Calendars, Julian cycles and time travel

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Pablo Edronkin

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These days I have been doing quite a bit of work around Nerkabtu, but my main concern was the ship's calendar.

After making some batch purchases for raw materials, I was able to finish the construction of some additional hardware components long before I originally expected. Almost all the modules that will be used form HUD control functions are finished and have been tested, plus I spent quite a bit of time these days with the Stargate software system and now it has reached the point in which it is able to actually produce .scn or Orbiter scenario files based entirely on the database and the values imported from Celestia. I have been creating this database since 2009.

In order to create a scenario using Orbiter's SDK it is necessary to know several values that define the position of an object in space and time, plus the values corresponding to other objects that would be represented in the same scenario. Two of these elements are the epoch and date; particularly the concept of what a date is has had me busy for some time: Just think what would mean to actually control those variables in a simulator or the real world. This is what a reasonable gedanken machine should allow for, among other things. Hypothetically, this would mean control over time travel. So, the autopilot in Nerkabtu should be able to handle such a travel mode because in reality because any sort of FTL travel could have time-displacement implications: If travel thorough a wormhole were possible, the traveller would have to consider the acceleration of the output side because if it is not proper, relative to the primary target and for the relativistic nature of space, unwanted or abnormal time displacement could occur. Thus, any spaceship capable of FTL travel would probably require autopilot modes to control time displacement. The most basic one should act as a damper in order to reach the target thorough FTL displacement with no collateral time effects; that is, if you enter a wormhole at T=0s to reach another point in space, and the journey thorough it would take - say - ten seconds, using this "time damper" mode you should arrive at T=10s. Then, you should also have an AP time control mode that would allow for real time travel.

Orbiter uses the modified Julian date (MJD) as its chronological reference, and since we don't have an absolute time scale starting at the Big Bang, in order to perform precise time travel - please remember that we are just talking about computer simulations here, at least for now, so don't think I am gone fishing - we would not be able to get too far away in time from the MJD reference because the same orbital perturbations that make it necessary to change epochs as a reference framework in calculating orbits, would likely turn "long" time travel rather unpredictable. The only way that I can think of now to provide for secure time travel in terms of its precision would be to develop different MJD or Julian cycles based on the MJD number system, like MJD0, MJD1, MJD-3 and so on. Thus, time travel over vast expanses would probably require several jumps or a little bit of tweaking with dates as calculated regarding their respective MJD cycles.

So far, I have defined the time damping mode, that I called it NOW; this, essentially, assigns to the corresponding variables the present-moment MJD numbers in Orbiter, so that adequate scenario files are created. I real world terms, a NOW mode would keep the interstellar traveller within our time line much like the APP mode in the autopilot of an airplane would put it in the selected ILS glide path and keep it there. I also defined a time manipulation mode for which I still don't have a definitive name. This one would allow for time displacement; within the Orbiter system this simply implies that the user will be able to enter essentially any MJD value. In reality such a mode would imply steering the wormhole output or exit relative to the primary target as to accelerate it and aim it - consider several dimensions here - adequately.

These are speculative ideas; I do not pretend to assign them a truly scientific nature yet, but that's what simulators are for, anyway: To create new realities and see if they fit with the things we now. Remember that nothing is impossible, so when you shoot the stars, do so intending to hit them.

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