The idea of a warp drive that takes us through large areas of space faster than the speed of light has long fascinated scientists and science fiction fans alike. While we’re still a long way from jumping universal speed limits, that doesn’t mean we’ll never ride the waves of warped spacetime.
Now a group of physicists has come up with the first proposal for a physical deformation unit, based on a concept devised in the 1990s. And they say it shouldn’t violate any of the laws of physics.
In theory, warp drives bend and reshape space-time to exaggerate differences in time and distance that, in some circumstances, could see travelers moving across distances faster than the speed of light. .
One of those circumstances was outlined more than a quarter of a century ago by the Mexican theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre. His idea, proposed in 1994, was that a spaA cecraft powered by something called the ‘Alcubierre unit’ could achieve this faster-than-light travel. The problem is that it requires a lot of negative energy in one place, something that is simply not possible based on existing physics.
But the new study has a solution. According to researchers at the New York-based independent research group Applied Physics, it is possible to ditch the negative energy fiction and still do a warp boost, although it might be a little slower than we’d like.
“We went in a different direction than NASA and others and our research has shown that there are actually several other kinds of warp impulses in general relativity,” says astrophysicist Alexey Bobrick of Lund University in Sweden.
“In particular, we have formulated new classes of warp impulse solutions that do not require negative energy and therefore become physical.”
Why is negative energy so important? The need for negative energy avoids some of the general relativity problems of faster-than-light travel, by allowing space to expand and contract faster than light, while keeping everything within its deformation within speed limits. universal.
Unfortunately, it presents more problems of its own, mainly that the negative energy we would need exists only in fluctuations on a quantum scale. Until we can find a way to pick up a mass the size of a Sun, this kind of momentum is simply not possible.
The new research works around this: According to the paper, no negative energy would be required, but an enormously powerful gravitational field would be required. Gravity would do the heavy lifting of bending spacetime so that the passage of time in and out of the warp drive machine would be significantly different.
You won’t be able to book tickets yet, though – the amount of mass required to produce a remarkable gravitational effect in spacetime would be at least the size of a planet, and there are still many questions to be answered.
“If we take the mass of the entire planet Earth and compress it into a layer with a size of 10 meters, then the correction to the rate of time inside it is still very small, about an extra hour a year,” Bobrick. He said New scientist.
Another interesting finding from the research concerns the shape of the warp motor: a wider and taller vessel will require less power than a long, thin one. Think of an upright plate thrown against a wall first, and you will have an idea of the optimal form of strain transmission.
Although the reality of traveling to distant stars and planets is still a long way off, the new study is the latest addition to a growing body of research that suggests the principles of warp drives are scientifically sound.
The researchers admit that they are still not sure how to combine the technology they have described in their paper, but at least more of the numbers are adding up now. They are confident that in the future, the warp engine will become a reality.
“While we still can’t break the speed of light, we don’t need to do it to become an interstellar species,” says Gianni Martire, one of the scientists in the Applied Physics group behind the new study. “Our warp momentum research has the potential to unite us all.”
The research has been published in Classical and quantum gravity.