How to Travel Faster Than Light!

Space travel is easy just so long as you don’t need to get anywhere interesting outside of our solar system in a human lifetime. Time to hit warp speed!

Many of these are basically similar to  https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/how-to-teleport/. If it was also mentioned as a teleport technique then it has a symbol.

  • Warp space – contract the space in front of your ship and expand the space behind your ship (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcubierre_drive ) and hope that the physics works out.
  • Wormhole – you physically move but through a piece of space that is a shortcut. The implication is that places in space are all physically closer than they appear. Also, see Krasnikov Tube which is both a wormhole and a space in which you go faster than light. Wheeeeeeee!
  • Hyperspace – up into one dimension, travel a bit, then back down again. Similar to wormhole but instead of going through you go out and back in again.
  • Quantum tunnelling – fundamental particles can do this so why can’t you? There’s a chance that your ship might be somewhere else and so sometimes you are somewhere else. Requires messing with the fundamentals of probability. Infinite Improbability Drive.
  • Pinch space – force two different points in space together for an instant and then move slightly and then the two bits of space snap back (taking you with them).
  • Futurama – stay still and move the universe (named after how space travel works in Futurama).
  • Cross the light barrier – maybe things like tachyons exist for whom the speed of light is an unbreakable MINIMUM speed and maybe there’s a way of making the stuff you are made of like that stuff and (waves hand at light speed) go faster than light and then become normal again. [This probably would also look like teleportation but I didn’t list it originally]
  • Debunk Einstein – just go really fast. Maybe light just isn’t trying hard enough to go faster. Constant acceleration might help.
  • Change the material of the universe – C (the speed of light as a constant) in theory derives from fundamental properties of an idealised vacuum. Change those properties (get a wizard to help you) and voila! You’ve changed the speed of light! The dials of reality you need to change are marked ‘vacuum permittivity‘ and ‘vacuum permeability’. DO NOT FORGET TO RESET TO DEFAULT VALUES once you are done, for pity’s sake.
  • Time travel – to be honest almost all of these methods mean you can probably time travel but shush about that for the moment. The universe is expanding, right? So two points in the universe were closer together in the past than they are now, right? So, move between Point A and Point B in the PAST and then travel back to the present at Point B. If you need to avoid all the causality headaches of time travel, hand wave at the ‘causality interdiction field’ surrounding your spaceship that prevents you interacting with anything other than distance in the past. All the benefits of time travel without killing any butterflies or grandfathers.
  • Time travel (again) – very similar idea to the last. but with a twist. Let’s say the universe is one of those universes that inevitably contracts after a period of expansion and ends up in a ‘Big Crunch’. At the Big Crunch is a singularity where the normal laws of physics are a bit confusing. Also, every point in the universe is now really close to each other. Zip forward in time to the big crunch, move to point B (it’s right next to you now) and then zip back to regular time. This one is my favourite.
  • Neutrinos! – apparently, they sometimes do wacky stuff but it might be measurement error.
  • Inertialess drive – how does it work? It gets rid of inertia. I’m not sure how that helps. Look, just try it and see what happens OK?
  • It’s easy everywhere else – maybe this whole speed of light and relativity thing is a regional thing? Maybe in other parts of the universe, things work differently. Maybe we are just in a particularly slow area – a residential zone with safe speed limits. In other parts of the universe, aliens are zipping around at much faster speeds. The twist? That’s why we can’t SEE alien civilisations because they are all superluminal to us. It’s also why they don’t visit — our region of the universe would be like wading through custard for them. Bonus twist: the speed limit is deliberate and imposed on us by cosmic traffic wardens.
  • Don’t be information – I’ll concede that isn’t a helpful request. Lot’s of things can go faster of light! Shadows for example! What every real phenomenon that can be superluminal has in common is that it can’t convey information from point A to point B faster than light. So…if you and your spaceship aren’t information then…I don’t know what it means to be not information…
  • Make use of the age limit – let’s combine a few ideas here. The age of the universe is finite. The speed of light limits how fast information can travel in the universe. Now, that means there are some places (Point B) a bit of information from Point A can never reach because by the time a photon got to Point B the universe has already ceased to exist. So…if you somehow could get to Point B you wouldn’t be arriving before light could arrive because the light could never get there from Point A anyway, therefore my client pleads NOT GUILTY on a technicality you honour. (Judge looks sceptically at the defence counsel and rules the argument inadmissible.)

