cosmic leap

or simply leap, method of faster-than-light travel, well-studied theoretically and getting some experimental evidence; a practical aimable leap drive is still ways off, however (“physics without technology” for over a century). The main problem is the ineliminable indeterminacy that forces a distance/accuracy tradeoff — the farther you aim, the less precise is the leap; it explodes at cosmic scales: by aiming beyond a certain distance you get very nearly the same probability of emerging anywhere — not just in your observable bubble but in the entire physical multiverse. Leap is instantaneous but only if you dont care where you end up; mathematically, the gain in speed and loss in precision cancel each other. ■    Instead of one big leap, you can reach your destination by multiple shorter leaps, adjusting your aim every time you materialize (golfing, after a game in which a ball is driven towards a hole by a series of hits). Depending on your energy budget, you can take fewer long leaps (with more risk of being thrown farther away from your destination) or make it there slowly but surely with a sequence of short, more predictable leaps. Optimal golfing strategy depends on distance, and its only at certain scales — on the order of 10^3 light years — that golfing is probabilistically faster than light; outside that zone it is either slower or diverges from the destination. ■    Leap travel is a macroscopic application of the fundamental jumpiness of spacetime: e.g. a photon traveling at the speed of light is actually golfing — jumping by Planck length every Planck time to create an impression of smooth movement; macroscopic objects — humans, spaceships, planets — can only move around by massive, coordinated, never-stopping Planck-scale leaping of their constituent particles. (Gravity, in this framework, is what distorts points' probabilities causing light and matter to follow curved paths.) A leap drive would simply stretch this basic irreducible leaping, along with its indeterminacy, to astronomic distances. ■    Dont think of a leap as a superluminal move, or move at all: rather, each leap creates a “forkworld” — same as ours in everything except the location of the leaper; whether the pre-leap world “painlessly perishes” or continues some alternate existence is undecidable. At cosmic scales, some solutions predict a twinning effect: a leap spaceship may emerge twice, one copy ahead and the other symmetrically behind the origin. To aspiring travelers, such painless cloning may prove an attraction rather than a deterrent; pairs of habitable systems approximately symmetric around the Sun are proposed as destinations for the future — likely single-shot at first — leap spaceships, so each of the leap-born twins could reach a shore by slower-than-light coasting; communities of “eventually reunited” “space twins of the leap era” figure in fiction. Any symmetry breakers (to suppress the unwanted twin) are themselves probabilistic: youll always face the prospect of finding yourself thrown back after a leap — to realize that, light years away, another you just appeared, unaware of your existence. ■    An affordable leap drive will open the era of automated exploration, with probes launched in bulk to compensate for the fuzzy aiming; their lightspeed reports will be seeping in long after the initial spurt — perhaps infinitely into the future. Some speculate about reaching or at least approaching the String; choreographers are eager to sow their mechanical seeds in intergalactic voids, with little preference as to direction or distance from Earth; finally there always are Leavers to aim for infinity — to shed not just the reachable but observable cosmos, to disappear ultimately, truly irretrievably, without a chance to send even a lightspeed message-in-a-bottle back home: to see the multiverse as no one sees it before or after.

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