Jump Theory Faq 0.104
2) General Principles
4) FTL Communication
6) Revision History
Welcome to the Wing Commander Jump Theory Faq, an exciting ride through
the wonderful world of pseudo-science and techno-babble, enough to make
any sane quantum physicist cringe :-)
This faq tries to explain what Jump Points are, how they are used and their
implications, within the context of the Wing Commander Universe.
2) General Principles
2.1) What is a Jump Point?
A Jump Point is a point in space that touches another point in space in 4
dimensional space-time, even though they appear to be billions of miles apart
in 3 dimensional space. This proximity give the points unique properties
which allows a suitably equiped ship to open a space-time rift and pass
from the first point to the other with no noticeable passage of time. Of equal
importance is the fact that the space-time fabric at a Jump Point is weaker
than at any more normal point in space, this property allows a Jump Drive to
open a space-time rift using a realistic amount of energy. As can be well
imagined Jump Points are absolutely fundamental to interstellar travel for all
known space-faring races.
2.2) How is a Jump Point formed?
Jump Points are, on the whole, natural phenomina, and very unusual ones
at that, for a simple reason; the chances of a given Jump Point actually
forming are extremely low due to the myriad of factors that effect formation.
At the most fundamental level a Jump Point is the result of gravitational
forces. As we know gravity distorts space-time, so that instead of being
"flat" it becomes curved. If extreme, or multiple gravitional forces
effect a specific point in space it can be shifted in space-time a much
more considerable amount than to form a simple curve. As gravitational
sources, planets, stars, etc, are moving this effect is momentary for a
specific point. However if similar effects are being felt by another
point in space so that the end result of these gravitational distortions
moves the two points next to each other in space-time Jump Point formation
can occur. The actual physics behind it are barely understood but for
some reason once the two points are brought into proximity in space-time a
sort of attraction exists between them so that even after the gravitational
forces that brought them together change they remain in place. The result:
A Jump Point.
2.3) Are Jump Points Permanent?
Technically no, but the circumstances that will cause a Jump Point to
disappear are as specific as those that will form one so the chances are
very low for a given Jump Point, though there are certainly records of
Jump Points dissappearing.
2.4) How are Jump Points detected?
Jump Point detection is quite a precise science but has gradually become
easier due to more precise and advanced equipment. One of light's unique
properties is that it follows straight lines in space-time, so a dramatic
distortion like a Jump Point can be detected through it's effects on
light. The human eye cannot distinguish the effects but modern sensors can
detect them from a considerable distance. These sensors are high complicated
but due to the experience gained over the centuaries they are cheap enough to
be standard on all space craft, though the systems in use on millitary and
Exploratory Service ships can operate at longer distances and with greater
2.5) How is a Jump achieved?
Of course, Jump Points wouldn't be much use if we didn't have a mechanism to
actually exploit their unique properties, the Jump Drive is just that
mechanism. Jump Drives have been around for nearly 500 years so the technology
is very mature. Despite this it has only been within the last 10 to 15 years
that miniture jump drives for use in millitary fighters, bombers etc. and
small civillian craft have become practical, and the desperation to get an
edge in the Kilrathi War played a large part in that breakthrough, in fact
the economic impact has been quite dramatic despite the sharp downturn with
the loss of revenue from millitary sales as of late. The new Jump Drive
technology has allowed many enterprising individuals to set themselves up
plying the space lanes though it is also a sad fact that pirate activity has
become a serious problem all over again due to this latest inovation.
The key ability of a Jump Drive is that it can open a space-time rift at a
Jump Point which allows the ship it resides in to pass through and re-enter
normal space "at the other end".
The nature of a Jump Point, connecting two points means that once the rift
has been opened nothing more needs to be done beyond moving the ship, which
is probably a good thing, as the actually physics of passage are not well
The Jump Drive works by creating an antigraviton particle field, Antigravitons
as their same suggest are the anti particle of gravitons, which are the
mediating virtual particle for gravity. They interacted with gravitions and
cause the usual mutual annihilation of matter/antimatter reactions. This means
that gravity ceases to be in effect, and more importantly, there is a
temporary dis-assocation of space-time as another effect. Normal space-time is
bound so tightly that any dis-association caused will quickly be reversed
under normal conditions, but at a Jump Point the altered fabric of space-time
allows this dis-association to last long enough for a ship to pass through.
