Space Update: Star Trek Technology May Be Feasible

In a recent blog about advances in rocketry I described warp drives as pure science fiction. My exact words were “warp engines remain purely theoretical until we can discover a new physics that unseats Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.” To my surprise this last week, scientists at the 100 Year Starship Symposium in Houston, stated that warp drives may be possible.

That means there maybe a loophole in the laws of physics that allows an object to move faster than light speed. As scientists conjecture a spaceship could fold space-time around it forming a doughnut-shaped bubble that would ride through space like a surfboard on a wave and travel at speeds exceeding that of light. This would require the manipulation of dark energy,  a mass-energy force representing 74% of the Universe.

Scientists of the Big Bang have theorized that shortly after the Universe began matter exceeded the speed of light. And since light and matter go along together as the Universe expands there is evidence that space-time expansion can exceed light speed. You can blame string theorists for the explanation and for devising, theoretically, a way to manipulate dark energy to accelerate a spaceship. This is called an Alcubierre warp drive, named after physicist Miguel Alcubierre who first suggested it in a paper entitled, “The Warp Drive: Hyper-fast travel within general relativity.”

At last week’s symposium NASA physicist Harold White, presented a refined view of the Alcubierre warp drive that theoretically could wrap around a mass equivalent to 725 kilograms (1,600 pounds). When Alcubierre first proposed his warp drive concept the mass-energy requirement equaled a planet the size of Jupiter.  Alcubierre described an exotic matter possessing strange properties that would allow the spaceship to occupy a spherical bubble with space contracted in front of the ship and expanded behind it (click here to watch a video explanation). Everything within the bubble would be time constant. White’s bubble is flattened to a doughnut shape and he proposes an oscillating space bubble to further reduce the energy requirements of creating a warp field.

As White envisages it, in the future we will leave the gravity well of Earth and travel a distance away from the planet. Then we will engage the drive to create our warp field and head off to Proxima Centauri traveling at speeds that could get us there in weeks. Compare that to light which would take 4.22 years. And then compare it to Voyager 1 now on the edge of the Solar System and its 81,000 year journey to reach the same destination.

White's modified Alcubierre warp drive

Warp drives in theory may work according to Harold White, a NASA scientist, who calculated a halo-shaped oscillating warp field drive that would require a fraction of the energy previously thought necessary. Of course warp drives will mean we have to harness dark energy.                                Source: Harold White


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery.


  • Niccolo5

    I’m thinking that warp drive contraption will require billions of tons of unobtainium, but just a few thousand tons of unobtainium would probably make a HotCat work long before it makes a warp drive work. A working HotCat would allow giant rotating wheel space habitats with hundreds of billions of human inhabitants far from solar radiation. Who needs stinking dilithium crystals once he has a good working HotCat?

    The best disproof of the possibility of warp drives is indeed the Fermi Paradox. If the warp drive could actually work without unobtainium, we would already be up to our necks in quasi-advanced space aliens. Judging from the most recent Rossi investor Cat conference, and the failure to show over-unity heat production to the big bucks investors, Mr. Rossi is still searching for his first batch of unobtainium.

    • lenrosen4

      I sense skepticism on your part. Harnessing dark energy is obviously the unobtainium in this equation when it comes to speculating on the feasibility of warp drive technology. But I keep going back to my younger reading days and H.G. Wells, “The Shape of Things to Come” and marvel at dreamers and their ability to predict what becomes our reality. So, like you, I’ll be a skeptic, but will hold off on total dismissal of what does seem to be way out there.

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