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Space Warp

Entry updated 21 August 2023. Tagged: Theme.

In sf Terminology, a concept similar to that of hyperspace and subspace. The term (along with "hyperspace") may first have been used by John W Campbell Jr in Islands of Space (Spring 1931 Amazing Stories Quarterly; 1957). If a handkerchief is folded, two otherwise separated points of it can become adjacent; if space – more accurately, space/time – could be artificially warped in like style (which it cannot), the resulting short cut would effectively enable Spaceships to travel Faster Than Light: the topic is discussed further in Hyperspace. The space warp has become such a Cliché in sf that it allows endless variants. One of the best known is the "warp factor" used in Star Trek as a measure of velocity. This is illogical on all levels. The general concept of the space warp is frequently offered as a rationale for Matter Transmission devices and even mind-powered Teleportation.

The idea of Antigravity is also connected with the warping of space: since Gravity (or a gravitational field) is an effect dependent on – or rather, in terms of general Relativity, synonymous with – the curving (or warping) of space/time in the presence of mass, then antigravity could be envisaged as what would happen if you contrived to warp space "the other way", an idea proposed in all seriousness by Charles Eric Maine in Count-Down (1959; vt Fire Past the Future 1959). This is actually a development of that same idea proposed by Campbell in Islands in Space; Campbell correctly recognized that to warp spacetime would not only alter gravitational fields but be equivalent to altering the velocity of light. Maine's negative space curvature is anyway impossible (see Scientific Errors), since it would require the existence of negative mass, an existence prohibited on several theoretical grounds. Nevertheless a few writers, including E E Smith in Gray Lensman (October 1939-January 1940 Astounding; 1951), have speculated that negative mass might be a necessary and fictionally useful property of Antimatter (which see). [PN/DRL]

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