With the rift created the ship simply has to move into it and, from an
external perspective, instantly appears on the other side. Shortly after,
the rift will close as the inter-dimensional forces pull space-time back
together as the Antigravition field decays.
3.1) Has Jump Point formation or disappearance ever been observed
This may surprise you but the answer is only once on record, despite the fact
that humans have known about Jump Points for nearly 600 years, and that that
was only in 2669, a mere five years ago. The main reason for this lack of
success is the extremely low probability of a Jump Point forming at any given
point, and also the fact that formation is essential instantaneous. The only
way to observe it is to predict where a Jump Point will form and when. This
was done with computers programmed with as much astronomical data as was
possible, but there are so many factors that these setups never had a chance
of producing reliable results. The success in the Tanhauser nebula 5 years ago
was the end result of many years of painstaking data collection to allow for
the most complete simulation of the universe ever built by the human race.
3.2) Can Jump Points be created artificially?
Technically yes, but practically no, well not by humans at any rate. Of all
the races we are aware of only the Steltek have demonstrated this ability and
only on one occasion and with only a single witness, a privateer in gemini
sector known only by the initials B.H. :-) In fact if the Steltek expert
Dr Lemuel Monkhouse had not vouched for his reliability this story would not
have been taken seriously. It has been known in scientific circles almost
since the discovery of Jump Points that it would be possible to create Jump
Points by positioning intense gravitational sources at precise locations but
the failure of the Confederation to fully master graviton technology has
prevented the Confederation from ever attempting this. It is, however,
reasonable that an extremely advanced race like the Steltek could possess
fully functional graviton generating equipment which would allow them to
create jump points. For this to be practical a graviton device would need to
be present at both ends of Jump Point and almost certainly at other points to
bring a sufficiently large gravitational force to bear. It is assumed that in
this specific case the Steltek ship carried one device and the base it jumped
to, which was removed by the Steltek, still had a functioning device. It is
highly unlikely that this particular jump took place with the aid of stand
alone graviton generators as the Steltek would have removed them when they
withdrew to the galactic core. While artificial jump points are physically
the same as natural ones they probably wouldn't exist for very long as they
would be located where environmental conditions are not favourable to jump
point formation, the whole point of creating one, so that it would quickly
disappear or the Steltek wouldn't want to retain it, as in this specific case,
so they would use their graviton technology to remove it.
3.3) How can Jumps go wrong?
Jumps are usually very safe and reliable way to travel, but things can
go wrong, though most of these are easily avoidable. The first one is jumping
at too high a velocity. If this is attempted the front part of the ship may
move beyond the jump point before the rift is opened, resulting in part of
the ship jumping and the other part not, this is called a partial jump. A less
serious consequnce of high velocity jumps is that *all* of the ship can
be passed the jump point when the drive tries to open the rift, in which case
the jump simply fails and must be attempted again. The second problem is
keeping the rift open long enough for the ship to pass through and is the
other side of the high velocity jump problem. If you travel too slow the rift
will close before the ship is fully through. This has been the main
restriction on ship size throughout the centuries. However new technology as
pioneered by the Omega research project and the actual production Behemoth
and the Kilrathi Hagaka supercarriers allows very large ships to mount field
amplifiers that keep the rift open long enough to allow the ship through,
though if you've ever seen any of the classified footage of the Behemoth
attempting a jump it was a close shave. The new Vesuvius class carriers
rely more heavily on precision drive activation to allow for jumps at higher
velocity which is less bulky tecnology than that used on the behemoth allowing
more space for other needs. There is, however, a disadvantage to this
otherwise very cost effective solution. As stated earlier the field strength
required to open a Jump Point varies from point to point, as the degree of
weakness in space-time is not the same for all Jump Points. A Vesuvius lacks
the field amplifiers so it cannot pass through Jump Points which need a field
strength beyond a certain level to be opened. This weakness proved to be the
undoing of the original Versuvius during the Tolwyn "incident" of 2672/3.
