Warp drive may be more possible than scientists previously believed

Sep 18, 2012

Anyone who ever watched the science fiction series Star Trek knows that the way the enterprise traveled through space was using a warp drive. The warp drive in the series pushed the starship the faster than light travels allowing it to get to far-flung parts of the universe quickly and easily. According to scientists, creating an actual warp drive may not be as unrealistic as it once seemed.

According to the scientists, warp drive would manipulate space-time to move the starship by taking advantage of a loophole in the laws of physics. The concept for a real warp drive was offered in 1994 by a Mexican physicist named Miguel Alcubierre. However, subsequent scientific investigation determined that the warp drive suggested would require prohibitive amounts of energy.

Physicists are now saying that this warp drive could be feasible by making adjustments to it that would enable it to run on significantly less energy. The warp drive suggested by Alcubierre would have a football-shaped spacecraft attached to a large flat ring that encircles it. The ring would potentially be constructed from exotic matter and would cause space-time to warp around starship.

That warping of space-time would create a region of contracted space in front of the ship and an area of expanded space behind the ship, propelling the ship forward. The ship would stay inside a bubble of flat space-time that wasn't being warped. The physicists believe that the concept spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of roughly 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit.

Previously, estimates were that such a warp drive would require a minimum amount of energy equal to the mass energy of the planet Jupiter. However, scientist Harold White from the Johnson Space Center proposed modifying the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft from flat to a shape resembling a rounded doughnut. That change in the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft would allow the warp drive to be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe. White also noted that the intensity of the space warped could be oscillated over time reducing the required energy even further.

"The findings I presented today change it from impractical to plausible and worth further investigation," White told SPACE.com. "The additional energy reduction realized by oscillating the bubble intensity is an interesting conjecture that we will enjoy looking at in the lab."

[via Space.com]

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