The Known Space series features a number of "superscience" inventions which act as plot devices. Stories earlier in the timeline feature technology such as Bussard ramjets, and explore how organ transplantation technology enables the new crime of organlegging, while later stories feature Hyperdrive, invulnerable starship hulls, stasis fields, molecular monofilaments, transfer booths (teleporters used only on planetary surfaces), the lifespan-extending drug boosterspice, and the tasp which is capable of stimulating the pleasure centers of the brain from a distance.
The milieu can be viewed as representing the last gasp of Campbell-era science fiction, as the iconoclastic, counterculture influences of "new wave" science fiction of the sixties play no part in most of the stories. However, there are notable exceptions in the "Gil the ARM" stories; and Jigsaw Man first appeared in Harlan Ellison's landmark "new wave" anthology, Dangerous Visions.
A machine in the form of a cocoon used to heal an individual. Most Known Space races have them for their kind. Puppeteer designed variants are often capable of healing human and Kzinti as well. Each autodoc administers anesthetics, medicines, etc to deal with almost any known damage.
The most advanced auto-doc built is the Carlos Wu-Autodoc. It was produced after Carlos Wu switched from using his genius from physics to medical applications. It utilizes advance nano machine derived healing techniques to rebuild a patient's body from the cellular level on up. It was also modified to be able to alter memory patterns.
Oft used devices that recycle organic biomass into useable food, medicine and clothing. Scaleable to fit on a hover bike, house, ship, or large station of some sort. Human varieties typically can make any dish thinkable on earth or human worlds, Kzinti varieties can produce raw body temperature warm meat, and etc. for other races. All have an exit slot for food and such.
Boost lasers Edit
These large typically moon and asteroid mounted lasers provided the initial start-up velocity of a slow boat to move it to a speed where it could begin to fire it's ramscoop engine. They were used as defensive armaments in the first Man-Kzin war in conjunction with Fusion drive powered ships.
A compound that increases the longevity and reverses aging of human beings. With the use of boosterspice, humans can easily live into hundreds of years and, theoretically, it can extend life indefinitely.
Humans have been led to believe it is made from genetically engineered ragweed (although early stories have it ingested in the form of edible seeds) but, in Ringworld's Children, it is suggested boosterspice may actually be adapted from Tree-of-Life, without the symbiotic virus that enabled hominids to metamorphose from Pak Breeder stage to Pak Protector stage (mutated Pak breeders were the ancestors of both homo sapiens and the hominids of the Ringworld in the Known Space universe).
On the Ringworld, there is an analogous (and apparently more potent) compound, but they are mutually incompatible; in The Ringworld Engineers, Louis Wu learns that the character Harloprillalar (his lover) died when in ARM custody after leaving the Ringworld, as a result of having taken boosterspice and previously having used the Ringworld equivalent.
Bubble Worlds Edit
Hollowed out iron asteroids heated internally by fusion plant and inflated. They are then spun to create a hardened bubble. Centripetal(centrifugal) forces inside simulate gravity. Amongst other uses it allows pregnant Belters to safely carry a baby to term.
Bussard Ramjets Edit
Ramjet or Ramscoops are a slower than light interstellar drive. Whilst moving through space, above a certain speed, large high energy electromagnetic fields funnel and compress interstellar hydrogen into a reactor region wherein nuclear fusion occurs. The high energy helium is used as propulsive exhaust, ramscoops can achieve high fractions of the speed of light. The human "golden age of colonization" was achieved through use of robotic "slowboats" each a pre-programmed ramscoop that took a colony of embyronic humans and animals to a habitable point in space. Other users of the technology are the Pak, first know in the Earth expedition, again later in the Ringworld construction group, then in the Library war fleet following Phsspok, and finally in the Pak evacuation fleet.
While using a special beam to either suppress the charge on the electrons, or the protons in the material being affected a disintegrator causes electrostatic repulsion to rapidly disintegrate any object on the atomic scale. Typically used as a large scale digging tool. Point aim, fire, and then hold your breath until the atomized dust clears. Smaller hand held versions have been used as defensive gear in many instances. Puppeteers created a newer more dangerous version, one with dual beams, one to suppress the charge on electrons, the other protons. This induces a massive temporary current. Usually resulting in an explosion of small statically charge debris. This technology found it's most terrible militarization in the "Wunderland Treatymaker" so named as it was used to reclaim Wunderland from the Kzinti by just the threat of its use. It is a dual beam disintegrator so large it is towed by Human warships into place. Both beams firing result in the target world being ravaged by what can only be described as a solid bar of lightning twelve miles across. The planet Canyon was so renamed after the Treatymaker was used to zigzag a path of destruction across it - and opened a gash into the planet's mantle.
