Jump Theory FAQ
Jump Theory Faq 0.104 Philip Langdale email@example.com
2) General Principles
4) FTL Communication
6) Revision History
Welcome to the Wing Commander Jump Theory Faq, an exciting ride through the wonderful world of pseudo-science and techno-babble, enough to make any sane quantum physicist cringe :-)
This faq tries to explain what Jump Points are, how they are used and their implications, within the context of the Wing Commander Universe.
2) General Principles
2.1) What is a Jump Point?
A Jump Point is a point in space that touches another point in space in 4 dimensional space-time, even though they appear to be billions of miles apart in 3 dimensional space. This proximity give the points unique properties which allows a suitably equiped ship to open a space-time rift and pass from the first point to the other with no noticeable passage of time. Of equal importance is the fact that the space-time fabric at a Jump Point is weaker than at any more normal point in space, this property allows a Jump Drive to open a space-time rift using a realistic amount of energy. As can be well imagined Jump Points are absolutely fundamental to interstellar travel for all known space-faring races.
2.2) How is a Jump Point formed?
Jump Points are, on the whole, natural phenomina, and very unusual ones at that, for a simple reason; the chances of a given Jump Point actually forming are extremely low due to the myriad of factors that effect formation. At the most fundamental level a Jump Point is the result of gravitational forces. As we know gravity distorts space-time, so that instead of being "flat" it becomes curved. If extreme, or multiple gravitional forces effect a specific point in space it can be shifted in space-time a much more considerable amount than to form a simple curve. As gravitational sources, planets, stars, etc, are moving this effect is momentary for a specific point. However if similar effects are being felt by another point in space so that the end result of these gravitational distortions moves the two points next to each other in space-time Jump Point formation can occur. The actual physics behind it are barely understood but for some reason once the two points are brought into proximity in space-time a sort of attraction exists between them so that even after the gravitational forces that brought them together change they remain in place. The result: A Jump Point.
2.3) Are Jump Points Permanent?
Technically no, but the circumstances that will cause a Jump Point to disappear are as specific as those that will form one so the chances are very low for a given Jump Point, though there are certainly records of Jump Points dissappearing.
2.4) How are Jump Points detected?
Jump Point detection is quite a precise science but has gradually become easier due to more precise and advanced equipment. One of light's unique properties is that it follows straight lines in space-time, so a dramatic distortion like a Jump Point can be detected through it's effects on light. The human eye cannot distinguish the effects but modern sensors can detect them from a considerable distance. These sensors are high complicated but due to the experience gained over the centuaries they are cheap enough to be standard on all space craft, though the systems in use on millitary and Exploratory Service ships can operate at longer distances and with greater accuracy.
2.5) How is a Jump achieved?
Of course, Jump Points wouldn't be much use if we didn't have a mechanism to actually exploit their unique properties, the Jump Drive is just that mechanism. Jump Drives have been around for nearly 500 years so the technology is very mature. Despite this it has only been within the last 10 to 15 years that miniture jump drives for use in millitary fighters, bombers etc. and small civillian craft have become practical, and the desperation to get an edge in the Kilrathi War played a large part in that breakthrough, in fact the economic impact has been quite dramatic despite the sharp downturn with the loss of revenue from millitary sales as of late. The new Jump Drive technology has allowed many enterprising individuals to set themselves up plying the space lanes though it is also a sad fact that pirate activity has become a serious problem all over again due to this latest inovation.
The key ability of a Jump Drive is that it can open a space-time rift at a Jump Point which allows the ship it resides in to pass through and re-enter normal space "at the other end".
The nature of a Jump Point, connecting two points means that once the rift has been opened nothing more needs to be done beyond moving the ship, which is probably a good thing, as the actually physics of passage are not well understood.
