Could warp drive be the answer to interstellar space travel ? Image Credit: NASA
The idea that a spacecraft could 'warp' over vast distances of space may have genuine potential.
Right now the idea of traveling to planets orbiting distant stars is something that we can only dream about - even a spacecraft moving at just under the speed of light would take four years to reach the next closest star and over two million years to reach the next nearest galaxy.
The problem is that the laws of physics would seem to prohibit the possibility of anything traveling faster than the speed of light, making long distance space journeys impractical.
In recent years however, scientists have been taking a long, hard look at an exotic science-fiction propulsion system that, as it turns out, is not solely limited to the Star Trek franchise.
One major advocate is undergraduate engineer Joseph Agnew who has been focusing his efforts on a theoretical implementation known as Alcubierre Warp Drive.
According to the theory, this real-world warp drive would work by stretching the fabric of space-time in a wave, contracting the space in front of the ship and expanding the space behind.
A spacecraft riding this wave could effectively ride the 'warp bubble' and reach speeds far exceeding the speed of light. Because the ship is not actually moving through space-time (but is in fact moving space-time itself), it would not be subject to the negative effects of traveling at relativistic speeds.
"In the past 5-10 years or so, there has been a lot of excellent progress along the lines of predicting the anticipated effects of the drive, determining how one might bring it into existence, reinforcing fundamental assumptions and concepts, and, my personal favorite, ways to test the theory in a laboratory," Agnew told University Today
"The LIGO discovery a few years back was, in my opinion, a huge leap forward in science, since it proved, experimentally, that spacetime can 'warp' and bend in the presence of enormous gravitational fields, and this is propagated out across the universe in a way that we can measure."
"Now that we know the effect is real, the next question, in my mind, is, 'how do we study it, and can we generate it ourselves in the lab ?'"
As things stand, the biggest hurdle to overcome is generating enough energy to make it work.
Eventually though, as technology improves, it is not outside the realms of possibility that in the future, the Alcubierre Warp Drive could actually become a very effective way for us to travel to the stars.
Source: Science Alert | Comments (23)