Story Idea: Underhill Oversees

Here’s a little seed of a story idea that’s been living inside our Sci-Fi Story Idea Generator for a while. I thought it was high time I dragged it out into the light of day to face public scrutiny (if only as an excuse to share this excellent image of a futuristic DHL distribution centre) and to see if anybody has any ideas about how it might be developed.

teleport_central_by_simonfetscher-d7e0527

The random generator is programmed with two variations of the idea:

When the technology to create stable artificial wormholes becomes available for the first time, world governments scramble to secure wormhole links with their major trading partners. When British Minister of Transport David Underhill travels to India to negotiate a new wormhole link between the two countries, he finds himself blocked at every turn…

When the technology to create stable artificial wormholes becomes available for the first time, world governments scramble to secure wormhole links with their major trading partners. When British Minister of Trade and Industry David Underhill travels to Italy to negotiate a new wormhole link between the two countries, he stumbles upon a shocking conspiracy.

OK, so the negotiation of international trade agreements may not be the most exciting topic for a science fiction story, I’ll grant you that, but a series of wormholes connecting various points around the globe – that’s pretty cool, right? This technology could be a political game changer (not to mention a cartographic one), and this is a great opportunity for some serious speculative fiction and even a little political satire if you’re so inclined.

If you could build your own stargate and link it to one other country, which country would you choose? Sunny Spain perhaps, or the Azores. Linking to the country from which you import or export the largest quantity of natural resources and trade goods would make more sense. But what if that country has already signed an exclusive deal with somebody else?

So, what about the story? What trouble does our British cabinet member find himself in? What conspiracy does he uncover?

Is somebody trying to resrict the development of wormhole technology to artificially inflate oil prices? (Saudi Arabia, I’m looking at you.) No, that’s boring! An alien infiltration of the wormhole network? No, that’s too cliché! Something else.

Let me know your thoughts on how this idea could be developed in the comments below.


Artwork by Simon Fetscher.

Check out our Sci-Fi Story Idea Generator for more random ideas.

  • “Good afternoon, this is Amazon Instant Delivery my name is Diane, how may I help you?”

    “It is absolutley unacceptable! I want my credits back and compensation!”

    “Sir ,I understand your frustration,but could you be a tad more specific?”

    “I ordered six cornish pastries and a big order of battered cod and chips. Instant worm hole delivery.I paid extra!”

    “Alright I can see your order now. It was ordered by our Amazon Partner Picadilly Fish and Chips in London, delivererd to John Smith in Boise, Idaho.”

    “Diane,listen! I know what I ordered. But what plopped out of our Amazon Wormhole Box is not an order of Fisn and Chips!”

    “Sir, plee calm down and tell me the problem.”

    “A naked bloke popped out of it!My wife is still unconcious and the kids!”

    “Sir, did you say a naked man?… One moment please let meput you on hold for just one moment.”

    “Sorry to interupt your call, but there is a Indian conference in Delhi who just recieved a suit , shoes and an order of Fish and chips. I think my call and yours are connected.”

    “Mr.Smith, sorry for putting you on hold, I have good news! We located your food order and as a courtesy we added a suit and some shoes. Please attach the return label I am wormholing you now

    to the forehead of the naked man and sent him back. Please print clearly :”British Minister of Trade and Industry David Underhill attenion Her Majesties Ministry ,UK”

    Thank you for calling Amazon Wormhole support.”

    • dan cummins

      ^ the future is nigh.

      • Paulo R. Mendes

        And terrible. -_-‘

    • Haha! I suppose it’s better than receiving somebody’s severed finger in your fish and chips.

  • The trouble with wormholes in our story is that they don’t like company. You can’t build two of them near each other. What our cabinet member discovers is that India and Singapore are part of another secret wormhole network. One that is not connected to any location on Earth.

    • John H Reiher Jr

      It’s worse than that Todd. First, let me put on my Captain Grumpy Pants outfit. There, it’s on.

