On Puddle Jumpers

I have a problem: I think too much. And, yes, this is a problem because, as anyone who thinks too much can tell you, being in one's own head for too long can sometimes lead you to dark and dangerous places. Or, in this particular case, ones that have absolutely no bearing on anything in RL.

So, I was rewatching "The Return, Part 1" the other day in preparation for writing up the related stories in my AJ 'verse. And, as we know, at the beginning of the episode John takes a puddle jumper to test the Intergalactic Gate Bridge, going from Atlantis to Midway to Earth in two short hops.

Now this works just fine for the first leg of the journey - after all, the puddle jumpers are designed to travel through Pegasus Stargates, and the first half of the IGB is essentially 17 Stargates taken from the Pegasus galaxy. With the exception of the forwarding macro, it's no different than flying a jumper through any Gate in Pegasus.

My problem comes when we get to the second leg of the journey. Because:

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 ("Stargate").

This, for me, brings two things to mind.

One, that while it may be possible to assign Pegasus glyphs to Milky Way ones on a one-to-one basis, it will be impossible for a puddle jumper to dial all possible addresses in the Milky Way. Since one of these is the point-of-origin, there will be about 800,000,000 possible addresses that a puddle jumper will not be able to dial (though, obviously, not all of these addresses will have Gates). I am also assuming that, because of this, they will have done something fairly easy when assigning Pegasus glyphs to take the place of Milky Way ones when dialing Earth from a puddle jumper - most likely making it so the Gate address for Atlantis becomes the Gate address for Earth when the macro is installed, so it's easy to remember.

Ie, so dialing this:

from a jumper at midway would be like dialing:

from a gate somewhere in the Milky Way system.

(This also begs the other question: how did alt!Jack know what to dial when he used the jumper to go from past!Chulak to past!Earth in "Moebius, Part 2" since they didn't know about Atlantis there? But that's something to address at a later time.)

Which brings us to our second and more problematic question: how on Earth/Lantea/Planet-of-Choice can puddle jumpers dial gates in the first place?

Now, from the series we know that the Stargates work in a particular way that, frankly, always seemed like an incredibly stupid way to go about  addressing planets - but that just might be me:

A Stargate address consists of two distinct parts: the destination and the starting location. The first six chevrons mark a three-dimensional area of space as the target. The last chevron is the point of origin, identifying where the Stargate is dialing from. Seven chevrons are used to dial within a galaxy, while the eighth and ninth are required for greater distances. The point of origin is always the last chevron, apart from the nine-chevron address, while any between it and the first six are modifiers that change how the system interprets the coordinates given. Assuming the dialing gate has enough power and neither is obstructed in any way, the wormhole will then form, allowing passage ("Stargate Address").

You'll notice I highlighted two different sections of this definition, as provided by Stargate Wiki. The first, "The first six chevrons mark a three-dimensional area of space as the target," is really of no importance to the discussion, except as mentioned above in relationship to dialing Earth from Midway. The second, "The last chevron is the point of origin, identifying where the Stargate is dialing from," is far more troubling however.

Points of Origin, after all, are troubling things. The Tau'ri couldn't use their gate until Daniel figured out which of their glyphs was the Point of Origin in the original Stargate. And, when Sam and Jack are trapped in Antarctica, one of their first conversations about their situation is:

O'NEILL: You ID'ed the seventh symbol yet?
CARTER: Yeah, this one has to be the point of origin. I've never seen it before. No...batteries...guess it's now or never. (SG-1 "Solitudes")

That's how big a deal it is. Even Jack, whose answer to everything scientific is "magnets" knows what a bind they're in if they can't figure out the Point of Origin - which really needs a better acronym then POO, btw.