A device for direct electrical stimulation of the brain's pleasure center, plugged directly into a socket that is surgically attached to the skull. The user of a droud, known as a'wirehead, suffers from current addiction. The operation to attach the droud's socket is performed by a specialized surgeon known as an ecstasy peddler.
Flashlight lasers Edit
These are typically of Puppeteer manufacture; these simple devices have a light beam with two settings, one for the spread of the beam (anywhere between a large swathe or a small point) and a wavelength setting. Capable of focusing the entirety of a bright visible beam down to a very tiny point further compressed as the wavelength is reduced. Part tool part weapon. Not to be sneezed at as a weapon, Louis Wu used one to kill the Protector Teela Brown in The Ringworld Engineers.
Fusion drive Edit
"A fusion drive is a weapon, powerful in direct ratio to its efficiency as a drive", - from a Kzinti lesson. Fusion drives are a typical propulsion method in most of known space, though habitable worlds tend to have steep penalties for activation in an atmosphere (usually a death penalty). Fusion drives use high energy magnetic fields to compress light fuels, plain hydrogen, deuterium, tritium, helium 3, or stellar protons to generate thrust. Also notable is the Kzinti lesson. While the Kzinti war fleet believed that golden age human worlds were unarmed the availability of fusion drives tended to make up for this lack. Human pilots tended to drive straight for a Kzinti vessel only to turn around, and fire the fusion drive bathing the target in plasma exhaust at millions of degrees and saturated with X-rays.
Simplisitic robotic suits built most often to give a species the ability to move about in higher gravity environments than they can otherwise. Outsiders use them whenever getting close to a human bargainer as the human's bodily gravity would rend the Outsider apart otherwise. Gw'oth use them whenever in an out of water situation. And humans use them in combat and when dealing with high gee environs.
Holographic Projectors Edit
Projectors providing three dimensional views of an object or presentation. The quality of the images produced varies from poor to nearly life like.
Better known as the GP hull material, it is made of energetically reinforced nano-scale macro molecules. Transparent to visible light, and highly durable, the nearly impervious state allows for vehicles and structures to be built to withstand ridicoulous amounts of punishment. GP hulled ship Lying Bastard crash landed on the Ringworld floor while moving at over 770 miles per second. It was also blasted by a large X-Ray laser, the Ringworld's meteor defense, triggered by the Ringworld in it's own sun (A Stasis field was also triggered during these events in defense as well; as while the Lying Bastard's General Products #2 Hull was in no danger during these events, the inertia of the ship's occupants would have killed them otherwise. A General Products hull is does not protect it's occupants from gravity, nor inertial effects).
Faster Than Light (FTL) propulsion, or hyperdrive, was obtained from the Outsiders at the end of the first Man-Kzin wars. In addition to winning the war for humanity, it allowed the re-integration of all the human colonies, which were previously separated by distance. There exist three (possibly four) general types of hyperdrive: Quantum I, Quantum II, and the slaver drive. The Outsiders are rumored to have "something better" than hyperdrive, though no one has been able to afford it. Quantum I Hyperdrive allows for transit at a rate of 122 times light speed. Quantum II allows for transit at 420,480 times light speed. The slaver drive was a jump-centric system and little is known about its operation besides that. Humanity's gaining the Quantum I Hyperdrive as a result of Puppeteer meddling by using a device called a Starseed lure to draw a Starseed (an extraterrestrial space faring organism, followed by Outsider ships for reasons unknown) to the Human colony "We Made It". There, a hyperdrive, as well as its schematics was sold to humanity. The Puppeteers developed their Quantum I hyperdrive separately (or obtained it from the Outsiders so long ago it was forgotten). However the Quantum II hyperdrive was created and fitted aboard the ship "Long Shot" by The Puppeteer's trading empire, General Products, when it was originally thought to be too cumbersome to be practical. It was revealed to have been of the same size as a normal Hyper Drive Shunt in Ringworld's Children (novel). Hyperdrive technology also allows for near instantaneous communication through hyperwave radios, and hyperwave buoys. The buoys are laid outside of traditional hyperwave singularity zones to operate.
