When you look up at the night sky, there are at any given time thousands of shimmering white dots. Some are distant stars, others entire galaxies. Perhaps some of the stars you see within our own galaxy, harbor planets containing the ingredients for life. Maybe others, intelligent life itself. One thing is for certain though, those little white dots are hundreds, thousands, millions and those you can't see, billions of light years away. Our fastest spacecraft would take thousands of years to reach the nearest one, Alpha Centauri A.
Light travels at 299,792,458 meters per second. For scale, it takes light from our sun eight minutes and twenty seconds to reach us. Because of relativity, the stars you see in the night sky, the galaxies as well, are what you are seeing when their light left their origin point. For all we know, what we are seeing could have disappeared millions of years ago.
But what if we could visit those little specs in the night sky? What if we overcame the speed of light, and found new innovative methods to warp the very fabric of our universe in order to trek the stars?
What of Halo? What of its faster than light technology? Well, it isn't faster than light. It's the slipstream. Let's take a ride.
Before we get into Halo's FTL tech, we need to take brief look at space time, quantum mechanics and the curvature of space. So, let's get to it.
Space time is an odd beast, truly. Back before Einstein revolutionized physics with his concept of "space-time" and theory of general relativity, everyone thought we lived in a mostly flat and static universe. What Einstein did, and is known for, is proving that space, time and gravity are all relative to each other. Thus, the term, "relativity." Each of these three factors of our universe, and physics, are under the same umbrella and effect each other. Einstein is known for, not only proving relativity, but also proving that our universe is not static but instead, is warped by gravity. Lets break this up into two sections, space/gravity and time/gravity.
Think of space as a trampoline. If you put something very light on the trampoline, say, a marble, the fabric isn't going to warp or deform much. However, put a bowling ball or a giant anvil on the trampoline and it will deform quite a bit. But an object as heavy as a car on it, and the fabric will break entirely. Space functions the same way, it is a stretchy and fluid thing. Space, is tangible. Earth makes a divot in space-time, and our moon rotates around that curve in space. That is what orbit is, it is not some imaginary force, but rather the curve of space-time in relation to the gravity being exerted on it. Our sun makes an even larger divot, and all the planets in our solar system follow that curve. The black hole at the center of our galaxy, punches right through the fabric of space-time and breaks down the laws of physics inside the singularity. All the stars in the Milky Way, follow the curve that black hole makes in space-time. But as the name suggests, space and time are relative to each other and gravity effects them both.
Time functions in "slices." Each person and object in the universe have their own individual slice of time, like a loaf of bread. Because of how space-time functions, all objects have gravity, even you. If you are walking towards me, your gravity is exerting itself on me and time in my direction of space-time is slowed down by an inconceivably small number. However, the further we are away from each other, the effect grows larger. If you are walking towards me from the Andromeda Galaxy, millions of light years away, time speeds up for you, while slowing for me. You will see events that haven't even happened for me, and I will be looking back into your past. The further away an object is, and the amount of gravity it exerts is key. A black hole for instance, will dilate time to such an extent that past the event horizon, time will seem to stop. If you could survive inside a black hole, in the blink of an eye you would see the entire future of the universe unfold. Time, also follows the curve gravity makes in space-time.
It's wild, and hard to convey without the use of mathematics. So here is Brian Green (the video down below) to help explain it a bit better.
Knowing this, and knowing that you can never go faster than the speed of light, the best way to travel across the galaxy or even the universe is not by speed. Oh no, it's even wilder. If you want to travel the stars and galaxies, you have to break the very fabric of space-time.
The Halo franchise actually gets FTL travel nailed down fairly correctly. In Halo's lore, the preferred method of traveling the galaxy is called "slipspace." So, lets look at an official description of just what that entails.
"Slipspace is a tangle of intertwined non-spatial dimensions, comparably similar to a wadded up piece of paper; rather like taking the classic "flat sheet" used to represent gravity and crumpling it up into a ball, thereby creating extra dimensions and shorter spaces between points. Our plane of existence is thought to have four dimensions (up-down, front-back, side-to-side and time), but slipspace is an eleven-dimensional spacetime. Slipspace is entwined with the physical universe to the extent that phenomena in one realm can affect the other, and with sufficiently sophisticated equipment, transitions between the two forms of spacetime are possible. Slipspace is not the only such alternate realm: others include denial of locale, natal void, shunspace, trick geodetics and a photon-only realm known as the Glow, all of which were once discovered and studied by the Forerunners." 
