Monday, October 11, 2010

Part 26, Chapter 1 - 834 Pages In, a Breakdown of Teleportation Rules

Lots of teleportation mumbo-jumbo this chapter, as Hubbard attempts to answer questions in a way that raises further questions.

Jonnie and Angus have successfully test-fired their shiny new teleporter by sending a "gyro-mounted camera" to the moon and Mars. They do this because a teleportation rig can be used in two ways, and I'll let Hubbard explain how:

The rig could "cast" an object out and bring it back or it could "cast" one out and leave it. You moved "this space" out there and brought it back in order to just send out an object and recover it. Or you moved "this space" out to the coordinates of "that space" and "that space" now would hold the object and you brought "this space" back empty. Actually nothing moved through space at all. But "this space" and "that space" were made to coincide.

Once again, let me boggle at the idea of tearing sections of the universe apart and somehow relocating them. Even assuming such a thing is possible, the logistics of it is staggering - you'd not only have to devise some standard of coordinates in an infinite, three-dimensional, ever-expanding operating area, but you'd also have to compensate for the fact that any two points in said area were hurtling away from each other. I can't imagine the processing power you'd need to run those numbers and keep a link open between Earth and Psychlo (which is, on top of everything else, in another universe) for hours at a time. The energy requirements, the computing requirements... the Psychlos can do all this, but they can't synthesize gold? They can't come up with a radiation-proof suit for them to wear for mining in dangerous conditions?

Also note that (and I'm going to feel real stupid if a later chapter proves me wrong), while it is possible to send "here" to "there," there's no mention of bringing "there" to "here." So Terl can't sneak off to that back-up platform in Africa and beam the gold from Colorado right into his lap. ...That's really it, the reason for this inexplicable limitation in how you can use teleportation: because otherwise the plot falls apart.

Speaking of plot-related limitations , there's also something called the "samespace" phenomenon. Transshipment is dangerous if you try to send things too close, since the locations being swapped are too similar to each other or something. The short version is that you don't teleport within 25,000 miles of your rig if you want what you're sending to be recognizable at the end. This is annoying Jonnie, who wanted to beam nukes aboard the orbiting alien cruisers.

Anticipating your outbursts, Hubbard explains that teleportation motors are completely different:

A motor ran on the principle that "samespace" resisted distortion heavily. The shorter the distance, the more the distortion. Thus the motor thrived on the refusal of space to distort. But here one was not moving an object; one was moving merely the position of the motor housing. You could even run a dozen motors in the same room and though they would cross-distort, they would function.

How is "moving the position of the motor housing" not "moving an object?" For that matter, wouldn't this just shoot the engine itself along its course and leave the rest plane behind? I can't wrap my head around this, and I really shouldn't bother trying to. The reason teleportation-based engines run under different rules is so that Hubbard can keep using them. Because by god, his spaceships don't run on plasma or dilithium or any of that nonsense, they're powered by teleportation, dammit, which is original and visionary and awesome and pure sci-fi.

So while Angus and Jonnie are fretting over all this, they suddenly receive a message in English from that ship that was sighted on the Scottish coast ages ago. After The Gray Man names what it was the old lady gave him (yarb tea), Jonnie cautiously agrees to a meeting. And so the endgame begins.

Back to Part Twenty-Five, Chapter Five

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