Understanding Hyperspace

There’s quite a lot of material on hyperspace in The Reader. And as a medium for travel, hyperspace plays a pretty big role in Molly’s adventures. A massive role, frankly. Some of the secrets of hyperspace are what turn her story into something with universe-wide implications.

That’s why it’s important that I understand the principles fully (if not the exact science). One of the documents that has helped me the most is a paper Molly wrote for her math instructor. It isn’t on hyperspace at all, but rather on the method she uses for visualizing up to ten spatial dimensions.

The paper seems to have been motivated from an argument she was having with her own professor on the viability of such a system. Not because the tone is combative, but rather, because it has a strident, instructional air and is followed with an allusion to some previous conversation. I am contemplating an entire blog post that details the method in Molly’s own words, but I’m afraid it would bore most readers to tears.

And that’s one of the problems I’m having with my integration of hyperspace into Molly’s narrative. Rather than explain the science and mechanisms behind hyperspace travel in the beginning, I believe the drama is heightened to reveal secrets to the reader at the same time that Molly and her friends are discovering them.

The few principles that are important, I will touch on before she enters hyperspace for the first time. These center around the gravitational perturbations of nearby objects, and the need to have an extremely stable (and therefore calculable) two-body or three-body mass problem. Two-body is preferred (a system with only two gravitational centers, or points) because there are only a few solutions for very specific three-body systems.

This makes Lagrange points a very key concept for hyperspace travel. All a Lagrange point is, is a location in a two-body system in which a third body can maintain a constant orbit thanks to its centripetal force of rotation. There are five of these points, all named after Louis Lagrange, who discovered them in the late 18th century.

There’s a bit of confusion here between 21st century physics and 25th century physics. In our time, L1, L2, and L3 are considered “unstable” Lagrange points. That’s because we use L-points in dynamic systems, systems in motion. We put satellites and observation systems in these points. L1 is considered “highly unstable” for these purposes. Any drift in one direction increases the attraction from one body while decreasing the other. Think of a pin balanced on its point. That’s the L1 for moving bodies.

In the 25th century, L1 is considered the “most stable” point. And the reason is clear: you aren’t planning on staying there. You jump in or out of the L1, experiencing no gravity from either main body, and you thrust out of there before the next ship jumps in. With the other four points, you can calculate the mass offset needed for the jump in or out of hyperspace, because you can treat the two bodies as one body. Taking the ship into account, this makes the 3-body system a 2-body system, which can be calculated.

Molly’s story would have played out much differently were it not for the limitations of hyperspace. In fact, it wouldn’t have taken place at all. She would never have been born. The Earth would have been overrun and destroyed long ago (before my own lifetime, in fact). It’s a humbling thought, to say the least.

Next up will be a discussion on the nature of space and how the universe can be finite in volume yet not possess an “edge” or “boundary.”

One response to “Understanding Hyperspace”

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