The Barrier Law
First theorized in the late 2100s
First successful application in the mid 2200s
Most reliable form of modern interstellar transport
Many properties have yet to be confirmed; new methods of experimentation still being considered
Map of the Bubble. Barrier routes connect individual planets. All planets shown are human-inhabited.
History and Early Missions
The key force behind humanity's rapid expansion in the Milky Way galaxy was the discovery of the Barrier, a physical pathway that forms around fleets during interstellar travel.
Faster than light travel (FTL) was deemed theoretically impossible in the early years of astrophysical studies, until missions bound for Proxima Centauri (now called Centus) discovered fluctuations in data transmitted by unmanned spacecraft en route to the star system.
What scientists discovered was a build-up of resistance against the crafts as they approached what eventually became known as the "Golden Velocity," or 61.8% the speed of light (C).
Dark matter interaction is observable after a spacecraft crosses outside of a star's heliosphere, where solar wind is strongest.
Mission after mission, headed by the former Global Space Initiative, revealed the true nature of the resistance these spacecraft were experiencing: dark matter condensate.
With further experimentation and analysis, scientists discovered a fundamental property of dark matter, that is, its tendency to act as a non-Newtonian substance under certain conditions. One of those conditions, as stated above, proved to be that an object must be traveling at the Golden Velocity, 61.8% C, in order to interact with dark matter all. An object traveling slower than C experienced no observable interaction with dark matter.
The second condition that needed to met was, in the early days of these experiments, more problematic. When spacecrafts were accelerated to 61.8% C within the heliosphere of Earth's sun, no interaction was observed. Only when the spacecrafts left the influence of the heliosphere was dark matter condensate detected.
After several years of missions, the GSI discovered that, if a spacecraft was traveling faster than 61.8% C prior to interacting with dark matter, the spacecraft would, in fact, experience a massive and immediate reduction of velocity, followed by a total loss of signal from the craft. Only when the spacecraft was accelerated to 61.8% C after it entered a region of dark matter were successful interactions observed.
Application and Properties
Over time, upgraded models of Solar Kinetic Impulse Engine (SKIE) were developed, allowing spacecrafts to harness the nearly limitless energy pouring out from stars. These engines provided rapid acceleration to 61.8% C, allowing spacecraft to reach the Golden Velocity in a matter of hours, instead of days, or in many past cases, weeks.
Following the advent of the SKIE came the development of the earliest Dark Matter Engines (DMEs), which are activated once the spacecraft has reached the Golden Velocity.
All interstellar crafts are outfitted with DMEs. The DMEs convert the dark matter condensate, which accumulates at the head of a spacecraft, into reverse thrust. The incredible efficiency of these engines converts 99.9999% of all dark matter condensate into energy, and, in turn, reverse thrust. Only a fraction of the dark matter through which spacecrafts travel forms this condensate, and so very little is ever consumed for energy production. It is estimated that all the dark matter contained within the Bubble will last another 25,000 years.
Dark matter condenses at the head of a spacecraft at the moment the spacecraft reaches Golden Velocity, 61.8% C. Image courtesy of Professors Amos Barlay and Jessana Clees, of the Tavizzio Academy for Relativistic Sciences, Cavellor Archipelago.
The thrust provided by dark matter accelerates the spacecraft to faster-than-light speed (FTL). The peak velocity a spacecraft can achieve through this process is 166x light-speed, or one light-year every 53 hours.
As the velocity of a spacecraft increases, the dark matter surrounding it becomes stretched, highlighting its non-Newtonian properties. The region of dark matter does not tear or pull apart, but forms a barrier around the spacecraft. The radius of this barrier is dependent on the size, number, and separation distance of crafts in the immediate region, ranging from several feet for a single exploratory probe, to several miles for crew-carrying expedition spacecraft.
This barrier, to which Barrier Law owes its title, dictates the distance a single craft (or fleet of crafts) can travel through interstellar space. The radius of the Barrier decreases as the length of the Barrier increases. Due to this compression, the average distance a spacecraft can travel using Barrier Law is,
on average, 20 light-years. This was a property discovered when an unmanned craft was sent on an exploratory mission to test exactly how far a craft could pull the Barrier before it tore. The Barrier, in fact, did not tear apart, but instead became immeasurably rigid. The result echoed the outcome of early missions: engineers recorded that the spacecraft experienced an abrupt reduction in velocity, followed by a permanent loss of signal.
Following these unmanned probing missions came the first android missions on crew-ready spacecraft, to test the effects of acceleration and dark matter on crews that would one day embark on interstellar journeys. These early missions proved fatal for developed biological crews, and it was another twenty years after androids were sent to settle and design infrastructure on Exoplanet Dal-10a (which came to be known as Daliona) that Wander Enterprises successfully sent a biological lifeform into the interstellar void, and then, ten years later, to Exoplanet Dal-10a.
