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Extremely Advanced Materials from Manipulation of Space-time

  1. Jun 21, 2011 #1
    Hello everyone,

    I'm a new member of the Physics Forums, and not a physicist by specialization, so please have mercy :-)

    I'm a linguist by training, and by profession a writer of fiction and role-playing games. I'm currently in the process of getting my first science-fiction novel published, and doing research on my second before starting writing this summer.

    I'm attempting to understand current cutting edge thinking about extremely advanced materials, beyond the traditional 'computronium' idea and towards an ideal 'material' which is composed of a 'manipulation' of the underlying basic 'units' of space-time - my assumption for fictional purposes is that space-time consists at its most fundamental level of a grid of discrete elements of space-time units (excuse the woolly terminology...).

    What I'm looking for right now is any kind of scientific discussion of this possibility or the principles it's based on. My aim is to try and at least understand the very basics of any explanation so that any fiction I base on it isn't too horribly 'wrong'. If there's anyone out there in the Physics Forum community who can help me get my head round this, I'd be extremely grateful! Naturally I'd be delighted to give credit where credit's due, also :)

    Hoping you can help!

    Best,

    Sarah (Newton)
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 21, 2011 #2

    Ryan_m_b

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    I Sarah! Welcome to PF and congratulations on getting the first book published.

    I'm afraid there is no scientific basis for materials made out of spacetime, there are fundamental units of space time known as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck_units" [Broken] but these cannot be structured and ordered in a manner akin to atoms. As is currently understood we can only make things out of matter and this is conventionally made from molecules which are in turn made of atoms. This is because subatomic particles come in different types and can interact (bind) in a variety of ways, this creates a multitude of possible combinations leading to materials with drastically different characteristics, this cannot be done with "fundamental units of spacetime".

    The only other possibilities are if we could construct things from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_matter" [Broken]), the second is not well characterised but is thought only to interact through gravity (and perhaps the weak force but I cannot remember), the third option is only theoretical and if it did exist would have similar characteristics as normal matter except it would be invisible and would "phase through" normal matter and the last may violate known laws of physics.

    Depending on what ratio of science-to-fiction you want in your story it's not going to be possible for you to write about materials that aren't made from good old fashioned matter. But that's ok! There are plenty of fantastic things you could do with matter, energy and some innovation.
     
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  4. Jun 21, 2011 #3
    Hi Sarah,

    Well, you've got the right surname!

    What I'm about to say will add to Ryan's words and will end up contradicting them; this tells you something of the dangers of talking about truth versus theory etc.

    All matter is, in fact, made from space-time: it is the quantized vorticity in space-time, an ideal fluid and superconductor, which makes a fundamental particle. It is this vorticity which the wavefunction that describes a particle is referring to, albeit obliquely.There are different families of vortices supported by superfluids and I would urge you to look into these as your best bet for inventing a plausible yet fictional basis for a weird materials science. Maybe different vortex types could be thought of as analogous to photons and electrons, able to flip from one to the other, and the neutrinos, which can also oscillate between types. Maybe yet more vortex types represent quarks, mesons and others (such as double centred etc - look into it - try search terms: vortex superfluid He4, image search) could represent W and Z Bosons and, still more exotic ones, Gluons. Vortex manipulation at the Planck scale could become the basis for your new Physics. To be really good, it should be stated that this approach to modelling particles as vortices in an infinitessamally thin 4-d sheet of superfluid should yield the Einstein equations of General Relativity. Also, if you could wrap this around the Lie Group E-8 and project it from a 10-d space onto a 4-d surface and still have results which are consistent with known measurements and make accurate predictions for future experiments you could add a Nobel to your Nebula award!
     
  5. Jun 21, 2011 #4

    Ryan_m_b

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    To add to this there is a big difference between particles being quantized spacetime and having a material capable of manipulating spacetime. Yes there are many different forms of matter and subatomic particle other than usual configurations we are used to but to use them as technology would require extraordinary environmental conditions.