The least likely problem and the most unavoidable
is a jump point disappearing while transit is in progress, there are no
incidents on record so no definitive description of the results exist, some
have hypothosized that the results are similar to partial jump with the
front part jumping and the rear left behind, other suggest that the ship may
end up completely outside of 4 dimensional space time, either way it
probably isn't much fun.
However the biggest problem is jumping and finding another ship exactly where
the jumping ship will exit. This causes a matter overlap which results in
absolute annhilation along the lines of a matter-anti matter reaction. Some
wonder why this does not occur with stray particles and to tell the truth
the problem was never addressed because of a fortunate side effect of the
jump process. The typical "blue white flash" of jump entry or exit which
marks the boundary of the rift exerts somesort of force on matter around it
pushing it aside so that the ship completes the jump in a perfect vacuum.
However this force is not large enough to move something as substantial as
another starship so specific safety precautions must be followed. One of
the long term aims of the Confederation was to set up at every jump point
a matched pair of special nav buoys that monitor ships around the jump
point and communicate that infomation to the nav buoy at the other side of
the jump point. The jump buoy can be quieried by ships to find out if it
is safe to jump. Late model jump buoys can actually interface with newer
jump drives and prevent them activating if a danger exists. All new drives
must contain this technology and confed is trying to upgrade all Jump buoys
to the new standard. During the war the expansion program was halted as the
frontiers were shifting radically and it was felt that threat existed in that
jump buoys could be used by the kilrathi as a limited form of intelligence
gathering, preventing ambushes, or attempting them. With the end of the war
the expansion of the 'jump buoy network' as some call it as progressed full
steam. During the war an interim measure was to set up special field
generators at the jump point which produced a translucent blue sphere around
the jump point marking the boundary of the danger zone around the jump point.
It proved highly cost effective but with new larger ship classes it rapidly
became obsolete and all have been replaced in the last 5 years since the end
of the war.
3.3.1 What is a misjump?
A misjump is the rare occurence when Jump Points temporarily realign into different pairs. The result is that you arrive at a different Jump Point than you would of normally existed at. Usually this means arriving at an alternate Jump Point in one of several nearby systems.
As with the forming of Jump Points, this phenomenon occurs instantly and is hard to predict. Typically it can last anything from a few minutes to a few days before teh Jump Point pairs revert back to their normal configuration.
Temporary Jump Point pair-changes occur often enough to be documented, though not often enough to cause that much worry. Typically most ships give their nav-computer a few seconds to interface with the Jump Point Buoy and confirm that the Jump Point Pairing hasn't shifted, or to fire a probe in ahead of time.
Further references to this phenomenon are in one of the Wing Commander books (it allowed a heavily damaged Confed carrier to jump to safety... and the small Kilrathi Fleet which was chasing them wound up in a different system, and would have to make up a hard day's journey to catch back up with the Confed carrier).
I think in the same book it makes references to "dead-end" jump points... points that lead nowhere... which was found out when ships had attempted to jump them never returned. They later tried using the probe technique to verify if the points had exit points, and the probes never returned. (I do believe the same book makes reference to a system like the Firekka system which had in the neighbourhood of 30 to 100 jump points, most of which were dead ends).
3.4) What is a double Jump (Point)?
This is simply two separate Jump Points in close spatial proximity, so close
infact that a ship can initiate the Jump sequence for one point before
fully exiting the other one, which is what a double Jump is. There is a
common misconception that a double-jump can land you somewhere other than
the exit point of the second Jump Point, like the middle of star or the
like. This is not infact true, while a double jump carries a much higher
risk factor than a normal one the problem is not the one that most people
think it is. The problem is one of alignment, the ship must initiate the
first jump so that it is aligned directly towards the second point
upon jump entry otherwise a partial jump may occur with all the usual
3.5) What happens if you jump through a Jump Point when you don't know where it goes?
Well, you still get there but you don't know where 'there' is. The usual way
to solve that problem is too compare the positioning of stars and galaxies
around you to calculate your position which is a highly developed process,
as it's been around as long as jumping has.
3.6) Must a jumping ship contain it's own Jump Drive?
