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submitted 1 week ago by Espiritdescali to c/futurology

A new study provides some theoretical underpinning to warp drives, suggesting that the superfast propulsion tech may not forever elude humanity.

Sci-fi fans — especially "Star Trek" devotees — are familiar with warp drives. These hypothetical engines manipulate the fabric of space-time itself, compressing the stuff in front of a spaceship and expanding it behind. This creates a "warp bubble" that allows a craft to travel at incredible velocities — in some imaginings, many times faster than the speed of light.

In 1994, Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre published a groundbreaking paper that laid out how a real-life warp drive could work. This exciting development came with a major caveat, however: The proposed "Alcubierre drive" required negative energy, an exotic substance that may or may not exist (or, perhaps, the harnessing of dark energy, the mysterious force that seems to be causing the universe's accelerated expansion).

Alcubierre published his idea in Classical and Quantum Gravity. Now, a new paper in the same journal suggests that a warp drive may not require exotic negative energy after all.

"This study changes the conversation about warp drives," lead author Jared Fuchs, of the University of Alabama, Huntsville and the research think tank Applied Physics, said in a statement. "By demonstrating a first-of-its-kind model, we've shown that warp drives might not be relegated to science fiction."

The team's model uses "a sophisticated blend of traditional and novel gravitational techniques to create a warp bubble that can transport objects at high speeds within the bounds of known physics," according to the statement.

Understanding that model is probably beyond most of us; the paper's abstract, for example, says that the solution "involves combining a stable matter shell with a shift vector distribution that closely matches well-known warp drive solutions such as the Alcubierre metric."

The proposed engine could not achieve faster-than-light travel, though it could come close; the statement mentions "high but subluminal speeds."

This is a single modeling study, so don't get too excited. Even if other research teams confirm that the math reported in the new study checks out, we're still very far from being able to build an actual warp drive.

Fuchs and his team admit as much, stressing that their work could end up being a stepping stone on the long road to efficient interstellar flight.

"While we're not yet preparing for interstellar voyages, this research heralds a new era of possibilities," Gianni Martire, CEO of Applied Physics, said in the same statement. "We're continuing to make steady progress as humanity embarks on the Warp Age."

The team's study was published online on April 29. You can find it here, though all but the abstract is behind a paywall; a free preprint version is available via arXiv.org.

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[-] GregorGizeh@lemmy.zip 37 points 1 week ago* (last edited 1 week ago)

Even if it is capped at sub light speeds we could travel all around our solar system in very reasonable timeframes, probably even visit neighboring solar systems without generational ships. Very cool, but this is obviously a very sensationalist headline, so I remain on the fence

[-] stembolts@programming.dev 5 points 1 week ago

After this announcement, all of the cell phone companies in the US announced Warp Drive Plans, for only $200 extra a month you get a little warp reactor icon in your system tray that occasionally makes lightning.

It doesn't do anything for speed, but neither did it when they announced 5G and started selling it before the infrastructure existed.

I'm signing up today!

[-] CanadaPlus@lemmy.sdf.org 3 points 1 week ago* (last edited 1 week ago)

The paper. It doesn't actually help for any practical space exploration future or present, but it's interesting and seems accessibly written so far.

Figure 13 is nice if you just want to visualise it.

[-] dohpaz42@lemmy.world 1 points 1 week ago

Can someone help me understand how this would be considered efficient if the closer to the speed of light that you get, the slower time moves for those at that speed? Wouldn’t that mean a loss of time for the travelers because everyone else would be moving along the timeline faster than them?

[-] TheOneCurly@lemm.ee 17 points 1 week ago

One of the things that makes the warp drive idea so compelling is it does not have this issue. I'm not a physicist but I do like star trek. The idea is that inside the "bubble" is a normal inertial frame with no significant time dilation effects compared to where you left from. This is why in fiction you can travel faster than the speed of light within one without the need for "infinite" energy. Your mass never moves in space, you take your little bubble of space with you.

[-] CanadaPlus@lemmy.sdf.org 1 points 1 week ago

It still causes time dilation. It just doesn't require accelerating in the process.

[-] OsaErisXero@kbin.run 8 points 1 week ago

The Alcuberie drive doesn't move the ship, it moves space around the ship in such a way as to create a pocket of 'normal' speed that the ship rides in, shortcutting around near-c time dilation effects.

[-] CanadaPlus@lemmy.sdf.org 2 points 1 week ago

Nope, it will still cause time dilation in the bubble, relative to outside the bubble. The appeal is not having to accelerate things in the bubble, and the existence of (causally questionable) metrics where the bubble exceeds lightspeed.

[-] RobotToaster@mander.xyz 3 points 1 week ago

An Alcubierre drive doesn't move faster than light, it compresses the space in front of a ship and expands the space behind it.

There's a whole bunch of theoretical problems though, like potentially killing everyone inside the bubble with hawking radiation, or destroying everything at the destination with high energy particles.

[-] BakerBagel@midwest.social 2 points 1 week ago

Also requiring as much energy as exists in the entire universe to generate said field. It's theoretically possible, but the math doesn't even let us pretend it's something we can actually accomplish.

[-] Anticorp@lemmy.world 2 points 1 week ago

That's literally what the article is about. A new paper has theoretically found a way to operate a variation of that drive without the need for exotic matter.

[-] BakerBagel@midwest.social 0 points 1 week ago

The article is about sub-light speed. The Alcubierre drive is about a theoretical way to travel faster than the speed of light by hacking yoir surrounding space to move instead of you.

[-] Anticorp@lemmy.world 1 points 1 week ago

Just read the article...

[-] DdCno1@kbin.social 1 points 1 week ago

The potential issues could result in only unmanned probes using this drive far away from planets - which would still be immensely useful, e.g. for automated space exploration and fast interstellar communication.

[-] GBU_28@lemm.ee 3 points 1 week ago* (last edited 1 week ago)

Or, we quickly invented near light speed doomsday weapons

[-] CanadaPlus@lemmy.sdf.org 1 points 1 week ago

There's lot's of reasons to suspect FTL can't work in any way, for any vessel. The suspicion is that these solutions only show up in GR because it neglects unknown quantum effects that ultimately keep things nice and paradox-free.

[-] RobotToaster@mander.xyz 1 points 1 week ago

Would be kinda embarrassing to obliterate the first alien species we encounter because we accidentally parked our probe too close to their planet.

[-] FooBarrington@lemmy.world 1 points 1 week ago

Loss of time relative to the experience of others, but gain of time relative to the duration of others. If you experience one hour less than someone, you also live one hour longer than they do.

[-] GBU_28@lemm.ee 1 points 1 week ago

A loss of time? How did their frame take time away from their lives?

[-] CanadaPlus@lemmy.sdf.org 1 points 1 week ago* (last edited 1 week ago)

Ignore the article, because it's not really interesting from a practical perspective, and inevitably will attract crackpottery.

I was going to write about the ins and outs of the twin paradox, but maybe it's better just to point out that if you leave for Alpha Centauri in 2050 and succeed, you'll never see Earth 2055; there's no way around that that preserves causality, and realistically you're not going home for a much longer time than that if ever. Less travel time onboard is good in that sense, and the sleeper ship concept is attractive to make the trip even shorter.

this post was submitted on 09 May 2024
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