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On Stargates

I blame this one, as I do most things in life, on popkin16.


This time it's because, in my rant "On Puddle Jumpers," she had to go an say:




A friend of mine was recently infuriated about the science behind the 9th Chevron. We had this long discussion about how it works (which we couldn't figure out), and how the gates can dial Destiny (since Stargates require a fixed point in space, and compensation needs to happen for stellar drift, let alone for a fast moving ship)...

It's very possible the gates worked differently back when Destiny was created. It sort of feels like they would have needed more advanced knowledge of gates to build the Destiny, since it's so damn confusing, but they had less knowledge at the time (because it was the first).





Which, of course, was all it took to get me thinking: how DO the Stargates work?

Really, it is all her fault.

More to the point, however, is that the science behind them just make sense, not unless you pull out Clarke's Third Law, which, really, hasn't Stargate done enough of? My personal pet peeve is the Gate address system, which has to be the stupidest thing ever.



Though Stargates vary in design, they share several common elements. First, all Stargates have a group of glyphs spaced around the inner ring (39 for Milky Way gates, 36 for Pegasus and Destiny-style gates) and nine chevrons spaced equally around the outer edge. The glyphs on Milky Way and Pegasus gates represent constellations, while Destiny-style gates use some sort of abstract symbols for lack of consistent stellar landmarks. These two features are used as a coordinate system for the gate to target and form a connection with another gate; each chevron is locked to a specific glyph, thereby allowing the gate to connect to another. This is known as an address for a gate; gate addresses are described in terms of how many chevrons are needed to dial them, seven at the least and nine at the most.

For a standard seven-chevron address, the first six glyphs represent points in space, forming three-dimensional coordinates. The seventh represents the point of origin, a glyph which is unique to each gate. For Stargates to access a destination outside of their galaxy, eight chevrons are used; the first six target a destination as normal, while a seventh glyph prior to the point of origin adds a distance calculation to the address, targeting a gate outside the galaxy as opposed to a local one. A nine-chevron address is more of a code than a location, and this allows connection to specific Stargates - regardless of their location. So far, the only two known nine-chevron address connect to the Ancient ship Destiny, and from Destiny to Earth, but it is possible that more of these addresses exist ("Stargate")


Now, personally, I think the whole, "The first six glyphs represent points in space, forming three-dimensional coordinates. The seventh represents the point of origin, a glyph which is unique to each gate," is the height of all this stupidity, mostly because stars and constellations change over time, so what's the whole point of giving planets addresses based off of them if you have a society that has been around for millions of years and plans to be around for millions more? I mean, yes, I understand the DHDs compensate for stellar drift and all that and that the whole reason Earth couldn't dial anywhere but Abydos in the original movie was because it was the one place that hadn't drifted too far away, and that they needed to figure out a means of compensating for stellar drift before they could use any of the addresses they found on any of the cartouches. (It's like addressing Australia as "South Antarctica" back in its Pangaea days and then being surprised a couple million years later that the map's changed. Either way, you need to give it a new address or let people know it's not exactly south of Antarctica anymore, and that's just more work you should have to give to something like this.)

What does this basically all mean? Well, considering the Beta Gate on Earth is approximately 50 million years old, it means that none of the constellations on it should look like anything we see in the sky now, ev​en if it was based off Earth's night sky at one time. (Unless, of course, solid Naquadah can change itself automatically to take into account stellar drift, which, just, no.)

But I'm willing to look past that.

What I can't look past is the fact that somebody apparently realized this in SGU, retconn'ed it, and never explained it to us. Because, "A nine-chevron address is more of a code than a location," and "The glyphs on Milky Way and Pegasus gates represent constellations, while Destiny-style gates use some sort of abstract symbols for lack of consistent stellar landmarks," is something that deserves explanation.

We know from S9 and S10 of SG-1 that the Ancients originated from a galaxy far, far away. They and the Ori were once one race, the Alterans (presumably this is what they called themselves, but I doubt that, and will get to why later on), and they lived together in peace and harmony until the Ori got it into their heads that they were gods and the Ancients, who held the belief, "systematic understanding of the physical world through observation and experimentation, through argument and debate, but, most of all, freedom of will," disagreed (Ark of Truth). This event I call the Schisma, "The Schism."

We also know that the Ori vastly outnumbered the Ancients and that the Ancients were forced to abandon their home galaxy. The Ancients eventually found the Milky Way, which they called Avalon, and lived there until the Plague forced them to flee to Pegasus - events I call "The Major Diaspora" and "The Minor Diaspora" respectively.