The Jump Drive works by creating an antigraviton particle field, Antigravitons as their same suggest are the anti particle of gravitons, which are the mediating virtual particle for gravity. They interacted with gravitions and cause the usual mutual annihilation of matter/antimatter reactions. This means that gravity ceases to be in effect, and more importantly, there is a temporary dis-assocation of space-time as another effect. Normal space-time is bound so tightly that any dis-association caused will quickly be reversed under normal conditions, but at a Jump Point the altered fabric of space-time allows this dis-association to last long enough for a ship to pass through. With the rift created the ship simply has to move into it and, from an external perspective, instantly appears on the other side. Shortly after, the rift will close as the inter-dimensional forces pull space-time back together as the Antigravition field decays.
3.1) Has Jump Point formation or disappearance ever been observed
This may surprise you but the answer is only once on record, despite the fact that humans have known about Jump Points for nearly 600 years, and that that was only in 2669, a mere five years ago. The main reason for this lack of success is the extremely low probability of a Jump Point forming at any given point, and also the fact that formation is essential instantaneous. The only way to observe it is to predict where a Jump Point will form and when. This was done with computers programmed with as much astronomical data as was possible, but there are so many factors that these setups never had a chance of producing reliable results. The success in the Tanhauser nebula 5 years ago was the end result of many years of painstaking data collection to allow for the most complete simulation of the universe ever built by the human race.
3.2) Can Jump Points be created artificially?
Technically yes, but practically no, well not by humans at any rate. Of all the races we are aware of only the Steltek have demonstrated this ability and only on one occasion and with only a single witness, a privateer in gemini sector known only by the initials B.H. :-) In fact if the Steltek expert Dr Lemuel Monkhouse had not vouched for his reliability this story would not have been taken seriously. It has been known in scientific circles almost since the discovery of Jump Points that it would be possible to create Jump Points by positioning intense gravitational sources at precise locations but the failure of the Confederation to fully master graviton technology has prevented the Confederation from ever attempting this. It is, however, reasonable that an extremely advanced race like the Steltek could possess fully functional graviton generating equipment which would allow them to create jump points. For this to be practical a graviton device would need to be present at both ends of Jump Point and almost certainly at other points to bring a sufficiently large gravitational force to bear. It is assumed that in this specific case the Steltek ship carried one device and the base it jumped to, which was removed by the Steltek, still had a functioning device. It is highly unlikely that this particular jump took place with the aid of stand alone graviton generators as the Steltek would have removed them when they withdrew to the galactic core. While artificial jump points are physically the same as natural ones they probably wouldn't exist for very long as they would be located where environmental conditions are not favourable to jump point formation, the whole point of creating one, so that it would quickly disappear or the Steltek wouldn't want to retain it, as in this specific case, so they would use their graviton technology to remove it.
3.3) How can Jumps go wrong?
Jumps are usually very safe and reliable way to travel, but things can go wrong, though most of these are easily avoidable. The first one is jumping at too high a velocity. If this is attempted the front part of the ship may move beyond the jump point before the rift is opened, resulting in part of the ship jumping and the other part not, this is called a partial jump. A less serious consequnce of high velocity jumps is that *all* of the ship can be passed the jump point when the drive tries to open the rift, in which case the jump simply fails and must be attempted again. The second problem is keeping the rift open long enough for the ship to pass through and is the other side of the high velocity jump problem. If you travel too slow the rift will close before the ship is fully through. This has been the main restriction on ship size throughout the centuries. However new technology as pioneered by the Omega research project and the actual production Behemoth and the Kilrathi Hagaka supercarriers allows very large ships to mount field amplifiers that keep the rift open long enough to allow the ship through, though if you've ever seen any of the classified footage of the Behemoth attempting a jump it was a close shave. The new Vesuvius class carriers rely more heavily on precision drive activation to allow for jumps at higher velocity which is less bulky tecnology than that used on the behemoth allowing more space for other needs. There is, however, a disadvantage to this otherwise very cost effective solution. As stated earlier the field strength required to open a Jump Point varies from point to point, as the degree of weakness in space-time is not the same for all Jump Points. A Vesuvius lacks the field amplifiers so it cannot pass through Jump Points which need a field strength beyond a certain level to be opened. This weakness proved to be the undoing of the original Versuvius during the Tolwyn "incident" of 2672/3.
