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29th century faq page

the 29th century FAQ page

  Many of the fifty-some science fiction stories I've written take place in the
same hard military SF universe in the 29th century, plus or minus a few centuries.
In my Physics Education research, I have been very interested in the topic of 
Science Literacy, especially how books, TV and movies get things wrong (or right).
It is difficult to write totally scientifically accurate science fiction, especially
if you want to involve interstellar travel.  However, even with some "fake" physics,
I want my stories to operate in a universe with logical and rational technology,
with the same considerations due to morality and ethics that we find ourselves 
dealing with in the present day.  Here are some of the details you might want to
know about:

· the basics

     It's 2880 A.D.  Man has been traveling into interstellar space for over 500
years, advancing outward along the Orion Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy "westward" 
towards Orion for 1000 LY × 1000 LY × 500 LY, and also "eastward" away from Orion
a more sparsely populated 700 LY × 700 LY × 300 LY.  East Space is dominated by 
the Asian and South Asian countries, especially One China, Imperial Japan, India
and the Southwest Asian Consortium.  West Space includes vast volumes of Free Space,
loosely administered by the Unified Star Fleet and the British Royal Navy (Space), 
along with the allied territorial and colonial governments.

     On 17 May 2880 Earth Relative Time (ERT), ships of the Unified Star Fleet run
into a previously unknown alien race and are attacked.  The aliens, quickly known 
by the generic term The Enemy, refuse all attempts at communication or First Contact
protocols and seem bent only on eliminating any human ships or colonies.  

· the unified star fleet

     The Unified Star Fleet, usually referred to as Fleet, consists of some 26,000
starships, with about half considered to be warships, and over 35,000,000 men and 
women in uniform.  Fleet Survey is tasked with scientific study and early development
for colonies.  Fleet Marines provide an armored fighting force for space, stations
and planets.  Up until the Enemy War in 2880, Fleet mainly provides policing and 
administrations for Free Space -- its toughest foe has been the Fringe Runners who 
live on the edges of human colonization, some 800-1000 LY from Earth.  Runners take
what they need, when they need it and constantly move onward when things get too 
built up. Organized criminal piracy is another nagging issue which Fleet has to 
keep after. 

· earth

     25,000,000,000 people now populate the Earth, with another 350,000,000 living 
on the Moon.  The United States has over a billion by itself, and is part of a loose 
economic and free trade consortium called the Nordamericano Confederation (U.S., 
Mexico, Canada). Though cities tend towards much larger populations than today,
some of the building worldwide is vertical and overall the environmental conditions
are much cleaner and more sustainable than today.  Global warming was eventually
brought under control when a mammoth semi-transparent shade was placed between the
Earth and the Sun for a couple of centuries, reducing the incident solar radiation.

     To keep the environment in check and have a sustainable population 4-5 times
bigger than 2010, with a minimum of poverty, a lot of changes had to be made in society.
Transportation is much more efficient and moderately restricted.  You aren't going to
fly in a jet anywhere, etc. The old mantra of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, now is expanded to
embrace Renew, Repurpose and Remediation as well.

· golden

     "A better Earth than Earth," is how some of the arrogant locals of Golden refer
to their pleasant planet.  Located only 37 LY from Earth, the G8 V Goldstar system was
hidden by the small black Veil cloud of interstellar dust and was discovered only when
Man had traveled away from the Solar System.  Most of the 5 billion people on Golden
live on the two large Eastern and Western continents, while a smaller population lives
on the prime British Sector on Golden -- the richest colony in all of human space.

     The thicker atmosphere and somewhat redder spectrum of the Goldstar means that 
virtually zero UV radiation makes it to the surface.  If you want to tan on Golden, 
you have to use artificial means.  Terraforming Golden was easy -- low background
radiation levels and milder climes means that the native flora was easily displaced 
by Terran species.  And there was very little in the way of complex fauna. 

     Golden has no large moons and its solar system is generally cleared of most 
asteroids.  What appears to be a full moon rising every night, Midlight is actually 
the old Earth sun shade repurposed as a reflector.

· interstellar travel technology

     The three basic technologies of interstellar travel are artificial gravity, stasis
and jump engines.  The three are all derivatives of the same basic superflow technology --
a high density slurry of photons and gravitons -- and the patents to all three are owned 
by the Gordon-Dawes family and the British Star Empire.  Hence the reason why the Royal 
Navy (Space) operates independent of Fleet and also why many in Fleet hate the British.

· jump physics

     Traveling through the extra-dimenionsal jumpspace was discovered accidentally 
during an experiment to place an entire ship in a stasis bubble to reduce entropic decay
and wear and tear on the ship during the years of normal relativistic interstellar travel.
As a result, the first human survey and colony ship to reach Golden was British, beating
the early Fleet survey slowship by weeks.

· Q: So why do you have fake physics in your stories?

     The simple reason is to advance the story.  Basically, if you want to have a story
or adventure set in an interstellar landscape, you aren't easily going to use absolutely 
correct physics as we know it.  Even just using Einstein's theories of Special Relativity
(for speeds over 42% the speed of light) and General Relativity (for accelerations and 
gravity), it would (a) take years to get anywhere and (b) require enormous energies.  So I,
and most SF authors, cheat when it comes to star empires.

     In my case I don't use faster-than-light travel, but use an extra-dimensional jumpspace
to travel "instantly" from one star system to another.  And I use this technology to "reduce"
the effective mass of a starship so that Newton's F = ma and the Work-Energy Theorem don't

· Q: So why are your starships laid out like surface ships?

     I'll have a longer answer to this later -- it goes to an argument I picked with F&SF
editor Gordon Van Gelder when he was Guest Editor at the 2004 Clarion workshop about an article
he wrote on this subject -- but once one posits artificial gravity, then we as humans prefer
to work and live in horizontal spaces and are challenged by vertical arrangements.  Fleet
warships tend to be long and wedge-shaped so as to provide a low visability aspect from the 
front and a narrow cross-section to "defend" from small bits of matter along the ship's 
trajectory when one is traveling at relativistic speeds.  You don't want to hit a grain of
sand while moving at 97% the speed of light.  On the other hand, the big starliners want to 
maximize viewing and entertainment spaces and so are built with a more layered setback
structure. And the giant Chinese colony ships need massive storage space, including colonists
in either stasis or cold sleep, and are built in a more spherical shape.

· much more to come...

  got your own questions for Dr. Phil?

       Send e-mail to drphil at dr-phil-physics dot com

dr phil's published stories set in this universe:

The Gravediggers
The Pulse of the Sea
Le Grand Bazar
Under Suspicion
The Brother on the Shelf
In the Blink of an Eye
Three Drink Minimum

dr phil's free fiction stories set in this universe:

Lines West X4334-W
Priority Driver
Command Prologue
A Rosebourne Christmas
Christmas in Foxhole-Heaven
Memorial Day-II

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Last Update: 05 June 2010 Saturday