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Scientists Take A Closer Look At Warp Drive Technology

Warp drives are a staple of most Sci-Fi generas. Within the reality of even theoretical physics, it would be impossible to explore new worlds or new civilizations, and would confine our adventures and stories to one species and a handful of planets.

By Silek Fri 13 Mar, 2020 11:08 PM
Warp drives are a staple of most Sci-Fi generas. Within the reality of even theoretical physics, it would be impossible to explore new worlds or new civilizations, and would confine our adventures and stories to one species and a handful of planets.

Einstein kind of burst our bubble when it came to the relativity of this, essentially giving us a hard cap on the limits of how fast, and in all probability, how far we could go given the limitations of our lifespans, even as we supplement these ideas with suspended animation, or look at it from a generational approach.

With the vast expanse of the universe, and the scale of what's out there, light speed can seem pretty darn slow when looking at the big picture, and even incrementally approaching it, would represent a huge and life changing jump forward from our current capabilities.

Within the past few years however, scientists have increasingly shifted their gaze away from mechanics of speed and brute force propulsion, and one theory of Warp Drive Mechanics has gained traction as a possible alternative.

Last year the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Propulsion and Energy Forum, took place in Indianapolis Indiana. Joseph Agnew, an undergraduate engineer from the University of Alabama in Huntsville's Propulsion Research Center, made a presentation titled, "The Future of Nuclear and Breakthrough Propulsion".

Agnew's presentation discussed the results of his study, "An Examination of Warp Theory and Technology to Determine the State of the Art and Feasibility".

This idea had been originally presented by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre in 1994. Although highly theoretical, it possibly provided a work-around to the Einstein field equations, which thus far, had imposed the restrictions on Faster Than Light Travel, in which this field is constrained.

To put it simply, this 'Alcubierre Drive' would stretch the fabric of space-time in the form of a wave. The space ahead of it would contract, while the space behind it would expand. Theoretically, anything inside of this 'bubble' would be able to travel at speeds faster than light, including light.

This has come to be called the 'Alcubierre Metric' and would present as moving space-time itself, as opposed to something moving through space-time. This would sidestep violating the laws of relativity.

Agnews spoke to Universe Today, telling them that this was an idea he had been pursuing since his days in high school.

He told them, "I delved into mathematics and science more, and, as a result, started to become interested in science fiction and advanced theories on a more technical scale. I started watching Star Trek, the Original series and The Next Generation, and noticed how they had predicted or inspired the invention of cell phones, tablets, and other amenities.
I thought about some of the other technologies, such as photon torpedoes, phasers, and warp drives, and tried to research both what the 'Star Trek' science and 'real world' science equivalent had to say about it. I then stumbled across the original paper by Miguel Alcubierre, and after digesting it for a while, I started pursuing other keywords and papers, and getting deeper into the theory.
In my experience, the mention of warp drive tends to bring chuckles to the conversation because it is so theoretical and right out of science fiction. In fact, often it is met with dismissive remarks, and used as an example of something totally outlandish, which is understandable.
I know in my own case, I initially had grouped it, mentally, into the same category as typical superluminal concepts, since obviously they all violate the 'speed of light is the ultimate speed' assumption.
It wasn't until I dug into the theory more carefully that I realized it did not have these problems. I think there would/will be much more interest when individuals delve into the progress that has been made. The historically theoretical nature of the idea is also itself a likely deterrent, as it's much more difficult to see substantial progress when you are looking at equations instead of quantitative results."

This is still highly speculative and doing it's best to grab a foothold among the general scientific community, but certain developments have gone a long way in giving it the credence that Agnews is sure will develop over time.

In 2016, LIGO scientists confirmed the existence of naturally occurring gravitational waves, or GWSs. This confirmed a prediction by Einstein and could prove the basis for a naturally occurring warp drive and Agnews believes that this is one of the most important confirmations in the theory, but that there are others as well.

Agnews went on to say, "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.
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. Before, there was an understanding that this was likely the case, thanks to Einstein, but we know for certain now."

Agnews went on to say, "Now that we know the effect is real, the next question, in my mind, is, 'how do we study it, and can we generate it ourselves in the lab?'" he added. "Obviously, something like that would be a huge investment of time and resources, but would be massively beneficial.
In essence, what is needed for a warp drive is a way to expand and contract spacetime at will, and in a local manner, such as around a small object or ship. We know for certain that very high energy densities, in the form of EM fields or mass, for example, can cause curvature in spacetime. It takes enormous amounts to do so, however, with our current analysis of the problem.
On the flipside, the technical areas should try to refine the equipment and process as much as possible, making these high energy densities more plausible. I believe there is a chance that once the effect can be duplicated on a lab scale, it will lead to a much deeper understanding of how gravity works, and may open the door to some as-yet-undiscovered theories or loopholes.
I suppose to summarize, the biggest hurdle is the energy, and with that comes technological hurdles, needing bigger EM fields, more sensitive equipment, etc."

The biggest challenge to this is the massive amount of energy that would be required to create the 'warp bubble' theorized by Alcubierre's concept. With our current level of understanding, the only way of producing an effect like this would be through the use of 'exotic matter', with an the energy levels being equivalent to the mass of Jupiter.

Agnews believes that these are challenges that are not out of reach, and bring the idea of this type of travel within the realm of possibility.

Agnews explained, "The theory has borne out thus far that it is well worth pursuing, and it is easier now than before to provide evidence that it is legitimate. In terms of justifications for allocation of resources, it is not hard to see that the ability to explore beyond our Solar System, even beyond our Galaxy, would be an enormous leap for mankind. And the growth in technology resulting from pushing the bounds of research would certainly be beneficial."

Even those who are not fascinated with the idea of space travel and exploration would seemingly be able to comprehend the commercial, industrial, and scientific values of expanding our reach, and our knowledge, beyond the scope of the speed of light.

See Also: Dr. Hubert Farnsworth's Dark Matter Drive

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EDITED BY Infinity
Fri 13 Mar, 2020 11:19 PM
That's a great article Silek Smile
Sat 14 Mar, 2020 12:07 PM
Wow, this is an interesting article, Silek. Well done^^
Sat 14 Mar, 2020 12:49 PM
Nice article Silek Thumbs up
Sat 14 Mar, 2020 1:45 PM
Thanks for writing, Silek!
Sat 14 Mar, 2020 1:53 PM
Wow! Amazing article Silek, thanks for writing that! I've always had a passing interest in warp drive theory and its potential applications in the real world. I remember reading about the LIGO confirmation of GSWs and I starting theory crafting in my head that it might be possible to using gravity as a form of propulsion, numerous movies have done (interstellar for example), I wonder how fast a craft to go if we attempted to use the gravity of Earth to perform a slingshot manoeuvre?

I think we're one step closer to disproving some of the aspects of general relativity.
Sat 14 Mar, 2020 2:33 PM
Nice job, very interessting.
Sat 14 Mar, 2020 4:07 PM
Thank you so much for this amazing and interesting article, Silek! Thumbs up

It's fascinating to read about all the theories, researches and tests that are going on. In my opinion mankind will be able to use this technology some day. Don't ask me when, but it will be possible, although -as Silek mentioned it correctly- this will require LOTS of energy, time and resources. But isn't it amazing to see that many, many things for example Captain Kirk, Mr Spock or Bones used as "science fiction gimmicks" in TOS back in the sixties have become part of our daily life today? Smartphones, tablets - Silek has mentioned these things too.

Even the Ancient Romans knew: "Scientia potentia est" - this makes me confident when looking into the future.