I'm working on a simulator-type game which I want to be at least internally consistent, and which I'd like to work as close to reality as possible. That being said, it's set in space, which means to avoid player boredom there needs to be some kind of FTL travel.
I'm trying to work in functional analogs to the four general categories of FTL travel (warp, jump, gate, and hyperspace) and I think I've managed to work it down to only two core mechanics – the Alcubierre Drive and a modified version of Alderson Points. Originally I was going to use stabilized wormholes in place of Alderson Points, but after looking into it I found that that makes it easy to build a backwards time machine (which is annoying/impossible to reliably implement in something like an MMORPG), so after failing to figure out how to "break" all of the versions of the time machine as per the Chronology Protection Conjecture, I gave up and started working through other mechanics.
After expanding on the original Alderson Drive concept for story, time, and map reasons, I've come up with the following list of desired/assumed mechanics for the points.
- Suitable points exist naturally (~1-5 per star system) positioned based on rules which have yet to be determined, but preferably there's always at least one within 0.3 AU of the habitable zone.
- Points don't "orbit" the host star, and they probably don't exist in and of themselves; they are either stationary relative to the star or they revolve based on the position of other large bodies similar to the Lagrange points. (One or the other, not both, I just haven't decided yet in case physics decides for me.)
- Points are tied to networks; they can all connect to more than one point, but only within their network. Being in the same network involves always having the same inertial frame of reference, though that may just be a side effect of some underlying reason.
- Using the points involves "charging up" the points with a device on your ship for an amount of time (i.e. not instantaneous or measured in nanoseconds, but also not measured in hours or days unless the drive is broken or poorly tuned). The destination is selected by how much energy is "dumped in." (This will likely be proportional to the distance between the points, but may need to be related to the ship's mass as well.)
- While the point is being charged, both the source and the destination with the energy level closest to the current level give some kind of indication that they're being activated (e.g. "spontaneous" EM radiation, visible or otherwise, possibly similar to black body radiation but emitted from a field).
- When the drive is turned off, provided the input energy precisely matches what is required to connect to a destination, all of the the matter within a certain radius of the source and destination points is instantaneously swapped. (The definition of instantaneous, in this case, is "now" according to the point network's reference frame.)
- Artificial point networks can be constructed using devices ("stargates"), though this may not actually need to be explained because I could easily say that "the Ancients/Precursors/Forerunners built the devices and we don't know how they work" or something to that effect.
Now here are my questions:
- Most importantly, can this set of mechanics be used by itself to violate causality – and not just apparently from an extraneous reference frame, but literally be used to either tell yourself not to do something before you were going to do it or, in the more serious case, "take half a critical mass of Plutonium back to meet itself"? If so, what could I change to make it impossible?
- Can it be used in concert with something else to violate causality? If so, what would be necessary/what should I watch out for?
- Are there conditions related to causality violations that could dictate where I need to place the points inside of the star systems or the nodes in the point networks inside of different star systems?
- Is there any possible scientific or pseudo-scientific base I could latch onto to try to explain some/all of these mechanics? (The original version mentions "Equipotential Thermonuclear Flux" but I thought I'd try finding something that sounds a little more real...)
- What should happen near the "edges" of the effective area of the points? Or should I just say "nothing good happens" and make determining the radius a function of the drive construction so that individual ships shouldn't ever have to care?
- Is there a way (plausible or not) that I could pull this out into also enabling FTL communication? Because, like I said, my accidental time machine ruled out movable wormholes, and therefore my only lead on how to make an Ansible. If I have to, I could use something like the "space pony express" where ships download mail, pop through, and offload it, and for urgent/secret messages use unmanned probe "carrier pigeons," but I'd like to figure out a way to do it without physically sending matter to the destination (i.e. "subspace radio") if possible.
(Note: I would have asked this on the Physics StackExchange, but I'm pretty sure it crosses the fictional "line" so I decided to ask here first because of their definition of "on-topic.")