In book 7 of The Expanse and those after, a series of events happen :

simultaneous loss of consciousness in the whole earth solar system, and then some other exotic versions of this event : changes to the speed of light, the rate of quantum particle apparitions, the charge of the electron if memory serves me correctly, and some other chemical things.

They are described, the first time it happens and is witnessed on a global scale

which is when the Laconians fire the magnetic gun on Tycho Station,

as a nonlocal event, as a way of explaining how it affected the entire solar system at once, disregarding the speed of light.

However, each of these events happen in one single solar system. And all the solar systems accessible through the Dandelion are part of the Milky Way galaxy or at least of our universe, as is confirmed several times across the series, notably:

after the Tecoma / booby-trapped system event in book 8, when the system at the other side of the Dandelion, the Thanjavur colony gets destroyed, the characters talk about seeing its star go off in some dozen years, the time the light coming off of that star reaches earth.

Other examples of things going simultaneous, disregarding the speed of light, happen in the series:

for one, there's the communication between the hybrid person infected with the protomolecule and the "green diamond the size of Jupiter", Elvi describes that after a time of transit at the speed of light, the communication is instantaneous. There is also the strokes Amos suffers when the other kids transformed by the Laconian drones are exposed to that diamond, and most notably, when that happens, Amos and the kids are in different solar systems.

So, in short, if each of these events is non-local, why is it local to a single solar system? That sounds like an inconsistency.

2 Answers 2


I think the answer is in understanding the meaning of locality in the context of physics, rather than the colloquial meaning of "localized":

In physics, the principle of locality states that an object is influenced directly only by its immediate surroundings. A theory that includes the principle of locality is said to be a "local theory". This is an alternative to the concept of instantaneous, or "non-local" action at a distance.

The event is described as being "non-local" not because it happens across many solar systems, but because it appears to occur simultaneously for everyone concerned. If it was "local" instead, the effects of the event would spread out from an origin at lightspeed, affecting everyone at different times.

  • I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around it. If we take the context of physics, that would mean the effect works like newtonian gravity, i.e an instantaneous force acting instantly regardless of distance, but with diminishing power as distance increases ? So, just like gravity (both the newton version and the gravity waves version), there is no boundary to its effect and every observer in the universe was in fact subject to it, albeit by a very limited amount ? Jul 22, 2023 at 4:27
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    @Gouvernathor - I think they are just using non-locality to refer to instantaneous propagation of effects, though Newtonian gravity obviously has a local Lagrangian, which is another sense of locality. Since this is space magic, it could have a boundary, or not. Its area of effect can be whatever one wants. Maybe it affects some other places that are not important to the plot.
    – Adamant
    Jul 22, 2023 at 4:57

I have also been struggling with this local/universal/cosmic concept from THE EXPANSE for a while. The best I can come up with is the concept of an infinite X-Y array of pool (billiard) tables setting coplanar a plane.

This plane is a sort of scaffolding on which our universe (and understanding of the universe) are attached to. If the generalized plane is not disturbed then "locality" will hold from table to table to table... the speed of light, gravity, universal physical constants, Hubble expansion, etc.

And so physical motion, the speed of light, chemical reactions all behave as expected whether they are on pool table 1 or table YY... and between table 1 and YY.

BUT... what if just a specific section of the scaffold can be twisted? Then perhaps only solar system Z is affected by a change, kind of like only one pool table in a room of a bazillion tables has its floor turned and all the balls on that one table fall to the right, just in that single solar system.

Later then perhaps the "powers that be" decide to affect not just the scaffolding of table XX or table ZZ but rather decide to upset ALL scaffolding throughout the entire cosmos.

Or maybe "the powers that be" can only extend their influence/control/power to a specific distance. Maybe only within a certain minor region of the Milky Way. Or maybe strong enough to catch 1% of Andromeda.

LOCALITY?? What a concept!

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