      One, there is no such thing as a “stable” wormhole. A “stabilized”wormhole is possible, but never a stable one. Wormholes want to close, and you have to work hard to keep them open. To do that, you have to use either exotic matter, such as matter with negative mass, or with negative energy. Now, we only have evidence for negative energy, while negative mass is pretty much a no go, unless antimatter has negative mass. But that, of course has other problems.

      Next, nature will conspire to close the wormhole. Differences in the ages of the wormhole mouths will set up a hawking ring if another wormhole is nearby. As Todd pointed out. If you set up a time like loop, it will quickly go to hell in a hand basket and cause all the wormholes involved to close… violently.

      How violently? Let’s say a wormhole big enough for two way vehicular traffic would level a city with the resulting explosion.

      Two things that work against you in keeping a wormhole stable are it’s mass balance between mouths and the energy balance between them. You’ll have to monitor how much mass and energy passes through, and then balance the load by moving the same amount of mass and energy back.

      Differences in altitude will mess with them. The higher one will age faster than the lower one. That means every so often you need to synchronize them by putting the older on in a cyclotron and spin it up so it ages slower than the other due to relativistic time dilation.

      The other problem is that unless you want folks to have problems, you’ll have to keep the mouths on the same latitude and altitude otherwise they will be thrown about as they pass through.

      For example, we have a wormhole mouth at the equator, with the other located in Philadelphia. The equator is rotating eastward at 1,667 KPH, about 1,036 MPH.

      Philadelphia at 40°N latitude, is rotating at 1,275 KPH, or 792 MPH. For the sake of argument, the wormhole at the equator is at the same altitude as Philly, so I don’t have to do those calculations. 🙂

      Stepping through from equator to Philly, you’re flung Eastward at 392 KPH. Going the opposite direction flings you Westward.

      Going up in altitude will freeze you as you gain potential energy.

      Going down will heat you as you gain potential energy.

      And one last issue from me. That exotic matter or negative energy keeping the mouths open, will also repel anyone trying to enter the wormhole mouth. So you’ll have to literally get a running start to get through one, though smaller ones on a planet wouldn’t be as bad as larger ones for spaceships.

      Finally, wormholes don’t look like toilet swirls. The are three dimensional regions of space that are coexistent with another region in space. At no time do you ever leave this universe. You don’t see stars stream on by. The wormhole throat is a long as the wormhole is wide. For a example of what that looks like, check out this page:

      http://www.spacetimetravel.org/wurmlochflug/wurmlochflug.html

      Captain Grumpy Pants signing off!

      • Oh Boy where doI start.I guess,I need those grumpy pants.

        This article reads fine, but there are a lot of presented facts that are speculative hypothesis at,most.

        First there is no scientific evidence whatsovever that worm holes actually do exist. Einstein Rosen bridges are are an extended hypothesis that came out of Einstein’s idea that that gravity is not an ordinary force, but rather a property of space-time geometry. Which is a THEORY (It works out on a black board because it equates)/. You speak of Exotic particles as if they exist,..These are hypothetical at best, not even a Theory.. What really got me in this pseudo science techno babble is the way it is presented. As a matter of fact.

        John no one has ever seen a wormhole and if it does exist will it not also affect photons. So to state that you know how it looks is a tad steep. I be the first to recommend you for the next Nobel prize for physics ,if you can explain that last paragraph in an equation. I mean such knowledge and conviction ,Hawkins will be amazed. it/.

        But maybe forstarters , can you explain to me iwhat a worm hole is and what condition made the theoretical physicist who coined the phrase call it a wormhole …yes there is a reason. I am sure you know..as the resident expert on Wormholes

        • Oh no, not this science thing again. It’s so inconvenient 😀

          • So sorry……won’t ever happen again…No more science stuff from me.
            I fully agree with John, everything is so sciency. I knew I should have kept the dark color in my hair. At least I was an Artificial Intelligence for a while.
            So no worries Mark, I am back to my blonde self for a while
            I can comment on pink space ships…and Alien fashion.
            How to do make upon your third eye stalk and what goes best with tentacles.
            (You know better, right? I probably can’t stay quiet for long…)

            VR

            • John H Reiher Jr

              VR, never apologize for science! You go right ahead science all you want!

