This Space for Rent

A quantum singularity, Lego style

After building some smaller survey ships for the bears to play with, I found myself getting dissatisfied with the way the ships were laid out. So I sat down and started designing a somewhat larger ship that would not be completely ridiculous, just slightly ridiculous.

The rules I settled on were that classical mechanics work, with the one exception of a Battlestar Galactica-style jump drive. To make matters more interesting, I put a couple of restrictions on how the jump drive would work:

  1. Energy is conserved across a jump; if you're travelling at 20km/s and you jump over near a planet that's moving 10 km/s relative to you, that planet will still be moving at 10km/s when you materialize closer to it and you'll have to find some way to make up that differential if you're planning on doing anything other than watch the planet slide slowly away from you.
  2. If you jump down a gravity well, all the particles in your body are squashed closer together, and then spring back to the regular spacing. If you jump up a gravity well, all the particles are spread apart, then spring back to their regular spacing. I don't have a hard and fast rule, but jumping up or down more than 1/10th g is dangerous, because things will tear when springing back if they've been compressed or expanded too much.
  3. And, to make matters even more fun, when you jump deeply into a gravity well you're likely to end up displaced some distance from your target. At 1g, the displacement can be up to 1 earth diameter, which could lead to great hilarity if you ended up one earth diameter up (with less gravity [see #2]) or one earth diameter down (remember that energy is conserved, so you'd land and have everything rushing towards you at quite a few miles a second. Whoops.)

So you can jump, but you can't jump too near a planet or anything else that's got a strong gravity gradient. So how do you speed up and slow down when you're hopping around a solar system? Well, solar systems have planets, and those planets have gravity -- if you're jumping from Earth orbit to Mars, you can either jump behind Mars and do repeated jumpbacks until the planet has dragged you into orbit, or you can do the much more exciting approach of jumping in front of the planet and nudging your ship into a hyperbolic path with a pericenter inside Mar's atmosphere. (And what can you do with such an path? if you've plastered the bottom of your ship with heat-resistant tiles, aerobraking is what you can do. And that's what this survey ship is arranged to do.)

This is a world where spaceflight involves slow transfers from a planet up to where the jumpship orbits, then a flight consisting of low-g burns punctuated by jumps and the occasional bout of planet-surfing. And this survey ship (not a lego SHIP [seriously huge investment in parts], because it's not 100 studs long. (it's 100 studs wide, but that doesn't seem to count.)) is built for that; two decks, 50% fuel mass, a crew of 36 or so lego guys, enough pulse-fusion engines so the ship can maintain 1/3rd g for several weeks, and masses of heat resistant tiles across the bottom so that the ship can go surfing when it needs to burn off relative velocity.

And, yes, it's a lego vacuum. I don't know just how many pieces are in it right now, but some of the bulk lego merchants on bricklink are beginning to recognise me. When it's finished it's going to look like a Milano cookie with a mohawk, except 30x larger and made of battleship gray legos.