But we also have a problem, because the writers obviously don't remember 17 years of in-'verse continuity like we do. Because, as we see in "Adrift":

McKAY: Alright. Two bits of good news. One: I have been able to calculate our exact location.
TEYLA: Does that mean we can use the Gate?
McKAY: Sadly, no. To activate the Gate, we require that we stay within a fairly small area of space. We’re moving too fast to use it.
SHEPPARD: Can we use the sub-lights to slow down?
McKAY: Well, it’d be great if they were working, but sub-light and navigation are out.
SHEPPARD: And you decided to put this in the “good news” category?
McKAY: Well, at least we’re not lost any more, right? (SGA "Adrift")

Now, normally I might say, "hey, they just dropped out of hyperspace. They've got to be moving fairly fast," but for two things: one, they can't be moving all that fast, because they spend most of the next thirty-eight hours or so travelling through the same star system, to include one of it's asteroid belts (or maybe it's Kuiper belt, which is more likely in my opinion). But assuming the solar system they fall in is of average size - say, with a radius of about 50 AU, like Sol's) and they drop out of hyperspace just inside the Kuiper belt on one side and pass out of it on the other... well, that's about 100 AUs to travel in 38 hours. That's about 2.63 AU - or 244,620,545.5 miles - per hour. That's 36.46% the speed of light. Two, they don't seem to suffer the effects of time dilation, so they can't be going all that close to the speed of light anyway.

But, as I've already determined, a puddle jumper can do 30 AUs in 15 hours, or 27.71% the speed of light. That's less than 10% difference in speeds and, well, we really don't know how fast Atlantis was going. So assuming it's anywhere close to what a puddle jumper can do, why is it that SHE is going too fast to calculate a new point of origin but a puddle jumper going about the same speed doesn't have the same issue when dialing in-flight?

So, I thought, "maybe the puddle jumpers have some sort of stellar drift calculator thing like the DHDs have, only much more effective because jumpers move a lot faster than stars." But then I thought, "no, because, if that was the case, Rodney would have suggested taking that algorithm or whatever from a jumper and using it for the city, thus solving all their problems then and there."

So either, one, there is a cut-off speed somewhere above a jumper's top speed and below whatever speed Atlantis was going in "Adrift" at which a POO cannot be calculated; two, whatever calculations a jumper uses for its POO are somehow not applicable to Atlantis, do to size, mass, or the differences between travelling through a Gate as opposed to dialing one on the move; or, three, Rodney is simply not aware of whatever calculations the jumper does for it's POO, or does not understand them, or something else along those lines. Frankly, I think the second option is more likely - after all, all the jumper does is pass through the Gate, which is stationary, whereas dialing from a moving city has to offer a few more complications, - but it's still not a perfect fit.

And still doesn't answer how the jumper - or Wraith darts - can deal with the issue of dialing-while-moving at a significant percentage of the speed of light.

Or, better yet, how the puddle jumper flies at all. As rhia_starsong commented to me last night:

It's just that it's even less aerodynamic than a bumblebee, the drive pod nacelles are ridiculously delicate for the type of craft it's supposed to be, and what kind of power source are they using, anyway? And how do they recharge?

Now, as has been mentioned many times in books and movies on the subject, aerodynamics isn't really an issue in space, as there's no air to to worry about in the vacuum of space. That's why the Apollo Lunar Module looks so funky - it's designed purely to land on the moon, which requires very little of the same things as flying in atmosphere does. (From the Earth to the Moon "Spider", and, I think, A Man on the Moon, but probably every book on the subject. I've read too many to remember which.) So the fact it's essentially a flying tin can in the most literal of senses doesn't matter so much in space.

But, as rhia_starsong went on to mention:

Yeah, but jumpers are endo/exo atmospheric craft, so aerodynamics does matter for in-planet flight--they have to be able to get to space in the first place, right? That takes a lot of power, as well as a reasonably good design since they're like helicopters in how they take off and land. It's just that the show never addressed the how of the jumpers, and looking at them leaves a lot of questions.

Jumpers are designed to go in the atmosphere as well. They're designed to be the ultimate utility vehicle for the Ancients. Their version of a Humvee probably - it doesn't get that great gas mileage, sure, but, man, can it go anywhere it puts its mind to.

Because that's the only thing I can think of: Jumpers were never designed to be fighters. The Ancients never designed anything with war in mind, to include their warships, because war just wasn't something they did. Not until they encountered the Wraith in their twilight years anyway. The Jumpers were designed for utility and transport only. They didn't have to be fast. They didn't have to be heavily armed or shielded. They just had to get people and cargo from Place A to Place B, and then only under conditions in which transport beams/transportation rings would have been impractical. (Because they always use the transporter in ST; they only use the shuttlecraft when they have no other choice, remember.)

