A Brief History of Second Space
1: The Great Dark Matter Hunt
One of the biggest questions posed to Terran astronomers in the 20th century was the problem of the visible universe's mass/energy density. Namely, there was too much of it. As big as the universe was, and as much stuff was crammed into it, astronomers said, the universe's apparent mass didn't add up next to the universe's actual physical formation – there simply wasn't enough mass to generate enough gravity to make the universe look like it did, much less explain why it continued to expand. Fritz Zwicky of Switzerland postulated the concept of “dark matter” in 1934, which basically boils down to “there's plenty of mass out there, it just doesn't show up on the electromagnetic spectrum for some reason, meaning we can't see any of it.”
It took a while for this theory to gain momentum, but by the early 21st century, it was all but universally accepted, and half a dozen sites were scattered around Earth trying to find ways to locate this dark matter. Each and every one of them met with failure – however, a great deal of new knowledge of the universe was gained as a result. Ultimately, the Great Dark Matter Hunt ended up solving the problem, but not in the way the hunters had probably intended.
Dr. Sofia Jarlsdottir, a Swedish astrophysicist working at the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso in Italy in 2003, was one of the dark matter hunters, but had started to form doubts about the existence of dark matter. She wasn't alone – there were still pockets of resistance against the theory, most of them stating that either 1), we don't understand gravity well enough yet, so we can't make any universe-spanning predictions about it, or 2), gravity works differently in other parts of the universe than it does in our own. Dr. Jarlsdottir wasn't sure about these theories, either, but something was definitely nagging at her. To work out her questions, Dr. Jarlsdottir took a brief sabbatical, working with a small group of assistants in her private laboratory in her native Sweden to work out an alternate theory for the mass/density problem. Few of her colleagues took notice – the search for dark matter was a long and frustrating process, and it wasn't uncommon to give up on the search and look for an easier answer. Not as many saw it the way Dr. Jarlsdottir came to – as beating one's head against a wall.
2: Quantum Scar Tissue
Dr. Jarlsdottir's “brief sabbatical” ended up being a total departure from the Laboratori Nazionali, during which time she and her team were almost entirely ignored by the scientific community. The theory that the Jarlsdottir team ended up deciding on was, if anything, even weirder than the idea that over 80% of mass in the universe was invisible. Instead, the Jarlsdottir Hypothesis stated that the mass from other universes, as postulated in Everett and DeWitt's theories on the Many-Worlds Interpretation, could have a gravitational effect on our own. This theory then begged the question: how is this done? Through what medium does gravity transcend one universe and travel to another?
Wormholes forming in quantum foam seemed like a good candidate, but the therein lay a problem with the theory – no one had ever proven that wormholes, or indeed even quantum foam, existed, and they had never been detected. On the other hand, no one had ever travelled to a parallel universe, either, and the entirety of the Jarlsdottir Hypothesis rested on that being true. Dr. Jarlsdottir theorized that, if other universes exist, and had broken off from ours (or, more accurately, shared a common root before they branched away from each other) there might be some physical sign of that break. This, she thought, might be what quantum foam actually was – the birth caul of other realities. Quantum scar tissue.
Dr. Jarlsdottir published her theories in a number of scientific journals in 2013, and got a fair amount of press for it, though much of the scientific community dismissed it as sensationalism edging into enthusiasm. Nonetheless, it got the attention of a few very important people, including Tony Cameron, the Vice President of Research for Cameron Space Technologies, and eventual heir to the Cameron Company, which was quickly growing into the largest corporation in America. Tony Cameron convinced his father, Scott Cameron, to finance Jarlsdottir's work. In 2014, Tony Cameron and Sofia Jarlsdottir laid the foundations of the Quantum Wormhole Detection Center, usually called QWDC or “Quidditch” (a reference to the Harry Potter series of popular children's novels in the early 21st Century) a subsidiary of Cameron Space Technologies, headquartered outside Bozeman, Montana. In 2019, Quidditch succeeded in proving the existence of wormholes, by recording the opening and closing of a perfectly circular aperture just large enough for a photon to fit through. Where that photon went, no one yet knew, but one thing was for certain – a detectable gravitational effect had been recorded, with the wormhole as its source. The only way that could be possible was if there was mass of some kind on the other side of the wormhole, which then interacted with the space-time on our side. The Jarlsdottir Hypothesis, along with the Many Worlds Interpretation and the Theory of Quantum Gravity, had been proven – our universe was inextricably connected to, and gravitationally affected by, other universes via the medium of wormholes.