The least likely problem and the most unavoidable is a jump point disappearing while transit is in progress, there are no incidents on record so no definitive description of the results exist, some have hypothosized that the results are similar to partial jump with the front part jumping and the rear left behind, other suggest that the ship may end up completely outside of 4 dimensional space time, either way it probably isn't much fun.
However the biggest problem is jumping and finding another ship exactly where the jumping ship will exit. This causes a matter overlap which results in absolute annhilation along the lines of a matter-anti matter reaction. Some wonder why this does not occur with stray particles and to tell the truth the problem was never addressed because of a fortunate side effect of the jump process. The typical "blue white flash" of jump entry or exit which marks the boundary of the rift exerts somesort of force on matter around it pushing it aside so that the ship completes the jump in a perfect vacuum. However this force is not large enough to move something as substantial as another starship so specific safety precautions must be followed. One of the long term aims of the Confederation was to set up at every jump point a matched pair of special nav buoys that monitor ships around the jump point and communicate that infomation to the nav buoy at the other side of the jump point. The jump buoy can be quieried by ships to find out if it is safe to jump. Late model jump buoys can actually interface with newer jump drives and prevent them activating if a danger exists. All new drives must contain this technology and confed is trying to upgrade all Jump buoys to the new standard. During the war the expansion program was halted as the frontiers were shifting radically and it was felt that threat existed in that jump buoys could be used by the kilrathi as a limited form of intelligence gathering, preventing ambushes, or attempting them. With the end of the war the expansion of the 'jump buoy network' as some call it as progressed full steam. During the war an interim measure was to set up special field generators at the jump point which produced a translucent blue sphere around the jump point marking the boundary of the danger zone around the jump point. It proved highly cost effective but with new larger ship classes it rapidly became obsolete and all have been replaced in the last 5 years since the end of the war.
3.3.1 What is a misjump?
A misjump is the rare occurence when Jump Points temporarily realign into different pairs. The result is that you arrive at a different Jump Point than you would of normally existed at. Usually this means arriving at an alternate Jump Point in one of several nearby systems.
As with the forming of Jump Points, this phenomenon occurs instantly and is hard to predict. Typically it can last anything from a few minutes to a few days before teh Jump Point pairs revert back to their normal configuration.
Temporary Jump Point pair-changes occur often enough to be documented, though not often enough to cause that much worry. Typically most ships give their nav-computer a few seconds to interface with the Jump Point Buoy and confirm that the Jump Point Pairing hasn't shifted, or to fire a probe in ahead of time.
Further references to this phenomenon are in one of the Wing Commander books (it allowed a heavily damaged Confed carrier to jump to safety... and the small Kilrathi Fleet which was chasing them wound up in a different system, and would have to make up a hard day's journey to catch back up with the Confed carrier).
I think in the same book it makes references to "dead-end" jump points... points that lead nowhere... which was found out when ships had attempted to jump them never returned. They later tried using the probe technique to verify if the points had exit points, and the probes never returned. (I do believe the same book makes reference to a system like the Firekka system which had in the neighbourhood of 30 to 100 jump points, most of which were dead ends).
3.4) What is a double Jump (Point)?
This is simply two separate Jump Points in close spatial proximity, so close infact that a ship can initiate the Jump sequence for one point before fully exiting the other one, which is what a double Jump is. There is a common misconception that a double-jump can land you somewhere other than the exit point of the second Jump Point, like the middle of star or the like. This is not infact true, while a double jump carries a much higher risk factor than a normal one the problem is not the one that most people think it is. The problem is one of alignment, the ship must initiate the first jump so that it is aligned directly towards the second point upon jump entry otherwise a partial jump may occur with all the usual reprecussions.
3.5) What happens if you jump through a Jump Point when you don't know where it goes?
Well, you still get there but you don't know where 'there' is. The usual way to solve that problem is too compare the positioning of stars and galaxies around you to calculate your position which is a highly developed process, as it's been around as long as jumping has.
3.6) Must a jumping ship contain it's own Jump Drive?
