2293 Expansionist Uprising

Earth is engulfed in turmoil as rumors of a faster-than-light (FTL) space drive spark the Expansionist Uprising. These rumors stem from a press release about the "Metric Track" experiment, which announces a breakthrough in space modulation research, suggesting the potential development of an interstellar drive. However, this breakthrough is primarily financial, securing funding for the second phase of the project to control space bubbles from within. Despite claims of imminent FTL technology, genuine breakthroughs remain centuries away. The expansionist factions, frustrated with Earth's inward-focused policies since the Great Separation of 2284, see these rumors as a beacon of hope, leading to widespread protests that quickly escalate into violent clashes and civil unrest.

The general populace, while largely supportive of Earth’s ecological restoration, still harbors deep-seated aspirations for humanity's future in space. The brutal suppression of the Expansionist movement, marked by increased surveillance and a system of denunciations, only radicalizes the movement further and garners new followers. Expressing expansionist ideas becomes treasonous, leading to severe penalties.

Amid this oppressive atmosphere, many expansionists choose to emigrate to interplanetary settlements, marking the third great wave of emigration to space. These emigrants, well-educated and wealthy by Earth's standards, initially face challenges adapting to the advanced interplanetary society. While some manage to acquire the necessary skills, others struggle, yet all of them contribute to the rapid growth of the interplanetary civilization. This wave of emigration constitutes a significant outflow of capital as many wealth expansionists transfer their assets to space.

The influx of immigrants revitalizes the interplanetary settlements, bringing new resources but also straining limited supplies and living space. This wave of emigration exacerbates the ongoing crisis triggered by Earth's separation, yet it also accelerates the solution by increasing well-funded habitat building primarily in cis-lunar space, in wide earth orbits, at the earth-moon Langrange points and on the moon surface.

Unintended by Earth, the repression of Expansionism and the subsequent wave of emigration result in one last significant subsidy boost from Earth for the interplanetary civilization.

2307 Metric Drive Proof of Concept

Previously, scientists had successfully deformed spacetime artificially from the outside. However, for the first time, they achieved this from within the bubble. The experimental apparatus compresses spacetime in one direction and expands it in the other, resulting in an apparent movement without the object actually moving through space. It is the space itself that moves.

The space is not macroscopically deformed. Instead, fractal space distortions are used, creating high gravitational gradients across a network of infinitesimal folding surfaces. These surfaces have a fractal dimension close to 3. They are spatial in nature but theoretically have no volume where spacetime must be curved. In practice, the fractal folding surfaces are not strictly two-dimensional. However, the real total volume is so small that far less exotic matter is required than previously assumed. The negative energy of virtual particles at an artificial event horizon provides the necessary gravitational gradients on sub-nuclear scales. This event horizon for virtual particles is created by a quantum mirror that uses CP violation to separate D-mesons and their antiparticles.

The measurable effect is still small. The apparent movement is only a few micrometers per second. But never before has a human-made device propelled itself forward by curving space.

Many research groups are working on improvements. Soon, apparent speeds of several meters per second are achieved. Over time, many parameters are optimized. Some mechanisms are improved, while others are replaced with more efficient alternatives.

The actual size of the folding surfaces plays an important role. The higher the fractal dimension, the finer the folding surfaces and the greater the achievable gravitational gradient and speed.

The drive operates in pulses, each pulse generating a small spatial displacement. Therefore, the apparent speed is proportional to the pulse frequency. The cycle time soon drops from milliseconds to nanoseconds. To achieve this, the active cycle control is switched to a resonance effect. This paradigm shift requires many other components to be adapted.

Later, D-mesons are replaced by B-mesons due to their higher mass. This increases the energy requirement but also the speed, reaching up to kilometers per second.

Eventually, CP-based quantum mirrors are replaced by quantum black holes as event horizons. This opens up the possibility of using Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, a.k.a. WIMPs, or Bose-Einstein condensates instead of individual meson pairs. However, their production in relevant quantities is still far in the future and will only be made possible by advanced alien tech. Picosecond cycles will also only be feasible with extra-solar technology.

Each improvement brings gains in efficiency, higher speeds, lower energy consumption, increased reliability, or better maneuverability. True faster-than-light drives in interstellar spacecraft will have little in common with the first experimental devices. However, the basic principle will remain unchanged well into the faster-than-light era.