Less Than Nothing

nilgularity: One less, meaning more, than a singularity.

If a singularity is a point at which a physical function takes on an infinite value and reality nearby thus becomes unreliable, a nilgularity is a point at which that physical function becomes transfinite and reality rejects it entirely.

A hole in the universe which doesn’t exist, because it fell through the hole.

A mathematical construct in certain theories of physical ontology (see primarily Undiscovered Zeroes in Self-Computational Creatia, Sjarra, Telithos, and Citrine Aria in C#, Proceedings of the Incomprehensible College, Vol. 246) that is too bloody weird to adequately sum up in words.

– A Dictionary of the New Physics, Imperial University Press

Some Definitions, and a Location

heliobraking (n.): decelerating by making a number of close – i.e., transcoronal – stellar passes, in extreme cases even dipping into the upper boundary layer of the photosphere. While effective, such maneuvers pose hazards both physical, such as irradiation, combustion, or sudden realization of what a bad idea this was, and legal, as there is now someone to whom liability can be attributed both fairly and unfairly for every coronal mass ejection, solar storm, and other stellar hiccup in the near future.

axiomancy (n.), axiomantic (adj.): lit. “the magic of definitions”. Originally an informal term for the manipulations ontotechnologists perform with their reality engines (q.v.), which has been adopted as jargon of the profession.

diproton bomb (n.): theoretical ontopathic weapon functioning by inducing a delta increase in the strong interaction coupling constant, rendering the diproton (2He) stable. Should such a modified region be deployed in a stellar core, the low threshold for initiation will dramatically accelerate hydrogen fusion, upsetting the balance between thermal pressure and gravitic contraction in favor of the former, ultimately resulting in an artificial supernova event.

ISS Additional: See research categorized under BACKFIRE FULMINATION. If you do not have BACKFIRE FULMINATION clearance, please report this IMMEDIATELY to your local internal security officer.

cystal universe (n.): a “subuniverse” created by advanced axiomancy, in which the modified region created by ontotechnological means is incapable of direct interaction with the volumes beyond it. Thus, a topological defect arises at the boundary, resulting in a protected cyst surrounded by a domain wall across which interaction is necessarily limited.

Irreality Vault: A series of linked cystal universes buried beneath the city of Ascension, Resplendent Exponential Vector (Imperial Core), used for primary testing of experimental technology in the fields of ontogenesis, ontopoesis, and ontopathic weapons.

Natural Legislation

selective ontology evocation system: Known in the vulgar as the reality engine, or even as the god-machine1, and widely acknowledged as the crowning achievement of the ontotechnologist’s art, the SOES is the first general-purpose ontotech effector.

The SOES came from a development and reconsideration of simpler ontotechnologies derived from the three major competing physical hypotheses: information physics gave us matter editation, and with it reality graphics, the matter-handler, and the peeker-poker; matrix theory gave us vector control, the probability kiln, and the subquantum operators underlying the tangle channel; while ontological precedence produced dimensional transcendence, the frameslip drive, and the subtleties of mirithestel architecture. Various ways to bridge the gaps between these theories were suggested by the Liuvis-Lochran-Marukanin-Melithos Partial Unification, and the result, when turned to practical application, was this device.

Put simply, a reality engine permits you to – within a superficies-bounded volume, and for so long as the engine is operating – modify, revoke, or define fundamental constants, physical laws, and other dependent aspects of reality as its operator wishes. (Within certain limits: while even many trivial modifications can easily cause catastrophic information loss, mass-energy decomposition, or even vacuum decay, imposing a self-inconsistent set of principles on even a bounded volume of hard vacuum will cause eschatonic substrate collapse and reversion to cacoastrum. Fortunately, the universe is robust and such phenomena have not proven to be indefinitely self-propagating.

For this reason, commercial SOES tend to be dedicated units, or programmed with a limited number of safe presets.)

1. Although, as ontologists point out, the SOES is unable at this point to bring about permanent alteration in fundamental constants and laws, or to create entirely new universes, and as such the latter term should be reserved for the still-hypothetical universal ontology editation system, or UOES.

