Living in a relative Universe is not that easy, where even the closest stars are incredibly far, and the speed of light is supreme. This also reflects in science fiction movies and series, which usually have FTL (Faster-than-Light) as a plot device.
These devices are regularly depicted to send people to other locations in space-time with the push of a button. However, in the last few years, the scientific industry has become incredibly excited and also suspicious about claims that a specific concept, the Alcubierre Warp Drive, might actually be ideal.
Accomplishing Velocities Beyond the Speed of Light
This was the topic of a presentation detailed at last year’s American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Propulsion and Energy Forum, which took place in August. This report has been made by Joseph Agnew, an undergraduate engineer and research assistant from the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Propulsion Research Center (PRC).
Agnew detailed the results of a research he led titled “An Examination of Warp Theory and Technology to Determine the State of the Art and Feasibility.” He explained that the theory behind a warp propulsion system is actually quite simple.
Initially suggested by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre in 1994, this idea for an FTL system is perceived by people as an extremely theoretical solution to the Einstein field equations, which explain the way space, time, and energy engage in our Universe.
Simply put, the Alcubierre Drive attains FTL travel by expanding the fabric of space-time in a wave, making space ahead of it to narrow and space behind to expand. Hypothetically, a spacecraft inside this wave would be capable of riding this ‘warp bubble’ and accomplish speeds beyond the speed of light. This is what is known as the ‘Alcubierre Metric.’
The Concept is Actually Feasible
Explained in the context of General Relativity, the inner part of this warp bubble would make up the inertial reference structure for anything inside it. Similarly, such bubbles can show up in a previously plain area of space-time and surpass the speed of light.
Because the ship is not traveling through space-time, but moving space-time itself, standard relativistic impacts, such as time dilation, would not implement. Therefore, the Alcubierre Metric enables FTL travel without breaking the laws of relativity in a conventional manner.
Agnew said: “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 drive, 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,” he added.
While the idea was broadly dismissed for being completely theoretical and highly abstract, it has had a new spirit breathed into it in the last few years. The person behind this is Harold “Sonny” White, the team leader for the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory .