This page covers some of the major hard-tech advancements for the Federation Campaign setting, notably in the fields of Power Production and Storage, Force Fields, Propulsion Systems, Computer Technologies, and Transportation Systems.
Power Production and Storage
Micro-Fusion Generators are readily available; they have a minimum mass of about 225 Lb, and cannot – despite occasional rumors – detonate or generate significant amounts of radiation. They do produce a fair amount of waste heat, and the power output of such small units is relatively low, suitable for a vehicle or a few households, but not much more.
Antimatter systems have been designed, and are the most powerful compact sources of energy known. Unfortunately, antimatter does not occur naturally in appreciable quantities, and making it takes far more power then you get back – as well as being an extremely expensive and dangerous proposition. The military is rumored to use a few antimatter-driven ships, probes, and weapons, but nobody else does.
Power Cells are used in smaller devices, including energy weapons. Available types include classical chemical batteries (used in very low-drain applications), fuel cells (for larger-scale medium drain devices), liquid-metal composite cells (high drain applications, including most energy weapons) and spacefield capacitance-storage cells (used for extremely high-drain applications. Sadly, quantum- mechanical effects render these very “leaky”. They need frequent charging, and are rather bulky). While superconductive storage devices are possible, they are extremely expensive, fragile, create extremely high magnetic fields about themselves, and are prone to exploding violently when damaged.
Zero-Point Generators tap into the energies of space itself by exploting the “attraction”between constantly-regenerated films of conductive plasma. Sadly, these generate quite a lot of waste heat, and very little actual power, for their (considerable) bulk and mass. On the other hand, they are utterly reliable, capable of operating unattended for many years, making them a common choice for Oort colony power supplies, cometary orbital adjustments, and on sublight interstellar colonizers.
Fusion Plants are the most common major energy source. Large-scale systems are considerably more efficient in terms of waste heat then micro-fusion units (“Fuel”, of course, is not a problem), and are the standard power sources for normal communities, starships, orbital complexes, etcetra.
Broadcast Power Systems are possible – but are grossly wasteful and unhealthy to be around. They’re used only in special situations. Electrical power is usually still distributed by wires. While room- temperture superconductive alloys exist, they must be “doped” with traces of the high transuranics in the “island of stabality”. More economical alloys must be cooled to around 20F to superconduct – but have little resistance up to 120 F.
“Force Fields” exploit the Keith-Erissin links between electromagnetic fields and the “cosmological constant” – the repulsive energy which helps drive the expansion of the universe. In essence, a field generator produces a shaped “grid” of EM-CC lines; the apparent solidity of which depends on the mesh density and the power input. Relatively low-power, low-density, “fields” can stop large, slow-moving, objects, but only the “tightest” and highest-powered fields can stop high-energy particles.
Despite their relatively high power demands and the rapid increase in the required generator sizes as field density and power increases, force fields are widely used in armor, fusion generators, tools (Especially in “adjustable multitools”), weaponry, and in manufacturing applications. Note that force fields are two-way. If you want to “shoot out” of one a firing port must be opened.
“Negative Energy” is a spacefield generated by Casamir Engines; essentially a region of spacetime existing below the “Zero Energy Point”; the normal energy level of a vacuum. Such negative energy can be “stored” in Kkeith-Erissin fields, and has a wide variety of unique properties, but many of the most dramatic theoritical uses remain impractical. It does, however, absorb radiation and particles of all kinds and so is used as the middle layer of space- craft “shields”.
Spacecraft “Shields” employ two layers of Keith-Erisson fields containing a Casamir Field. While these could be made impenetrable to mass-energy in theory, in practice they’re limited by their power supply, generators, and the need to open “ports” for thrusters, sensors, and weapons.
Inertial Dampers also utilize Casamir energies to transfer accelerations throughout a ship and it’s contents. Such a field has two basic ratings; it’s charging rate (the number of G’s it can compensate for on a sustained basis), and it’s total capacity (The total velocity shift it can compensate for on an instantanous basis). Commercial ship fields are normally rated at about 6-12 G/2-4 MPS; enough for atmospheric crashes, collisions with orbital junk, and so on.
Mach’s Principle states that everything in the universe is embedded in an isotropic gravatational field – the product of the mass-energy distributed throughout the universe. Among other things, this is responsible for Inertia.
Mach was wrong. First, Casamir energy acts as a partial screen against gravity; An object shielded by such a screen experiences an unbalanced force – and so will accelerate away from said screen at an acceleration dependent on the power being supplied to the screen. Of course, depending on the shapes of the screen and object, it will experience massive tidal effects. While the effect makes an effective spacedrive, it will create massive disturbances if used too near a planet.
Secondly, there are Warp Points – also known as Casamir Points, Jump Points, and by numerous other names, including (Incorrectly) “Wormholes”. These appear to be relics of the early universe, defects in the structure of space. Bizarrely, these behave as if they have a postive mass at a distance and a negative one close up; thus they tend to oscillate in “orbits” around massive objects, such as stars. Dark matter particles which enter them emerge as a variety of seemingly-sourceless radiations; normal mass-energy either passes through without incident or – if “sheilded” by Casamir energies – undergoes a supersymmetric transformation and retransformation – in effect being “teleported” to a matching “warp point” “nearby” (Usually within about 50-100 light years). Artificial “Warp Points” are theoritically possible – but the energy cost is quite excessive. Research continues in this area.
Computers – like Explosive-Projectile Firearms, Radio Equipment, Masonary, and Flint-Knapping before them – are mature technologies. Minor variations, improvements, and special adaptions are common – but unless some fundamental advances are made all such variations will involve various tradeoffs. Some of the common elements in current systems include;
Datacards are a bit smaller and heavier then the ancient “Floppy Disk” – but they’re optical-access with nanosecond response times and store up to 500 gigabytes. Current computers usually include slots for 4-20 datacards, and no longer include integral “hard drives”; it’s simpler to just let user’s put in their own datacard and settings. Cards are pretty tough – but it’s unwise to count on it.
As a “rule”, storage capacity can be treated as near-unlimited. One Datacard is about equal to 650 full CD’s – and one CD can reasonably hold 200,000 pages of text, 1200 detailed images, or half a set of encyclopedias. Dataspace is rarely a problem.
Component miniaturization and packing hit both thermal and quantum limits; beyond a certain point the more you miniturized your components, the more undependable quantum errors and molecular creep made them. The more tightly you packed them, the harder it was to dissipate the heat they produced. There are a variety of compromise techniques – employing multiple layers of stacked components, adding tiny coolant channels to your design, using larger chip designs (And thereby slowing them down – thanks to transmission delays), adding cooling systems (Thus purchasing speed at the expense of the size and bulk of a cooling system), and so on – but the possible compromises had been pretty well explored by 2065. They are still astoundingly compact, powerful, and fast from the viewpoint of the early 21’st century however. Current chips use a hybrid photonic-electronic architecture – a compromise between speed, ease of manufacture, heat, pricing, reliability, size, and durability.
Biocomputers – including self-aware and sentient systems can be grown. They’re about as clever as humans, rather less emotional, somewhat more prone to subtle insanities – and only a few thousand times as expensive. Outside of a few research projects studying consciousness and such, no one bothers.
True, self-aware, inorganic AI’s remain myths. Current theories often suggest that self-awareness involves quantum instabilities, some sort of life- principle, self-organizing systems, chaotic neural organizations, or biological spontaneity. There’s not much evidence to support any of the theories – but most people don’t worry about it; the “expert” systems are normally more then good enough.
I/O systems include the classical “joysticks”, screens, speakers, keyboards, and voice controls. A more up-to-date system will, at a minimum, include microsensors that can interpret sub-vocalizations and muscle twitches directed at virtual “objects”, HUD contacts with pupil motion sensors and micro-speakers in the ear canals. Expensive computers can provide full-sensory output into implants or neural `trode sets, and take neural activity sensor inputs. Sadly, neural activity sensors must be constantly trained – much like early 21’st century “voice recognition programs” – and are never as precise or fast as an implant which carries it’s own training circuits.
Despite numerous fictional accounts of the vast increase in speed and precision available to implant users, even the best of them do nothing to upgrade the speed and precision of the user’s brain. They provide a substantial edge – but not godhood.
“Quantum Computers” – as well as bio-molecular memory systems, purely photonic systems, and other esoteric gadgets – have been built. Perhaps sadly, conventional computers are cheaper – and generally more effective.
High-quality personal bodycomps include a pair of ultra-light “goggles” (Provides wireless “HUD”, IR/UV/Low-Light / Telescopic / Microscopic / VideoCamera and Flash-Protection functions), a pocket CPU (Slots for two Datacards, main power, Wireless Telephone/ Datalink, Locator Beacon, Credit Access, Frequency Scanner, GPS, Timekeeping, and Secretarial Options), body microsensors (To provide “standard” Input and basic Biomonitor functions) and earpiece recorder/ speakers. Any or all of these items are available as implants. More expensive systems will include minature neural `trode sets. Most are augmented by Effector, Sensor, and Display modules – and often by “Famaliers” or “Imps”.
“Familiars” are personal remotes, generally in the 2-5 pound range. They usually include a basic peripheral computer, a persona program, and a “body” built of smartfibers, powercells, and microelements. All include basic sensors – and most include their own effector module. “Famaliers” normally serve as assistants, remote cameras, and alarm clocks, handle minor repairs and errands, and act as pets. They are capable of limited independent activities and come in a wide variety of styles.
“Imps” are fully-directed remotes, lacking any major internal processing capacity. Most weigh in at 1-2 ounces. While incapable of working outside of a the range of their directing computer and links (Usually 15-30 feet), Imps are invaluable aids for numerous, tasks ranging from repairing things thru sealing wounds or scratching itches inside a space suit. Applications are principally limited by the need to maintain power and communications links with the supporting system.