Impact Armor Edit
Nano scale fabric capable of sensing non-relativistic projectiles and reacting by stiffening to deflect and absorb the energy protecting the wearer, while allowing high freedom of movement.
Invulnerable Hulls Edit
The Puppeteer firm, General Products, produces an invulnerable starship hull, known simply as a General Products Hull. The hulls are impervious to any type of matter or energy, with the exceptions of visible light and antimatter. While nearly invulnerable themselves, this is no guarantee that the contents are likewise protected. For example, a high speed impact with the surface of a planet or star may cause no harm to the hull, the occupants however will be crushed if they are not protected by additional measures, such as a stasis field, or a gravity compensating field. Other "non-warranty related risks" are substantial amounts of anti-matter and the Gw'oth method. GP product hulls come in four given sizes, type #1,or satellite sized GP hulls, small enough to rest on a tabletop. Type #2 a roughly needle shaped hull with only two doors in the sides. Type #3 a large cylindrical hull, docking bay, engine outlet, much else. And the type #4 a mile and a half diameter sphere. GP hulls tend to ablate upon exposure to anti-matter,unlike normal hulls, this gives vessels in a system such as Cannonball Express (a human known anti-matter solar system) a periodic entry time before destruction. Early GP hulls made little allowance for tidal effects from intense gravitational fields, as shown when a GP hulled ship piloted by Beowulf Shaffer shear itself apart due to the tidal effects induced by a neutron star
Monomolecular Wire Edit
Wire produced by a company of human origin that has a nano-scopic scale. It MUST be handled with extreme care as there are many who have lost life and limb to the extreme scale of it's size to strength ratio. When under tension it has been known to cut through steel etc.
Monopole Detectors Edit
Specialized scanners used by Belters to look for the presence of magnetic monopoles.
Nuclear Supressors Edit
A Pak derived technology that produces a signal which may be carried by radio waves, light, or hyperwave which results in the interactions between nuclei going awry and shutting down any self -propagation of energy through nuclear fuel. Often small enough to fit on a tabletop. Pak derived Pinch Fields are a variant in this technology and allow nuclear reactions to take place within a nuclear suppression field. See Protector, Phsspok for more
Outsider drive Edit
While the planetary drives used by the Puppeteers to move their worlds are usually referred to as Outsider drives, the real outsider drives allow for a mixture of hyperdrive and planetary drive effects. They ulitize a methodology that either pulls massive amounts of energy from, or dumps it to, hyperspace. Outsiders tend to think of traveling in hyperspace as vulgar. Outsider drive fitted ships (themselves cities made of a massive miles long cluster of metal ribbons with a fusion plant at one end) can go from zero relative to (at least) light speed without any problems.
Planetary Drive Edit
Originally purchased by the Concordance of Citizens, these are installed on all Puppeteer worlds. They can push a world steadily toward relativistic speeds, but not FTL, speeds. All planetary drives force a series of short directional pulses out of the quantum foam making up space-time. By averaging these tiny spurts of thrust an Outsider planetary drive can generate motion without a thruster pressure field, or reaction mass. Puppeteer created variants usually destabilize within a few seconds and result in a massive chaos range erupting across spacetime (possibly hyperspace as well). In this range physical constants of the universe change with random fluctuations. Densities change wildy, and material usually explodes from the device at the speed of light.
The penultimate Pak building material. With a semi-superconductor state Scrith rapidly transfers heat energy away from a point of focus. Scrith blocks roughly 40% of all neutrinos going through it, equivalent to a light years width of lead. Transparent to magnetic fields it is the building material of the Ringworld's floor,walls, and the foundation of the Shadow Square and the wires connecting them. The only known way to damage scrith it to apply either relativistic levels of force, or by the direct application of anti-matter.
A small spacecraft occupied and flown by only one person. It is a term short for singleoccupant spaceship. Singleships are commonly used by Belters for mining and transportation. During the Man-Kzin Wars they were also used as warships, since the fusion jet (hence the colloquial name Torchship) which propels the vessel could be used like a miles-long flamethrower.