– Quandry’s Guide to Technological Fundamentals

(Author’s Note: We again here find ourselves reading a document that fell off the back of a temporally-displaced starship from the Rather Further Future. As careful readers may know, the SOES and certain of its predecessors – the peeker-poker, dimensional transcendence, and the frameslip drive – do not exist yet in the 7900-8000 timeframe in which the majority of these nanofics are set.)


Step Two

impossipoint (n.): In studies of paracausality (q.v.), the exact when-where at which a miracle (q.v.) occurs. Named so in part because they are where the impossible happens; named so in part also because the frustratingly subtle nature of miracles makes it bloody impossible to detect one.

– Glossary of Applied Metaphysics,
Academician Éöl Liuvis

Where? Elsewhere


A term adopted by ontotechnologists to designate the not-space/not-time in which the universe keeps its metadata (a realm whose existence is implied by all three major theories of natural ontology, although with different representations and certain disagreements on the details), and which is also the realm that translocation moves through, that pocket claudications and other dimensionally transcendent spaces “exist” within, and so forth. Not really a where or a when, inasmuch as it contains only the space and time that you bring with you (mistakes in this area often prove embarrassing), the term is mostly a shrug that saves explaining the detailed mathematics and metamathematics behind Janiris’s Sixfold Mapping of Mass-Energy Event Nodes onto the Sexternial Data-Space Metric, for example, to curious laysophs.

– Quandry’s Reference to Scientific Terminology

(Author’s Note: for those keeping close track of the ‘verse’s technological base, this is taken from an edition that accidentally found itself [REDACTED] years in the past, and as such describes certain effects that don’t exist yet…)

Trope-a-Day: Subspace Ansible

Subspace Ansible: The tangle channel, which involves manufactured entangled (not in the standard quantum sense, note, because we know that doesn’t work; these are ontotechnological devices using the “privileged channels” a long way behind those) particle-pairs.  This makes them quite expensive (since they are a consumable resource, one particle per bit transmitted, and have to be shipped there the long way once you separate the ends; if you don’t have one or a stargate, your best option is a lighthugging communications torpedo) at least relative to using light-speed EM communications and relaying them through the stargates, the way most of the non-priority extranet works, but they’re invaluable for priority communications and beyond the reach of the stargate plexus.  (They are, for example, the only means of ready communication available to lighthuggers.)  And yes, they do work for mindcasting.

(And, yes, they can also let you play interesting games with causality. Just as expected.)

That said, extensive use of caching, prefetching, and AI traffic prognostication makes the extranet delays mostly invisible in practice, as does the ability to engage in pseudo-real-time communication by sending a partial copy of you along with, or as, your message to be able to have a real discussion with the recipient, then reabsorb it when it returns.

Trope-a-Day: Star Killing

Star Killing: The theory exists behind several nova bombs, anyway, and ontotechnology shows the way to interesting possibilities like twist-pinch bombs.  (These are essentially the same type of nova-inducing weapon that we see at the start of Charlie Stross’s Iron Sunrise.)  And one probably could induce a nova with sufficient perversion of the stellar-management technology that goes to make up a stellar husbandry framework, were one to have the luxury of building a giant industrial megaproject in the system one wanted to explode.  But by and large the list of Tier 1 star-killing Instruments of Regrettable Necessity that one shall never use, by the Ley Accords and on pain of the displeasure of the entire Accord is just about empty.

Well, there is one, the star-targeted strangelet bomb.  Theoretically, it should work – from the Burning of Litash, they know that the strangelet bomb itself works, and that it does burn out before destroying all matter in the vicinity, and that strangelets themselves decay and don’t irreversibly contaminate the neighborhood.  But that said, no-one is exactly sure of the result of trying one out on a star, and just in case it turns out to be the nightmare case where the nova scatters active strangelets all across nearby space, no-one particularly wants to be the one to run the test.

And in any case, doing this would be an excellent way to get every major military in the Accord hunting you down, loaded for genocide.  If you thought garden worlds were expensive, stars are even more so, and the collateral damage that can be caused more than a few light-years away significant.

Trope-a-Day: Pocket Dimension

Pocket Dimension: Alas, outside virtual reality, this seems to require basement universes (requires very high-energy physics, being worked on) or dimensional transcendence (requires emergent ontotechnology, also being worked on).