            • It was tongue in cheek… no worries…I think…or at least I hope the head honcho aka Mark understood it that way.

            • John H Reiher Jr

              I was just replying for the Satire Impaired. Sadly, there are people out there that would take your post at face value.

        • John H Reiher Jr

          Well, I pretty much state that we only have evidence for negative energy and none for negative matter. Now, some would argue that if you have negative energy, that means there should be negative matter thanks to E=MC^2, but it doesn’t. The evidence for negative energy is through the Casimir Effect, and its more along the line of lack of energy, than actual negative energy.

          And the visualization that I linked to is based on what a wormhole should look like if one could capture one and expand it to a usable size. The rest of the properties come from speculation on what the issues would have to be to have a stabilized wormhole based on it’s propose properties.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wormhole

          And I’ll be the first to claim that I’m not an expert on wormholes. I’ve just read a lot of science on the subject, so I have some definite opinions on how they would work.

          As for who came up with the concept, it was physicist John A. Wheeler who came up with the term, and we’re talking about a Lorentzian traversable wormhole.

          • With all the talk of pink space ships I thought I was gonna have another argument about gender equality on my hands there for a moment.

            • Naa no worries..I have a plan that will make fit right in:

            • If I met a mustashioed Barbarella in a bar, I’d definitely buy her a drink and let her talk science to me 😀

            • Must be a bar in West Hollywood for sure (Or maybe Soho?)….

            • I am glad John did step in and and made sure this is understood as a cheeky response ( Captain Grumpy Pants should give a clue to my (granted devious) satirical , eye twinkle way of looking at things

          • Would it surprise you if postulate following theory: “There are no wormhole experts” [1] It would be the same as saying the Pope is an Expert on God. (He is rather an expert on Theology and Catholicism in particular)
            Wormholes are the exclusive matter of THEORETICAL physics,until such time,one has been actually observed or otherwise proven to exist.
            😉
            VR

            [1] other than perhaps biologists looking at the path an annelid left behind..In order to be an expert

            • John H Reiher Jr

              While we haven’t seen one, theory says how one should behave and what the consequences of having a wormhole around. We can speculate, based on known principles of physics what the properties of a wormhole would be.

              And if we can’t do that, we aren’t doing science, we’re doing something else.

            • Well I guess I failed to make my point. John, I studied at the University of Heidelberg, worked at the Max Planck institute in Munich. I only mention that to show you I am not entirely green in matters of physics and science.What I tried to say form reading your first response, was the matter of fact presentation of terms such as “Exotic particles”,”Negative Energy” ecetra, ecetera. that prompted me to comment.
              Yes speculation is the very bread and butter of theoretical physics. (The name sort of gives it away) but putting a Theory out of the realm of speculation and claim them to be facts,is the opposite of science.
              I could ask..”How do you know she is a witch?”

              (Note: I wrote my thesis on Sonoluminisence( also a nice sciency word come to think of)

            • John H Reiher Jr

              Ah, understood. I was using a matter of fact presentation because of the story idea. I was simply operating that if the story idea has wormholes, Stabilized wormholes, then I might as well treat the subject as pravda.

              But there are those who are looking for exotic matter as we speak, since we have theories that say it should exist. Whether or not they do, that’s an entirely different subject.

