I know that colonial society was fairly advanced (as shown in Caprica). However, besides the advances in AI, it does not seem that their technology is that much more ahead of ours. Yet they have spaceships, many of them capable of travelling faster than light. They also seem to have technology like artificial gravity. Yet space travel, at least to us, is incredibly complex. How do the colonials have such good space travel capabilities?

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    Weren't the colonies founded by space-faring folk? Couldn't they just have inherited the space travel knowledge? Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 23:57
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    IIRC the Galactica itself, at least, has deliberately low-tech physical wires and analogue technology because it is harder for the Cylons to hack into, an artefact of the first Cylon war.
    – evilsoup
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 16:11
  • "it does not seem that their technology is that much more ahead of ours" Can you explain this in more detail? It seems to form the premise of your question, but I can't tell what you're referring to with it, other than some vague notion of "apart from the Colonials being mega-advanced, Colonials are not mega-advanced" Commented May 16, 2017 at 18:43

3 Answers 3


The three things that make space travel easier for the inhabitants of Battlestar Galactica's universe are:

  1. Artificial gravity.
  2. FTL.
  3. Some massively power dense conventional engines.

The first two are thought to be impossible by mainstream physics. But supposing they are possible, it's not entirely impossible that once you learn the secret they are simple and cheap. Some whackier gravity concepts suggest it is just some higher order function of electromagnetism, such that with the correct device, passing current through it will create gravity (see this in alot of James P. Hogan's books, but those can border on whackadoodle).

A chance discovery isn't completely absurd here. Nothing fundamental would suggest that it should take 2000 years to go from Euclid to Newton. In other circumstances, we might have made that jump in just a century or two. So perhaps we are going through a similar period now with regards to AG/FTL. Maybe once you do discover the principle, it's dead easy.

The technology that is more difficult to believe are how easily their ships lift off, in my opinion. Even the Raptors must weigh what, 6-7 tons easy? We can put such in orbit, but only with a rocket's worth of fuel underneath it. These do so effortlessly, with self-contained fuel tanks and engines that don't turn the ground to white-hot magma underneath. Did you know that the Harrier jets can light the ground on fire during vertical take-off and landing if the pilot isn't careful how he does so?

That's some incredibly powerful "power density" going on. You can go read about that if you like, I'm not sure I understand the finer points of specific impulse and all that.

They seem to do so without visible propellant, they seem to do so without outrageous nuclear contaminant precautions (probably rules out fission engines of some sort).

All in all, I rate the first two technologies as "go ahead and suspend disbelief", but on this last one, I just don't see how it's remotely possible.

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    If you have the secret of artificial gravity, altering that field to make your ship "lighter" would seem to be a rather small step. If that can be harnessed to make a 7 ton Raptor only weigh a few hundred pounds in terms of gravity's pull on it, then very little thrust, relatively, is required to push it into orbit and beyond the bounds of any external gravity force.
    – BBlake
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 12:03
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    I'm not sure I agree. Anti-gravity may not be possible even if artificial gravity is possible. And since you would only be lightening the apparatus itself, even if lightened to have zero mass, you could achieve that by leaving it out. I only remember a few liftoff scenes, but they didn't behave as if they had an effective mass of just a few hundred pounds. Such an anti-gravity scheme would lead to effective shields against projectile weaponry, why not just push the bullets and missiles away like you were Neo?
    – John O
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 12:31
  • Yeah. I guess I did not word the question really well. What I mean is that they seem to have had decent levels of space travel for quite a long time. From some of the things they've said in the show, and how integrated the colonies are, it would indicate so. Given their levels of technology, does this mean that they had space travel when they still were using muskets? It's always bothered me.
    – user8671
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 16:16
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    Technology doesn't have a fixed rate of progress. Yes, some of the things they do seem not-so-advanced, but this is true of every civilization. I still cut meat in the kitchen like a caveman! If you watch through the series though, they've been a space-faring race for centuries or even millenia.
    – John O
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 20:34
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    Reminiscent of Harry Turtledove's story "The Road Not Taken", in which most civilizations discover hyperdrive and contragrav during the equivalent of their middle ages. Humans somehow failed to do the simple experiments that would have led to those discoveries -- and thus discovered the rest of physics that everyone else missed. (One species flew bronze starships because they didn't know how to smelt iron.) Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 17:59

Relativity drive: The end of wings and wheels?

"...The device that has sparked their interest is an engine that generates thrust purely from electromagnetic radiation - microwaves to be precise - by exploiting the strange properties of relativity. It has no moving parts, and releases no exhaust or noxious emissions. Potentially, it could pack the punch of a rocket in a box the size of a suitcase. It could one day replace the engines on almost any spacecraft. More advanced versions might allow cars to lift from the ground and hover. It could even lead to aircraft that will not need wings at all. I can't help thinking that it sounds too good to be true."

[NASA's] Eagleworks Laboratories: Advanced Propulsion Physics Research

"...The difference arises in the fact that a [b]Q-thruster uses quantum vacuum fluctuations as the fuel source eliminating the need to carry propellant[/b]. This suggests much higher specific impulses are available for QVPT systems limited only by their power supply’s energy storage densities. Historical test results have yielded thrust levels of between 1000-4000 micro-Newtons, specific force performance of 0.1N/kW, and an equivalent specific impulse of ~1x1012 seconds. Figure 4 shows a test article and the thrust trace from a 500g load cell."

Findings on "Levitation in Earth's E-field" Technology

“The bottom line is that a sufficient charge accumulation on a capacitor, or any object for that matter, of sufficiently small mass, would be accelerated more by the earth’s electric field than by acceleration due to the earth’s gravity field. It would fly.”


The propellant used to lift ships off in BSG is tylium, a fuel similar to Helium-3 (perhaps the way the Colonials spell the word 'helium'.) It also seems to be what powers their entire civilization as well (fusion reactors work on Helium-3, or will work if we can get enough of it.)

  • and if we can get fusion reactors to work :) So far we've not been able to keep the plasma stable for more than a few seconds while maintaining a net energy output, rendering the entire contraption a net energy consumer (and now of course for political reasons all R&D into fusion power has stopped worldwide AFAIK).
    – jwenting
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 6:47

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