Before I even started this blog, I would occasionally pose a SyFy Question of the Day to my facebook friends. Sometimes, it was directly related to what I was writing, and I really did want some input to help me decide what direction to take with the story. Other times, it was purely fun.
Here’s one of my favorites, from December 2011:
SciFi Question of the Day: Assuming the starship has something like FTL, would it be able to “jump” directly from orbiting a planet, or should they have to maneuver to a suitable position in the solar system first?
Alan I’m not a scientist but, based on my perception from popular science-fiction (ST, SW, B5, Farscape, Firefly, Dune et al) hitting your FTL whilst in a planet’s gravity well would have pretty dire consequences. Also, the gravity at your point of origin might screw with your trajectory and thus destination. So, send out a probe in advance (years?) to map the minimal / null gravity points in a star system. When you want to jump go to one of those points on sub-light, enter your destination co-ords and hit “Go.” Hopefully you’ll arrive safely. Of course, safe arrival assumes that your chicken soup machine technician hasn’t tried to replace one of the drive plates 😉
Gwendolyn I’m with Alan on this one – “jumping” within a gravitation field just makes every SF fiber of my being scream NO!
“Jumping” *into* an orbital position though would be kind of a fun hot shot maneuver ;P
Dan Heh. It would depend entirely on how the FTL is accomplished. In Star Trek (if I remember right) the warp drive is actually warping space, much like gravity does. It would seem logical that a planet’s gravity well would interfere, but there are many counterexamples to this.
If your FTL engine is of the “it goes really fast” variety it probably wouldn’t matter. Witness Firefly, where the only restriction seems to be that you can’t hit it while in atmosphere (the consequences of hitting atmosphere at FTL velocities don’t even bear thinking about).
The more important question is probably “Is it better for the plot to allow this, or not?”
Alan If I remember my Trek correctly (from the novels) a warp drive was activated in a planetary atmosphere with disasterous consequences for both the planet and ship. Something about linking two singularities. Someone wanted to prosecute someone else with war crimes. So, away from a gravity well.
Also away from *any* matter. If it’s a reaction FTL drive then it ejects force out the rear end. You don’t really want that force acting on “space dust”, pushing it at near-FTL velocities and having it puncture anything.
Best bet is to ingest a whole load of melange from Arrakis and then fold space like a Navigator.
Brian No different from having a network of airports around the country, flying from one to another in just half an hour, then having to drive two additional hours to your final destination. 🙂
AmyBeth That’s a neat rule! In +Sara Creasy ‘s SciFi, you have to enter and exit via nodes. It’s great from a plot POV, because the node might be near inhabited space, or in the middle of nowhere.
Sara It worked for my plot, but in sci-fi things tend to work as the plot requires. (Just as the ship travels “at the speed of plot”, per J. Michael Straczynski.) I wanted a story with long stretches of time stuck on a ship. If you want a story set primarily at the destinations, having a ship jump directly from planet to planet works nicely.
Troy In order to travel FTL, one would need a constant subspace shield or bubble to to protect from the effects of traveling at that speed (inertia, running into a dust particle, etc..) and facilitate reintegration into normal space-time when the destination is reached. That being the case, a ship or very powerful self contained transport device is necessary. As this device would have limited power, it would need to make course corrections (assuming a limited knowledge of the multiverse as one would have to when traveling at FTL) to avoid anomalies or obstacles that it could not overcome due to its limited power (black hole, sun, etc…). The result being a transport device capable of making course corrections as soon as the obstacles are detected.
I would love to hear what you think! Even if you are reading this post a year or more after publishing, I hope you will leave a comment with your own ideas on this topic.
Post Script: Besides changing this to SciFi Q of the Day instead of SyFy Q of the Day, I’m thinking about retaining some of the formatting when I copy/paste from the social media sites. That would keep each poster’s thumnail profile, as well as a link to them, and their full names instead of just first names. What do you think?
Also… this post has some weird formatting going on. I’m going to publish it anyway, and look at giving this meme a makeover for the new year.
The previous SyFy Q of the Day is Flying Cars
The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1qnT4-vI
The next SyFy Q of the Day is Betty White
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My SF trained gut says that FTL and gravity wells do not mix. I remember reading stories that required ships to travel beyond a certain distance beyond the star itself in order to make a FTL jump. Star Trek, on the other hand, never really pinned this down, I know they were in close orbit to stars when using warp.
Personally, I always make FTL drives in ships dependent on distance from stars, but I also plotted out a universe where gates (like Stargate) require gravity wells, and are found in close proximity to stars.
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