So, according to Halo, the space at which craft travel through is non-spacial. Meaning that is has little to no mass. A mass free body is perfect for traveling through because it offers no resistance, nor does it pass through mass space. So you can travel, in not only four dimensions, but also without effecting the laws of physics (IE relativity.) So what exactly does all this jargon mean? What are the benefits to using a mass free corridor to travel?
Ok, so imagine I punch two holes at opposite ends of a piece of paper. What would you say is the quickest way to travel between these two points? Most people would say, in a straight line. Which would be correct if we were talking normal methods of travel. However, if I fold that piece of paper in half so those two holes meet each other, they now occupy the same space at the same time. And that, is the essence of Halo's FTL travel. You are not traveling through some corridor of space, you are warping the fabric of space time around you so that your destination and your origin point occupy the same space at the same time. You enter your destination point without effecting relativity, and without any dilation of time. Pretty nifty.
But how does this all work in practicality? How do you warp the fabric of space-time in such a way? Well, it's actually not that far fetched and we may well be on our way to the first warp drive fairly soon in our own reality.
Those two fine gentlemen in the picture above, are Wallace Fujikawa and Tobias Fleming. On April, 2291, they revealed their faster than light technology to the world and created the first slipspace drive which they dubbed the "Shaw-Fujikawa drive." It allowed humans to settle words beyond their known borders, and explore a galaxy teaming with life.
Halo explains their drive as functioning by...
"Generating a resonance field, which when coupled with the unusual physics of the slipstream, allows for dramatically shorter transit times between stars. UNSC slipspace drives use particle accelerators to rip apart normal space-time by generating micro black holes. These holes are evaporated via Hawking radiation in nanoseconds. The real quantum mechanical marvel of the drive lies in how it manipulates these holes in space-time, squeezing vessels weighing thousands of tons into slipspace." 
Now, this is a big load of exposition and basically pulling a lot of physics concepts together and hoping the audience is not in the known enough to question how the darn thing works. Which is a shame, because this type of drive is actually possible and easily explained.
A real world analogous to the splispace drive would be the Alcubierre Drive. Which NASA and JPL are actively studying as you read this article. This is how it works, according to NASA.
"Rather than exceeding the speed of light within a local reference frame, a spacecraft would traverse distances by contracting space in front of it and expanding space behind it, resulting in effective faster-than-light travel. Objects cannot accelerate to the speed of light within normal spacetime; instead, the Alcubierre drive shifts space around an object so that the object would arrive at its destination faster than light would in normal space."
So how does it "shift" space around it? How can you even warp space-time to such a degree? It uses a special little (theoretical) particle called a "tachyon" to create exotic matter. This "exotic matter" essentially creates a naked singularity to shorten space-time in-front of the craft while stretching space-time behind it. It's like stretching an accordion at one end, and scrunching up the other end. This means, that the distance the craft has traveled in front is less than what is behind. In essence, you are shortening your travel distance by surrounding the craft in a mass free environment.
There are problems with this approach however. By way of how it functions, the drive creates immense heat, radiation and gravity. The craft would have to have some mechanism to protect the crew from these hazards. Even though NASA and JPL are working on this idea, they have a long way to go before they have a working prototype. But who knows, we may yet live to see this within our lifetimes!
Whether it's a Halcyon class cruiser or a Covenant super carrier, every ship in the Halo universe rides the slipstream of space. And I must say, when compared to other science fiction universes out there, the Halo franchise does a great job and keeping everything grounded and somewhat related to actual physics. Yes, indeed, the astrophysics nerds I hang around with would be proud indeed.
A Halo fan since the beginning, 2001. Also a games industry consultant, writer, and educator. These are my thoughts, praise and advice concerning the past, present and future narrative of the Halo franchise.
Halo, all assets within, characters and merchandise are property of the Microsoft Corporation and is developed by its subsidiary 343 Industries.
I do not own, claim to own or retain any rights to the Halo franchise. This is a fan based work, and is strictly non-profit.
All other images, articles linked, materials and franchises that are not strictly specified as my own are property of their respective owners.
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