We also know from The Ark of Truth that the Ancients had, or were developing, the first generation of Stargates at the time of The Major Diaspora. These 1G, or "Destiny-style" Gates are different from all other, later, generations of Gate networks that we know of. They, "use some sort of abstract symbols for lack of consistent stellar landmarks," instead of constellations. Things that are, "more of a code than a location," in space.

Why would this be? Certainly dialing a code, like a phone number, for a specific address is easier than remembering a complicated set of ever-changing constellation-esque glyphs, especially if if you're a long-lived society like the Ancients. There has to be a reason for the change, as well as for the original method.

Head!canon time:

The Ancients were running away from the Ori. They ran away for hundreds of thousands of years, which means they probably clocked quite a few miles, but with a good hyperdrive and some luck the Ori could follow them and find their new hiding place if they wanted. Which, it must be said, the Ori seem like they would have wanted very much. So how could they run away in such a way that it would take the Ori millions of years to find them (if, in fact, they did send the Plague that affected the Ancients in the Milky Way and precipitate their journey to Pegasus).

Why, you build a Stargate of course. Not just any Stargate either. A Supergate large enough to send all of your spaceships and city-ships all the way to another galaxy, which is utterly impossible to trace. And, just to make things extra difficult, you make the thing you dial to get there a code that doesn't give away anything about where you're doing (like constellations would). A nine chevron address on a 36-glyph Supergate gives the Ori 948,964,262,400 different combinations to try even assuming they know the Point of Origin symbol. You do that a couple hundred times in a couple of hundred galaxies over a million years or so and it'd take a minor miracle to be able to track the Ancients down, because I'm betting not even the Ori have the kind of time or power to do something like that. And even if they only used eight chevrons, as is normal for galaxy-to-galaxy travel, that's still 33,891,580,800 addresses to check - and possibly even better because the Ori would probably assume a nine chevron Gate needs a nine chevron address, making the Ancients even harder to find.

Supposing this is true, one can only assume that, when the Ancients got to Avalon and decided to stick around for a while, they decided to give their new and improved 2G Gates - the Milky Way versions - local addresses instead of complicated codes, perhaps as a way of celebrating their presumed freedom or maybe just because they thought it might be better. Which is why 2G and 3G - Milky Way and Pegasus - Gates have constellations and 1G ones don't.

Presumably they could have installed a 2G Gate in Destiny too before sending it off to seed the galaxies with humanoid life and Stargates, or whatever the Ancients planned to do with Destiny. (I've never been able to make it past the episode "Earth" of SGU, despite numerous tries, so all I know about the series after that point is what I've garnered from Stargate Wiki.)

Personally, I think the Ancients wanted to fill the universe with people who looked enough like them that the Ori would be confused if they ever did managed to track them down - or too distracted by the prospect of people to convert to continue their search for the Ancients, at least not right away. Which is a bit like throwing gas on a fire, but the Ancients must have thought it was worth a shot.

But, anyway, rather than put a 2G Gate aboard the ships (and, yes, I think there were many - and that the Furlings and the Asgard eventually stumbled across two of them, which is how they first learned about the Ancients and why they came to the Milky Way looking for them - because, really, you need a good reason to expend the kind of power it takes to go between galaxies, and I don't think either the Furlings or the Asgard were quite at the "we were bored" point of their evolution as a society yet), they stuck with the good, old, tried and true code method, that way, in case the Ori ever found one of their ships they wouldn't (immediately) be able to track it back to them.

tl;dr?

Which basically sums up my ideas on Stargates. I have no idea how the artificial wormhole business might work (though I have been told been told by a more math-oriented reviewer that the solution to Riemann Hypothesis might actually have a use in it, which was a lucky guess on my part). I really don't have a clue how the whole 38 minute cut-off thing might work beyond need-for-drama. Same for the one-way nature of wormholes (though I have a vague idea based off of what I remember from Steven Hawking, Brian Greene, and Michio Kaku's books that that one might have an actual basis in science). BUT I can tell you that this is the only reason I can think of for why 1G Gates are different from 2G and 3G ones.

Any Questions?

  • 8 comments
This was, once again, very comprehensive and so interesting! I have no questions, but I'm adding this to my memories, so I can read this again later :) Awesome meta thinking, thank you for sharing it!

Maybe you should write a whole series of these, I'd read them :)
:D. I'm glad. I'm a little annoyed i couldn't come up with the science behind the wormhole itself, but I'm happy with what I was able to come up with.
I love reading your meta-y thoughts. It's all so interesting!
Destiny-Style stargates worked differently to hide the Ancients from the Ori, is the takeaway message
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