    With the nuclear and QCD matter I pointed out above you could, in theory or justified fiction, create workable femtoscale machinery however to remain stable this machinery must be kept under extremely high densities and temperatures therefore would be unable to interact with the majority of matter without destroying it. It also still wouldn't let you manipulate spacetime though I'm not too sure what you mean by that.
     
  6. Jun 21, 2011 #5
    Agreed - I think there would be a big danger of falling into the sci-fi trap of "field generators" and the like.

    Or, as they say over and over on any creative writing course: "Show, don't tell".

    In other words, the story should stand or fall on its own merits and shouldn't need fake physics to support it.
     
  7. Jun 21, 2011 #6
    Hello everyone,

    Thanks very much for the great replies and explanations - I shall definitely be reading up on vortices to see if that takes me somewhere near where I want to go!

    I'm definitely in agreement with the show not tell principle; I'm just looking for a reasonably consistent and non-ridiculous vocabulary in which to express that 'showing'. In particular, I'd like my characters to talk and speculate about this 'technology' without sounding completely uninformed.

    Here's an example: a 'vessel' has appeared in a region of space occupied by an advanced human civilization in our far future - a civilization with nano- and possibly femto- scale technology. The vessel is far more advanced than even their civilization: it appears to be formed of a 'super-computronium'-type material which is utterly incomprehensible to them. The scientists of the human civilization theorize that it is composed of 'the fabric of space-time itself'.

    Now it's that 'fabric' which I realize is pseudo-scientific gobbledigook, and damn close to the 'magic force fields' and similar handwavium. I could throw in terms like 'quantum foam' and 'dimensional interstices', and rapidly approach maximum ludicrosity! :D

    Imagine *if* such an vessel appeared, and *seemed* to be made of such a material? Even if it was a material which seemed to contradict our own scientific understanding, how could I attempt to describe it in a way which wouldn't sound like nonsense?

    Once again, thanks very much for all your comments and advice - this stuff is gold!

    All the best,

    Sarah
     
  8. Jun 21, 2011 #7

    Ryan_m_b

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    Glad to help :smile: Femtotechnology is likely to be impossible because any structured material at the femtometre level must be made from nuclear/QCD matter (thus needing densities on the order of billions of tons per spoonful as well as drastically high energies). You could posit some sort of material made from magnetic monopole particles (such as the fictional http://johnsonm.com/garden_universe/Encyclopedia/Magmatter.htm" [Broken]) but this runs into similar problems of extremely high densities as well as potentially being impossible.

    I don't think the "fabric of space" can be thought of as a physical material. For all intents and purposes space is just an empty volume. At the plank scale we start wandering into the realm of virtual particles and quantum foam, however due to the very nature of virtual particles if you could detect/interact with them you would make them real. I really don't see a way of building something out of space, the concept doesn't make too much sense.

    What I would advise is when writing the story just state that a vessel appears that is made out of something that has properties that human scientists can't explain. Give it whatever weird and physics violating properties* you want and perhaps include a line or two quoting different scientists arguing;

    "Some scientists say it is made from the fabric of space but others point out the ludicrousness of this opinion and relegate the vessel and everything about it as exotic matter"

    *For example the way it bends light around it suggests solar mass size gravity well but physical matter is unaffected, in addition it appears to have the inertia of a feather along the axis of travel but it's inertia approaches near infinite along any other direction.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  9. Jun 21, 2011 #8
    Hi Sarah,

    As Ryan notes, the smaller things are the more energy is needed to make them. This is why such huge machines as LHC are needed to peer into the world of quark/gluon plasma and to hunt for the elusive Higgs boson.

    Also, the smaller things are the weirder they get. It doesn't make sense to talk of a particle as being a"thing" made of "stuff". The equations, the mathematical entities, that describe the phenomena describe a world that just gets weirder and weirder the closer you get to it - a world where particles pop in and out of existence and which are only deemed real if they interact with something we can measure.

