What if the warp drive from Star Trek wasn’t just science fiction? Yes, this is a question many of us have pondered over late snacks or over drinks after a convention. If we could travel at a speed faster than light, where would we go? Just imagine the possibilities.
According to NASA, daydreaming about a warp isn’t for naught. As Dr. Harold White, the Advanced Propulsion Theme Lead for the NASA Engineering Directorate, said, “Perhaps a Star Trek experience within our lifetime is not such a remote possibility.” It’s more than just a chance; it’s a project White and his team are already working on.
Though it befuddles me a little considering our progress in space exploration – we’ve made amazing strides but we’re not exactly to the point of Trek’s opening monologue yet – this technology would be invaluable for when we’re ready. It means trips that would take decades or longer could be made in a jiffy, and that is priceless to all of us.
To get there, White and his team are examining in loopholes in some mathematical equations; they then would use those loopholes to create microscopic warp bubbles. If that’s successful, they can continue testing on a bigger scale. From his article:
Those equations are tested using an instrument called the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer. At JSC, Eagleworks has initiated an interferometer test bed that will try to generate and detect a microscopic instance of a little warp bubble. Although this is just a tiny instance of the phenomena, it will be existence proof for the idea of perturbing space time—a “Chicago pile” moment, as it were. Recall that December of 1942 saw the first demonstration of a controlled nuclear reaction that generated a whopping half watt. This existence proof was followed by the activation of a ~ four megawatt reactor in November of 1943. Existence proof for the practical application of a scientific idea can be a tipping point for technology development.
By harnessing the physics of cosmic inflation, future spaceships crafted to satisfy the laws of these mathematical equations may actually be able to get somewhere unthinkably fast—and without adverse effects. The math would allow you to go to Alpha Centauri in two weeks as measured by clocks here on Earth. So somebody’s clock aboard the spacecraft has the same rate of time as somebody in mission control here in Houston might have. There are no tidal forces inside the bubble, no undue issues, and the proper acceleration is zero. When you turn the field on, everybody doesn’t go slamming against the bulkhead, which would be a very short and sad trip.
Fascinating, a little confusing, and very awesome.
(via Gizmodo via)