(SCI) FTL At A Glance
FTL is critical to New Eden civilizations because at conventional speeds, it would take months or years to get around within a single star system, and far longer to get to a neighboring system. Commercial travel would be completely unfeasible. Even traveling at the speed of light would not be sufficient, even it it were physically possible. Why is it not possible? Let’s say you have a ship that needs to burn hard enough to accelerate to the speed of light. That ship has mass, which requires a certain amount of energy to get it to that speed. The larger the ship, the more fuel would be needed, which increases the mass, which increases the needed fuel, and so on. Using available technology, no known fuel is powerful enough to accelerate a ship to the speed of light using conventional means.
There are three major ways to achieve faster-than-light (FTL) travel in EvE. Warp, stargates and cynosural-based jumps. Even though each of mode of FTL accomplishes more or less the same thing, they do it in ways that differ right down to the base physics involved. Indeed, one of them can barely be considered travel at all. So, let’s detail how each of these work, shall we?
Warp is the most common, as well as the slowest of the options. Every modern spaceship is equipped with a warp drive, and uses it for intra-system travel (point-to-point within a star system). Warp speeds are commonly measured in astronomical units, or AUs. An astronomical unit is a unit of length equal to about 149,597,870.7 kilometers (92,955,807.27 miles) or approximately the mean Earth–Sol distance.
The average spaceship travels at 3 AUs/sec at full field integrity.
Have you ever noticed how when traveling at warp, light ahead of the ship takes on a blue shift and light behind the ship takes on a red one? That is called a Doppler shift. The Doppler effect, named after Austrian physicist Christian Doppler who proposed it in 1842 in Prague, is the change in frequency of a wave for an observer moving relative to the source of the wave. It is commonly heard when a vehicle sounding a siren or horn approaches, passes, and recedes from an observer. The received frequency is higher (compared to the emitted frequency) during the approach, it is identical at the instant of passing by, and it is lower during the recession.
The relative increase in frequency can be explained as follows. When the source of the waves is moving toward the observer, each successive wave crest is emitted from a position closer to the observer than the previous wave. Therefore each wave takes slightly less time to reach the observer than the previous wave. Therefore the time between the arrival of successive wave crests at the observer is reduced, causing an increase in the frequency. While they are travelling, the distance between successive wavefronts is reduced; so the waves “bunch together”. Conversely, if the source of waves is moving away from the observer, each wave is emitted from a position farther from the observer than the previous wave, so the arrival time between successive waves is increased, reducing the frequency. The distance between successive wavefronts is increased, so the waves “spread out”.
A warp drive actively compresses space ahead of the ship, and expands it behind it, thereby reducing the relative space the ship needs to travel within the common dimensions of the universe, as well as the energy needed to transverse that space and bypassing the universal speed limit. This is done through artificial gravitational lensing, using graviton fields to create and control the famous virtual particles that mediate gravity between all things in the universe. The same technology that simulates gravity in a naturally zero-g environment is what allows ships to bypass the universal speed limit. Creating a Doppler shift (known as redshift and blueshift) in the surrounding light is a side-effect of this process. The subject ship controls speed by controlling field strength. It is common practice for ships to remain at full burn during transit. Also, variance in ship direction is kept to a minimum in order to eliminate stresses on the hull.
Warp is the only used FTL mode that allows subjects to travel within the main four dimensions of this universe.
Let’s say you want to use warp technology to reach other star systems. As odd as it may seem today, that was how it was done prior to the establishment of the stargate network. Even today, deep-space probes spend months or years traveling at warp velocities.
If you are traveling to an inhabited system today, you will most probably be using a stargate. However, stargates don’t work the way most people think. The common misconception is that stargates create huge wormholes for ships to pass through. A wormhole is a hypothetical topological feature of spacetime that would be, fundamentally, a “shortcut” through spacetime.
Take a piece of paper and draw two points on it with a pen. The paper represents spacetime along the four major dimensions of our physical universe (height, length, width and time). Shortest distance between two points is obviously a straight line, but if you can bend the universe, as all gravity does, then you can connect the two points along a new plane. Poke a hole through the paper connecting the two points. That is your wormhole or cyno. then when the paper is unfolded, you’ve not traveled at all, but arrived at your destination. The effort isn’t in moving through the universe, but folding the universe around you.
Creating and sustaining a wormhole large enough for a ship to casually fly through would create such a disturbance that the orbit of nearby planets and other celestial bodies would be catastrophically affected. For this reason, stargates must be anchored in a very specific manner and utilize a complex form of anti-graviton jamming (basically the opposite of artificial gravity) around the quantum singularity at its core.
Even though stargates are unidirectional, ships only need to approach it in order to make use of it. The same system which allows for the singularity to be contained is used to control the entrance aperture’s vector. The aperture is funneled out to focus at the position of the target ship, which is enveloped. The ship is routed through the temporary extension into the main bridge, and the anti-graviton buffering field is restored. This is all computed and done in less than a second and can be done in rapid succession. The opposite is done at the exit aperture, and the ship is released at a position that minimizes gate traffic.
The difference between a stargate and a jump bridge is two-fold. Firstly, as jump bridge devices are smaller, they do not indefinitely sustain the bridge between apertures (which also means there are less stringent placement protocols). Also, as jump bridges project much of their functions into open space, they often do not resemble a gate-like construct.
In recent years, emerging technologies in quantum entanglement, as well as a rise in nullsec hostilities, has given rise to a third method of FTL travel. Cynosural fields.
A cynosural field is a kind of quantum broadcasting system, creating a quantum space-time event that does not strictly exist. The nature of this field allows a ship equipped with a “jump drive” to lock on to that unique signature instantly from anywhere in the universe, as quantum information does not obey the universal speed limit. That drive then creates a singularity very similar to the kind used in stargates and jump bridges, but allows the entrance aperture to expand explosively and collapse within a second. Anything caught in this effect is “teleported” directly to cynosural field.
Due to technological limitations, the range of this mode of travel, however is is important to note that the physics involved to not take space-time into account, and therefore do not have a range limitation of any kind. Theoretically, this technology could move an object from one end of the universe to the other, instantly. It is also important to note that the ships involved do not move, and therefore is not strictly considered a mode of locomotion. This is the least conventional mode of FTL to date.
I hope this explanation serves you well on your journey.