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I'm attempting to write a story, in which the main character needs to be in stasis for a couple hundred years. Upon researching the idea of cyro-stasis I have found that there is really no way to plausibly make it work, so I set it aside. Recently, I learned that the closer one reaches to the speed of light, the slower one perceives time.

What if you took someone, put them in a box, and spun them REALLY fast? I'm talking .9C. It would have to be in a vacuum, and hovering with magnets to eliminate friction. We certainly couldn't do it now, but I think it's plausible.

The only problem I can see with it is centrifugal force. That many G's would kill a person pretty quickly.

Q: Is there any way to reduce the impact of centrifugal force realistically?

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  • $\begingroup$ No. Also centrifugal force is a fictional force, the actual force here is the centripetal force. Note also that at that speed, they would still see time pass by at ~0.436 times proper time. $\endgroup$ – Feyre Mar 18 '17 at 16:46
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    $\begingroup$ "Upon researching the idea of cyro-stasis I have found that there is really no way to plausibly make it work..." less plausible than a light-speed Tilt-a-Whirl? ;) But seriously, how did you come to that conclusion? $\endgroup$ – Schwern Mar 18 '17 at 21:09
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From your question, you seek a technology to keep crew members alive for 200 years in an unconscious state. But you also want a plausible explanation of how this technology works. You’ve presented two possible technological approaches - cryo-stasis (presumably some kind of freezing, or perhaps artificially induced hibernation) and a motion-induced local time field within the ship (one for each crew member).

For me, the freezing/hibernation angle seems much more plausible then the one you’re leaning toward. Yes, simply freezing a person solid would kill the crew member. Water within her cells would freeze, expand and rupture cell walls, capillaries, etc. But a compound technological approach of cooling and hibernation could work well.

I read a long time ago about research into people who had drowned in cold water and been revived hours later without brain damage. How? The cold had slowed their metabolism. Cold blooded animals for example, need far less food, water and oxygen to live than warm blooded ones do. Certain chemicals it was mentioned could trigger the effect as well, causing cells in mammals to shift into a cold-blooded mode of operation. Sorry, I wish I could remember more of the specifics.

Various other forms of biological manipulation of a hibernating crew member’s biology could also be employed with technology drawn from the natural world.

An adult immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrinii) when injured can revert to it’s juvenile state and eventually become a healthy adult again. Barring predation and disease, this can theoretically go on indefinitely making it biologically immortal. Eventually, how this works will be learned. In your future universe, this could form the basis of some kind of cell therapy continually applied to hibernating crew members.

Several species of aquatic animals that live in arctic waters have a natural antifreeze in their blood. This could be applied to cryostasis to prevent cell damage from freezing.

And of course, modern medical techniques can keep comatose patients alive for years with assisted breathing, intravenous food, etc.

In comparison, spinning crew members at billions of rpm’s seems fraught. As with freezing, the centrifugal forces would be most dangerous at the cellular, and even molecular level. And worst, they would not be evenly applied. Those cells farthest from the center of axis would receive far greater forces then those at the center. I can’t imagine this failing to liquifying the crew member tearing apart tissue, proteins, even their DNA.

Further, the interior time field would need to be more than slower, it would need to be zero. Otherwise, how would you feed and oxygenate the crew member? A chamber spinning that fast would need to hang in a magnetic field or something. Otherwise the friction at any mechanical connection point between the chamber and the ship would melt. If the interior time field weren’t zero, you’d have to put the crew member to sleep which brings us back to hibernation.

And consider the impact to the ship. Multiple chambers spinning at light speed would increase in mass exponentially. The energy to drive them would be enormous, and they would likely function as ultra-powerful gyroscopes working against the stability of the ship. And what kind of miracle computer could time the firing of the magnets that spun them? Couldn’t such a computer just perform whatever functions the crew would provide? Each solution needs some other miracle technology to solve the problems it generates. So you’re just kicking the can down the road.

So while the spinning chambers might seem more original, between the two, I would go with the hibernation angle. The trick to making if fresh for audiences (this scifi technology has been done to death after all) is to research the particulars and apply them to the narrative.

What I think seems fake about hibernation in science fiction is not the technology, it’s the speed of recovery. Crew members frozen solid or comatose for years just wake up and bound out of bed, ready for action. In contrast, imagine a grueling 3 month recovery process where 1 in 10 crew-members suffered some permanent damage or even died. All serious medical procedures have complications after all.

There is of course a third option.

In scifi narrative, fictional technologies present in three forms: mysterious, convincing, and yes, unconvincing. The safest route for writers introducing technology is to leave it unexplained, a mystery, which they do all the time.

From HG Wells’ time machine, the battery packs of Star Trek phasers, or the monoliths of 2001, writers routinely construct effective stories without explaining their sometimes miraculous technologies at all. How exactly do the alien monoliths of 2001 change the minds of apes to alter the evolution of humanity? Who knows? They just do.

