I have a memory of a brief throw-away passage in a book by a well-known sci-fi author which talks about a FTL drive invented by "O'Malley" (or an equally stereotypical Irish name). When asked how he got around Einstein's laws, O'Malley says something like "To be sure, Einstein must have been wrong".

Not much to go on, I know. Any identifications?

This was probably at least a twenty year old book.

  • The late James P. Hogan has a few similar passages; I don't remember the specific books in question. Hogan had a lot of odd theories, though.
    – user1787
    Commented May 6, 2011 at 2:27
  • Hogan seems likely, but none of the book descriptions look familiar. Commented May 6, 2011 at 19:47
  • That phrase (or a variation of it) was also uttered by John Crichton in Farscape, discussing the physics of space flight with his father.
    – Chad Levy
    Commented Dec 4, 2011 at 3:41

4 Answers 4


Maybe the Skylark Series?

Crane: Three hundred and fifty million miles [in twenty minutes]. Half-way out of the solar system. That means a constant acceleration of about one light.

Seaton: Nothing can go that fast, Mart. E Equals M C square.

Crane: Einstein's Theory is still a theory. This distance is an observed fact.

Seaton: And theories are modified to fit facts. Hokay.

  • 3
    "acceleration of one light"? so, how many parsecs is that? :p
    – HorusKol
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 23:28
  • 1
    Yeah, old sci-fi is... quirky.
    – user1027
    Commented May 6, 2011 at 0:35
  • Nice answer, but I don't think so. Commented May 6, 2011 at 18:53
  • 1
    E.E. Smith sometimes got confused about his dimensional analysis. I seem to remember the "frank" being both a unit of energy and a unit of power in "Spacehounds of IPC". Commented May 10, 2011 at 2:15
  • @HorusKol: less than 12, of course :)
    – Tom Zych
    Commented Sep 3, 2011 at 2:48

Sounds to me like something that would be said by the title character of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, by Spider Robinson.

  • The style is a bit like Mike Callahan, but I've read all of those and I'm sure he never said it, and certainly never invented an FTL drive. Might be something else by Spider, though.
    – Tom Zych
    Commented Sep 3, 2011 at 2:50

The books: "The Stone Canal" and "The Cassini Division" by Ken MacLeod feature a wormhole attached to some sort of near C (or actually much greater than C I think) probe. The wormhole is known as the Malley Mile in honour of the work of a Physicist called I. K. Malley who features in the second of those two books. I don't remember that particular quote but it could quite conceivably be in there.

The books mentioned are the 2nd and 3rd books of the Fall Revolution sequence.

  • I meant to say that this was at least a twenty year old book. Commented May 6, 2011 at 18:55
  • I was independently thinking of The Sky Road myself, the far-future parts with the Scottish accents and a censored history. But a quick browse turned up nothing.
    – user56
    Commented May 7, 2011 at 0:14
  • Apparently The Sky Road is based in an alternate timeline to the two I mentioned above. I must get round to asking question about that somewhen.
    – Amos
    Commented May 7, 2011 at 0:43

This is a long shot, but you might be thinking of the bolded passage below:

Arcot and Wade were laughing, but not Robert Morey. With a sorrowful expression, he walked to the window and looked out at the hundreds of slim, graceful aircars that floated above the city.

"My friends," said Morey, almost tearfully, "I give you the great Dr. Arcot. These countless machines we see have come from one idea of his. Just an idea, mind you! And who worked it into mathematical form and made it calculable, and therefore useful? I did!

"And who worked out the math for the interplanetary ships? I did! Without me they would never have been built!" He turned dramatically, as though he were playing King Lear. "And what do I get for it?" He pointed an accusing finger at Arcot. "What do I get? He is called 'Earth's most brilliant physicist', and I, who did all the hard work, am referred to as 'his mathematical assistant'." He shook his head solemnly. "It's a hard world."

At the table, Wade frowned, then looked at the ceiling. "If you'd make your quotations more accurate, they'd be more trustworthy. The news said that Arcot was the 'System's most brilliant physicist', and that you were the 'brilliant mathematical assistant who showed great genius in developing the mathematics of Dr. Arcot's new theory'." Having delivered his speech, Wade began stoking his pipe.

Fuller tapped his fingers on the table. "Come on, you clowns, knock it off and tell me why you called a hard-working man away from his drafting table to come up to this play room of yours. What have you got up your sleeve this time?"

"Oh, that's too bad," said Arcot, leaning back comfortably in his chair. "We're sorry you're so busy. We were thinking of going out to see what Antares, Betelguese, or Polaris looked like at close range. And, if we don't get too bored, we might run over to the giant model nebula in Andromeda, or one of the others. Tough about your being busy; you might have helped us by designing the ship and earned your board and passage. Tough." Arcot looked at Fuller sadly.

Fuller's eyes narrowed. He knew Arcot was kidding, but he also knew how far Arcot would go when he was kidding—and this sounded like he meant it. Fuller said: "Look, teacher, a man named Einstein said that the velocity of light was tops over two hundred years ago, and nobody's come up with any counter evidence yet. Has the Lord instituted a new speed law?"

"Oh, no," said Wade, waving his pipe in a grand gesture of importance. "Arcot just decided he didn't like that law and made a new one himself."

"Now wait a minute!" said Fuller. "The velocity of light is a property of space!"

Arcot's bantering smile was gone. "Now you've got it, Fuller. The velocity of light, just as Einstein said, is a property of space. What happens if we change space?"

That's from the Project Gutenberg etext of the Ace Books edition of John W. Campbell's novel Islands of Space in his Arcot, Morey and Wade series. I suppose Morey could be your "O'Malley" although Arcot was the main inventor of the FTL drive and Morey merely his "mathematical assistant". But they are not exactly saying "Einstein was wrong" so this is not a very good match to the question. Like I said, a long shot. (My first guess was The Skylark of Space but that's already taken.)

  • Not sure this is the right one, but my memory is very hazy. +1 for a likely candidate. Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 17:35

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