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  1. #1
    I like SF. SF is cool. Steven L Jordan's Avatar
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    Hints of Higgs boson: Space gravity, here we come!

    The following article, "Hints of Higgs boson 'set scientific world agog’," makes an interesting note about the Higgs boson:

    Theoretical physicists believe the Higgs boson, first postulated in the 1960s and sometimes known as the “God particle”, is the elementary particle responsible for giving other elementary particles their mass.
    So, my sci-fi sense suggests that if we could create a field or other force that attracted the Higgs boson or oriented it in the "down" direction, we might have a siffy-rational explanation for controlled "gravity" on spaceships. Not real gravity, of course, but a simulated gravity based on the attraction of mass.

    If it was keyed on mass, it could make for interesting spaceflight, as larger items would have a greater simulated gravity than smaller ones.

    Discussion is invited!

  2. #2
    Registered User Pennarin's Avatar
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    The Higgs boson would not be affected by anything we could make, from what I've read. It might be affected by natural phenomenas, which might account for how much mass certain particles have, or why some do not, and that would still not make it something we could not control. All particles across the universe would be affected the same way by the boson field.

    I do not see a way fo us to influence Higgs boson behavior.

    I also don't see the correlation with mass and gravity. Do you mean to create a fake mass in front of your ship, in effect creating a moving gravity well your ship would be falling through, at say 1 g? The more realistic option would be to effect the field that encompasses the immediate volume of your ship and reduce it's mass, bettering the fuel-to-acceleration ratio. That would come with its own problems, as demonstrated by many SF stories.
    Last edited by Pennarin; December 14th, 2011 at 02:26 PM.

  3. #3
    I like SF. SF is cool. Steven L Jordan's Avatar
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    Actually, I was just thinking of a soft-SF field that would enforce a "downward direction" on Higgs bosons and thereby create an "artificial gravity" for passengers aboard ship. Pretty much what gravity field generators are supposed to do (the other SF trope, alongside FTL travel, that has no practical scientific basis for working, yet is used in hard- and soft-SF alike).

    Admittedly, we still don't know much about the Higgs, not to mention other particles of that level.

    But maybe we're thinking too small. Assuming we don't know what creates gravity or how it can be manipulated, would a field that enforces a downward direction on electrons be better? Or some other element common to everything?

    Or do you think we'll crack gravity and be able to create artificial gravity?

  4. #4
    Registered User Pennarin's Avatar
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    Did you really mean electrons? As for the direction you'll notice all forms of radiations and fields are omnidirectional. Soft- or hard-SF ideas that do not deal with this are...well, lame. Still readable, mind you, but not very smart from the author. One of the best of late was Charles Stross' ship in...Singularity Sky, I believe, that is built around a micro black hole. The entire ship has an ominidirectional gravitanional field, thus all decks are perpendicular to the hole...simply the ship is round. To move the ship you induce an electrical charge into the black hole, and with a powerful magnetic field (after all, electromagnetism is far stronger than gravity) - itself powered by the radiation produced from throwing stuff down the hole - you move the hole...and thus the ship follows the hole.

  5. #5
    I like SF. SF is cool. Steven L Jordan's Avatar
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    Honestly? That sounds more far-fetched than creating a field that attracts Higgs bosons. And no, I didn't mean electrons... but if you think a field that attracts electrons would be a more likely idea than one that attracts bosons, that's cool. I mean, we're talking sci-fi... it could just as well be a field which acts on gravitons (if they indeed exist).

  6. #6
    Registered User Pennarin's Avatar
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    That's the weird thing about SF: within it gravitons can be controlled / pointed at / oriented towards / polarized / any other nonsense transformation brought upon them allowing you to accelerate your ship or provide gravity so you can walk inside it. Yet gravitons, if concentrated in one place, would simulate the presence of a dense mass and bend spacetime around itself. What would be the difference with having an actual black hole next to you, or a degenerate star, or a supermassive gas giant? There would be no directionality to it; the effects of this gravity field would bend spacetime in all directions. Electromagnetism has one theory going for it about monopoles, which would be insane were they to be discovered to be more than theoretical constructs, but gravity has no such theory of "mono-directional attraction".

    So, how come we all read how silly FTL is, yet never why artificial, star trek-like gravity is as silly?

    This reminds me that Stephen Baxter, in one of his Xeelee novels, describes artificial gravity in one of his ships: the ship is a single, two-sided deck, with the flooring riddled with closely-packed micro black holes. Walking on the deck one can feel the bumps in spacetime as one passes over the field of one hole to another. That might have been the most realistic depiction of artificial gravity I ever read. (And totally worthless. Just spin the damn ship.)

  7. #7
    I like SF. SF is cool. Steven L Jordan's Avatar
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    All true, Pennarin. (And don't forget the ever-popular "inertial dampers.")

    So many of the old SF tropes, created back in the day when we didn't know any better, have failed to leave us as our knowledge of science and physics has increased. I think it's because of a mix of romanticism and familiarity that keeps them around; it's one less thing for the audience to think about while they enjoy the story.

    I admit that I, too, have spent more time obsessing over a practical way to travel faster then light than I have worrying about "artificial gravity." But I do lump the two together in terms of realistic science, or sci-fi versus SF. If I use one in a story, I automatically use the other, and I have sci-fi, like my Kestral series; if I leave them both out, I'm writing SF like my Verdant books.

    To me, creating and using artificial singularities for power, gravity, etc, is a lot like the matter-antimatter powered generators for power: It sounds great, but is either totally impossible to do or it won't provide the energy writers (and readers) would like to see.

    In that same light, you have exotic energy fields that act on gravitons, Higgs bosons, whatever, to create a simulated gravity. And yes, you might as well be talking about electrons, or the minerals in your body, or the magnetic fibers in your uniform, etc, to be attracted to your field... it's all the same.

  8. #8
    Registered User Pennarin's Avatar
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    I still think creating micro black holes of various small sizes will one day be achievable without super science. If you can cause the black hole to move using something else than thrust (IIRC Will McCarthy postulated holes orbiting each other, with the orbits tweaked by electromagnetic force, thus causing the center of gravity of the entire group to shift, thus dragging along the huge mass of your ship) then it would be a very good method to accelerate a ship. Just make sure the hole does not fizz out, have plenty of shielding, and you'll do fine.

  9. #9
    I like SF. SF is cool. Steven L Jordan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pennarin View Post
    I still think creating micro black holes of various small sizes will one day be achievable without super science.
    Even if that were true (which I personally doubt, but that's me), I don't think the energy expenditure required to create and maintain micro black holes would be worth the trouble. I also would doubt that their gravitational influence would go very far; that is, they would probably exert a gravitational force on your feet, but not much else. In that case, you might as well use 2001's velcro shoes, or magnetic boots.
    Last edited by Steven L Jordan; December 17th, 2011 at 09:30 AM.

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