World of Ptavvs by Larry Niven:
Science Fiction Inventions, Technology and Ideas

This is Larry Niven's first novel (or novella); it explains a lot about the Known Space technologies seen in his later work. The novel begins two billion years ago, when a member of a telepathically powerful race (the Thrintun, later called Slavers in Niven's stories) has drive problems and puts himself in a stasis field hoping to be rescued soon. However, ages pass until he is discovered in the modern era. Select an invention:

Ramscoop - pull in hydrogen
An enormous magnetic field precedes a spaceship moving through space, directing interstellar hydrogen inward for use as fuel.

 

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