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Is Warp Speed Possible?

| 7 May 2009 14:24
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In the run up to the release of the new Star Trek movie,Space.com posed the question of whether warp speed is feasible.

The earliest reference to traveling through space appeared in "Somnium," a book published in 1634 by Johannes Kepler, where he describes traveling to the moon via demons.

In these "enlightened" times, we think more of the warp drive, hyperspace and wormholes for our FTL (faster than light) travel. Mainly since Einstein defined his Theory of General Relativity (E=mc^2), which states that as one approaches the speed of light, the mass of the ship becomes infinite. What that means in plain English is that you'd need an infinite thrust to push you past the speed of light.

The latest theory to come about seems to throw out the idea of engines altogether and asks, if you can't move the ship that fast, why not move the space around the ship?

Marc Millis, former head of NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project, has stated this idea, based off of physicist Miguel Alcubierre first theory in 1994. And why is it so feasible? Well, it may have already happened.

If we accept the Big Bang theory as fact, then parts of space-time must have been able to travel faster than light to set up their positions today.

"If it could do it for the Big Bang, why not for our space drives?" Millis said.

To do this, scientists would have to create a mass or energy as yet unknown that would to manipulate the space-time that they are in already, roughly how the TARDIS is supposed to work.

There are studies being done towards dark energy and negative energy, but all three of these pose their own problems in harnessing that power.

"We still don't even know if those things are possible or impossible, but at least we've progressed far enough to where there are things that we can actually research to chip away at the unknowns," Millis said. "Even if they turn out to be impossible, by asking these questions, we're likely to discover things that otherwise we might overlook."

Perhaps Zefram Cochrane is already working on such an idea?

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