Hope this helps.

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  • $\begingroup$ What I'm trying to do is explain the advanced tech. not super in depth, but enough that it doesn't seem impossible. Later on in my story, my characters will come into contact with ridiculously advanced tech, that they just can't understand, but for man made stuff, I want to keep everything realistic. $\endgroup$ – CaptClockobob Mar 20 '17 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Tom I love your idea of people having a hard time after waking up. Would totally go for that one ! $\endgroup$ – Ise Mar 21 '17 at 12:26
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I am with Tom here, really should have written this as comment, but comments are just too short.

The main advantage of cryostasis is that we have multicellular animals that can can freeze, lose essentially all biological activity and then revive once they thaw. By contrast I am aware of no animal that survives winter by using relativistic effects. This suggests to me that working cryostasis is much easier to develop than the alternatives. So you should go with it.

As for the problems with cryostasis you have noticed: The obvious counter is simply note that we currently have no working stasis solution, so all possible stasis solutions rather obviously currently suffer from major issues. That is the reason we do not have any, after all. So cryostasis is not worse than any alternatives you can think off.

Also as noted before and by Tom, some animals do it already. The issues are with trying to adapt cryostasis to animals that have not evolved to freeze without their cells breaking and to fully revive from having biological functions cease. Such as humans.

But there is an obvious solution to this problem that you apparently missed. Simply make your human someone who was genetically engineered to have those missing abilities. When supplemented by highly specialized cryostasis equipment and injections of proper drugs that is.

Somebody set him for long term stasis. They must have had a reason and if that reason was predictable and genetic engineering available was advanced enough, using a person modified to survive cryostasis would be a no-brainer.

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The problem with fast travel is the G forces. So make the radius larger. If you want to move 200 years in the future, do a circle 200 lightyears in circumference at just under c.

There are issues with this: This is non trivial engineering. The 1 atom of H per cc at even half c provides megawatts per square meter of cross section. the mass goes up by the same factor as the time contraction I think. To compress 200 years into 5 requrires a Tau factor of 40, which means that H atoms will also have a mass factor of 40. That a lot of energy pouring in.

Work from whole cloth.

Vernor Vinge wrote a novel about a civilization that create a timeless bubble. Intially they didn't realize that time didn't pass inside. The background story involve some form of phased quantum effect.

Larry Niven's universe is littere with Slaver stasis boxes, which have preserved artifacts from the slaver empire from a billion or so years ago.

Christopher Anvil also has a story about a culture that abhors war. Young people who are too aggressive are trained as soldiers and stored until the culture is threatened.

Quantum teleport -- and you get stuck. (Startrek pattern buffer)

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  • $\begingroup$ To formalize this: $a=v^2/r$ ;). $\endgroup$ – Feyre Mar 18 '17 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ Joe Haldeman's The Forever War uses a variant of relativistic slowing to allow a woman to wait for her lover to get back from the stars. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Mar 19 '17 at 22:42
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Yes, you need to submerge him in a fluid with the same density as his body. That way the G forces should be nullified. Now that brings up several problems in itself. Air isn't dense enough so you'd need a liquid breathing mix. Current science doesn't have one but it's theoretically possible.

The second problem is harder to solve. Your body doesn't have a uniform density. So the density fluid would either not be dense enough for some organs or to dense. But with a constant speed this is less of a problem then when the G force keeps changing.

So submerge your character with an appropriate breathing mix.

Per Wikipedia

Liquid immersion provides a way to reduce the physical stress of G forces. Forces applied to fluids are distributed as omnidirectional pressures. Because liquids cannot be practically compressed, they do not change density under high acceleration such as performed in aerial maneuvers or space travel. A person immersed in liquid of the same density as tissue has acceleration forces distributed around the body, rather than applied at a single point such as a seat or harness straps. This principle is used in a new type of G-suit called the Libelle G-suit, which allows aircraft pilots to remain conscious and functioning at more than 10 G acceleration by surrounding them with water in a rigid suit.

Blockquote Acceleration protection by liquid immersion is limited by the differential density of body tissues and immersion fluid, limiting the utility of this method to about 15 to 20 G.[57] Extending acceleration protection beyond 20 G requires filling the lungs with fluid of density similar to water. An astronaut totally immersed in liquid, with liquid inside all body cavities, will feel little effect from extreme G forces because the forces on a liquid are distributed equally, and in all directions simultaneously. However effects will be felt because of density differences between different body tissues, so an upper acceleration limit still exists.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's just not true. $\endgroup$ – Feyre Mar 18 '17 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ Body density isn't uniform. You will end up with particles separated by mass. It's not any lesser problem, it's pretty much death before you even reach your desired speed. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Mar 18 '17 at 18:11

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