So that's it, I guess. To put my navy training to use, it's a C-2A Greyhound, not a F/A-18 Hornet. It's main purpose is for carrier onboard delivery, not dog-fighting - but boy does it have a kick. (According to my head RDC, a Greyhound was able to bring him from 700 miles off the coast of California to the hospital in 15 minutes, in time to see his first child be born. It moves so fast, you have to sit backwards; he'd no idea they'd even taken off until he looked out the window. Or, as I've also discovered, it's how the whole maneuver to capture the baddie in NCIS s6e2, "Agent Afloat", works.) The jumper doesn't have to be anything other than able to ferry people, cargo, and parts between city-ships and spaceships. It doesn't need to. It was never designed to.

As for it's design itself... Well... "Well, keep in mind this is the race that built the Stargates. They did everything big." On the (rather ridiculousness  it must be admitted) Kardashev Scale, they were at least a Type IV civilization - a civilization in possession of energy on the scale of the universe itself - if not a Type V - a civilization capable of harnessing the energy of the entire multiverse, - as they draw their power from multiple ZPMS. Tapping into other universes for their energy needs was not an issue for them. Power was not an issue for them. If they wanted to waste a lot of it making a tin can fly, well, they could, because conservation and practicality just don't seem to have been isues for them. I mean, look at Atlantis: she's beautiful, but as a spaceship she's kinda the most ridiculous thing a demented mind might build to fly through space. Even with the shield.


So, I've no idea how they power the jumpers. Or how the jumpers can dial in-flight. Or, really, what good this long monologue does at all. Only that these things have been bothering me for a while and I'm hoping to get input from whoever might bother to read this on the matter.

Hm, I hadn't thought about the jumpers potentially not being able to dial all the Milky Way addresses. Would it be an instance of the actual glyphs not even being there, or would it be something that could be addressed with a firmware patch? For that matter, would a Pegasus gate even be able to dial those addresses? What about their home galaxy? It could be gotten around by saying that the Ancients had already discovered all these things and never bothered recording them, so Rodney et al wouldn't necessarily be aware of them.

Re: power, that is a good point. The Ancients never seemed overly fussed about where/how much power came from/took to do things, or surely they would have created a single power source for the city rather than relying on three for full power. Nonetheless, the jumpers still would either have to recharge somehow or have an energy source similar to a ZPM. Since they weren't being used for those 10,000 years Iohannes was in stasis, I think it's a reasonable assumption that their power sources were not being used. I still think they must fly in atmo with some kind of anti-grav field; the design is also not conducive to staying airborne.

Why, oh why, don't the show's writers ever put this much thought into these things?
Pegasus Gates have 35 non-POO glyphs. Milky Way ones have 38. Meaning there are 3 glyphs that Pegasus would never be able to dial on a one-to-one ratio. But if, say, you hook up a tablet and transfer the controls there, well, I don't know why that wouldn't fix itself. But since we never see them doing it...

The only gate, canonically, able to dial the Milky Way from Pegasus is Atalantis' because of the special control crystal. But theoretically any Milky Way gate could dial Atlantis, provided it had enough power to do so.

The Gates in the Home Galaxy were created after the Ancients left by the Ori (in my head!canon, their design was stolen from early prototypes left behind by the Ancients as they fled to Avalon), so it's doubtful one could dial the other. At least, not easily and not without a lot of power.

Re: Power, I see the Ancients as being a wantonly wasteful people. They have so much and can get more so very easily that the idea of conversation never really came to mind until they were in their Plague/Siege years and had no choice but to scavange/recycle from their cities.

Re: flying, well, whatever their power source, I imagine the city's ZPMS recharge them somehow. As for how they fly, well, someone with a lot more knowledge of fluid dynamics will have to address that. All I shall say is, hypersonic airplanes that we have no don't nessciarly look classically aerodynamic. Maybe the same logic applies for near-light-speed ships. Maybe.
I think l am more puzzeled now than before

My brain aches.

Rodney would call me a moron and an idiot
The Ancients have used the jumpers on Earth - we see that in Rising, as we follow a jumper to Atlantis, which then takes off. Perhaps the Ancients have found a way to make it possible to dial Milky Way gates? Perhaps a sub-menu, where the jumper detects a Milky Way gate and it flips to that sub dialing menu?

I don't know. I'm pretty sure I'm not intelligent enough to be taking part in this discussion. I'm just smart enough to follow along, but not intelligent enough to contribute :P

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).

I'm going to link her to this - she may find it fascinating.
Ooh, I like the idea of a submenu - but there are still only 36 buttons (I'm assuming) and 39 glyphs for the Milky Way. Or maybe not. It certainly doesn't ::look:: like 36. I'd say the neural interface plays a part, only non-geneusers have dialed before...

The 9th chevron science is really sketchy. Maybe, since Destiny dates back to the first gen of gates, they worked differently before? More fixed addresses for each gate, like locks, instead of the stellar location ones we get in the Milky Way and Pegasus...

Oooh, head!canon is forming. Please hold while my mind reboots.
The Ancients were smart, if wasteful. Surely they had a way to compensate for the difference in numbers of buttons? Once the jumper detects the Milky Way gate and switches to the sub menu, something else is activated? I'm looking at the jumper console, and perhaps a... tray slides out, and it's a secondary DHD with Milky Way symbols?

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).

LOL *stands by*
(nod) It's probably to do with the movement of the gate rather than the jumper, but it's still troublesome.

I've a theory I'm working on about the Gates and the Gate systems, but my basic feeling is that the science behind them is so completely screwy that it could a) never work or b) only be designed by an ETI so far beyond my limited understanding that it's just embaressing for all involved. But you're right, any reall issues with dialing and differences beetween galaxies can probably be explained away as a prop issue.
>> Then I think it would be safe to say that all jumper are capable of navigating either system. <<

That's what I thought as well. IIRC Atlantis left Earth for Pegasus and we know from "Rising" that they used the jumpers on Earth. Which means, the jumpers were used in the Milky Way before they ever reached Pegasus - which also means that the system had to be adapted to Pegasus while it already worked in the Milky Way. And since I don't think they canceled one function for the other but rather added the capability of navigating the Pegasus system the jumper should be able to navigate both systems. Probably a matter of the software, so to speak.

>>As for jumpers dialing in flight, they dial to a stationary gate. The speed in which the jumper is moving has no effect on that, aside from possibly maximum distance the dialing signal can reach.<<

Again, yes, that was my understanding of it as well. In my imagination it was just something like a remote control. The jumper isn't the place whose POO is important since it does just remote-dialing a gate that does have it's own POO. All the jumper needs is kind of a signal to address the correct desired gate (and not every gate more or less near the jumper) and then the dialing sequence should be the same like from a stationary DHD in front of a gate.

Can I just say that I love this kind of pondering, though I don't have any thoughts to offer on the subject, sorry. Wish I did. But reading is just as fun ^_^ I love your brain for coming up with this, and everyone's thinky thought comments!

And you like NCIS too??? \o/ My other favourite show! (and the other I write slash in)

Edited at 2013-04-13 09:37 am (UTC)
I just got into it - caught a couple episodes at the hotel before shipping out and just got S3, because I admit to only watching it for shipping purposes.

and I love this kind of pondering too. I think I'll do one on Stargates later
Random thought
Have you thought about indexing all your rants / written out thought processes and then linking to the index, for example, from your sidebar?

Then if either you or one of your followers wanted to find something specific it would be easier to find. Plus, then Whoever-They-Are would have a nice place to link to and credit if they used anything from your portfolio (i.e. one of the calculations).
Re: Random thought
I can do that. Right now they're all under "series notes" in the AJ 'Verse link, but I can add that too if you think you might help. I'm a Digital Media person by trade and am always looking to improve user friendliess of my webpates.
Re: Random thought
I found the AJ-verse series notes by using the tag "fic: notes" (did I miss the link in the overall AJ-verse page? for some reason, I thought it was there but couldn't find it) and after a bit of scrolling found the relevant journal entry. Which is currently not updated. Possibly you just haven't gotten around to it, yet?

What I had in mind when I proposed this sidebar-linked-index idea was a list of the entries you had already made, with possibly a sentence or two to give an idea of the contents. (If that's not too much). It would probably be wisest to sort it just by date added (i.e. latest entry at the bottom / top) because that way it's the easiest to see if you've added the latest or not.

Or maybe just a tag meant specifically for those types of posts and then link the tag. Though, in my personal opinion, an index page requires more work but gives a better overview of covered topics.