Edward Carr sat two rows behind Macomber as Walker, Nina, and Jennifer went through their presentation. Unlike Peterson, Carr had never been vocal one way or the other about the theories thrown about. Macomber watched all in silence, and Ed was content to wait until the end, despite Peterson’s frequent interruptions.
Ed lazily sketched on his slate, occasionally looking at the simulation of Hermes crossing the threshold of the heliopause and into interstellar space.
“We believe this is the point of acceleration,” Jennifer was saying. “Hermes was caught up by dark energy winds—” Ed sat forward at that. “—at a velocity of 1.4 light years per hour. It kind of tumbled through space, buffeted by these winds, and then the mesh was torn loose after 14 minutes, when it lost its superluminal speed.”
“Did you say winds?” Macomber asked the question on everybody’s mind.
Jennifer hesitated, then nodded. “Yes. That’s the closest analogy we can come up with. The idea is that, outside of the heliopause, dark energy winds are constantly in motion, blowing throughout the galaxy faster than the speed of light.”
“You mean tachyons?” Peterson asked. “Like a stream of them?”
Jennifer frowned, shaking her head. “No. What we know, or theorize, about tachyons wouldn’t do the job. They would have to come from some kind of source, like the sun sending out photons and other particles. We think that dark energy doesn’t have a precise source. We think that a property of dark energy is that it is like the atmosphere of the galaxy, or maybe the universe, and is constantly moving, like wind.”
For once, Peterson was quiet as he scratched his head and consulted his slate.
Macomber rubbed at his chin. “Ladies, gentleman, that is one hell of a leap. But tell me this, why wasn’t Hermes smashed to atomic particles by the acceleration?”
Peterson looked up briefly, and began nodding, but his head was still into whatever calculations he was doing.
Jennifer frowned again, looking to Nina and Walker, both of whom shrugged, then nodded. “We don’t know. As best we can tell, we are violating Newtonian motion and Relativity all over the place. The gravimeter should have been obliterated, but it’s as if the acceleration didn’t really happen.”
“Anyone?” Macomber asked.
Ed doodled again.
What if it’s a different medium, with different laws?
“What was that, Ed?” Macomber turned to him.
Every eye was on Ed, then, including Peterson’s now-perpetual frown.
Oh, I said that out loud.
He cleared his throat.
“What if it’s a different medium? Like . . . putting something underwater. Buoyancy and water resistance are now factors, properties of the new medium.”
“The new medium doesn’t negate previous laws of physics—” Peterson began when Macomber held up a hand.
“Keep going, Ed,” Macomber encouraged.
“Well, what if one of the properties of dark energy is to counteract, or maybe make Newtonian acceleration irrelevant. I mean, we’re not talking about a tiny bit faster than the speed of light; this is several times that. Think about it, Hermes traveled at 1.4 light years per hour. In fourteen minutes, it ended up 87 light days away. We have to be operating in a completely different framework, with forces we don’t understand.”
“That’s certainly possible,” Nina said.
“Well what the hell are we supposed to do, now?” Peterson said. “We’ve got half theories and speculation. Where’s our proof? If we take this to the community, we’ll be laughed out.”
“I think we need to start doing what any good scientist does, and experiment to find out new information.” Macomber pointed to the sketch Ed had been working on.
Ed blinked at the rough sketch of a satellite with a sail in front of it.