Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Would Warp Speed be Instantly Fatal?

From a recent NewScientist, via Dvice, article is a story recounting Professor William Edelstein of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's research into what would happen when a craft, like the Enterprise, reaches 99% of C.

As we know, space, both macro and micro, is far from empty. On the macro level there is every type of rock or ice or rock and ice baddie just waiting to eviscerate anything crossing its path. And on the micro level is the lowly hydrogen atom which is spread about thinly at about 2 atoms per square centimeter. As your spacecraft draws away from "populated" areas, you are less likely to encounter the big baddies, but as you accelerate, no matter where you are, you start running into more and more hydrogen atoms.
From the NewScientist article:
  • (the speed) transforms the thin wisp of hydrogen gas ..... into an intense radiation beam that would kill humans within seconds and destroy the spacecraft's electronic instruments
Worse yet is the kinetic energy. The hydrogen atoms would reach a staggering 7 teraelectron volts – the same energy that protons will eventually reach in the Large Hadron Collider when it runs at full throttle.

Bummer.... but for me, I always thought of FTL as "hyperspace" where running into things didn't apply. I can remember asking myself back in the late 60, why didn't they run into stars? I reasoned that hyperspace follows different "rules" and folded space is passing from one point to another without travel through the intervening space, thus no stars, planets or hydrogen atoms. what have you got?

The Register


Anonymous said...

that is why they have a deflector dish

Beam Me Up said...

Yeah, I read back through the "science of star trek" and "rediscovered" that little factoid. Plus looking at the new star trek movie, you can see this in action. I still think though that ftl if it ever happens will be more the folded space variant, you don't travel through the space but tunnel through the folds.