Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Graviton Drive: Is this plausible?

  1. Sep 15, 2014 #1
    Here's an excerpt from an upcoming chapter of my hard science fiction novel Flashover. I was wondering if this is plausible. I'm sure I must have made a mistake somewhere, and I was hoping that someone would kindly point it out.

    Remember the song Lasso the Moon? The capsule would actually lasso the moon, and pull.

    An antimatter production complex was nestled deep within, where billions of nanometric particle accelerators worked in tandem to produce the dangerous particles from hydrogen. The antimatter was then guided down the neck of a magnetic bottle and into the reaction chamber. Encased in a superalloy shell, the reaction chamber received normal hydrogen and antimatter, and they annihilated on contact into torrents of gamma rays and pions. The superalloy shell absorbed the intense radiation and quickly heated up, exchanging the thermal energy with a reservoir of cool hydrogen gas constantly pumped around it, and gradually cooling down while the heat exchange quickly turned the hydrogen into plasma. Once the outer chamber was full of sustained plasma, antimatter production would slow down, and the process would come to a halt.

    When needed, the plasma would be pumped out and fed into another set of nanometric particle accelerators, where it was accelerated to relativistic speeds and collided with more plasma. The resulting annihilation of plasmons released free gravitons that were instantly captured by artificial atoms. The ‘charged’ artificial atoms were then transported through magnetic channels to storage chambers for later use.

    To generate momentum, the capsule would transfer the artificial atoms to its surface using magnetic channels, where a directional microwave laser would release and guide the gravitons along the desired vector. The gravitons instantly latched to the closest gravity well in that direction, no matter how far, and pulled. The artificial atoms gravitated towards the target, but the containment field kept them in place, creating drag against the substructure. This would cause the entire capsule to move in that direction a fraction of a micron. The cumulative effect of performing the process using trillions of charged artificial atoms at once would produce massive lift in atmosphere, and would do much more in space.

    It wasn’t exactly a classical science fiction tractor-beam, but it was close enough. ​
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 15, 2014 #2
    Ask yourself the question what the point is of having technobabble this detailed. To the novice it might sound plausible (but what novice will memorize all this?), to the initiate it doesn't sound like science and this will compromise the suspension of disbelief.

    It'd be better to specify what the fictional technology does and under what parameters it operates. Run a few thought experiments to see if it behaves like you want it to.
  4. Sep 15, 2014 #3
    Yes, there's a small paragraph before that one that describes what it does in simpler wording, this detailed description is for readers knowledgeable in the relevant fields and interested in details.

    This whole novel is a big thought experiment, it contains actual theory intermixed with wild fiction and conjecture. Its emphasis is on what could be, and how it could be done.

    I do see your point though. This is might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I'm writing science fiction the way I'd like to read it.
  5. Sep 15, 2014 #4
    I join to the option of venvare, that much technobabla would bother me.
    (I didnt find it that much plausible, but i'm no expert.)
  6. Sep 15, 2014 #5
    Thank you. I might have to think of something else, then.

    Is there a specific part that put you off?
  7. Sep 16, 2014 #6
    I would simply say it is antimatter powered negative mass drive, otherwise i have no idea, how could you possibly generate gravitons or negative mass or whatever, although certain experiments suggests that at very high power levels, even vacuum shows interesting behavior. (I thought to vacuum polarization for example.)
    Going into engineering details IMHO like to the gunpowder lunar rocket of Cyrano.
    Using supercounductors and superalloys and stuff like that makes sense to me.
  8. Sep 30, 2014 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Hmm, the term "nanometric" sounds very technobabble, unless you have established some definition earlier. Do you mean to say "microscopic"? At the end, you say the gravitational force moves the capsule a fraction of a micron. But force creates an acceleration, not a displacement. The displacement can be arbitrarily large, depending on how long you wait.
  9. Oct 9, 2014 #8
    Where are you getting the initial energy that generates the antimatter that provides you with energy? I mean it sounds like star trek. star trek runs on antimatter that is loaded onto the ship in containers. Star trek basically runs like batteries. the ship doesn't have the power to generate its own antimatter. It costs more energy to make the antimatter than the energy you get out of the antimatter. So where would you be getting the extra energy?
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2014
  10. Oct 9, 2014 #9
    I understand. The term nanometric is used to describe things at the molecular scale throughout the novella. I found that the term microscopic was not sufficient, and the alternative — nanoscopic — wasn't that attractive.

    That part I deliberately left out to the imagination, but the idea in my mind is that a single particle accelerator would be a very long nanotube surrounded by superconducting electrostatic crystallite rings sustaining the magnetic fields, with the absolute bare minimum required to accelerate particles.

    Instead of building a huge particle accelerator, you'd build billions of nanoscopic particle accelerators that require very little energy to function.

    I have no idea if this is viable at all, or what challenges would face the creation of such a construct, but that's the idea based on my limited knowledge.

    The first three chapters of the novella are available here: http://www.wattpad.com/story/23887454-flashover
  11. Oct 10, 2014 #10


    User Avatar

    Rather then concentrating on a complex mechanizim to lock onto a gravity well and pull, you could concentrate more on the ships ability to produce energy. The fact that it has some mechnizim to produce a very inexpensive and seemingly endless supply of antimatter is astonishing in and of itself. you dont need to wow the reader with a tractor beam, Concentrate more on the fact that it has access to a near endless supply of energy.

