Science in Mass Effect

Blog post Number 50 Written: 07-26-2021 Uploaded 03-17-2023 (Happy St. Patrick’s day.)

Update: I have also been playing through the Mass Effect franchise games on my YouTube channel. Here’s a playlist…

Mass Effect gets around the FTL problem that is so common in science fiction, without breaking the laws of physics which is good in my opinion. But the way they did it is only so-so. Mass Effect is one of my favorite games, I think it’s an excellent story and in most other ways their science and tech isn’t bad, but in this one rather big way… it’s not bad, but I’m not going to call it fantastic either. It is, at least to me a unique solution.

            Mass Effect introduces a mysterious unknown element, a fake material called “Element Zero” According to the game, Element Zero can be manipulated with electricity to increase or decrease the mass of objects depending on the polarity of the electrical field applied to the Element Zero. As well as the amount of Element zero, the amount of electricity applied, and the proximity to the reaction.

Obviously, this is just a cop-out. There is no way for an element, at least not with my understanding and grasp of high school physics for an element, regardless of the electrical field applied to it, to change the relative mass of itself or anything around it. It’s a cool idea though.

So, to get around the speed of light problem, they just decreased the mass of the object in motion going back to the E=MC^2 equation, if the mass is reduced to, or near enough to zero, you can go extremely, fast, not just because of the increased power to weight ration but because of the way the aforementioned equation works. You can’t exceed the speed of light, because the closer you get to it, the more mass you have, and therefore the more thrust it requires to continue accelerating and you get stuck in an infinite loop of more thrust to go a tiny bit faster and you never actually reach FTL. But if the mass is zero… then you have an entirely different problem on your hands.

Anyway, that’s how the Mass Effect franchise got around the FTL problem, it’s not bad, it’s not good, but it is a thing, and as far as I know, they’re the only ones to have worked the problem, worked the equation from the mass direction instead of the speed or power side of the formula. Anyway… have fun, and read some sci-fi. I’d like to hear about anyone or anything else that uses this same less mass equals more than light speed solution to the faster than light problem in their sci-fi universe and not the typical warp, jump, skip, blink drive system. Small spoiler here, But I have multiple methods of FTL in The Descendant. Different races would have different solutions for the same problem after all, wouldn’t they?

Thanks for stopping by, I’ll see you out there.

Published by chacerandolph

Science fiction author and Avionics Technician

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