Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

Latest By
Category:


Armor
Artificial Intelligence
Biology
Clothing
Communication
Computers
Culture
Data Storage
Displays
Engineering
Entertainment
Food
Input Devices
Lifestyle
Living Space
Manufacturing
Material
Media
Medical
Miscellaneous
Robotics
Security
Space Tech
Spacecraft
Surveillance
Transportation
Travel
Vehicle
Virtual Person
Warfare
Weapon
Work

"I was driving a dynamite truck when I was 14 years old in North Carolina."
- Harlan Ellison

Bussard Ramjet  
  Propulsion method that scoops hydrogen atoms from space via electromagnetic fields.  

Niven makes good use of this real-life invention in the novel. It is a propulsion method that scoops hydrogen atoms from space via electromagnetic fields, then directs them into a fusion chamber and expels them out the back for thrust.

The emissions of a ramscoop tend to be high-energy hydrogen and helium, lithium radicals, borates, and lithium hydride, producing a purplish flame.

The magnetic field of a Ramscoop is considered to be lethal to living organisms.

The starships were Bussard ramjets. They caught interstellar hydrogen in immaterial nets of electromagnetic force, compressed and guided it into a ring of pinched force fields, and there burned it in fusion fire. Potenially there was no limit at all on the speed of a Bussard ramjet. The ships were enormously powerful, enormously complex, enormously expensive.
Technovelgy from A World Out of Time, by Larry Niven.
Published by Random House in 1976
Additional resources -

The Bussard ramjet design was originally proposed in 1960 by physicist Robert W. Bussard. Among the problems with the original design are

  • the interstellar medium in our neck of the woods is more rarefied than thought in the 1960's (meaning less fuel is available) and
  • interstellar hydrogen is mostly ordinary hydrogen-1 (rather than the easy-to-fuse deuterium and tritium isotopes) and so makes for a poorer fusion fuel.
Compare to the sweep field from Methuselah’s Children (1941) by Robert Heinlein and automatic refueling field from Biddiver (1941) by Theodore Sturgeon. Be sure to take a look at the entry for ram field, an extension on this idea from Niven's earlier novel Protector.

For a look at a propulsion system using a more tenuous fuel source, see light sail, from Sail 25, by Jack Vance.

Compare to these propulsion systems: Light Pressure Propulsion (1867), apergy (1880), Beam-Powered Propulsion (1931), Granton motor (1933), Vibration-Propelled Cruiser (1928), geodynes (1936), ion drive (1947), Planetary Propulsion-Blasts (1934), stardrive (1953), solar sail (light sail) (1962), Lyle drive (1961), laser cannon (1966), Bussard ramjet (1976), asymptotic drive (1976), Interstellar Laser Propulsion System (1985).

Comment/Join this discussion ( 1 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from A World Out of Time
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven
  Tech news articles related to A World Out of Time
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven

Articles related to Space Tech
SpaceX Wants A Moonbase Alpha
NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
Orbital Mechanics, The Liftoff, The Turnover, The Retrograde Burn
Can A Human Land A SpaceX Rocket On Its Tail?

Want to Contribute an Item? It's easy:
Get the name of the item, a quote, the book's name and the author's name, and Add it here.

<Previous
Next>

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

 

 

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Science Fiction Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Science Fiction in the News

SpaceX Wants A Moonbase Alpha
'And he had been sent with troops, supplies and bombs to command Russia's most trusted post, the Moonbase.'

Vast Apartment Living Will Get Even More Vast
'What is your population', I asked. 'About eighty millions.'

NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold...'

Elon Musk Says Robotaxis Will Be Ready This August, 2024
'The car had no steering wheel, and no one drove!'

Moonwalkers AI-Controlled Electric Shoes
Now that's power walking that Hugo Gernsback would have approved.

Steve Jobs: 'Capture The Next Aristotle - With AI'
'It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct...'

No Tips! Robotic Food Delivery In Phoenix
'...he rewired the delivery robot so that it would serve him midnight snacks.'

Electric Catamaran 'Explorer Eco 40m' Has 'Solar Skin'
'On went the electric-yacht faster and still faster.'

Orbital Mechanics, The Liftoff, The Turnover, The Retrograde Burn
'...the huge vessel had spun, with a sickening lurch, through a complete half-circle, the instant the power was reversed.'

Harvest Power From Tears And Blinking With Smart Contact Lens
'...he realized that it was not quite a clear lens. Speckles of colored brightness swirled and gathered in it.'

More SF in the News

More Beyond Technovelgy

Home | Glossary | Science Fiction Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.