    The main stopping block for space travel is energy and mass. it takes energy to move a ship and energy comes from fuel which has mass. The more energy you produce, the more fuel you need...which gives you more mass....which requires even more energy to move. Its a viscous cycle. However if you characters managed to break that cycle and find a way to produce energy without a massive fuel...that would be a far greater achievement then a tractor beam. If your ship had limitless energy then you could accelerate to the near the speed of light through conventional thrust propulsion.
  12. Oct 10, 2014 #11
    Yes, but conventional thrust is inferior when moving a planet, and without artificial gravity, inertia would kill the pilots. Those are the main reasons why I chose this mechanism.
    My character attempts to move Mars closer to the sun by constructing a toroidal drive around it, so there's that too.
  13. Oct 10, 2014 #12


    User Avatar

    oh. I was under the impression that this was a drive for a ship.
    Honestly what you are attempting is firmly outside the realms of hard science fiction so I would just concentrate on the story and not get bogged down in trying to explain the hows of a system that really cant be explained.
  14. Oct 11, 2014 #13
    Kind of a depressing prologue is it the artificial intelligence speaking? Also I agree with vemvare, too much technobabble. Maybe; is it possible to manipulate the Higgs field or generate Higgs bosons? I'm not a quantum physicist. It's just that gravitons have not been proven to exist. Higgs bosons have something to do with mass and mass can warp space-time. That's the avenue i'd go down.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2014
  15. Oct 11, 2014 #14
    It's not outside of it, it's an attempt to sabotage the limits on said realm. Given ambition, nanobots that could reproduce in geometric progression, and practically limitless computational power, how grand would you build?

    You got it right.

    I see your point; but the novella is done now, so there's nothing to be done.
  16. Oct 11, 2014 #15


    User Avatar
    2017 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Higgs bosons have a mass, but so do most other particles. Just putting a grain of sand somewhere won't make a drive, however (even if it is much more massive than any reasonable collection of Higgs bosons).

    Sorry to be so direct, but this has nothing to do with hard science fiction. This is as soft as it can get, a large collection of buzzwords without a connection in actual physics. I would really prefer "it works with magic".
  17. Oct 11, 2014 #16


    User Avatar

    Hard science fiction is when your story revolves around processes that could possibly work or might be just outside of reach: A ship capable of moving a small percent of light speed is centuries away from reality but it can fit into a hard sci fi story because scientifically we understand how it works and could make it work if we had enough resources. Androids can fit into a Hard Sci Fi because although our current AI is in its infancy, Computer science is progressing at more rapid a pace then any other scientific field. It is believable that computers capable of thought might be within reach.

    Sci Fi starts to get soft when you inject concepts that require large amounts of hand waving. Concepts that cannot be explained by our current understanding of the laws of physics. There is nothing wrong with Soft Sci Fi, in fact the overwhelming majority of Sci Fi is soft. Star Trek for example is a beloved work of science Fiction and its butter soft. they throw around words that sound very scientific but at the end of the day there is no logical way for most of the inventions on Star Trek to work. That doesn't stop it from being a good story. They simply say " yes warp drive makes it possible to go however far we want in an arbitrary amount of time, it works because....it does" and then the episode concentrates on the characters and the drama. the hand wavy technology is just a back drop. If you spend an excessive amount of time trying to explain an imaginary technology things can get tedious because there is no real way for the technology to work so you have to resort to imaginary laws of physics to explain the imaginary technology. Things spiral quickly.

    Just concentrate on your characters and let the technology be a means to an end, not the main point of the story.

    and Good luck on your book launch :)
  18. Oct 13, 2014 #17
    I'm not sure what's soft about using biological Ribosomes to assemble special RNA produced by a compiler application to build nanobots. It's all feasible in real life.

    As to where I take it from there, that's the start of a steep curve. The paragraph above is without context, so maybe that's why you've perceived it this way.

    In fact, I agree. For example, when my character invented FTL communications and I couldn't explain it using physics, I didn't. I just said that his artificial ego — it's all in the story — had done it, and that he was fascinated by the implications. I didn't go into a 4 page long justification of how it was possible.

    Also, thank you. :)
  19. Oct 14, 2014 #18


    User Avatar
    2017 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Using one plausible technology does not make everything else plausible.
    There is no possible context that would make that hard science fiction. You asked "Is this plausible?" and the answer is "no".
    That is a much better approach.
  20. Nov 16, 2014 #19
    This is the inevitable problem of bringing exotic drives and FTL to hard science novels; we all have our pet drives, but based on what we know now, none of them would work. A human civilization that has made the scientific discoveries and technological advances to have an FTL drive might find the rest of your hard science fiction novel quaint. Hal Clement's fix to this problem was to simply start his story on the exotic world he'd created and not concern himself with how his characters got there. That solution satisfied Clement, but me--not so much.

    In a series I'm working on now I've taken the "If it can't happen in this universe then it happened in another" approach. I use the Multiple-Port Wormhole or Pocket Universe idea that was used on Babylon Five. I freely admit this is just as flawed and problematic as any other approach to FTL, but this is my baby and I don't care how ugly you think it is. At some point you may have to take the same attitude with your graviton drive.
  21. Nov 23, 2014 #20
    If you want to move a planet I'd say that blasting a hole through its axis and using its core as a heat engine would be a more spectacular phenomenon, also more plausible. The ejecta from the initial blast would most likely to propel it enough do change its orbit significantly. This could be done by firing a relativistic warhead at a planet.
  22. Nov 24, 2014 #21


    User Avatar

    Spectacular yes but I dont know that I could fit the word "plausible" around that idea. not to mention, what would be the point? its not like anything on the planet would survive such an event even if it did work.
  23. Nov 24, 2014 #22
    OP said he wanted to move a planet, I suggested an option. Someone living at the equator would most likely survive.
  24. Nov 25, 2014 #23
    However...if there was something of value on the planet that you wanted to get at--and you didn't want to share the wonderful something with the natives...
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook