Sidebar: Fixed Wormholes

(An in-universe explanation as to why the Empire, et. al., prefer to use their special – i.e., yes, per here, space-magic enhanced – wormhole technology.)

A common question among newcomers to the field of spacetime engineering, especially as it applies to wormholes, is the reasoning behind our use of dynamic wormholes (i.e., those that are created, used, and collapsed in the course of a single gating) rather than static wormholes, permanently inflated to allow passage and held open by exotic mass-energy “frames”. This seems, to these questioners, more elegant: being less wasteful in terms of energy (although the cost of maintaining the unstable exotic mass-energy frames should not be undercounted; the analogous Andracanth ram is not designed for continuous operation), and requiring nothing on the part of transiting vessels.

Sadly, this is prevented by the interaction of static wormholes with relativistics. Transporting a wormhole end incurs the time dilation of relativistic flight, such that one can travel through the wormhole to the destination system, in the reference frame of the transported end, years or decades before the wormhole end is delivered in the reference frame of the sender; sometimes, indeed, while the linelayer would still be visible leaving the origin system! This means, in effect, that outgoing travelers through the wormhole are stepping years or decades into the future, while returning travelers are likewise passing into the past, vis-à-vis flat space-time.

While this has interesting astrophysical and galactopolitical consequences (amply dealt with elsewhere), it alone does not cause issues from the point of view of infrastructure; since a return through flat space-time must require (per the Luminal Limit) more time than the wormhole’s time differential, the block universe is preserved.

However, it is easily demonstrable that the only topology which guarantees this is a pure directed acyclic structure, or tree, in which only one path is available to outgoing and returning traffic.

This is undesirable from an infrastructure point of view, since it greatly limits the capacity of the network given the bottleneck links near its core; forces all otherwise cross-link traffic, even between nearby systems, through a single distant core node (likely to be, as a strategic aside, near to if not within the builders’ most important star systems); and causes both of these issues to expand geometrically with scale.

More importantly, while there are a few primarily theoretical exceptions, almost any alternative structure containing cross-links (and therefore cyclic structures) enables certain routes to function as closed timelike curves, allowing particles, even virtual vacuum fluctuations, to return to their origin point at or before the time of their entry into the route. Such a path doubles the intensity of transiting particles with each retraversal (which all occur effectively instantaneously), thus creating arbitrarily high peak intensities, in turn resulting in the catastrophic resonance collapse of at least one of the wormholes along the critical path. Quite apart from the loss of route, the energies involved in this collapse along with those likely to be liberated from damaged stargate systems are such as to pose a significant hazard to the systems containing the mouths of the collapsing wormhole.

(This is also, as we will see later, perhaps the most important reason for the Imperial Timebase system being intertwined with stargate control systems at a very low level, and for the various sequencing and safety protocols encoded therein. While the wormholes used for gating are ephemeral, it would be possible – without coordination – for a simultaneous set of openings to form such a closed causal loop, which would then undergo such catastrophic collapse.

Bear in mind that, while we are able to lock the emergence of dynamic wormholes onto the empire time reference frame, the natural phenomenon of drift (q.v.) along t axis guarantees nonidentity, and as such this does not immunize loops of such wormholes from the catastrophic resonance collapse phenomenon.)

Since the point of collapse is controllable to a limited extent by the “strength” of the links along the CTC route, this effect is also weaponizable by hostile powers with wormhole capability (a causality attack, recognized by the Ley Accords as one prohibited form of causal weapon).

For these reasons, Imogen Andracanth’s team considered the static wormhole to not be viable as a large-scale interstellar transport technology.

 

– The Stargate Plexus: A Journeysoph’s Guide

10 thoughts on “Sidebar: Fixed Wormholes

  1. One advantage of not using static wormholes is, if I am reading the Atomic Rockets page correctly, that it avoids time travel problems with them. Using the example from there of a wormhole connecting to a star 100 ly away, lets say it took the wormhole 100 years and 1 month to travel there. My understanding is that that means that when you step through the portal, from the perspective of someone on Earth, you travel 100 years and 1 month into the past. If you then send a message back via laser it takes 100 years to get back to Earth, arriving 1 month before you left.