Until recently the answer was yes for ships, though jump buoys used special technology to open a very small rift and fire their data burst through to the other jump bouy. This technology was advanced on a couple of years back by scientists in the Border Worlds to open rifts large enough for a fighter to pass through.
3.7) Do deep space jump points exist?
Only a very small number of Deep Space Jump Points are known to exist and those that are known are essentially ignored by normal traffic as they don't go anywhere useful. However for astronomical research each and everyone is an enormous boon as they allow studies to be conducted in deep space, which is otherwise inaccessable as conventional drives cannot move a ship nearly fast enough to cover interstellar distances in a practical amount of time. Jump Points usually exist within or around planetary systems due to the gravitational influences they exert though it is possible for one side of a jump to lack any gravitational sources if the other side possess them and there are large graviational source located at other points in space so as to create the required distortions in space-time. An extrapolation of this is a deep space to deep space jump point but the probability of that is several magnitudes less than a intrastellar to deep space jump point which is already several magnitudes less than a normal jump point.
3.8) What unusual jump point phenomina *have* been observed?
The two most famous ones on record are the intra-enigma jump point and the firekka system. The enigma sector is highly unusual in that it contains, at it's centre a black hole which as you may guess is a very intense gravitational source. As a result one jump point exists which crosses the entier sector, roughly. A Jump Point will not usually cross such a large area as the distortion to space-time required to produce it is enourmous, a black hole fits the bill quite nicely. As you can image, this meant that enigma was very heavily contested during the war as it potentially allowed either side to jump into the other's rear area.
Firekka is unusual as it contains numerous jump points that connect points within the system, this phenomina has not been observed in any other star system and it is suggested that it is possible because Firekka once possessed many other bodies than it does today which would have allowed for their creation but before gravitational forces could remove these mini-jump points some sort of catastrophy resulted in the destruction of many bodies in the system, this is supported by the large amount of asteroidal debris in the system. The orignal cause of all this destruction is unknown but it certainly happened before the evolution of the current forms of life on firekka as the fossil record shows a clean progression as far as avian life goes.
4) FTL Communication
You may wonder what this section is doing here but there is a reason. Most normal everyday comm traffic is indirect, ie: it is routed. This is usually done using jump buoys. A ship will fire a weak tachyon burst signal containing the message to the jump buoy which will pass it through the jump point where the other jump bouy will fire it on down the chain until it reaches the closest comm station where comm traffic is ordered into packets going to specific systems and the grouped messages travel down the buoy chain to the recipient system where a ground station will recive the tachyon burst and then transmit onward using radio or laser link. Due to the routed nature (and burst nature) of ftl comm realtime communication is not possible outside of the laser/radio range. This is another reason why the Confederation has tried so hard to finish the jump buoy network. But it is possible to communicate without jump buoys. Within a star system the tacyon burst signals can be fired directly at the recipient as the distances are relatively small so the signal retains strength. Over interstellar distances normal comm eqipment cannot produce a strong enough burst, hence the jump buoy routing. However millitary ships and full time E.S. craft often carry millitary grade burst signal equipment that can produce a strong enough burst signal to carry many many light years though the energy consumption is staggering which limits it's use to large vessels. This millitary grade techonology is not in fact restricted as some think but the cost is simply too high for most people or even companies so it appears very rarely in the civillian sector.
Well there you have it, Jump Theory in the Wing Commander universe, I hope you found it interesting. It's been a lot of fun thinking it all up and I'm always open to suggestions and idea so if you have a question, an answer or see a problem e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
6) Revision History
0.101 First draft 0.102 Minor spelling corrections and deep space jump points entry corrected. 0.103 Removed the authors notes, that shouldn't have been in there :-) Made modifications based on comments from LOAF. 0.104 Renamed the jump generating particle the antigravition in accordance with the WCP star map.
Me(!) Well I wrote the thing didn't I? Chris "Stalker" Reid: for the web space Ben Lesnick (LOAF): Tons of very useful feedback and suggestions, thanks!
Origin and Chris Roberts: for inventing Wing Commander in the first place!
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