25 September 2023

Physics Sucks

So many science fiction settings have utterly miraculous drives.

And that's without even breaking physics and going faster than light.

Making a plausible and realistic ship means a dramatic drop in performance compared to so many settings.

It's frustrating in many ways.

One becomes used to breaking the laws of physics.

Part of the problem is I'm not used to the paradigm of the realistic drives and what's impressively fast and what's not.

Transhuman Space is a good primer to figure this out.


  1. One aspect of the ‘reaction less’ drive that popped up a few years back was that it could continuously deliver thrust. Instead of what we have now, one big push then just glide through space.

  2. "Known Physics" changes as new discoveries make new "Known Physics". At one time a noted NYC Doctor made an editorial that the newfangled automobile would harm you by sucking out your breath if driven excessively fast. That "If man was to fly God would have given him wings" with ponderous references to Icarius flying in arrogance towards the sun and his doom.

    And that Clarke thought that Technology sufficiently advanced is magic to the lower technology observer?

    In Space Opera the vehicle was the supporting actor at best, it's the HUMAN (or Wookie etc) that MATTERED.

    Maybe it's a game not a real life(tm) PhD dissertation?

    1. When I converted Steven Gallacci's Erma Felna setting to GURPS, I needed to up the exhaust velocity on the fusion drives quite a bit to get the sustained 1g plus accelerations the comics mentioned frequently.

      That was the first fiction I'd read that even tried to be plausible about space-ships. Most of the volume of the ship was tankage for the reaction mass, no magic gravity systems.

      Some of the fun is figuring out HOW implausible the magic drives are.

      I mean the Epstein drive in The Expanse was expected to be a modest improvement, not a three to five order of magnitude improvement.

  3. The "Dread Empire's Fall" series by Walter Jon Williams doesn't do that. They don't even have artificial gravity, which IMO would be at least as useful as a space drive in space. A lot of the space action revolves around who can hold out longest under multiple G forces and what you can do with reaction drives. Interstellar travel depends heavily on "wormholes."


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