Faster-Than-Light Warp Drive May Actually Be Possible
A concept for a faster-than-light drive that does not violate the laws of physics has been gaining momentum.
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.
But what if there was a way to bypass this limitation ?
Enter warp drive – a concept that, as it turns out, is not solely limited to the Star Trek franchise.
At this year’s American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Propulsion and Energy Forum, undergraduate engineer Joseph Agnew put forward the notion that warp drive might actually be possible and that it can work without violating the laws of physics.
His research was based on an existing concept known as Alcubierre Warp Drive which has been gaining some traction in recent years, even though it is purely theoretical at the moment.
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.
Interestingly, the recent discovery of gravitational waves has bolstered this concept because it confirms a prediction that Einstein made and proves that the basis for warp drive actually exists.
“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,” said Agnew.
“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.”
Whether it will ultimately be possible to actually build such a drive however remains to be seen.
Image Credit: NASA / Mark Rademaker