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    • I believe your understanding’s a little off. The time dilation of moving the wormhole mouth out to the distant star means it experiences less time than passes at home; say, it takes 100 years to get there from the point of view of Earth, but from its point of view, it arrives in a month.

      So when you step through the portal from Earth, you end up moving 99 years 11 months into the future, and the same distance into the past when you step back.

      If you send a message by laser, it’ll always take 100+ years to get there, so you can’t get paradoxes with one wormhole – ordering is always preserved. As soon as you have more than one, though, all bets are off!

      (Fortunately, the universe hates time travel and makes arrangements like this explode, as per the actual physics part of the handwavium above, or Luke Campbell’s easier-to-parse explanation here: http://panoptes.livejournal.com/90807.html .)

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  2. Speaking of relativistic flight, I was just wondering: can lighthuggers(not linelayers, but ordinary clippers and luggers) use stargates, if they are available? If they can’t, presumably a lighthugger intended to travel to the Outback would either have to be built in the nearest Periphery constellation, or would have to take a very time-consuming journey from a more central location.

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    • Sure. As long as there’s a blue box to coordinate with the stargate, you can gate anything with mass – regular starship, lighthugger, asteroid. Hell, you could gate a planet if you wanted, although you’d have to disengage the kinetic compensation system for that one, since it’d substantially outmass the gate’s kernel.

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      • With “classic” wormholes, you end up with interesting effects when your traffic is a bit one-way, with one mouth ending up more massive than the other, which I think presents some issues with throat stabilisation. Throw a planetary mass through a hole that isn’t large enough, and it’ll collapse.

        You have your own handwavium here, of course, but phrases like “substantially outmass the gate’s kernel” seem like something you’d find in an incident report shortly before something like “catastrophic gravitational collapse”.

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        • Yeah, in this system, the wormhole is custom-inflated for you based on the parameters your blue box sends, so you’re guaranteed a throat that can support your one-time transit. (If you’re very high-mass, the energy bill for inflation may be brutal, but that’s between you and your accountants.)

          Assuming you didn’t lie about your mass, anyway. Catastrophic gravitational collapse is definitely what happens when you do that.

          The primary limitation here is the kinetic compensation that absorbs the differences in momentum and angular momentum between ends, and so leaves you with a reasonable intrinsic velocity relative to your destination rather than going really fast in an inconvenient direction. The unwanted momentum/K. E. gets dumped into the kernel – i.e., the moon-massed black hole inside the stargate – which for most transits is big enough to take it in stride.

          If you’re massy enough that it can’t , on the other hand, your blue box will spit out a warning code to the effect of “I can gate you, but kinetic compensation is disengaged. Are you really sure you want to do this?”

          Any bad ideas you may have at this point are pretty much your own problem. 🙂

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          • I see the words “pretty much your own problem” at the end of a discussion involving phrases like “planetary mass” and “going really fast in an inconvenient direction”. I feel that perhaps the people waiting around the exit gate might wish you have words with you about your choice of phrasing…

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    • It goes through it.

      Of course, with dynamic wormholes, being able to send wormholes through wormholes is pretty much worthless, since the immediate collapse of the outer wormhole will pinch off the inner wormhole too.

      (As mentioned previously, this phenomenon plus the relationship between quantum-scale wormholes and entanglement is why you can wormhole a wormhole, but you can’t stargate a stargate.)

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  3. Well, I used “Orion’s Arm”-style static wormholes for the Para-Imperium. This might help explain why their network is so limited in comparison.

    That, and parahumans haven’t developed lighthuggers yet, which was mostly because I wanted to write about trans-stellar traders spending years in deep space I admit.

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