This is an overview of the basic structure of the Adeptus Mechanicus’ Unified Theory of physics. Within the Imperium there is much advanced technology that is magical to our thinking. To hand wave this away: I link all fantastical sci-fi effects to the Immaterium, and put the Immaterium across as if it was part of nature and science. In this re-image, the ‘hard science’ sci-fi element, such as the Ecorium housing tech, is completely separated from the fantastical elements of the Warhammer 40K background such as warp drives.
Physics in 40K
The Immaterium is part of the 40K universe, a ‘fact’ of the setting, so it is incorporated into the science of 40K. Advanced Imperium technology utilizes this new area of science. The more fantastical the sci-fi effect created by a technology: the more it relies on the Immaterium.
The universe as we know it. This is least touched by the effects of the Immaterium, but in the chart above only the space to the very far left is free of any influence. In our world, Quantum Physics is a bit strange, in 40K the effects seen in Quantum Physics are caused by the shadow of the warp. This is why ‘observation’ changes reality, the observer effect.
Within the Aethyr, the laws of physics diminish reducing to nothing as the phase distortion pushes towards to the Great Barrier. A field effect using Aethyr can selectively negate the forces of nature; a power weapon can nullify the bonds between atoms making any armour easy to destroy, a stasis field can stop all chemical reactions indefinitely preserving that which is inside, a conversion field can negate kinetic energy (inefficient fields produce light when struck). However this is not breaking the laws of conservation, energy is still required to produce these effects. All a Aethyr field does is temporally change the rules of how that conversion, from one form to another, is carried out.
The Great Barrier is defined as 49.99r% ‘phase’ (but is often referred to as 50%). This phase can be used to offset a given force in reality, for example, 50% of gravity within the affected area can be switched to ‘anti-gravity’ and thereby counteract the remaining 50% and completely nullify gravity all together as the two forces cancel each other out. This trick is used by Adeptus Mechanicus is starship construction as it can reduce the mass of the ship to a mere fraction, and counter inertia (though it uses horrendous amounts of power!)
The Great Barrier
At and within the Great Barrier the forces of physics is completely negated, the great barrier and the immediate surrounding space is also referred to as ‘Null Space’, but only the actual barrier itself is true null space. There seems to be no gravity, electromagnetic force or anything else. It’s not that these force have ceased to exist, it is that they are held in dynamic equilibrium, the two opposing force of each universe canceling each other out to make a truly static space*. This is why it is so hard to overcome, because any machine built to pass the Great Barrier ceases to exit as it passes. Hence the name, ‘The Great Barrier’.
- In Warhammer fantasy this static null space gave rise to the perception and principles of the Gods of Law, and the idea that is a witch hunter tries his absolute best he can at most negate chaos and restore balance.
Once passed the Great Barrier things come back into existence, but are woefully distorted within the Ethyrium many of the laws of physics are completely reversed. Gravity becomes a powerful ‘matter repulsing’ force the deeper you go, atomic bonds repel (hence matter disintegrates explosively), energy clumps together in strings and doesn’t disperse (and can affect Geller fields), momentum/ inertia in reversed (if an object existed then pushing an ‘object’ makes it push back). The deeper toward the void you go the more opposite the forces become, but they also loose power, becoming weaker and weaker.
The gravity wells of stars as well as having a huge repulsing force in the warp also have a stabilizing effect. At first is seems that nothing could live within such a space, yet just as sentence dwells in the Aethyr so it does in it counter part in the form of warp daemons. The influence of the materium, though reversed, gives enough stability for existence. Ships making warp jumps using a Geller fields make use of the strong repulsing force of the ‘reversed gravity’ to push them away from the solar system, and the energy strands as ‘rails’ in deep space. The whole universe is interconnected by these energy strands running between all gravity wells.
Notes: The repulsing force is why human worlds are not over run with minor daemons – as daemons need something to grab on to in order to pull themselves closer to the planet and overcome the ‘reversed-gravity’ of that planet (and star). Otherwise they float away to the outer edges of the solar system and are absorbed by the great chaos powers as the minor daemon dematerialise. Some minor daemons can stay close if they can attached themselves to a person or place (basis of ‘ghosts’)
The Void (Immaterium)
The void is a very strange place, all the laws of physics while at their most opposite in effect peter out and cease to be and that which was hidden comes to the fore. Emotion becomes a force without any bounds or framework, ideas exist in nothingness, potential is realised in fleeting dreams, it is a sea of pure chaos, a universe where everything exists and nothing exists. It is a universe that makes not sense to us, the only way a human mind can comprehend it is to think of it as our imagination manifest. The void is the opposite of the materium universe, and is a true alternate universe. Ideas exist without form, yet they produce patterns that ‘float’ into the Ethyrium gaining energy as they do so (not requiring any energy to do so, and the pattern is produce from nothing – hence the total opposite of the materium).
This is assumed to be the universe of the Old Ones. Nothing is really known about this universe only its effects on the deepest layers of the warp. In ancient xenos text, it is refereed to as the door/ key and what can only be guessed at in translation as ‘Infinity’, within the Cult Mechanicus (not the Adeptus Mechanicus) it is known as ‘The Infinium’ or ‘creation point’, and where infinite multiple ‘alternate’ universes begin their journey into reality.
All Matter is touched by the shadow of the warp and it manifests as the ‘uncertainly principle’ within conventional physics. This is the ‘phasing’ of atomic elements into the shallows of the Aethyr, where the smallest of elements can be seen to wink in and out of existence. They are not jumping into the warp, merely ‘phasing’ within the Aethyr.
The effect usually does not extend beyond the confines of the atom as such, and so is considered by Imperial scientists as a ‘contained’ phenomena.
All energy in the Materium is held in dynamic equilibrium between the Great Barrier and entropy, all energy in the Immaterium is held in dynamic equilibrium between the Great Barrier and Void Zero (creation). The Great Barrier itself is held in dynamic equilibrium between entropy and creation.
Notes: Humans are generally considered materium beings, but in actual fact they are boarder space beings, as part of them resides in the warp. The existence spans the great barrier, and the more Psyker they are the deeper the reach into the warp. The more unimaginative and authoritarian the more they reside in the materium and the more stable their structure. Most humans in our world would be considered very grounded. Psyker can influence their very being and reorganise they matter, as they are essentially ‘phased’ material that affects bio-matter (normally difficult) but the soul binding means that the complex matter can be changed.