The Dream of Warp Drive and Interstellar Travel

Warp Drive is a thing we thought was fantastical, a science fiction contrivance beyond the realm of possibility.  How would one even begin to warp space-time anyway?  Setting aside the ‘time’ aspect of it, would it be possible to warp space?  To warp sometime means it has to be physical and space is a whole lot of empty with bits of matter floating about it in. 

Turns out, back in 1994, a physicist by the name of Miguel Alcubierre actually came up with calculations that would do just that.  The problem was that it the required energy use to make it happens was so huge as to make it essentially impossible on the grounds that we couldn’t create the power to do it.

Not impossible.  Just improbable.   That alone should blow your mind.  That in 1994 the math alone showed it could be possible.  Wow.

18 years later and more advances in science and scientific thought bring us to a new place and people are taking a look at this again.  Because tweaking this idea is making it more possible. 

Originally, the ship would be shaped like a football with a large ring around it.  This ring would warp space-time around the ship while leaving the ship itself inside a bubble of non-warped space-time. 

The article doesn’t say, but because this is a ‘ring’ around the ship, I imaging it will be spinning and turning in some fashion to create this phenomenon. 

To reduce the energy usage, they altered the ring shape from a flat ring to a round donut.  I’m guessing that simply means the mathematical formula would not account for a round ring rather than a flat ring, as there is no actually item yet to be altered.

Alcubierre’s formula would require energy that was equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter.  The new formula could now be powered by a mass comparable in size to the Voyager 1 probe.  If the intensity of the space warps could be ‘oscillated over time’ it would further reduce the energy requirements. 

To get the idea of what oscillation might look like, find that 1940’s video of the Tacoma Bridge coming down.  I hope that is the right one.  It’s a video I’ve not seen for 6 or 7 years. 

I find the fact that they used Voyager 1 as a comparison to illustrate this very fitting.  I’m sure I am not the only one. 

((So V’Ger was actually 6 instead of 1, but the concept creates a feeling of ideas coming full circle.  Not related to anything in the article that I’m paraphrasing, back in the early 1990’s and pre-blogging days, I wrote an essay on the connections between V’Ger, the mechanical race, V’Ger’s Ilia-avatar (Ilia was a ‘Deltan’), and the Borg.   I should rewrite that.  The original article is probably where ever old computer discs went to die.))

To think that something that was so prohibitive that is was impractical to the point of impossibility has become possible and worth doing more studies on to see if it might actually work. 

The only flaw in the plan now is that the ring would likely have to be made out of ‘exotic’ matter.  Exotic matter tends to be hypothetical.  It is either known matter that is somehow altered to have properties that it didn’t have before or matter not of this planet and not identified as of yet.  It could also be known matter that is in a different state than we know about at this time but is within the realm of possibility using current physics or it could be matter that is known but so poorly understood that it might was well be from another planet.

Thrusting the entire concept right back into the realm of science fiction rather than science fact. It’s worth keeping half an eye on it, in case it pops into the realm of possibility again.  Maybe the next alteration could come in less than the 18 years it took for the last one.  But I’m not going to hold my breath.

 

Most of this was taken from this article.

3 Responses to “The Dream of Warp Drive and Interstellar Travel”

  1. Right. It’s a fascinating topic. The only thing I know of that can bend space-time is gravity. That’s always been the issue – generating that much gravity. The only thing we know of that can generate gravity is mass. How do you simulate mass? That’s the exotic material. You’re basically trying to compress space-time in front of the object, shorting its distance. I always wondered if this would work. Realistically, there’s now a “stretched out” path of space-time in front of the compressed area. Can you really compress as you go and not cover the distance? Not sure, but it would might increase the speed of the vessel, allowing it to travel faster, I think.

    Nothing travels faster than light (that we know of) except the expansion of the universe, and that’s the expansion of space-time. So it makes sense that manipulating space is the way to go.

  2. Neat! I see we’re getting into some deep physics here.

  3. That’s really interesting. I can’t imagine what possibilities will open up as technology advances, and more dreams of science fiction become reality.

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