Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Creativity, Research, and Finding a Cool Name That's Not Been Used

I've been developing technobabble for a few stories. Set about 1,500 years from now, the characters will be using devices that definitely aren't off-the-shelf hardware today.

One of the technologies is a sort of warp drive. Not the Star Trek or Star Wars thing: more like what we might have, if Mexican/Welsh physicist Michael Alcubierre's equations describe something that would actually work. Which, the last I heard, is still a matter of debate.

My guess is that he's on to something. The specifics of his approach to moving a pocket of space-time through the rest of the continuum may not be quite on-target, but it's an idea that's good enough for a story.

A prediction, while I'm thinking of it. Not a particularly startling one, given the nature of humanity. If/when we get to the point where someone's building a prototype warp drive: we'll see a replay of the fuss that's surrounded CERN's Large Hadron Collider. The familiar old 'and we're all gonna die' stuff.

Cool Name: And, Confound it, it's been Used!

Assuming that Alcubierre's warp drive could be built, the thing would require unreasonable amounts of power. The energy requirements are literally astronomical.

For a story, I don't see that as a problem: except that I need to remember that whatever the power source is: it better not be anything that's even close to being developed now.

Think of a story where an airliner gets its power from a pair of oxen turning a wheel, and you see what I'm talking about. Oxen are great sources of energy: but strong as they are, their energy output isn't enough for air travel.

Although - no, I'm going to stay on-topic.

I came up with a dandy name for the power source of warp ships: "cascade generator." It sounds cool, and isn't something that's used now.

Strike that. I did a quick search, and - "cascade generators" are either in development or actually in use in accelerators. Today. ("Travelling wave cascade generator - A new high-voltage source for accelerators," letters to the editor, E M Balabanov et al 1962 J. Nucl. Energy, Part C Plasma Phys. 4 65-67)

The term is also used by a few people who either think they're inventing a sort of perpetual motion machine - or want others to think they are.

Now I have to decide whether to use the term "cascade generator" anyway - or think up something else.

Odds are pretty good that I'll look for an alternative. I really don't want to invoke 21st century technology.

Related post:
Update (January 21, 2010)

Wikipedia isn't always the most reliable resource. The 'what do you want reality to be' encyclopedia is, though, cleaning up its act: quite a number of articles now have citations. In other words, people and organizations with reputations to lose are listed as sources for facts and opinions. It's an improvement.

Getting back on topic, I looked through the "Topology" page, and ended up with these interesting - and possibly useful for me - words and phrases:


  1. Don't you just hate it when that happens? Oy.

    Only two errors to clear up.

    "for a few stores." I think that's supposed to be 'stories' in context.

    "the 'Topolgy' page" Missing and 'o' there.

  2. Brigid,

    8D Heh, heh.

    Right. Got it. Fixed. Thanks.


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