I’ve already looked at how to teleport and how to make an FTL drive and the next step is how to make some kind of space-radio that will allow your reports to Space Command HQ get there in a reasonable time.
Interestingly this takes a bit more thought than the first two. Teleporting doesn’t necessarily require anything to go faster than light, an FTL drive does but also involves some great big hulking machinery to do it. Sure, if you have an FTL drive, you could physically send your hard copy report but that’s not really what we are after with an ansible.
Story-wise, ansible’s are less important to a conventional narrative than an FTL drive. Travelling faster than light allows protagonists to get where they need to be. An ansible, on the other hand, allows people in different places to know what is going on and rather like mobile phones in modern stories, that isn’t always helpful. SF historians please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure the first case of an ansible as a plot device was in Ursula Le Guin’s Rocannon’s World, but even here Le Guin has to separate her protagonist from the device for most of the story. Rocannon is cut off from communication and only after a long and somewhat fantastical quest, can he send a vital message home.
But writers can still make clever use of a setting where FTL communication is possible but FTL travel is impossible, limited or difficult. Orson Scott Card makes clever use of ansible technology in his Ender novels for example. The default for space opera is FTL communication as an after thought and it is often deployed inconsistently with even more vagueness around its limitations or the underlying technology. Star Trek has ‘subspace’ communication whose range and availability seems wholly determined by plot needs.
Unlike the previous two posts, this is a short list. I’ll assume that there could be ways of hacking the entries for teleporting and FTLing to courier messages and worry just about how to make a space CB radio. Duplicate techniques will only be when the same fictional physics could be used to maeke something radio-like rather than a drive for a ship.
- A new theory of physics. This may take a whole book to come up with, as well as an exile from a shabby anarchist utopia but if you have a principle of simultaneity in your General Temporal Theory that works along side General Relativity then you’ve cracked ansible technology. Well done Shevek!
- Quantum Entanglement. Maybe physics already has the answer! The parameters of entagled particles are connected as a whole system. The state of one of a pair of particles relates to the state of another, even when seperated at a great distance. In itself this is not spooky, it souds analogous to tearing a piece of paper in two — the pattern of rips on one piece match the rips on the other. The spooky part is that the parameter in question aren’t determined until somebody measures them because of quantum pixies or something. At that point, the parameters of the entangled particle also become fixed, even if the particle is a long way away. Spooky action at a distance! Unfortunately, even if this effect does somehow propigate faster than light it doesn’t actually seem to be possible to communicate with it.
- Warp space. “Wait,” I hear you say, “you said you weren’t going to repeat things from the previous lists.” Yes, yes this implies a method for travelling faster than light and I’m assuming this uses the same (probably impossible) technology. However, this time your spaceship is going to stay where it is and use the warp drive to send ripples through space-time that effectively travel faster than light!
- Tachyons. I’ve also mentioned these hypothetical superluminal particles before. Assuming such things existed and assuming we had some way of interacting with them then maybe you could send a message with them.
That’s all I’ve got!