Skycars, Hoverbikes Edit
Typically vehicles used when teleportation systems are unavaible or impractical, as well as ships. Both types use a repulsion motor to either exert a force against gravity or, for Ringworld vehicles, the motive magnetic layer in the floor. Hoverbikes have an enclosure known as a sonic fold. it projects beams or sound to create a region free of the lashing wind induced by travel at high speeds.
Sleeping plates Edit
An alternative to beds in known space. They generate a small zero g region allowing sleepers to relax. Plates have a top and bottom half, and must be set for the number of sleepers otherwise persons entering will be juggled together.
A device similar to a cziltang brone used by pak protectors to alter the physical characterisitcs of materials around them, varying between softening, hardening, transparency, or electromagnetic properties.
Starseed lure Edit
Little revealed devices that cause solar radiation to vary widely, this attracts Starseeds.
Organ Transplantation Edit
On Earth in the mid 21st century it became possible to transplant any organ from any person to another, with the exception of Brain and central nervous system tissue. Individuals were categorized according to their so-called "rejection spectrum" which allowed doctors to counter any immune system responses to the new organs, allowing transplants to "take" for life. It also enabled the crime of organlegging which lasted well into the 24th century.
Stasis Fields Edit
Creates a bubble of space/time that runs separately from the rest of the universe. Time effectively stops for an object in stasis. An object in stasis is invulnerable to anything occurring outside the field, as well as being preserved indefinitely. A stasis field may be recognized by its perfectly reflecting surface, so perfect in fact that it reflects 100% of all radiation and particles, including neutrinos. Stasis fields are one of only two things currently known to reflect neutrinos from deep radar pings. The other being neutronium. Note: A stasis field may be cancelled out by another stasis field becoming active if they both try to occupy the same space. Stasis field generators are used in a variety of applications. Medical variants occur to hold time sensitive patients in a stable state for transport, or until proper medical care is available, another application is for emergency crash stasis fields that will protect a vehicle's crew from harm.
Stepping disk Edit
A more resilient and elegant form of transit than human transfer booths. They employ open field zones and have multiple safety interlocks to prevent malfunction. Stepping disks are often fitted with molecular filters to speed simplistic transfer, either or ship refueling or oxygen carbon dioxide circulation. Stepping disks may also operate in an open mode, that is a stream of matter may be sent through at a high rate, be it water, solar plasma, particle beams, stones, or bullets.
Devices used to deliberately interfere with electronic bugs, and snooping sensors.
A device for direct stimulation of the brain's pleasure center, like a droud, but which operates at a distance. To use a tasp on someone, e.g., in a public park, is known colloquially as 'to make someone's day'. As the kzin Speaker-to-Animals notes in Ringworld, only a sophisticate fears a tasp. Tasp models do not work across species boundaries much
Thrusters are a form of zero emission motive device invented by the Outsiders in deep interstellar space. they produce a thrust field which may or may not crush material underneath if not properly protected. These devices are theoretically impossible but most races decide not to rack their minds trying to determine how the Outsiders create them.
Transfer Booths Edit
An inexpensive form of teleportation. They are similar in appearance to an old style telephone booth: one enters, dials one's desired destination, and is immediately deposited in a corresponding booth at the destination. They are inexpensive: a trip anywhere on Earth costs only a "tenth-star" (presumably equivalent to a dime). However a star is accosted as the value of mailing a wallet sized object anywhere planetwide. Transit motor, a small much simplified version of a stepping booth, notable example in the glasses at a particular restaurant in known space the proprietor constantly refills customers glasses with alcohol.
A specific, highly programable material favored by the Pak for use in vehicles. Twing can be altered at a moments notice by a softener to be pliable enough for one to walk through, or just as easily hardened or turned transparent.
Variable Swords Edit
Variable swords are a cutting implement housing a small mono-molecular wire held in a stasis field. The field allows the wire to hold together without breaking down, and provides a cutting edge capable ot slicing through almost any material. After a fashion, variable swords managed to recreate fencing in some worlds, though distances between combatants were much larger. The nearly invisible blade typically has a large red ball at the end to indicate the extent of the blade.