Being worked on very enthusiastically by starship manufacturers, I note, because holy mother of crap what would being able to keep your remass in a pocket dimension do for your mass ratio!

(Let’s hope that the mass of the contents inside doesn’t seamlessly translate to the mass of the dimension “mouth” outside…)

Trope-a-Day: Our Dragons Are Different

Our Dragons Are Different: Inasmuch as the eldraeic mythological aman (“dragon”) was – if you believe “certain not-entirely-accepted parahistorical theories” – imagined in the image of the local Precursors, as were a number of other similar-looking mythologae of the known galaxy.  What’s known about them is that they were about the right size and shape (from the ruins), scaly (from the fossils), near-solipsists (like the rijzh) who ended up wiping each other out through inability to cope with each other’s’ existence, and possessed of technology which, while in general not all that exotic compared to the current galactic mainstream, included some ontotechnological wonders or natural gifts that made them dangerous force-of-nature-level Reality Warpers to everything around them.

And they’re also responsible for the existence of various of today’s species (starting with the eldrae), various acts of ecopoesis and ecological modification, and contributing significantly to the Galaxy’s piles of archives and ancient, dangerous artifacts.  (And, of course, tend to get other examples attributed to them because, well, they’re there, belike.  Despite not being the only older-than-elder species out there.)

All other dragon-like characteristics are from these extrapolated.

(There are also the ékaláman, translated as “wyvern”, which look like small, non-fire-breathing Western dragons – reptilioid, following the bluelife hexapedal model with the mid-limbs turned into wings – but are not so much terrifying magical beasties as hard-to-kill dangerous flying predators and damned nuisances to people living in their home range, and specifically to their sheep, cattle, and – if flocking – children.  If you’re going out, don’t forget your clockbow.)

Handwavium: Muon Metals

A reader recently asked the relevant question: how do they stabilize the muons in muon metals, muons not being known for their stability, and when binding metals together, not exactly capable of being stabilized by moving at very high fractions of c, either?

Well, that would be space magic!

(Alas. But with sufficient futureward advancement, SFnal hardness inevitably becomes SFnal firmness.)

Which is to say, so far as I know, there isn’t a known process to do it. (Unless the people who claim that muons should be stable in electron-degenerate matter, like white dwarf material, due to Fermi suppression [the lack of free quantum states to accomodate the decay electron] are correct, but there are good reasons to suspect that they aren’t.)

What lets them do it is another by-product of ontotechnology – hinted at in this reference to a “boser” – that enables mucking about with the bosons that mediate the weak interaction, rendering the stuff stable or at least metastable by oh-look-a-furious-handwave means. If it can be done in reality, it’ll require a whole lot more knowledge of quantum flavordynamics than we have right now, at least.

(Side digression: I like to think that this and its general treatment illustrates what I consider one of the guiding principles of “firm SF”, as I call it. It is acceptable to invoke a little handwavium to generate your unobtainium, but having done it, your unobtanium will-by-Jove follow the laws of physics as they would apply to it. Hence my trying to figure out what exactly hypothetical muon metals would look like, why tangle channels absolutely do violate causality, etc., etc. Just because it’s not currently possible and may be absolutely impossible doesn’t mean that it’s magical, and certainly doesn’t mean that it’s inconsistent.)

Handwavium: Clarifying Tangle/FTL Restrictions

…since I’ve accumulated a couple of queries on this, it’s probably a good thing to clarify.

The restriction on taking tangle (and certain other members of its family of technologies) through a stargate arise from the details of the Minovsky Physics I have defined to fill in the handwavium gap between ontotechnology and our understanding of the universe. I’m not exactly ready to give a full primer on the details of those, heh, but here’s the relevant parts:

  • From a quantum-physics-interpretation perspective, the three competing current Theories of Everything are equivalent to a non-local-hidden-variables interpretation. (In short, I’m assuming that some version of NLHV is correct.)
  • All of these imply “privileged channels” – this is a metaphor – by which state information is “teleported” – this is an even worse metaphor – about the place.
  • I draw from various ideas I have seen in the scientific literature relating quantum entanglement to the quantum foam to thus associate these “privileged channels” with the foam-scale wormholes.
  • (Some of this may seem familiar to those who’ve paid attention to the revealed technical details of stargates. If you also notice some inspiration from Greg Bear’s conphysics in Moving Mars and Anvil of Stars, that’s probably fair to say.)

