FTL (Faster Than Light) refers to hypothetical travel at speeds greater than the speed of light. In the early 20th century, Albert Einstein concluded from theoretical analysis that travel at such velocities is physically impossible, and all subsequent efforts to prove this doctrine incorrect have been unsuccessful. However, the idea of practical FTL travel remains a mainstay throughout science fiction. Hyperdrive is a common technical term for an FTL mechanism in fiction.
FTL in "Half the Battle"
FTL in "My Hypothetical Friend"
The Brot had developed the hyperdrive, which allowed them to travel the galaxy and encounter other inhabited planets, including Earth. Decades after Earth's first contact with the Brot, human physicists, engineers, and electronics experts did not understand how the hyperdrive worked. The Brot said this lack of understanding made them sad.
FTL in Roxolan Stories
Hyperdrive was a technology which could be easily discovered by simple experiments. For whatever reason, humans failed to make these rudimentary experiments and failed to discover it and the related contragrav. Instead, humans devoted their ingenuity to other scientific endeavors resulting in a technological society far in advance of any other species.
In 2039, Earth was invaded by the Roxolani, an alien race which, with the exception of hyperdrive and contragrav, were at a 17th century level of technology. The invasion was defeated with ease and humans learned of hyperdrive from the wreckage of the ships of the invaders. This led to a human expansion into space and the formation of the Terran Confederacy in 2084.
When a hyperdrive device is activated, it generates a field which takes the ship out of normal space and allows it to travel many times the speed of light. A side effect is that all information from normal space is blocked, that is, no electromagnetic signals may be sent or received. Navigation is done by dead reckoning. The ship is steered in a particular direction and travels at a known speed so that after a calculated time interval, the hyperdrive is deactivated and the ship returns to normal space near its destination. Normally, this occurs at a distance from the destination to prevent collisions with matter when the ship appears. The ship may then take further, shorter jumps to bring it close enough to proceed with contragrav to the desired planet.
While electromagnetic radiation is blocked in hyperdrive, other ships using it can be monitored and tracked due to their effects on the ship's field. When two hyperdrive fields touch, both collapse ejecting the ships into normal space.
There are many possible forms of FTL travel. The most common is hyperdrive. Other forms include hop-skip-and-a-jump drive, overdrive, underdrive, orthodontic drive (which can correct both overdrive and underdrive but is hellishly expensive), wheel drive, and 42 other authorized forms. There is also at least one unauthorized form, Royal Drive. Use of an unauthorized drive within city limits is a crime on Galactic Central punishable by imprisonment.
FTL in Worldwar
Both Tosevite and Race physicists had once believed that faster-than-light travel was impossible, as stated by Einstein's Theory of Relativity. However, in 2031, physicists from the United States designed a starship, the Commodore Perry, which could fly faster than light. The technology involved manipulating superstrings so that points that were ordinarily separated by a great deal of distance in the space-time continuum would temporarily be in immediate contact with one another. Travel between two points in space appeared to be instantaneous, but such points had to be well away from gravity wells requiring the use of a sub-light rocket to get to the desired points.
A side effect of this technology was an intense vertigo on some passengers for a moment when the ship would jump. It didn't seem to affect people used to vertigo, like pilots, as much. An environmental side effect appeared to be a radio blackout for 15 seconds during the jump at the exit point.
On its inaugural journey, the Commodore Perry traveled the 11 light-years from Earth to Home in five and a half weeks. The Race found this extremely alarming, and doubted it could build a ship to match in less than 75 Earth years, even moving at a pace which it would previously have considered reckless. This estimate was later revised by Pesskrag, the Race's chief physicist, to 25 to 50 Earth years when the Commodore Perry's capabilities were confirmed.
The US built more Commodore Perry class starships. The second of the class was the Tom Edison.
- Analog: Science Fiction and Fact, Vol. CXXXX1, Nos. 1 & 2, January/February, 2021, pg. 31.