13 April 2012

"H" is for...

HANDWAVIUM

Handwavium Crystals on Mars
Handwavium Crystals on Mars, from the author's collection.

   Handwavium is one of a myriad of miraculous substances, both naturally occurring and man-made, which inhabit the many realms of Victorian Science Fiction. And those scientific wonders are what make the weird science of the anachronistic setting possible. A partial listing of them, with sources:
  • Liftwood (Space: 1889)
  • Hydrium (Kenneth Opel's Airborn)
  • Ghost rock (Deadlands / Great Rail Wars)
  • Unobtainite / Unobtainium (misc. - I have my own version)
  • Cavorite (H.G. Wells' First Men on the Moon)
  • Bongolesian Oxyweed (mine)
   In my VSF universe, handwavium is a green translucent crystal, and quite rare. It can be found in very small quantities on Earth, mainly in remote areas of Africa and South America, though a supply is rumored to be somewhere in Siberia as well. It is much more common - though still very rare - on Mars and Venus. When bathed in an acidic solution, it generates a great deal of heat without combustion, and therefore, no oxygen is used up in the reaction. It is used primarily to generate steam, in much the same manner as a modern nuclear reactor, without the nasty radioactive side effects. I call it 'handwavium' because that's what it does to the laws of physics as we understand them: "Physics? Pfffft!"

6 comments:

Kobold said...

Bongolesian Oxyweed has an effect similar to opium when smoked in a water pipe, so any perceived levitational properties are more akin to a pipe dream, one assumes.

Elderac said...

I was racking my brain trying to think what H might be. I thought of Hydrogen and Heliograph, but neither of those are necessarily uniquely VSF.

This works wonderfully, especially after I have read it in your earlier posts.

You may want to add the 8th and 9th rays to your list from ERB's Mars novels. Along with his use of "Radium", that is handwaving at its finest.

Mark "Geo" Gelinas

J Womack, Esq. said...

@Kobold: No, not quite - it's actually toxic when smoked. Bongolesian Oxyweed -or, more properly - the Bongolesian Oxygen Plant (Oxygenesis bongolesia) is a rare plant which produces incredible amounts of oxygen when subjected to the proper environmental conditions of temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, etc. Quite useful for long interplanetary jaunts. Found (so far) only in the highlands of remote Bongolesia, it is a prized botanical specimen.

J Womack, Esq. said...

@Elderac: The mysterious 8th and 9th rays of barsoom are, indeed, handwaving at its finest. And the radium rifles, of infinite range and supreme deadliness... well, I always liked the image ERB gave of dawn on a battlefield following a nighttime battle - the explosion of all the projectiles laying about.

Eli Arndt said...

I used a mineral called Gravocite that was not itself burned but produced a anti-gravitic effect when it was heated up. It could refined into a more efficient, liquid form called Gravosene.

-Eli

J Womack, Esq. said...

A different mineral, unobtainite, produces an anti-gravitational effect when a galvanic current is run through it. This produces lift sufficient for armoured airships. It is a blue crystal.