What does this mean for tangle? Well, it means that for those “privileged channels” to function, they require coherency. Ordinarily, this is a given – we, at the macroscale and even the particle nanoscale, all operate in a nice, consistent spacetime geometry, if one that’s interestingly distorted in places. But then there are stargates, which blow up a wormhole to macroscopic proportions, allow transit, and then collapse it, pinching it off. That breaks coherency because it changes the spacetime topology, not something that normally happens up here. The universe is a robust thing and can handle that/clean up after it, but the nitpicky privilege-dependent details like entanglement – be it the quantum kind or the more subtle kind tangle channels use – are wiped clean in the process.

And that’s why you can’t jump a tangle channel – meaning, specifically, one end of a tangle channel leaving the other end behind – through a stargate. Once you do, the entanglement is broken and both ends are now just boxes filled with random bits. (Incidentally, this is also why you can’t jump a stargate through a stargate; it scrambles the core’s connection to its counterpart.)

But you can, which has been the point that has led to some confusion, jump both halves of the same tangle channel together, because the topology change then happens around them; they stay inside a self-coherent “bubble” geometry, if you will.

So, for example, when I mention the use of tangle to communicate between IN starships and their AKVs, or tactical sensor platforms, they can get away with that because both ends of the tangle channel jump together; but if they jumped out-system and back in again leaving the platforms behind, they’d lose the communication channel. Likewise, they can’t use tangle comms with pre-placed sensor platforms unless they pick up the other half of the channel after jumping in.

And the chap who stole a colonial tangle-channel and ran off with it to do an NFT scam? He had no problems getting the stolen channel to his target world, because what he stole was both ends neatly packed together in their shipping container.

On the other hand, though, when looking at examples like the tangle channel the Stratarchy of Indirection and Subtlety were using on Vontok II, and so forth, those had to pre-positioned and taken aboard once they got in system. (There are a number of strategies for this, all of them annoyingly complicated and most of them involving some sort of masquerade or other, because they have to delivered STL and even a light-sail starwisp is not what you might call the stealthiest of craft.)

Likewise, when you see starships being ordered to report in over tangle channel, like, say, WHISPER NINE or SHUFFLE FOURTEEN, those tangle channels aren’t carried with the starship, if it’s not a lighthugger. Fleet Communications has carefully and subluminally placed communication relays at lots of different points in the Worlds with onboard channels – some of them in satellites that can receive radio signals, others, more covert, that you actually have to dig up and plug in – and you use them by going to their location, or sending a courier to their location, and then transmitting your message.

Hopefully that should clear everything up!

Trope-a-Day: Made of Phlebotinium

Made of Phlebotinium: Well, while there are several kinds of phlebotinium around (see: Applied Phlebotinium) of one grade or another, the deprivation of most of which would certainly make the universe substantially less pretty and/or efficient, the two big ones from a “made of” point of view would be the Absolutely Ubiquitous Computing, which would have much the same “rocks fall, almost everyone dies” effects were it to suddenly go away as electricity suddenly stopping working in Real Life1, and the specific pieces of ontotechnology responsible for the creation of stargates and tangle channels, without which – and thus with all communications and transport restricted to sub-light speeds – the galactic community would look very different indeed.  Indeed, if you delete the tangle channels (which allow real-time communication once you lob them at each other subluminally) as well as the stargates, there’s unlikely to be much of a galactic community, or much in the way of a “star nation” except very loose federations of subluminally-established colonies, bound together by information updates and data trade.

(1. ObVious reference example here: A Fire Upon The Deep, and the Countermeasure.)

Side Note: Ontotechnology and Entropy

I should also perhaps take a moment to note that, given their philosophical views, the Laws of Thermodynamics in general and the Second in particular would seem to be right up there on the list of Problems Which Ontotechnologists Should Urgently Address, inasmuch as knocking that one off (and maybe stopping to take a swing or two at Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems along the way) would be a paradigmatic ethical accomplishment comparable to, say, reversing the Fall, un-eating the Apple,  and preempting the War in Heaven, sort of thing.

