Humanosity says….This article is sure to bring joy to all sci-fi fans and demonstrates how that genre is actually driving real science, especially new developments that seem to suggest that the fabled warp drive is possible….
As our understanding of our place in the universe has grown, so has an interest in reaching out to the stars. In fact, if humanity wants to survive we will eventually need to become a spacefaring civilisation. Earth faces a number of threats that could easily mean the end of humanity. These include asteroids, solar flares, nearby supernovas, wandering stars and planets – the list goes on.
However, the problem with space travel is the immense amount of time it would take to travel between them. Using the best means of propulsion that we have now would take us tens of thousands of years to reach our closest star.
The main problem seems to be the cosmic speed limit discovered by Einstein. This says that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Star Trek got around this problem by inventing the Warp Drive. The basic idea of a warp drive is that rather than travelling through space at faster than light speeds (impossible according to the Theory of Relativity) a warp drive would shrink space in front of it and expand space behind it. By manipulating space you could move much faster than the speed of light as you would shrink the distance you had to travel.
The Alcubierre Drive
Proposed in 1994 by theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre, the drive has become known as the Alcubierre drive. “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.”
By expending truly enormous amounts of energy to contract the space in front of it, the drive could create a bubble around the ship. The normal rules of physics would still apply within the bubble but the bubble itself would ride the wave of contracted space in front of it.
The New Developments
The energy required to create an Alcubierre bubble would be immense. Some scientists believe it would require more energy than available within the universe. However, more recent studies have shown that amount of energy required can be significantly reduced.
Joseph Agnew, a mechanical engineering senior at The University of Alabama in Huntsville has been crunching the numbers. He found ways of reducing the energy required to about the size of the total energy of the mass of Jupiter.
He believes that we now have the technology to try and create a tiny warp bubble in the lab. This would serve to confirm the physics involved. It would also allow us to understand what is required to produce a stable bubble which could then be reliably scaled up.
However whilst the science seems to be suggesting this is possible there a few more hurdles to overcome before anyone gets too excited. One is how to produce the negative energy required to make this possible. Second is how to ensure that humans could survive the huge amounts of radiation that the theories predict would occur.