Refining the art of collapsing a wormhole

9th March 2013 – 3.20 pm

Collapsing a wormhole is a curious art. I got the hang of it better when I reversed my calculations. Instead of relying on how much mass I was putting through the wormhole, I started thinking about how little mass was left on the wormhole. Now, I know they kinda sound like the same amount, but focussing attention on the wormhole instead of the ships turns out to be important. This is because not every wormhole is spawned the same, and tolerances matter. Concentrating on how much mass has been pushed through the wormhole can make you lose sight of the margins of error.

A second change I made to our wormhole collapsing operations is to push exactly half of the total allowed mass through the wormhole first. We used to work out what ships would be needed to collapse the wormhole completely, and just push the biggest ones through first. But doing the operation half-and-half makes it more precise, as you can then easily tell if other, unknown ships have transited the wormhole, or if the wormhole is on the chubby side.

For our wormhole, with its total mass of 2,000,000,000 kg, throwing an Orca industrial command ship—300,000,000 kg mass with micro warp drive active—and Widow black ops ship—200,000,000 kg with MWD active—out and back again should stress it to half-mass. If it drops to half mass, we use the same ships again. If it doesn't, we both use Orcas for the next trip. This is because the wormhole must still allow over 1,000,000,000 kg of mass to pass, as it isn't at half-mass, which is enough for three Orca trips. One out and back, and one out. The wormhole is guaranteed to survive to that point, with a mass allowance of roughly 100,000,000 kg left. Jumping the second Orca home then guarantees the wormhole will collapse.

It's an elegant method, even if I still make the occasional mistake. Stress the wormhole with half its listed mass allowance, see how it behaves, and determine the best course of action. Now, our neighbouring class 3 w-space system residents took a more casual attitude to killing our static wormhole, although it worked to prevent me killing one of their ships. But it leaves us with a critically unstable wormhole, of indeterminate mass. Well, actually, it doesn't. I've seen which ships have come and gone, and saw when the wormhole halved. I can do some maths.

Our static wormhole dropped to half-mass when a battleship jumped back to C3a. All I have to do is set some boundaries on the mass limits, assume best and worse cases, and perform some calculations. First, as the wormhole dropped to half-mass its current maximum mass allowance can be taken as 990,000,000 kg, although exactly half its mass can be used for simplicity, and perhaps accuracy. Second, I need to know the masses of the ships involved. I'll use engineering estimates for this, as exact numbers will be messy.

A standard battleship masses 100,000,000 kg. A standard battleship with active MWD will mass 150,000,000 kg. A standard Orca masses 250,000,000 kg, and one with its MWD active will mass 300,000,000 kg. So, given that a battleship halved the wormhole, and we already know the upper bound, the lower bound will be the upper bound less the maximum mass of the battleship (more-or-less). I assume the battleship used its MWD, to make collapsing the wormhole quicker, which puts the lower bound at 840,000,000 kg.

After the wormhole was halved, three battleships came and went, as did an Orca, at which point the wormhole dropped to critical mass. Three maximum-mass battleships, plus one maximum mass Orca, is:

3 × 150,000,000 kg + 300,000,000 kg = 750,000,000 kg

Which changes our upper and lower bounds to 240,000,000 kg and 90,000,000 kg respectively. Given that the critical mass of a wormhole is generally understood to be 10% of the total mass, which in this case is 200,000,000 kg, the upper bound will only be true if the wormhole spawned with 20% extra mass. Again, it is generally accepted that tolerances are around the 10% mark, so I can discount the upper bound. Importantly, this means that the ships are almost certainly actively using MWDs for each jump and I don't need to repeat the calculations for the alternative.

Even better, the lower bound is the absolute minimum mass left on the wormhole. Assuming maximum-mass ships, and the wormhole being right on the edge before dropping to half mass, the wormhole must still allow at least 90,000,000 kg through it. This makes the connection safe to pump a heavy interdictor through it, and we can finish the collapse relatively safely, which is a relief for our continuing operations. The only drawback is that one pass with the HIC may not be enough. That, and my glorious leader is shattered and needs to hit the sack.

All is not lost, though, as our neighbours aren't content with leaving the wormhole in its critical state. They're wise not to, as I could get my cloaky Loki strategic cruiser out and back again without it collapsing, and their mining operations won't be safe. And although I admire their tenacity in wanting to kill the wormhole completely, I am less impressed by their lack of finesse. I suppose we all have to start somewhere, but I thought the trick with a HIC was fairly well-known nowadays, and I certainly don't think throwing a Pilgrim recon ship back-and-forth is particularly scientific.

Buzzards to kill a wormhole? Say whaaaaaaaat?

Even curiouser is our neighbours' decision to push multiple covert operations boats through the wormhole, as they mass a smidgen over 1,000,000 kg, making them about as destructive to our wormhole as an ice cube falling out of a drink on the Titanic as it hit the iceberg. I can't help but sit and watch as multiple ships come and go, time and again, with the wormhole paying about as much attention as an elephant to a gnat taking a breather on its back. And, because of this haphazard approach to killing the wormhole, the inevitable happens. The Pilgrim jumps to our system, and the wormhole dies.

Pilgrim being used to kill a wormhole

Whilst I was kinda waiting for the wormhole to die to give me a new constellation to roam, I also was hoping for a ship to get stranded. But the C3ers, whilst not on the ball with their maths, aren't stupid. All the ships they used have covert operations cloaks. The Pilgrim may be isolated, but he disappears before I can even think about engaging him. Even so, I would not be smart to attack the recon ship here, in now-empty space. I don't know how my Loki would fare against the Pilgrim, and if it goes badly I would rather be able to flee. Thankfully, I have a good idea of where he's going next, which will also give me an escape route.

As the Pilgrim warps out to launch probes, so do I. I don't know if the pilot realises I am still here and watching, but his caution suggests he considers it. Even so, I have a head start. Our system may be fairly bare, but I know all the sites, and which signature must be the replacement static wormhole. I resolve it directly, warp to the wormhole, and jump as I notice the Pilgrim's probes disappear from my directional scanner. He's coming already.

I hold on the wormhole in the new C3a, where d-scan shows me a tower and no ships. That's good for now, as I'm going to be quite visible as I watch the Pilgrim enter the system. I'm ready and waiting, and pounce on the recon ship as soon as he breaks his session change cloak. If this goes badly I can jump home, and if it goes well I can chase him further. But if I can't even catch him on the wormhole, instead watching him move away and cloak smoothly, I'm not sure there's much more to be done.

I could scan and resolve the class 3 w-space system's exit to low-sec, out of the three anomalies and twenty signatures, and I probably will even get there before the Pilgrim. But to what end? The Pilgrim has shown that his cov-ops cloak can keep him safe, as long as he appears over two kilometres from the wormhole after jumping. To engage successfully I will need him to be unlucky. And not unlucky once, but twice, as he could jump from low-sec back to C3a, wait for polarisation effects to dissipate, and try to exit again. The odds of him appearing once in low-sec over two kilometres from the wormhole are much, much better than mine of his appearing under two kilometres from the wormhole in consecutive jumps.

On top of that, engaging the Pilgrim in low-sec, if I get the chance, will give my security status a hit, only for the pilot to jump back to C3a to try a second time. One or more drops to my security status in a protracted attempt to engage I ship I don't even know if I can beat seems rather self-destructive. And, if the combat goes badly, I will inevitably end up polarised on the same wormhole as the Pilgrim, getting chewed up by guns, or drones, or whatever. You know what? He's escaped. Good for him. And as this system is empty of other ships I'm going home to rest. At least I got a little entertainment and excitement for having watched our wormhole being collapsed.

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