Scientists Have Found A Way To Make Warp Drives A Reality
Scientists have discovered a way to make the warp drive idea of science fiction into a reality.
Star Trek fans will notice their viewing habits paying off here, as the show famously used the term ‘warp drive’ to refer to its faster-than-light travel through space.
In the show, the technology worked by colliding matter and antimatter and converting the explosive energy to propulsion, allowing the ship to move at the extraordinary speeds. The Millennium Falcon in Star Wars had a hyperdrive that was also very fast, but we’re not the scientists here.
Actual scientists have long theorised about travelling faster than the speed of light, as without technology allowing us to do so, humans would likely never be able to explore neighbouring star systems.
Researchers in the Advanced Propulsion Laboratory (APL) at Applied Physics drew upon this notion in a new paper titled Introducing Physical Warp Drives, in which they claim to have achieved a physical model for a warp drive.
The abstract for the paper explains:
We present the first general model for subliminal positive-energy, spherically symmetric warp drives.
Conceptually, we demonstrate that any warp drive, including the Alcubierre drive, is a shell of regular or exotic material moving inertially with a certain velocity. Therefore, any warp drive requires propulsion. We show that a class of subluminal, spherically symmetric warp drive spacetimes, at least in principle, can be constructed based on the physical principles known to humanity today.
Sabine Hossenfelder, a Professor and Research Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, breaks down the findings below:
The ‘Alcubierre drive’ refers to the work of theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre, who theorised a drive that would work by modifying spacetime. In a 2000 paper, Alcubierre wrote: ‘By a purely local expansion of spacetime behind the spaceship and an opposite contraction in front of it, motion faster than the speed of light as seen by observers outside the disturbed region is possible.’
Though the new paper draws upon Alcubierre’s ideas, it distinguishes from the Alcubierre drive as it uses almost no ‘negative energy’, a substance which does not exist in the universe. Instead, the scientists claim that ‘bubbles’ of spacetime could be used to make the drive possible.
Those travelling in the craft would remain inside the bubble, but the bubble itself would move ‘subluminally’, according to Hossenfelder.
The professor said that the spacecraft itself would require negative energy densities to move faster than light, and acceleration needs energy and momentum. The paper does not explain how this could be managed, as Popular Mechanics notes that the concept is still in the ‘far future’ zone of possibility, however scientists assume that it is possible because it fits with the scientific theory.
Alcubierre himself has endorsed the new model, emphasising the fact the APL team are on to something big.
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CreditsPopular Mechanics and 2 others
Introducing Physical Warp Drives