Hyperspace

Tagged: Theme

In sf Terminology, a kind of specialized space through which Spaceships can take a short cut in order to get rapidly from one point in "normal" space to another far distant. The term was probably invented by John W Campbell Jr in Islands of Space (Spring 1931 Amazing Stories Quarterly; 1957). It is now so thoroughly incorporated into the conventions of Genre SF that few sf writers feel called upon to explain its meaning, although Robert A Heinlein gave a particularly clear account in Starman Jones (1953). Hyperspace is often seen as a space of higher Dimension through which our three-dimensional space can be folded or crumpled, so that two apparently distant points may almost come into contact. Sometimes, as in Frederik Pohl's "The Mapmakers" (July 1955 Galaxy), hyperspace is represented as a Pocket Universe, a kind of visitable map with a one-to-one correspondence to our own Universe; it is to be hoped that all the points are arranged in the same order. Bob Shaw's Night Walk (1967) adds the further difficulty that the hyperspatial pocket universe takes the form of a quartic Kummer surface, a complex mathematical shape whose relation to normal space is not easily mapped. In "FTA" (May 1974 Analog) by George R R Martin, although hyperspace exists and is accessible, travel by this route takes longer. In Redshift Rendezvous (1990) by John E Stith a Starship has to cope with the fact that the velocity of light in hyperspace is 22mph (35kph); relativistic effects thus occur at very modest velocities.

The prohibitions in Relativity theory against travelling Faster Than Light are not really circumvented by positing such devices as Space Warps or hyperspace, since it is actually FTL journeys and not FTL velocities that are prohibited, a point often not appreciated by sf writers. If an FTL journey takes place via hyperspace, the fact remains that the arrival might be witnessed by observers elsewhere in the Universe as preceding the take-off, and Relativity prohibits the principle of causality being broken by the reversal of cause and effect.

A relevant article is "Hyperspace" by David Langford in The Science in Science Fiction (1982) by Peter Nicholls, Brian M Stableford and Langford. More recently, a scientific book on the subject is Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension (1994) by Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City College of the City University of New York. [PN/TSu]

see also: 4000 AD.

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