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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The 'Science' of X-Calibur

Today I thought I would post some information behind the technology used in my current series, X-Calibur.
Please note, this is Science Fiction and is not intended to suggest that any of this is possible. It may even contradict current theories around Relativity and Quantum Mechanics! It is only for those of you who want to read more into the stories and understand the rules of how my universe works...
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence is intelligence exhibited by machines or software. From the point of view of the X-Calibur universe, it is used to describe truly sentient machines, that is intelligent thinking machines that are also conscious and self aware.
Perhaps the most famous AI introduced so far is Merlin, the damaged American-European Alliance Mainframe that has come to believe it is the computerised consciousness of the mythological wizard. He is software, able to move between different hardware at will (such as the Tor, Arthur's ship the Vanguard or the Hive ship itself).
As well as Merlin, the Teleri have also admitted to using a variety of AI's on their ships. These help coordinate the communications between remote pilots and the small fighter craft they control, or regulate the relevant information displayed for the bridge officers to interpret and act upon. They are not known to act autonomously and move between ships or systems at will.
The ships in both the Mori and Teleri fleets use a 'Gravity Engine' for propulsion. The gravity engine allows for sub-light speed travel as well as 'jump' travel, that is travelling large distances in the blink of an eye.
Both species have learnt to manipulate gravity, not only using it to provide artificial gravity to the various levels on their ship, but also use it to distort spacetime in order to move. They do this using a fictional ore called gralitanium (the same material Adam 359 and Orlac 552 were required to mine on the asteroid tethered beneath the Hive ship in X-Calibur: The Return).
Once refined, the ore has unique properties that allow the manipulation of gravity. For sub-light travel, the gravity engines distort local spacetime, causing ripples (gravitational waves) in the surrounding space. The ships then 'ride' these ripples like a ship on the ocean.
For jump travel, the gravity engines manipulate spacetime to the point where it bends, connecting two points of the universe by an Einstein-Rosen bridge, or wormhole. This allows almost instantaneous travel between two points, one greatly distant from the other.
As part of the universe I have created, I have imposed two restrictions on this system. The first is the maximum distance of any wormhole travel (which I set arbitrarily at 18 light years), and the second is the recharge time between jumps (which I set at 8 hours). The reasons for this are purely for the story, there is no 'scientific' basis.
If the characters could jump instantly from one side of the galaxy to the other, then jump back again if they got into trouble, it reduces the element of danger. Instead, by making a long journey take time, and then the characters being stuck wherever they end up for at least 8 hours, I hope it adds an element of suspense whenever they travel to a distant region of space. It also allows for some bonding and conversation between the characters on those long trips!
The Mori rely on nuclear fusion to power their weapons, ships and equipment. Nuclear fusion is the process where two atoms collide at high speed and fuse, forming a new element and releasing energy in the process. The Mori have learned to do this in a controlled manner, using fusion cells small enough to fit in even the smallest of plasma pistols.
The Teleri, on the other hand, long since did away with nuclear fusion. They then used local geothermal energy in their underground cities, with disastrous results as you will discover in X-Calibur: The Descent! For the last two thousand years or so, the Teleri have learnt to harness zero point energy (more specifically quantum vacuum zero-point energy).
Zero point energy is a feature quantum mechanics, and is the lowest possible energy a quantum mechanical system may have, resulting in motion even at absolute zero. Currently, the ability to harness zero point energy is thought to be impossible, though research is ongoing!
There are a variety of weapons used by various people in the X-Calibur universe. The Mori typically prefer plasma based weapons. Plasma is a high energy ionised gas, here produced by the fusion reactors, and directed towards a target. The Mori have plasma weapons of various sizes, from the small plasma pistols to the enormous plasma weapons mounted on the cruisers and even the Hive ships themselves.
The Teleri, on the other hand, employ a variety of weapons. Having stopped employing nuclear fusion, plasma weapons are rarely seen. Instead, they have adopted other offensive materials to defend themselves from the Mori.