Microelements, also known as “Elementals”, are the closest approach to true “Nanotechnology” that seems to be possible; they’re micro-robots capable of limited communication, processing, manipulation and remote operation. Unfortunately, they’re still on a micrometer scale – at a bare minimum the size of a small cluster of cells, and even at that size they tend to be both limited and unreliable. Most practical elementals are about 1/100’th of an inch in diameter and require constant supervision by much more powerful computer systems. “Smartfibers” are a related technology, employing threadlike designs for various purposes. Combined with Effectors they can produce a variety of “Lightshow” effects.
Sensor Modules supply analytical environmental sensors, basic electromagnetic sensors, chemical and sonic pickups, with a range of about 30 feet.
Effector Modules are low-energy personal force-field generators, normally operated by a bodycomp. These aren’t primarily defensive; they’re designed to manipulate objects, sustain simple tool-shapes, and hold off weather. Most have an inhibitor program designed to prevent offensive use – but, if linked with a sensor module – do offer limited protection from melee and projectile attacks, as shown below.
Light Effector Module: Fine Manipulation out to 5 feet, Normal out to 10, and Clumsy out to 15. May lift up to 10 lb, provides physical DR 3, and +1 AC versus physical attacks.
Standard Effector Module: Fine Manipulation out to 5 feet, Normal out to 15, and Clumsy out to 20. May lift up to 15 lb, provides physical DR 4, and +2 AC versus physical attacks.
Heavy Effector Module: Fine Manipulation out to 5 feet, Normal out to 20, and Clumsy out to 25. May lift up to 20 lb, provides physical DR 5, and +4 AC versus physical attacks.
Effector Modules generate “basic” force fields; the minimum effective size for a Casamir generator is too big to carry, hence effector modules offer no protection againt energy weapons.
“Flits” are “Virtual Vehicles” – consisting of little more then a power pack, a heavy duty force- field generator, sensors, a piloting computer, and – optionally – a small stock of coloring agents to “fill” the outer layers of the force constructs (A concession to marketing and human psychology). Flits generally generate a helicopter or ducted-fan configuration of rotating force-blades for air travel – but can generate surface, hover, vacuum-balloon, and water modes as well. Adding an air supply allows limited submarine operations. They’re extremely safe; the computer “handles” maintenence, fueling, piloting, and so on, and, if worst comes to worst, generates force-constructs to restrain passangers, to dynamically absorb impacts, and to shunt away any penetrating objects.
Heavy-Duty Flits are equipped with full fusion power supplies, limited recycling capabilities and much heavier force-field generators. They’re used for heavy transport, construction, excavation, and similar jobs – replacing more specialized vehicles such as bulldozers, cranes, trucks, and medium-sized watercraft. Specialized modules will allow them to serve as ambulances, lunchwagons, campers, etc.
Fusion Thrusters operate as ramjets within the atmosphere – and as fusion rockets beyond it. Few flits are so equipped, but those which are can act as orbital shuttles. Given that force fields tend to be fairly “porous” (Both the power required and the computer capacity needed tend to increase exp- onentially as the density of the field’s “weave” and it’s strength increases) it is, however, better to give spacegoing vehicles solid hulls.
“Orbs” are planetary military vehicles roughly equivalent to ancient “Tanks”. Their basic design consists of an armoured cab, wrapped around “heavy duty” force-field, casamir, and fusion generators, weapons, sensor, life support, fusion thruster and computer modules. Mobility, manipulation and primary defences are provided by force-field constructs as usual. Secondary weapons and sensors are mounted on smaller units linked to the primary unit by force- field “mounts”, cables and tight-beam laser links. Orbs are capable of all-terrain, aerial, and orbital operations, are fully modular and reconfigurable – and boast enormous firepower. “Frankenstein” fears are about the only thing that keep Orbs from being designed for full autonomous operation.
There are still plenty of conventional, solid-state, vehicles in use, especially as toys, status symbols, antiques, and by hobbiests.
Warp Points are usually found from 20-40 light hours out from their host star – averaging roughly 40 LH apart. In-system distances are trivial; even pluto averages less then 3 LH from the sun. Travel times may be estimated using the following chart :
|Drive||1 Light Hour||40 Light Hours||Typically Used By;|
|.05G||34D, 10H||218D||Asteroids and Comets|
|1G||7D, 17H||49D||Stations and Tenders|
|6G||3D, 3H||20D||Freighters and Capital Ships|
|12G||2D, 5H||14D||Traders and Cruisers|
|18G||1D, 20H||11.5D||Racers and Couriers|
|24G||1D, 14H||10D||Military Fighters|
|30G||1D 10H||9D||Message Drones|
|36G||1D 7H||8D||Nothing Known.|
Jumps normally cover about 60 LY, but – due to the quasi-random three-dimensional distribution of jump points – only about a third of that is likely to be in the right direction for long trips. The average “pseudovelocity” thus runs about 1 LY/Day.
“Wormholes” have been experimentally observed; space is full of them at plank scales. Attempts to stabalize them have, however, met with constant failure; the highly curved and stressed space-time of a wormhole “amplifies” quantum uncertainties in it’s own structure. While such random disturbances can theoretically be damped out with Casamir field energies, simple speed-of-light delays in doing so give the wormhole enough time to collapse. Barring some major breakthrough wormhole transport remains purely theoretical.