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

"We each live in a somewhat unique world of our own psychological content."
- Philip K. Dick

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.
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.
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.

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
Elon Musk, Google To Extend Internet Into Earth Orbit, Then Mars
HAVOC Over Venus ala Bespin
Should SETI Talk To Molecular Cloud Barnard 68?
Stellar Navigation Based On Network Analysis

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 Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

More News

3D Printer 'Teleports' Objects Like Simak's Way Stations
'An entirely new being but exactly like the old one'

Laser Etching Makes Metal Super-Hydrophobic
'The water flowed off those walls without binding tension.'

Patient Walks Out With Fully Artificial Heart
'The throb of the robot pump gave him confidence...'

Radisens' Gemini Instant Blood Tests
An amazing lab-on-a-panel.

Argentine Orangutan Receives Basic Human Rights
'They wouldn't dare let the Fuzzies be proven sapient...'

Elon Musk, Google To Extend Internet Into Earth Orbit, Then Mars
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'

Range R Lets Police See Into Your House
There are lots of ways to see through walls!

Thync Mood Alteration Like PKD's Mood Organ
'I sat down at my mood organ and I experimented...'

Atlas DRC Robot Now Untethered
Would a robot walking toward you make you feel afraid?

More SF in the News

More Beyond Technovelgy

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

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.