The first of these is the Ion Cannon, a beam weapon which fires a stream of ions (atoms or molecules with an electrical charge) at a target. They are powerful, able to fire in short bursts or a continuous beam, and highly destructive. The rifle Triltan carries with her beneath the frozen planet is ion based.
The second weapon seen on the Teleri vessels is the Rail Gun (or Railgun). Rail guns are electrically powered, electromagnetic projectile launchers. The rails accelerate the projectile to hypervelocity speeds, firing it at a target like a bullet from a gun (only much much faster). The projectile then tears through the hull, causing considerable damage.
The third weapons employed by the Teleri are Antimatter Missiles. Antimatter is a material composed of antiparticles, that is particles which have the same mass as ordinary matter but the opposite charge. When a particle and antiparticle collide, both particles are annihilated, resulting in the production of huge amounts of energy.
The final weapon, only found on the largest of the Teleri ships, in a Singularity Cannon. A singularity is a point in spacetime in which gravitational forces are so large, they cause matter to have an infinite density and zero volume. Though not quite infinite in density or zero in volume, the projectiles fired by a singularity cannon cause such large disruptions in gravitational waves that they can tear even the largest of ships apart.
Unlike current-day communication, which is limited by the speed of light, the species in X-Calibur need to be able to communicate over long distances instantly. Radio waves wouldn't cut it (taking 100 years for the signal to reach the target 100 light years away), so instead they have developed systems based on the principles of quantum entanglement.
Quantum entanglement refers to pairs or groups of particles which interact in such a way that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently. As such, what happens to one particle will be reflected in anther particle in the same quantum state, regardless of the distance between them (made possible by the time-dilation effects of special relativity).
As such, Arthur can call up Caran Doc or Gar-Wan for advice, even when on the other side of the galaxy!
Energy Shields
Energy shields remain solely in the realm of science fiction. Though research is ongoing, looking primarily at bubbles of supercharged plasma, the type of energy shields found within the X-Calibur universe have no real basis in current physics.
Suffice to say, the 'energy' surrounds the craft (or individual/small team in the case of the Teleri) to form a barrier which protects against physical damage, as well as energy weapons and radiation. They also manage to contain an atmosphere, as seen on the energy shield surrounding the tethered asteroid.
As in most science fiction, when a shield takes damage the effectiveness of it slowly depletes until it collapses altogether, leaving the ship vulnerable to attack. Shields take time to 'recharge' until they again protect the vessel from further damage.
While humans and the Mori were looking to the stars, hoping to leave behind the confines of their planet and solar systems, the Teleri had little interest in what was happening 'out there'. The primary focus of their scientific study related to understanding the universe, not exploring it, and developing technology which would improve the lives of every Teleri.
Of course, readers will know that Ajoch objected the that notion, resulting in a split in Teleri society, but those who moved below ground continued to explore the field. The scientists quickly came to believe that for the Teleri to truly utilise technology, they would have to embrace it in such a way that biology and technology became indistinguishable. That then developed into extensive research into Cybernetics, or Wetware.
The example seen so far is the 'capsule', a small device implanted behind the ear. This is implanted into all Teleri at birth (those who don't follow Ajoch's teachings anyway), and allows the brain to connect directly to a computer.
The capsule is composed of a central processing unit, utilising wireless communication, as well as hundreds of tiny tendrils which worm their way into the brain. They then attach themselves to various regions of the brain, including the visual cortex, auditory nerves, sensory and motor cortices and the amygdala (where memories are processed).
The benefits of the capsule are multiple. As well as allowing for translation between languages and wireless communication, the connections in the visual cortex allow for real-time targeting reticles and detailed overlays (put simply, a HUD). The connections to the sensory and motor cortices allow manipulation of stimuli (eg blocking out pain) or enhanced movements (eg faster reflexes), and the connections to the amygdala allow for uploading and downloading of large amounts of data (memories or information from a connected computer) – a bit like walking around with the entire internet inside your brain!
Is there anything I've missed that you'd like to know more about? Message me or comment in the section below!

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