Well, yes, they are.

And I am absolutely sure that there are any number of people and their masses of grafted-on computronium, especially in places like Resplendent Exponential Vector, working away on the problem. (And hopefully not exploding too much in the process.)

Thermodynamics is deeply enough embedded at the core of How Reality Works, though, that I wouldn’t be expecting usable results any time soon, for cosmological values of soon.

After all, the impossible always takes a little bit longer.


What is Ontotechnology?

…a reader asks.

Well, let me say right up front that ontotechnology as I describe it is pure-quill handwavium. Its connection to contemporary, real-world physics is that I endeavor to avoid coming right out and stabbing said contemporary, real-world physics in the face; after all, anything discovered in the future has to be consistent with the present. Rather, it is my speculation as to what the physics of the future as expanded by posthuman intellects running on hardware the size of small moons would look like – and as pure speculation, that means I don’t want to see any “but I read in this book that it was possible” arguments made anywhere, ‘kay?

Disclaimer over with, I stole the term from Eliezer S. Yudkowsky, who coined it as a neologism for “technology that permits manipulation of the fundamental rules of reality”. Which is exactly what ontotechnology does.

(How does it do it? Well, I postulate that the fundamental realization behind ontotechnology – by any of the three theories you care to use – is that at a very basic level, the map is the territory. Information and mass-energy are essentially equivalent. Mathematics doesn’t just represent the fundamental structure of reality; it is the fundamental structure of reality. Think of the universe, if you will, as a computer program, database, and processor all of which are also each other; ontotechnology, in those terms, is the skillful application of the root password and a debugger to it to make it work differently.)

You want to change the laws of physics? It does that. Treat space and time as building material? It does that, too. Set the speed of light to 60 mph, abolish the weak nuclear force, make gravity attract in proportion to the cube of the distance instead of the square, invent an entire new universal force that affects particles based on their heretofore-unknown qualities of shiny, fluffy, and matte? Sure, no problem. Can do. A fully mature ontotechnology would let you invent your very own personal version of physics that works exactly the way you want it to and impose it on whatever bit of the universe you want to work that way – or, hell, just reach outside, take hold of the brane, and make a new universe that runs according to your principles.

The problem, of course, is that even for weakly godlike moon-brains, programming universes is very, very complicated. The set of self-consistent/self-sustaining physical laws is a very, very tiny subset of the set of expressible physical laws, and the set of physical laws that are compatible with the existence of mass-energy as we know it is an even tinier subset of that subset, and the set of physical laws that are compatible with the existence of complex informational structures like, well, us is… you get the picture – and that’s without taking into account whatever laws control ontotechnology itself. (And, to further extend that debugging analogy, when you crash the universe tryin’, you don’t get a nice friendly exception message, or even a blue screen of death.)

All of which is why no-one, in the present time of the Eldraeverse, has a fully mature ontotechnology, and probably won’t for millions if not billions of years to come.

But they have been able to figure out a few applications that can be made to work safely and reliably, and that’s where technologies like the controllable wormhole, and the tangle channel, and vector control (which lets you do interesting things to gravity and the linkage between inertial and gravitational mass, starting with breaking mass into those two distinct concepts) come from – and where any future breakthroughs along those lines (say, if I decide at some point to let dimensional transcendence be invented) and/or mysterious rule-breaking alien artifacts dug up will draw from.

Handwavium: Inertial Dampers

Handwavium (in General)

I try to write the technology in my universe in such a way that at least 95% of it falls within the laws of physics as we know them, or at least as we mostly know them and assuming that they’re being fairly kind to us when it comes to technologies we haven’t developed yet.

The other 5% is powered by handwavium.

My chosen handwavium, for those who are new and haven’t heard the term before, is ontotechnology, a lovely term for “those technologies which let you reach into the mechanisms underlying reality and poke them in useful ways”. A fully mature ontotechnology would, arguably, be “that technology which you build universes with”; fortunately, what they have in the Eldraeverse is a very, very immature ontotechnology. From an in-world perspective/in the parlance of the Worlds, ontotechnology usually refers to some product of one or more of Information Physics, Matrix Theory, or  Ontological Precedence, those three being the leading contenders for the Next Big Thing in physics.

