Monday, March 12, 2012

A possible prediction?

One of the tropes of science fiction is that you can't accelerate or decelerate from FTL close to your target destination. The idea of forcing starships to cruise at sublight to the outer system is used for story purposes, particularly when FTL travel is considered instantaneous.

Now scientists studying one theoretical FTL travel idea, the Alcubierre drive, have realized that deceleration would destroy anything in the immediate area. This would, of course, mean that extended sublight cruise would indeed be necessary.

How extended? Not as much as people think. The truth is that a starship would probably not sail all the way past all the planets and out into the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud. Instead, you would take your ship 'up' or 'down', out of the plane of the elliptic. As almost all of the matter around a star settles into a flat belt you would not have to fly that far to get 'clear'.

Of course, writers generally avoid that dodge, but if we're talking about the real world...

However, it also reminded me of a story I read once in which an unmanned interstellar ramjet was used as a sunkiller. (Well, they tried). An Alcubierre probe could easily be used in that way. Perhaps its best to hope that this particular kind of drive remains eternally theoretical...