3: Second Space
While this discovery was more than enough to rock the scientific community, not to mention earning Dr. Sofia Jarlsdottir the Nobel Prize for Physics, the Cameron Company that had financed Quidditch wanted to take things a step farther. Cameron's biggest contract, indeed the reason for its foundation, was to support the NASA/ESA manned Mars mission. Getting to Mars would be problematic enough, but once we got there, the mission would have two choices – either come back, which could be far more difficult than getting there, or stay and be re-supplied indefinitely. Either way, the problems of fuel and acceleration were becoming insurmountable, as more and more equipment and people became needed for the mission. Secretly, Cameron Space Technologies, using the equipment and personnel from the recently-disbanded Quidditch, began looking into the possibility of opening up a wormhole that connected two points within our own universe, thus enabling what they hoped would be instantaneous faster-than-light travel.
Creating a wormhole large enough for matter to pass through was problematic enough (it was eventually solved using particle accelerator-generated negative-mass “exotic matter,” focused and contained with a quantum laster) but the problem that the experiments kept running into was that, while energy did just fine coming and going through the wormhole, mass simply wouldn't go. It wasn't annihilated, or indeed damaged in any way – it simply passed through the space where scientists knew the wormhole was, without actually passing through the wormhole. Dr. Edgar Tallbridge of Cambridge University theorized that the wormhole did not connect directly to other universes, but perhaps to a membrane between all universes, which energy could traverse but matter could not – thus explaining why no one had ever detected any mass on the other side of a wormhole, only the effect the inevitable mass had on our own side. Tallbridge named this membrane “Second Space.”
However, a breakthrough came when Dr. Jarlsdottir, coming out of retirement in 2043 to help with the program, managed to encode a quantum laser with the coordinates of a second region of space-time. Now, the same wormhole aperture could exist in two points in our universe at once (not, as most had theorized, the wormhole opening a second aperture elsewhere in Second Space which corresponded with another point in normal space). Thus, when matter (in the first few experiments, a few simple molecules of hydrogen) was “pushed” through a wormhole, Second Space rejected it, pushing it back into normal space – at the other point where the wormhole existed. The first life form to pass through a Second Space wormhole was Yuri the rat, who travelled from Bozeman to the Cameron Company's headquarters in Boston instantaneously, and having suffered no discernible harm on his voyage. Yuri lived another four years, eventually dying on a common cancer, unrelated to his journey through Second Space.
4: The Second Terran Space Age
The were only real problems remaining with Second Space travel. The first was its prohibitive energy costs – more exotic matter was needed to open larger apertures, and the stuff wasn't cheap to make, especially considering it required the most advanced particle accelerators in the world working full time for months to make even a miniscule amount. The monetary cost for The Incredible Voyage of Yuri the Rat came to $7.3 billion – the idea of sending a fleet of spaceships that would carry everyone and everything needed for the Mars mission caused several financiers to drop their support entirely.
The second problem was that precise coordinates for both apertures was needed, down to the picometer, otherwise the quantum laser would “miss,” and mass would simply pass “over” the aperture, rather than “through” it. Placing a beacon at the location of the second aperture, which found a suitable pico-scale location for the exit point and then sent the coordinates back via standard radio wave or laser beam, could solve the problem, but said beacon would need to be rather large for the necessary sensor and communication equipment, and if you could send a beacon to the location, why not just send the mass you want through normal space in the first place?
The issue of cost was gradually solved as exotic matter became cheaper to produce, and new types of exotic matter were created that could open apertures wider by themselves than previous types. Dozens of particle accelerators popped up across the world, for the sole purpose of creating exotic matter to sell to the Mars project. The largest of these accelerators was owned by Hyubase Energy, a Japanese fusion research company, which had also just created the first cost-effective fusion plant in Chiba City, Japan. The use of fusion brought the costs down to an acceptable level. Advances in laser technology allowed a single laser to map out an area suitable for a wormhole aperture, up to about a light hour away in 2056. Two years later, the recently-completed ships of the NASA-ESA mission to Mars were sent to their destination via Second Space skips, a process that took only four days.
(to be continued)
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"The universe's most essential beauty is its endlessness. There is room and resources enough for all of us. Whether there is room for all of our passions is the question, and the problem that we work tirelessly to find a solution to."
-Qhameio Allir Nlafahn, Commonwealth ambassador, during the signing of the Kriolon Treaty.
-Qhameio Allir Nlafahn, Commonwealth ambassador, during the signing of the Kriolon Treaty.