support components

We have to combine this with JDLugosz' superconducting ring (very large, around the outside of the whole structure) to keep the station in place. We may need the various parts of the core to be able to move so as to optimize transmission based on whatever magnetic conditions are going on at the surface. Since this station is surrounded by plasma but still needs parts to move based on star conditions, an AI is ideal for this job.

Since this is a piece of critical infrastructure, you would design the AI with backups. For example, the core might have four parallel structures (loops), one built on each of the four directions from the coils in the center. Since these cores have moving parts needed to optimize potential in the inner core, each core would be separately controlled by two AI's. If one AI failed, then the other would take its place. Which AI was in charge would alternate each day. For interstellar transit, three of the four loops would be needed to keep the structure working. If a loop was lost, all objects in transit would be in development and then the structure would shut down for repairs. If one of the two AIs went down, then a robot protagonist would likely be sent to conduct repairs.

Size and stuff

The energy needed to travel at the speed of light or beyond is significant. Lets assume that it takes $mc^2$ energy to accelerate something to interstellar speed with these structures, because that is as good of a guess as any. In that case, sending a 100,000 ton freighter takes about $9\times10^{24} \text{ J}$, which is actually kind of a lot. That is around 1% of the sun's output each second. But lets say that we take a whole day to accelerate each freighter to that speed; now the power requirement is $1\times10^{20} \text{ W}$. This is better, and about 1/5 of the world energy consumption.

In terms of the sun, that is 0.000026 % of the sun's total output, so a reasonable guess for the station is that it must cover that much of the sun's total surface area, which is 1.6 million square kilometers, or the size of Iran or Alaska. Therefore, I conclude that the plasma jet from the sun going up to this structure will have about that surface area. If the jet envelopes the outside of the outer coil, but does not cover the superconducting ring that keeps the station locked in place, then the superconducting ring might have radius of about 800km; the outer coil 500 km, and the inner coil maybe 100 km.

As for parts, I can't imagine servos being practical for pieces of a station that big. I would imagine there are no mechanical parts and all the core components have their position adjusted magnetically. There would not need to be any spinning, crazy or otherwise.

As far as wiring up the stars, if you were doing this with AC there would be no actual transmission of plasma from one star to the other. The current in AC goes back and forth as a sine wave; the electrons ever actually reach either end of the cord. So your plasma wave would just be moving back in forth in space, presumably providing power to someone riding along it (I imagine they would use the plasma stream like the third rail of a train, rather than ride inside of it)

Conclusion

Cool concept, I hope I provided some ideas on how to implement it. This post was pretty stream-of-conscious-ish so let me know if anything does not make sense.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is STUNNING! Wow! I cannot thank you enough! … I didn't mention it, but I was thinking the ships might caterpillar along the AC current using some sort of resonant harmonic ratio ( 7:8, 2:3 ) between their own bubble and the Birkland current, also to set set some rules/perils about travel (the accuracy of the synchronizer, ship's velocity entering/exiting the stream, etc). $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Mar 8 '17 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ And the multi-AI fits so well. I had this in mind, but thought it was the other AI on the other hubs, but you have made it into a single fractured identity, and that is even better! Wow, I can't thank you enough! $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Mar 8 '17 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @wetcircuit My pleasure. You have a fascinating world concept. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 8 '17 at 17:25
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In the normal universe, a superconductor can be pinned to a particular pattern of flux. If nothing in your EU messes that up, you should be able to park a superconductive ring anywhere near the star where the flux doesn’t change. So while most of the surface is covered with bands and loops that boil and wiggle, suppose that your polar vortex is stable and provides a unique place for this to work.

It needs to be a ring to support the currents that cancel any movement. The bigger it is, the more grip it has, and it needs to be of a scale so it sees different flux lines rather than freely sliding along one. It does not spin or anything.

Look into two effects of interest: flux pinning and Meissner effect.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer. It might be worth mentioning that this kind of phenomenon is extremely important in objects like neutron stars; it is responsible for angular momentum transfer, and magnetic field evolution/interaction through accretion. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mar 7 '17 at 21:36

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