(Unfortunately, the evidence seems to be suggesting that all three of these mutually contradictory theories appear to be true, which most physicists and philosophers take as evidence that (a) the universe is far more complicated than anyone imagined, and (b) may just possibly be having a laugh at our expense.)

From an out-of-world perspective, ontotechnology means handwavium. Specifically, it means one of these:

  1. The handwavium that enables FTL travel (generating wormholes from entangled singularities, probably very related to type 2);
  2. The handwavium that enables FTL communication (tangle channels of the non-quantum entanglement kind, which implies that the universe is just full of non-local hidden variables); or
  3. The handwavium that enables a decent degree of control over gravity and/or mass (vector control).

All of which share certain characteristics, such as having been invented by transsophont geniuses in symbiosis with very large computing facilities, having theories behind them which – in detail – are very hard if not downright impossible for people without rather enhanced brains to understand, and so far as the vast majority of people are concerned, might as well come in black boxes with “Big angelic powers within. No mortal serviceable parts inside.” stenciled on the outside.

Apart from those, it may also mean one of the assorted gap-filling assumptions I’ve had to make in inventing the details of advanced technologies, in re everything from whether P=NP to enough theory of mind to have a decent handle on AI mental architecture; while none of that actively violates what’s known, that I’m aware of, it’s certainly extrapolating well beyond reasonability for anyone except… well, an SF writer.

Here endeth the summing up for newbies, ’cause we’re here to talk about the parameters wrapped around a particular example of handwavium:

Inertial Damping

So let’s talk about inertial damping. The first rule of inertial damping is that you don’t talk about inertial damping —

Ahem. Sorry. The first rule of inertial damping is that there’s no such thing as inertial damping, as a separate technology. There are “inertial dampers”, but they happen to be an application of the same underlying techniques – as a bundle, called vector control – which are your generic mucking-with-the-shape-of-space-time-without-needing-inconveniently-huge-masses tools, and which underlie related technologies such as, say, artificial gravity, techlekinesis, kinetic barriers, tractor-pressor beams, hopelessly inefficient reactionless drives (which aren’t even actually reactionless – in this universe, we OBEY the Law of Conservation of Momentum), and so forth. I prefer not to multiply handwavium beyond necessity, obviously, so I make all of these – and I didn’t actually start with all of them, some were just logical implications – examples of the same family of phenomena.

All inertial damping actually is is… artificial gravity.

This brings with it all the associated limitations. For example: you can only create the a-grav field between matching and opposed sets of gravity rotors. (Well, that’s not technically true – but not having the second one there means you’re trying to attract about half the universe with your a-grav field, energy requirements head asymptotically for infinity, fuses blow, and you’re done here.) It’s basically an internal closed field, with very little spillover at the fringes. Forget a-graving anything in open space or cheating your way to a reactionless drive with them; you need something to mount the rotors on, and that thing is not going to be within the field of effect.

It’s also quite energy-hungry, because it’s not like we’ve repealed the energy conservation laws or the inverse square law, either. That’s why it’s being used to damp only two small habitable areas and not, say, the entire length of the ship so you wouldn’t need all that heavy trusswork supporting the cargo and the fuel against the engine’s thrust; it’d be grossly uneconomic even if you had somewhere suitably strong – they would be holding the whole weight of everything, after all – to mount the rotors. The material construction is essentially always more cost-effective when doing jobs that construction can do. Also, of course, if your spacecraft is primarily held together by an inertial dampening field, under whatever name your universe calls it, then you’re pretty much going for a design that is guaranteed to undergo rapid unplanned disassembly as soon as the power goes out for the first time. Consolidated Mutual Mitigation & Surety aren’t going to write a note to cover that.

(Side note: These associated costs are why, artificial gravity or no, most habitats that want gravity spin to get it, and ships – including the Greed and Mass-Energy use gravity wheels, and so forth. One of my general rules of thumb in handwavium design is that handwavium that reproduces something that can be done comfortably by regular physics tends to be more costly, in one way or another, as roundabout, over-complex ways of doing things often are. In this case, the upshot of that is that artificial gravity is very useful for small-scale applications in the lab and industry, curiosities like the zero-g bed, and interesting spin-off applications like inertial damping and techlekinesis, but if all you need is regular old pretty constant gravity… start spinning.

