Monday, July 28, 2008

Warp Engine - Possible?


I was reading through some of the listings on Discover News and I came across this headline
  • Warp Drive Engine Would Travel Faster Than Light

And I am thinking uh duh that's what warp engines do right?! But I kept reading and the article kept making more and more sense. But the real laugh is I think I saw this concept on an episode of Futurama. Anyway -
  • Two Baylor University physicists have outlined how a faster-than-light engine could possibly work. The warp engine, based on a design first proposed in 1994 by Michael Alcubierre, involves expanding the fabric of space behind a ship into a bubble and shrinking space-time in front of the ship. The ship would rest in between the expanding and shrinking space-time, essentially surfing down the side of the bubble. The ship wouldn't actually move; space itself would move underneath the stationary spacecraft. A beam of light next to the ship would still zoom away, same as it always does, but a beam of light far from the ship would be left behind.
  • It is thought that this has happened once before in the cosmos' history - the big bang.
Quite simply that if a beam of light and the ship left the same relative space time local, the ship, utilizing it engine, would arrive well ahead of the beam of light. Relative to any other beam of light traveling relatively tangent to the ship, the ship would not be ftl, but since it beat a beam of light from its own space/time, it is in fact Faster than light. Not a play on words (Einstein flat out said this could not take place) or a trick of what gets taken away from what first. Given enough energy, possible? My sticking point to ftl is the energy curve. To accelerate any mass you need energy. To double the speed, you do not need double the energy, you need geometrically more energy. If you have mass and you acellerate to the physical limit of the universe, it stands to reason that you would need all the energy of the universe. Since the stars are still shining is proff that no one has gone ftl. But what if you are not accelerating mass, but distorting space time. At present we only know of one way to do that effectivly and that is with massive objects. Round and round we go. But is sure is interesting.

<- Read complete article in Discovery News ->

3 comments:

Shaun said...

Paul - you and I discussed a similar idea once, i.e., the focus on manipulating space, and not the movement of a craft per se.

At the end of the day, if humans - with just a scant few hundred years of science (or a few thousand, depending on your defintions and historical perspective) can even think of such ideas, imagine what much older alien intelligences such as those mentioned by Dr. Mitchell in his recent (and past, over 10yrs or so) interviews might have come up with...

wolfkahn said...

It is a fascinating subject, though frustrating knowing that FTL will not happen in my lifetime. In my best Veruca Salt "I Want it Now!"

I agree with Shaun about the ideas of alien intelligences being beyond our imaginations (Dark Energy drives?).

Paul said...

Yes, Shaun I remember our conversations going well into the wee hours. My problem is with the enormous energies that are required to accelerate a mass even to light speed. Now, you would think that the warping of space time to "move" would require like energies. However our own galaxy demonstrates this concept and with far less energy (in the order of several billion solar masses). At our present level of tech these masses and controlling them would appear insurmountable, but until we exploded the first hydrogen weapon, fusion was beyond our grasp as well.