Despite safer advancements in technology to protect biological beings, androids and autonomous vehicles made up 100% of the early expeditions between Earth and Daliona,
Graph of data received from the Bar-Trek 4 probe, launched by Wander Enterprises in Standard Year 2310. (Courtesy of Professor Gelmin Akaloan, Electromagnetic Spectroscopy, the Tavizzio Academy of Relativistic Sciences.)
until the day we last left Earth's solar system and never returned, when interstellar biological sustainability reached a tipping point in the final years of the Third Standard Millennium. Developed biological lifeforms saw massive population growth on Daliona and Rygin (formerly known as Exoplanet Ryger-9b, named for the Ryger Space Telescope Institute that first discovered it), and with this came the decline of android exploration and settlement. All android populations were decommissioned in the early years of the Fourth Standard Millennium, leaving biological lifeforms as the sole sentient inhabitants of interstellar worlds.
Interstellar exploration and exoplanet terraformation and settlement became priorities in the first half of Fourth Standard Millennium, expanding humanity's presence in the galaxy to its current status of nine settled planets spread across a diameter of 48 light-years (see map at top of page). This rapid expansion was entirely due to the application of the Barrier Law, without which biological life may still be confined to Earth's solar system, or extinct.
Challenges and Future Outlooks
Breaking the Barrier
Scientists and engineers have yet to discover all the properties of the Barrier. The scientific community across the entire galaxy shares one unanswered question that has yet to be tested, despite dozens of models and hypotheses for the event: what will happen if a secondary spacecraft attempts to exit the Barrier while a spacefleet is engaged in interstellar travel? The best minds in the galaxy, including Elon Shotwell of Daliona, Larson Remmit of Undil, and Franice Weiss of Yillos, have all led independent analyses and predicted wildly-different outcomes. Today, engineers are developing ways of testing this event without human inclusion, due to the sheer range of unknowns involved. The potential energy contained in a Barrier stretched to its critical length has been calculated to equal that of two, or even three supernovae, in the order of 20^44 or 30^44 Joules.
The Kairos Supernova, as imaged by the Stellar Observation Team, Horizon Tower, the Undilaen Embassy. Although Kairos was located about 50 light years from Undil, there were small measured effects its output of radiation had on Undilaen technology.
The potential of releasing this energy is what holds scientists and engineers back from performing further experiments regarding this property during expeditions, nor are there any unmanned missions planned to attempt this as of yet. The sheer uncertainty of releasing the energy has placed a galaxy-wide ban on performing such experiments, and pilots or crew who attempt to exit the Barrier during fleet expeditions are reprimanded appropriately. If a second attempt to exit the Barrier is made, that person will be immediately detained for the duration of the expedition. Upon returning to the planet of their citizenship, they are dismissed from the Embassy Program, incarcerated or placed on extended parole, and banned for life from all interstellar travel.
Not a Wormhole
Scientists also stress that the Barrier is not a wormhole through space-time. Classical wormholes are generated through the separation of massive concentrations of gravity. That is to say, two black holes can be "strung" together through their mutual gravitational attraction as they each pull the space-time surrounding
the other toward itself. The result is a small region of space-time stretched over a vast distance, but measuring a physically shorter length than the same undisturbed region of space-time. Similar wormholes have been generated in labs with entangled particles and electromagnetic fields.
Unlike wormholes, the dark matter barriers are a means of generating energy from dark matter condensate. They do not shorten the distance between points in space-time. And while a wormhole would eventually dissolve, a dark matter barrier will vanish as soon as a spacecraft or fleet decelerates to below the Golden Velocity, and reappear upon accelerating above it. The Barrier, in effect, can be created at will and for repeated use, until the dark matter in that region of space has been completely consumed (as stated above,in the Bubble, there is enough dark matter to last 25,000 years). Pushing humanity's reach beyond the Bubble will allow access to fresh regions of dark matter.
No Access to Other Galaxies
Due to the Barrier Law's property that restricts a barrier from stretching longer than 20 light-years, intergalactic travel remains out of reach. The Andromeda Galaxy is located 2.337 million light-years from the Bubble. And even if a single dark matter barrier could stretch between the Milky Way and Andromeda, the maximum velocity allowed by Barrier Law still prohibits biological lifeforms from embarking on these intergalactic expeditions. Such an expedition would last approximately 123,861,000 hours, or roughly 14,139 Standard Years. No known technology can support the needs of biological lifeforms for that duration, and even meeting the needs of non-biological beings would likely fail. Until new methods of energy capture and storage are realized, and the required technology is developed, no sentient beings will cross the divide between galaxies.
The Dalish Embassy would like to thank the faculty of the Tavizzio Academy of Relativistic Sciences and the teams at the Mizzono-Suzu Particle Collider for their contributions to discussing Barrier Law