Other ideas welcome!

17 thoughts on “How to Travel Faster Than Light!

  1. Grin. I gather you don’t want to hear the arguments against any of the proposals above.

    Here’s one I’ve thought about a bit: extend human lifespan. If we lived 1,000 years rather than just 80 or so, then ~100-year round trips wouldn’t seem as ridiculous. Use hibernation, if necessary. Particularly of interest if future society has become so stable that little changes in 100 years.

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    1. I’m sadly confident than none of them work. Even the warp-drive, which at least has some theory behind it, requires there to exist exoctic matter with exactly the right kinds of properties.

      Time travel is MORE plausible than FTL and more probable because FTL implies time travel but time travel does not neccesarily imply FTL.

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    2. Sheffield’s Between the Strokes of Night took something similar to the ‘extended lifespan’ approach… just slow down the people and run things in a form of quasi-suspended animation, and interstellar travel takes subjective days even if it’s still decades of ‘real time’.

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    3. David Lake’s Breakout novels were set in a universe where the only races doing interstellar travel were the quasi-godlike immortals. Short-lived beings stayed at home and hoped the travellers never dropped by. Humans were the exception: short-lived but they did carry out interstellar exploration. Mainly because they had no choice, having rendered the Earth uninhabitable in WWIII and being well on their way to scouring the remaining human colonies on the Moon.

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  2. Use a bloater drive (from Harry Harrison’s Bill the Galactic Space Hero): Make the ship really big anchoring the tail at your departure point until the nose of the ship touches your destination, then rapidly shrink the ship but this time use the nose as the anchor point.

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  3. Oooh, oooh, there’s also “time travel and stasis”! Travel from point A to point B, at sub-light speed, with the entirely of the inside of the ship (and possibly the surface) in temporal stasis. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, really, because when you arrive, you travel back through time to a suitable point and undo the stasis bubble.

    I seem to recall this being used in one book series or another (and at least once being plot-relevant).

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  4. “It’s easy everywhere else” – until those weird hairless apes blow themselves up or learn to behave themselves, they’re under house arrest.

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    1. Well, A Fire Upon the Deep had an ‘it’s easy everywhere else’ approach, or more to the point ‘it’s easier the further away you are from the galactic core’. The middling reaches like where we are served as great incubators for intelligence, which could eventually start becoming major interstellar civilizations once they got ships out past the boundary point where FTL and superintelligent AI became possible. Also solved the Fermi paradox by having most of the tech of the great star-spanning civilizations not work if they got too close in, so they tended to avoid getting too close if they could.

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      1. Interesting! I’m sure I have a copy of that book floating around somewhere; I’ll have to actually read it one of these days.

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  5. There’s the original “starslip” drive from Kris Straub’s cartoon “Starslip Crisis”. In an infinitely branching multiverse, everything is possible; the starslip drive simply transfers you to an alternate universe where you’re already at your destination.

    Does psychic FTL as in, for example, Stapledon’s “Star Maker” or Ian Watson’s “Alien Embassy” count? (Do you actually *need* that gross fleshy body when you’re travelling around the cosmos?)

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  6. Actually, now that I think about it, The Patterns of Chaos by Colin Kapp has an interesting version of FTL that I guess sort of falls under the ‘Hyperspace’ category above, but not quite, as the ship creates its own hyperspace.

    Essentially:
    – create a model of the surrounding space and all stars inside the ship
    – perform a mathematical inversion which places the ship inside the model
    – move the ‘model’ ship around until it’s near the point in the model that represents the destination
    – undo the mathematical inversion to put the ship back in normal space
    It never mentions what happens if the model doesn’t match reality. It probably wouldn’t be pretty.

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