            • Sitting in a Salt mine deep underground baby sitting neutrino detectors … (No not quite exotic particles but elusive buggers I tell you) ….different life and times …
              Exotic and Superexotic particles are place holders, constructs of speculative interpretation of effects and behavior of matter interaction …Exotic particles are not the same as exotic matter btw.
              I am almost tempted to write a post or abstract on particles… but then I was told they like short stuff here..;-)

              (Exotic Dancers and exotic Birds are not always the same either..I do drive an exotic car(sometimes)

            • John H Reiher Jr

              Hmm, exotic dancers explaining exotic particles through dance…

            • Ah yes …all Physicists must be able to dance their thesis .Especially Dr. Frobush had difficulties at the brass pole. 😉

      • Darn there was no female Captain at Spectrum, and Dunham has no female dummies (Unless you count Achmed on Halloween)

  • Paulo R. Mendes

    The Minister of Trade and Industry discover that India/South America was making their own wormhole research, but accidentally they opened an wormhole not to another location on Earth, but to another location in time! the wormhole opened a way to the mesozoic Era (circa of 252 millions of years ago) and found an Earth inhabited not only by dinosaurs, but also by an previously unknow advanced intelligent civilization.

    • Yes! And a mundane political thriller about international trade becomes a time travel epic!
      Personally, I’d have the ancient civilization be less advanced, then we can trade with them, and establish trading posts that grow into colonies. (Echoes of British colonial history here!)

      By the way, that’s actually something I’ve been thinking of writing. But I was thinking of using my naturally occuring “Endless Portals” instead.
      http://www.scifiideas.com/sfi/navigating-endless-portals/

      • How would trade work? Across time I mean. Trade means exchange of things right|? (Even worse if they exchange ideas and technology) Lets say you want to give them a spoon. That spoon is made of material that already existed. Since the same matter can not occupy the sane time, will there be a spoon shaped hole in a yet to be developed mine? And if that mine is eventually made and the miners dig out the ore, the ore for that spoon won’t be there and thus can’t be made,so what are you taking back?

        But lets say you exchange just information.You say “Hello I am Mark”to a person in the past. The word Hello was not common prior to 1883 and was only spread world wide due to Bell’s telephone.
        H.W. Fowler complained : Hello, formerly an Americanism, is now nearly as common as hullo in Britain ( Say who you are; do not just say ‘hello’ is the warning given in our telephone directories) and the Englishman cannot be expected to give up the right to say hello if he likes it better than his native hullo.

        So you need to explain to your friend in the past what you meant. The Origin of the word hello is changed, and thus history.Will Brits in your own time never said hullo?

        • Good questions.
          I think some catastrophe is destined to befall the ancient civilization (and it’s colonial interlopers), removing all trace of them (and out interference) from history.
          Maybe some people think they can change history without altering the present due to some dual time-line theory. Others know the catastrophe is bound to happen and are just out to make as much money as possible before it occurs.
          Perhaps the catastrophe is somehow our fault.

          • If time traveling actually occurs and history is changed all the time ,how would you know what the real history is? Reality and thus our perception and knowledge would change with it.
            Now your second thought is actually not so wrong.At least in terms of hypothetical (and I stress the word hypothetical) parallel realities. You go back in time and the very act changes history,you can newer go back to your own reality but to a “new” one.

            Another thing about time travel….what happens to the matter you are made of?

            • Paulo R. Mendes

              Vanessa, I personally think that the idea of Mark (can I call, Mark, Mr. Ball?) about the catastrophe being somehow our fault interesting. Think about A Sound of Thunder but in reversal.

            • You can call me anything you like. I also answer to Marquoose, Sci-Fi Mark, or (thanks to my day job) Mark Potatoes.

            • Paulo R. Mendes

              Mark Potatoes?! but why in Earth you are called this way??? 0.o

              On a second thought, I think I am better if I never learn why you are called this way… -_-‘

            • Maybe just maybe he is the great grandfather of James T. Kirk….After all Kirk is the product of potato farmers in Idaho.

              Or..He is the Quality control French Fry tester at Simplot?

              Or it is a secret Code name! MI6 has Double 0 . SFI has (drumroll) the P.R.O.D.U.C.E team ( Possibly Really Overkill Destroyers Under Cover Elite)…There is Agent Tomato, Captain Carrot, Lettuce Master,Pea Counter,Cauliflower Girl and Parsnip Boy…and their leader Mark Potato. (They are the answer to the Avenger Initiative ) Just with more Vitamins

            • Paulo R. Mendes

              ……………………….O.0′

              (cheking the adress bar): this is really the SciFi Ideas site??? or it is the looney bin???

            • Haha! Nothing quite so exciting I’m afraid. I’m a potato merchant, I sell and deliver potatoes to chip shops and pubs. My super power is lifting bags of potatoes and transporting them someplace else.
              And here you all thought I was some kinda top selling sci-fi writer 😉

            • Someone has to deliver them.- Pecunia non olet

              Well there are “Potato Forts” in my “Universe”

              http://galnet.wikia.com/wiki/Fort_Potato

              So there are Potatoes in Sci Fi … at least in mine

            • Paulo R. Mendes

              Weird… o.0′

            • How come? Pecunia non olet is a Latin quote and meaning “Money doesn’t stink” As long as it is earned honest. It makes little difference what a person does for a living. I have deep respect to anyone making those little cogwheels of society run. Be it a carpenter, a policeman. a hair dresser or someone selling produce.
              It’s the others,the leeches and crooks I despise.

              If your “weird comment” is regarding the potato fort…I invite you to follow the link and read about it. 😉

              VR

            • valkerie

              I hate to be ‘that guy’, but Kirk is originally from Iowa, not Idaho. We grow beans, corn and hogs, but no potatoes. Sorry.
              Activate Paranoia mode:
              (Unless, of course, that’s what we WANT you to think.) 🙂

            • Well we grow beef, goats, sheep , dry grass, cotton…at least that is what the world thinks we do down here in Texas…;-)
              And you are right Kirk is indeed from Iowa and I am terribly ashamed. I should have known that.

      • Paulo R. Mendes

        Your concept of endless portals is interesting, but I prefer scinetifically accurate wormholes like those from Interstellar and Orion’s Arm.

  • Christmas Snow

    The idea of different latitudes and different altitudes remind me of the respective “Coriolis effect” and the “potential energy” all familiar from school.
    Don’t know exactly how those will behave in a wormhole, but key concepts can be worked-out:
    – Altitude differences: Getting from a low place to a higher place will need energy, no matter how sophisticated your wormhole path is. Otherwise, you will gain potential energy from nothing and that violates all physics, be it classical, quantum or relativistic. In other words, going higher means you have to work against gravity, and going lower will give you kinetic energy just as free-fall does. (No friction source except for air inside the wormhole)
    – Latitude differences: As you move from one end to the other, Coriolis forces will act on you, and you will feel a force which pulls you left or right against the walls of the wormhole. How would a moving mass act on such wormhole? Will the wormhole bend? stretch?

    • Paulo R. Mendes

      These are interesting questions.

    • And with your questions you have answered my question above. “Why is it called a wormhole” and not a rabbit hole or punch hole …why worm hole?
      This is exactly the question of a certain thesis…John probably knows which one I am taking about ( J.A.Wheeler) opens and this is why the name Worm hole was equated… Great stuff and awesome questions ,Christmas Snow!

  • Paulo R. Mendes

    Maybe I don’t should to prolong the discussion about wormholes between John and Vanessa, but…

    My two cents about wormholes: http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-article/48545a0f6352a and http://www.orionsarm.com/xcms.php?r=oa-faq&topic=Wormholes

    Have a nice discussion! 😉

  • Jack Hemsley 1

    I’d just like to point out that on one episode of the TV show The Big Bang Theory, there is a character called David Underhill.

    • Really? Haha! If I remember correctly I think it was meant to be a play on “Frank Underwood” from House of Cards.

      • Jack Hemsley 1

        I’ve never watched that show so I didn’t think of that, but yes, David Underhill is a one-time character on The Big Bang Theory. When I saw that story idea on the generator, I just thought “That’s the guy from The Big Bang Theory!”