For decades, we have dreamed of visiting other star systems. There is only one problem: they are so far away that with conventional spaceflight it would take tens of thousands of years to reach even the closest.
However, physicists are not the type to give up easily. Give them an impossible dream and they’ll give you an amazing, hypothetical way to make it come true. Maybe.
In a new study by physicist Erik Lentz of the University of Göttingen in Germany, we may have a viable solution to the dilemma, and it is one that might prove more feasible than other possible warp units.
This is an area that attracts many brilliant ideas, each offering a different approach to solving the puzzle of faster-than-light travel: achieving a means of sending something through space at superluminal speeds.
However, there are some problems with this notion. Within conventional physics, according to Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity, there is no real way to reach or exceed the speed of light, which is something we would need for any journey measured in light years.
However, that hasn’t stopped physicists from trying to break this universal speed limit.
While pushing matter past the speed of light will always be a big no-no, spacetime itself has no such rule. In fact, the confines of the Universe are already spreading faster than its light could hope to match.
To bend a small bubble of space in a similar way for transportation purposes, we would need to solve the equations of relativity to create an energy density that is less than the vacuum of space. While this type of negative energy occurs on a quantum scale, accumulating enough in the form of “negative mass” is still a domain of exotic physics.
In addition to facilitating other types of abstract possibilities, such as wormholes and time travel, negative energy could help power what is known as the Alcubierre warp drive.
This speculative concept would make use of negative energy principles to warp space around a hypothetical spacecraft, allowing it to travel effectively faster than light without defying traditional physical laws, except for the reasons explained above, we cannot hope to provide a Such a fantastic fuel source to start with.
But what if it was possible to somehow achieve faster-than-light travel that maintains faith in Einstein’s relativity without requiring any kind of exotic physics that physicists have never seen?
In the new work, Lentz proposes a way we could do this, thanks to what he calls a new class of hyperfast solitons: a type of wave that maintains its shape and energy while moving at a constant speed (and in this case, a speed faster than light).
According to Lentz’s theoretical calculations, these hyperfast soliton solutions can exist within general relativity and are derived purely from positive energy densities, which means that it is not necessary to consider exotic sources of negative energy density that have not yet been verified. .
With enough energy, the configurations of these solitons could function as ‘warp bubbles’, capable of superluminal motion and, theoretically, allowing an object to pass through space-time while protected from extreme tidal forces.
It’s an impressive feat of theoretical gymnastics, although the amount of energy required means that this warp drive is only a hypothetical possibility for now.
“The energy required for this impulse traveling at the speed of light and encompassing a 100-meter radius spacecraft is on the order of hundreds of times the mass of the planet Jupiter,” says Lentz.
“The energy savings would have to be drastic, about 30 orders of magnitude to be within the range of modern nuclear fission reactors.”
While Lentz’s study claims to be the first known solution of its kind, his paper came almost exactly at the same time as another recent analysis, published just this month, which also proposes an alternative model for a physically possible warp drive that doesn’t. make. they require negative energy to function.
The two teams are now in contact, Lentz says, and the researcher intends to share his data further so other scientists can explore his numbers. Additionally, Lentz will explain his research within a week, in a YouTube live presentation on March 19.
There are still many puzzles to be solved, but the free flow of these kinds of ideas remains our best hope for a chance to visit those distant twinkling stars.
“This work has moved the problem of faster-than-light travel away from theoretical research in fundamental physics and closer to engineering,” says Lentz.
“The next step is to figure out how to reduce the astronomical amount of energy needed within the range of current technologies, such as a large modern nuclear fission power plant. Then we can talk about building the first prototypes.”
Findings are reported in Classical and quantum gravity.