Warp Drive Might Actually Be Possible

Greg Tito

PR for Dungeons & Dragons
Sep 29, 2005
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Warp Drive Might Actually Be Possible



Soon, you might actually be able to say, "Warp factor 7, Mr. Sulu."

Science fiction is famous for conceptualizing theoretical solutions to physical impossibilities. Authors and screenwriters come up with ideas that sound plausible, but scientists often have to step forward and say, "Hey, yeah, there's no way there'd be bright fire explosions in space," or "Lasers don't work like that, bro." One of the bigger physical impossibilities science fiction properties like Star Trek rely upon is faster-than-light travel. But now it seems even the so-called warp drive could perhaps become as much a reality as communicators (cell phones) and datapads (tablet computers). A presentation at the 100 Year Starship Symposium - a conference designed to discuss these issues - from NASA's Harold "Sonny" White outlined how such a warp engine could allow a ship to travel between the stars.

"There is hope," said White. "The findings I presented today change it from impractical to plausible and worth further investigation."

Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre first introduced a real design for a warp drive in 1994. The blueprint for Alcubierre's drive involved an oval spaceship surrounded by a large ring which would be able to contract the space in front of the ship and expand the space behind it. Creating this "warp field" would unfortunately take far more energy than the human race knows how to generate.

What NASA's White came up with was a way to reduce the energy needs for the drive by changing the flat ring to a rounded shape as well as alternating the warp field. "The additional energy reduction realized by oscillating the bubble intensity is an interesting conjecture that we will enjoy looking at in the lab," White said.

Of course, there's got to be some tests, you know, before we open up one of these rings and realize that we've created a portal to an alternate reality - complete with evil goatee-wearing versions of you and your friends.

Luckily, White and his team is on the case. They've created a small model of the hardware needed to create this field which they've dubbed the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer at their lab at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. "We're trying to see if we can generate a very tiny instance of this in a tabletop experiment, to try to perturb space-time by one part in 10 million," he said.

That's great. Now, I have to worry about the space-time continuum becoming "perturbed". That doesn't really sound like a very good idea, but, as the saying goes, if you want interstellar travel, you have to piss off a few warp fields.

Source: Space.com [http://www.space.com/17628-warp-drive-possible-interstellar-spaceflight.html]

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duchaked

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Dec 25, 2008
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makes me wanna watch some Star Trek original series episodes...okay I'm gonna go do that now :]
 

Varya

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Nov 23, 2009
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I'm so behind this idea! The fact that practical, out of solar-system space travel might be impossible is one of the most depressing things for humanity, so this is great news.
 

Agow95

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Jul 29, 2011
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GenGenners said:
Hmmm.....
Isn't that similar to how FTL travel works in Mass Effect?
No, in mass effect they flow a current through element zero via dark energy, with a positive current, mass is increased, with a negative current, mass is decreased. So they lower the ships mass to nothing and this allows ftl speeds, so to do it the mass effect way we'd need a element that bioware made up and a hypothetical form of energy that may exist.
 

Neofishie

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Sep 23, 2010
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I already wear a goatee. I have for many years. But I don't want to destroy and/or enslave the world. Does that mean I'm a evil version of myself with amnesia? Or that my good version is an asshole?

Either way, you gotta love it when scientists talk to each other. Perturbing space-time and oscillating the fabric of reality.

Any mention of what speeds they think they can reach with this tech?
 

unacomn

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Mar 3, 2008
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The whole perturbing space keeps bugging me. If I was in the space that was being squished/expanded, what would happen to me?
 

tangoprime

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May 5, 2011
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...thinking that I may have to stop by JSC on the way home from work and give them a couple of copies of Event Horizon to review before they go "perturbing" space/time less than 10 miles from my home.
 

mad825

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Mar 28, 2010
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So they have brought down the energy requirements from 10 neuron stars to 8? Moving very fast is very inefficient in terms of space travel.
 

tmande2nd

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Oct 20, 2010
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Come on hurry up!
There are some green skinned space babes that need kirking!
Yes that's a verb.
 

vxicepickxv

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Sep 28, 2008
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Acrisius said:
How do you hit the brakes in space..?
The problem with current theoretical brakes that would be easily developed is that the brakes would kind of destroy your destination. They're still working on that part.
 

Deathlyphil

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Mar 6, 2008
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vxicepickxv said:
Acrisius said:
How do you hit the brakes in space..?
The problem with current theoretical brakes that would be easily developed is that the brakes would kind of destroy your destination. They're still working on that part.
Brakes aren't needed at all, since the object in the warp bubble is not actually moving. What the field is doing moving space around the object. In Star Trek this is why they aren't affected by time dilation. If this works the same way, then it too should avoid the time dilation effect.
 

vrbtny

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Sep 16, 2009
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vxicepickxv said:
Acrisius said:
How do you hit the brakes in space..?
The problem with current theoretical brakes that would be easily developed is that the brakes would kind of destroy your destination. They're still working on that part.
I can see that being used as a weapon in the far distant future.
 

1337mokro

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Dec 24, 2008
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Sometimes I hate living in the present because I can only be there for the start of events and never see the fruits of that labour.

Then again if we stop spending 15 trillion dollars on weapons to kill each other maybe we can spend that money on making a ship to kill aliens? We might still pull that off before I die at age 117.
 

CorvusFerreum

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Jun 13, 2011
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I see it comming. There you are just pertubing the spacetime continuum and next you know is a some bloodthirster wrecking your shiny NASA-facillity. Just don't say I dind't warn you....
 

Scorched_Cascade

Innocence proves nothing
Sep 26, 2008
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"Enemies of the dark gods, bewaaare!"/"The true power is here"

[sub][sub]Yes, yes, I'm aware that warp!=Warp (Empyrean)[/sub][/sub]

This seems far too much like Futurama troll science to be real, theoretical physics is a crazy, crazy place.