~more notes from a future~

It’s just a bunch of capacitor rings spinning within each other along wobbling paths, like fallen hula hoops. Yet, as those circles of static twirl faster, strangeness begins: the air outside the ring gets colder, while the air inside the ring becomes hotter; within the rings, cameras record this heat pump as infrared emanating from the rings themselves; looking into the center of the rings from outside, the interior space is dimmer and magnified like a fish-eye lens; and, clocks placed inside the rings run faster than normal. All sorts of problems arise when you try to travel backwards in time, but it is quite simple to travel forward in time at a faster pace.

When an object travels through space at speeds approaching that of light, time is distorted — a year may pass for the people waiting back on Earth, while a rocket’s crew only ages a month. High speeds effectively slowed the pace of time for the crew. The static-charged rings are the opposite model, and the orbital motion of the rings creates this effect without needing to fly away. You could keep it running in a garage. A crew within this Time Bubble ages faster than the people outside.

Why would anyone do such a thing? Simple: for science. Though, the reason is more properly described as scientific work for military applications and state sponsored industries. That why China jumped at the opportunity, building massive rings which, by virtue of surface area to volume ratios, allowed many more people to slide into the future. Whole research teams spent months at work within their bubble, while only a day passed in the real world.

Supercomputers crunched away, to harvest this fantastical multiplier of processing time. Want to train an artificial intelligence, but your GPUs need a year of compute to get optimal results? Try spinning those rings a bit faster, and you can have your answer within the hour. Sure, the electric bill is huge, but it still cost less than buying more GPUs. The branches of the party and the government were placed within these rings, to hammer out policy quickly in response to any event. The military loved it — as soon as an enemy began to act, these Time Bubbles would give generals weeks and months to prepare their response.

Someone suggested placing radioactive waste in a Time Bubble, to speed it into the future when the waste decays into stable isotopes. No one tried it.

The Time Bubbles had an odd constraint, though — the heat in the core of the ring could only accumulate, causing a continual rise in temperature. This effect was mitigated by slowing the rings periodically, bringing the occupants back into nearly-normal time, so that heat could be exhausted before it baked everyone. It was a minor inconvenience, but it led to an idea: you could flip the Time Bubble inside out, and place this new bubble within the old one. It was like a humidifier with a de-humidifier inside.

That’s when things got slippery.

You see, the wobbling rings of charged particles induce magnetic fields which, as we learned with the first bubble, can effectively separate you from the normal time-stream. No one had tried rolling a Time Bubble down hill, so it took a while to prove that all fields were affected by it; gravitational force and inertia are warped by the bubble. When an inverted set of rings spins within a Time Bubble, this ‘osmotic pressure’ on inertia empties the region between the outer and inner bubbles. The chord between the inside and outside world is cut.

Keep in mind that the area outside of the original Time Bubble is getting colder, just like the interior of the bubble within, and the space between these two bubbles is getting hotter. When a rocket lifts these nested bubbles on its nose, there is no inertia or gravity to weigh it down. Yet, the potential energy of lifting the cargo’s mass must come from somewhere! Otherwise, thermodynamics breaks. And so, a portion of the heat accumulated between the rings is evaporated — potential energy is restored when the bubble bursts! The energy required to match potential energy is much less than the energy required of rocket fuel; moving masses into space became stupendously cheap.

There’s also the matter of how much time passes for objects within the inner Time Bubble. Consider — the outer bubble speeds up time according to the speed of rotation of its rings, and so the inner rings’ wobbles seem faster than they are. To keep time flowing at the usual pace within the inner bubble, the outer bubble must rotate quickly while the inner bubble is languorous, because its field effects are magnified by time-compression. However, that inner bubble would not feel sufficient cooling during this time; the ‘osmotic pressure’ is imbalanced.

So, the inner bubble must wobble its rings faster than the outer bubble, and it accumulates a larger endothermic ‘budget’ than the exterior. Effectively, the potential energy ‘cost’ of lifting cargo on your rocket is paid by burning fuel within the inner bubble, which is absorbed as heat into the region between bubbles, and is then squashed by absorption into potential energy when the bubbles pop. The inner bubble’s time is slowed greatly — resulting in a journey to space that seems to take only a moment.

If a spacecraft leaves Earth headed for a distant star, it can carry a great mass of supplies within these Time Bubbles, without sacrificing speed. The occupants would feel as if almost no time had passed. Though we cannot go backwards in time, we can dial the pace of time in either direction, and we pay only the cost of final potential and kinetic energy when we travel.

Now, many have boarded ‘stellar cruise liners’ intent upon founding new civilization among our neighboring stars. To us here on Earth, their voyage will take hundreds of years, yet it is a weekend to those travelers. Their outer rings are hundreds of kilometers across, wobbling slowly within a protective shell. Their immense volume dilutes the heat accumulated during travel. And, the mass of the rocket which propels them is almost entirely nuclear fuel — transit is fast and economical.

Written by

Easily distracted mathematician

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