Meanwhile, if you’re traveling on one of those dirthugger-friendly passenger lines that has gravity in the passenger sections and doesn’t have gravity wheels? There’s a reason you’re paying a damn sight more for your ticket than the people willing to live like spacers for the duration.)

What makes it function as inertial damping is that the gravity rotor network is tied into the engine controller, and the reaction control system, and – were this ship capable of atmospheric flight – the flight data computer, and various other systems which together understand the forces the spacecraft is about to apply to itself, or coming from sources which are reporting to it, and generates the appropriate matching vector on the contents of the damped area – insert assorted technobabble here – such that the net differential acceleration vector between them and the ship they’re in is zero.

The key limitation here is that it can only do anything to compensate for accelerations that it knows about; it can’t read the future or identify force-about-to-be-applied, it just follows in sync with the systems that accelerate the ship. If you’re in a collision, if something explodes unexpectedly on-board, if you’re being shot at, or in other ways you get hit by unknown sources of acceleration, the inertial damping system can’t do a damn thing about that. It gets you comfort, either as a luxury on half-gee freighters or as a practical necessity on twelve-gee fast couriers, but the bridge still needs seatbelts, the corridors still need handholds, and in the event that none of this works out, it may still be chunky salsa time.

Yet More Safe Science

“Yes, translocation should be easy.  It doesn’t seem all that dissimilar from vector control, right?  And this is exactly the sort of thing that ontotechnology does – gets intimate with the informational substructures of the physical universe.  So why can’t we just poke new values into the spatial coordinates of these particles here, and blip, one tessera moment later, they’re all over there instead?”

“Well, we’re finding that out.  But it may take a while, because the universe’s API tends to return errors in the form of terajoules of loose energy, expensive piles of wrecked equipment, and other such signs that the coder responsible didn’t understand the difference between exceptions and explosions.”

– Imogen Andracanth-ith-Andracanth, who is really tired of this question

Fundamentally, It’s Stuff

“‘What is reality?’, you ask.  Beneath all the photons and leptons and baryons and gluons, underlying space-time and quantum fields, out there in the realm of fundamentals where the natural ontologists and the ontotech engineers play, what actually is the world made from?  What is underneath it all, what can we do with it, and is there any way to make another one, possibly a better one?”

“In this department, we have three answers, and this course will cover all of them.”

“First and most conventionally, Matrix Theory postulates a six-dimensional continuum of interacting fields and strings, whose interactions and resonances along all modes are reflected as — in the four-dimensional slice of this continuum which we occupy and directly perceive — the shadow-on-the-wall phenomena which we interpret as space and time, energy and matter, even — possibly — the basis for the nondeterministic mathematics of the logos.”

“Second, Information Physics holds, instead, that “it is bit”; that the basis for all of plenary reality is software.  The universe is no more than the interaction of patterns of information, a self-modifying hardware-less algorithm (or rather, idestelté – the existence of the algorithm is equivalent to the existence of the processor) continually computing itself.  (Albeit, in this theory, one with an unfortunate resource leak; but then, software can be debugged.  Even if that software is also the universe.)”

“Third, Ontological Precedence holds that the plenum is defined-created by the binding of extrauniversal principles, mirithestel — Identity, Existence, Location, Time, Entropy, and so forth — in accordance with an external topology of infinite metaphysical possibility.  This binding creates the rules by which the universe operates, and hence defines its constituents.  By modifying this underlying binding, whether globally in the construction of so-called pocket universes, or by local modification, deletion, or insertion of such mirithestel, all the less fundamental aspects of reality, mere particles and physical laws, may be defined or altered as one wishes.”

“These are the three most popular and accepted theories in the field.  The difficulty, of course, is that ontotechnological devices have been built using, and to verify, the predictions of all three of these theories — and they all function.  Which in turn suggests that we have at least one more layer of the delightful complexity of the universe to unwrap, even after refining these, before we can approach the true answer to that question.”

“After all, it would be a shame to find the single answer in only a few thousand years, wouldn’t it?”

– Academician Kathery Melithos-ith-Meliastinos, Professor of Natural Ontology, University of Almeä