Until recently the answer was yes for ships, though jump buoys used
special technology to open a very small rift and fire their data burst through
to the other jump bouy. This technology was advanced on a couple of years back
by scientists in the Border Worlds to open rifts large enough for a fighter
to pass through.
3.7) Do deep space jump points exist?
Only a very small number of Deep Space Jump Points are known to exist and
those that are known are essentially ignored by normal traffic as they don't
go anywhere useful. However for astronomical research each and everyone is
an enormous boon as they allow studies to be conducted in deep space, which
is otherwise inaccessable as conventional drives cannot move a ship nearly
fast enough to cover interstellar distances in a practical amount of time.
Jump Points usually exist within or around planetary systems due to the
gravitational influences they exert though it is possible for one side of
a jump to lack any gravitational sources if the other side possess them and
there are large graviational source located at other points in space so as to
create the required distortions in space-time. An extrapolation of this
is a deep space to deep space jump point but the probability of that is
several magnitudes less than a intrastellar to deep space jump point which is
already several magnitudes less than a normal jump point.
3.8) What unusual jump point phenomina *have* been observed?
The two most famous ones on record are the intra-enigma jump point and the
firekka system. The enigma sector is highly unusual in that it contains, at
it's centre a black hole which as you may guess is a very intense
gravitational source. As a result one jump point exists which crosses the
entier sector, roughly. A Jump Point will not usually cross such a large
area as the distortion to space-time required to produce it is enourmous,
a black hole fits the bill quite nicely. As you can image, this meant that
enigma was very heavily contested during the war as it potentially allowed
either side to jump into the other's rear area.
Firekka is unusual as it contains numerous jump points that connect
points within the system, this phenomina has not been observed in any other
star system and it is suggested that it is possible because Firekka once
possessed many other bodies than it does today which would have allowed for
their creation but before gravitational forces could remove these mini-jump
points some sort of catastrophy resulted in the destruction of many bodies
in the system, this is supported by the large amount of asteroidal debris in
the system. The orignal cause of all this destruction is unknown but it
certainly happened before the evolution of the current forms of life on
firekka as the fossil record shows a clean progression as far as avian
4) FTL Communication
You may wonder what this section is doing here but there is a reason. Most
normal everyday comm traffic is indirect, ie: it is routed. This is usually
done using jump buoys. A ship will fire a weak tachyon burst signal
containing the message to the jump buoy which will pass it through the
jump point where the other jump bouy will fire it on down the chain until
it reaches the closest comm station where comm traffic is ordered into
packets going to specific systems and the grouped messages travel down the
buoy chain to the recipient system where a ground station will recive the
tachyon burst and then transmit onward using radio or laser link. Due to the
routed nature (and burst nature) of ftl comm realtime communication is not
possible outside of the laser/radio range. This is another reason why the
Confederation has tried so hard to finish the jump buoy network. But it
is possible to communicate without jump buoys. Within a star system the
tacyon burst signals can be fired directly at the recipient as the distances
are relatively small so the signal retains strength. Over interstellar
distances normal comm eqipment cannot produce a strong enough burst, hence
the jump buoy routing. However millitary ships and full time E.S. craft
often carry millitary grade burst signal equipment that can produce a
strong enough burst signal to carry many many light years though the energy
consumption is staggering which limits it's use to large vessels. This
millitary grade techonology is not in fact restricted as some think but the
cost is simply too high for most people or even companies so it appears
very rarely in the civillian sector.
Well there you have it, Jump Theory in the Wing Commander universe, I hope
you found it interesting. It's been a lot of fun thinking it all up and I'm
always open to suggestions and idea so if you have a question, an answer or
see a problem e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
6) Revision History
0.101 First draft
0.102 Minor spelling corrections and deep space jump points entry corrected.
0.103 Removed the authors notes, that shouldn't have been in there :-) Made modifications based on comments from LOAF.
0.104 Renamed the jump generating particle the antigravition in accordance with the WCP star map.
Me(!) Well I wrote the thing didn't I?
Chris "Stalker" Reid: for the web space
Ben Lesnick (LOAF): Tons of very useful feedback and suggestions, thanks!
Origin and Chris Roberts: for inventing Wing Commander in the first place!
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