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Writing a Novel...Have a quandry/qustion

  1. Feb 9, 2017 #1
    I am a science fiction author working on my fifth book. I have a question regarding mass and inertia that I thought maybe I could get some input/insight here.

    And this is for science fiction...

    If there existed the mechanism to make a small space ship massless by the means of a supposed mass cancellation field, would the ship, its crew, and objects contained within still have inertia. In the book I am writing a discovery is made where such a device is discovered. If this was possible, even a small propulsion device could easily accelerate the ship with no mass to speeds nearing that of light very easily and needing very little power. What would happen if the direction of that ship was suddenly changed...ie..the direction of the force of thrust was changed. Would the ship instantly change direction or would the ship/crew/cargo still have inertia even though while in the mass cancellation field they effectively had no mass. Or...would the ship still have inertia/Delta V that would have to be erased to change direction. Also if the ship could be accelerated very quickly because it had not mass would it tear the ship apart due to inertia stresses or would there be no inertia.

    The reason for question is I am trying how to make it feasible for small spaceships to fight in space. They could not provide enough thrust or carry enough fuel to change Delta V to even make it possible...if they had mass that is. If mass was "canceled" would the pilot be unable to survive the G forces due to the massless ship maneuvering so quickly. Trying to work this out so I can incorporate this into the novel. Any input would be appreciated....and remember..the book is FICTION :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 9, 2017 #2

    Buzz Bloom

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    Gold Member

    Hi Jeff:

    It seems to me you can choose either option. It's your story, and your choice about the fictional way you want the mass cancellation field to work. I see no plausible fictional reason why your ship cannot have a space inside that nullifies the
    mass cancellation field.

  4. Feb 9, 2017 #3
    Jeff, hi, I think it depends which version of the mass cancellation field generator you're thinking about. Obviously not the Mk I as that had a nasty tendency to generate negative inertia fields and promptly self annihilate, so it never got into production beyond the prototype stage. I think the Mk II produced a field that cancelled the inertia of everything within, so the crew of a small spaceship would be carried along on the same trajectory as the ship in that case, until they left the mass cancellation region of course, then the g forces would kick in again for ship and crew alike :smile:
  5. Feb 9, 2017 #4


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    Staff Emeritus
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    Do you want them to? If so, then yes!

    The issue is that there is no such thing as a mass cancellation field, so we can't make accurate predictions about what would happen if one existed.

    Again, it operates however you want it to operate. Self consistency is the most important aspect of developing fictional technology. Whatever you decide, you have to stick to your decision.

    So you want fighters in your story, eh? Nothing wrong with that. I'd say do whatever you need to do to make the idea of fighters plausible (or even necessary) in your story. You're already inventing fictional technology and physics, do what you want with them to make a good story.
  6. Feb 9, 2017 #5


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    As others have noted, there's nothing in physics to let you do what you want to do, so just write down some rules and try to apply them consistently.

    One point to note - you can always consider yourself to be at rest (only instantaneously if you're accelerating, but at any instant you choose). So if you can survive the initial acceleration you can survive any other acceleration you might make, unless you're planning on ignoring the principle of relativity and having some kind of absolute rest frame.

    Also - inertialess fields were used by everything from one-man armed scouts to planets in E.E. "Doc" Smith's Galactic Patrol/Lensman novels, for much the reasons you cite. You may wish to have a quick look.
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