    I like the idea of computronium - this gets at the idea that underlying mass and energy is a more fundamental quantity in the universe - information.

    This isn't just a relativistic, quantum mechanical universe; it's an informatic, computational universe where space is where you arrange stuff and time is where you re-arrange it i.e. perform calculations with it. So each individual state of matter within the universe can be seen as a theorem of the laws of Physics with its sum over history from the Big Bang being its proof. History, the past from any given perspective, is the proof of the present.

    To get back to your need for extremely exotic materials, maybe you could have matter that is composed entirely of interlinked ring vortices which have a spin 1/2, in other words they're a bit like a moebius strip. You could give them mass and charge, too, and could have families of interlinked vortices with radically varying properties - some very massive, others highly charged but with no overall magnetic moment, some well-aligned and very magnetic - I also write sci-fi and this is along the lines of my own fake physics.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2011
  10. Jun 21, 2011 #9

    Ryan_m_b

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    Bibbler can you provide a link to what you mean by vortices? I'm interested as to what exactly you are referring to but cannot find a good source, wiki has this to say http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantized_vortex but it isn't a good article.
     
  11. Jun 21, 2011 #10
    Hi Ryan,

    http://www.pnas.org/content/105/37/13707.full.pdf

    http://www.thunderbolts.info/forum/...&start=0&sid=06932a3abdac09cb690d1f0c5b23538b

    http://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/fluid-simulation-for-video-games-part-1/

    Note in the final article the figure 9b which also very neatly describes the magnetic field generated by the current flowing in a solenoid - hence the description of Maxwell's treatment of electro-magnetism as being a magneto-hydro-dynamic theory and why magnetic flux is described as "flux" - it's flowing!

    That's just for starters - it's an enormous and very interesting subject as there appears to be scale invariance - the same rules that apply at a quantum level appear to scale right up to galactic scales and probably up to supercluster scales; that's very impressive. A theory of turbulence is the Holy Grail of many researchers as this would lead to a deep understanding of fluid dynamics at all scales.
     
  12. Jun 21, 2011 #11
  13. Jun 21, 2011 #12

    Ryan_m_b

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    Cheers! :biggrin:
     
  14. Jun 21, 2011 #13

    Vanadium 50

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    Scientists do not talk like this. I suggest you spend some time hanging out with scientists to hear how they talk so your dialog will not sound out of place.
     
  15. Jun 21, 2011 #14

    Ryan_m_b

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    It depends who is saying it in the story. I could easily see a media figure such as a newsreader saying this, only last week I saw one on the 7 o'clock news talking about the 16min antimatter trap spouting nonsense about antimatter existing before the big bang and scientists wanting to use it to create black holes.

    Clearly some intern's work-experience tea-boy was sent to do the background research.
     
  16. Jun 21, 2011 #15

    Vanadium 50

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    I repeat. Scientists do not talk like this.
     
  17. Jun 21, 2011 #16
    In another thread I rephrased what Isaac Asimov advised a long time ago: Good science fiction assumes everything is available (time machine, positronic brains, faster than ligth travel). You pick one of them and elaborate about the consequences.
    Everything I read about "realistic" since fiction was not so interesting and became outdated very fast.
     
  18. Jun 21, 2011 #17

    Ryan_m_b

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    Personally I find hard-SF (that is science fiction that holds current understanding of what is impossible to be true) more enjoyable. But I definitely agree, the best science fiction doesn't labour too long on explaining the fictional science behind the technologies, it explores how said technologies may change psychology and society. A good example is how smartphone adoption is on the rise and that smartphones come with GPS as standard, therefore a generation born now could go their whole life never really knowing what being lost means in anything but an academic sense.
     
  19. Jun 22, 2011 #18
    why not make the ship a single giant (programmable) particle?
     
  20. Jun 22, 2011 #19

    Ryan_m_b

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    One giant particle? :confused:
     
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