Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Warp Drive: The Theory

Now a days we understand that the speed of light is the cosmological speed limit of the universe. Nothing can literally go faster than the speed of light. With this in mind travelling to the nearest star system will prove to be a pain. Still taking months if not even years to reach the nearest habitable planetary systems. We take into account the size of our solar system. A way to look at how fast you could travel from one side of the solar system to the other can be derived from a simple rule. The speed that light takes to travel from the Sun to the Earth (about 8 minutes 19 seconds) you can image the distance that the Sun is, relative to Earth. Earth is insignificant in terms of size. Even a solar coronial injection is enough to vaporise the earth. Basically even the essence of the Sun could kill us. So for the Sun to appear very small, would mean that there would have to be a serious amount of distance between us and the Sun.  To be exact for mathematical sakes is about 92,935,700. This can also be known as an Astronomical unit*.  A standardised unit of distance in space

*The distance light that can travel in 8 and a half minutes = 1 AU

You can then take into account how far the Sun is from Pluto (No longer a planet) and how long it takes light to reach it (Though it must be noted that Pluto’s time difference can differ greatly due to tilt and angles of 150 Degrees, which can lead to almost double the time it would take at if it was at 150 degree angle). But for arguments sake we can say 4.1 hours it takes the sun to reach Pluto. This is a massive difference between the Sun and Earth to the Sun and Pluto. Meaning that light would take 4.1 hours, so if we were able to travel at the speed of light from the Sun to Pluto, depending on orbital rotation it would take us about 4.1 hours. That’s not bad, that a bus ride from Manchester to London perhaps. So it’s not too bad. But for inter solar system travel is not really that interesting, in terms of new planetary exploration.  The planets in our solar system are believed to be baron and scarce. With suggestion that life was extinguished millions of years ago if there were any to begin with. Our objective is past the solar system’s veil and into deep stellar space and the nearest thing outside the solar system is so far away. Alpha Centauri the nearest star system to the solar system we live it, habiting about 4.37 Light-years away from Earth. As you can see to travel to this system would take 4.37 Years to travel to if we managed to travel at the speed of light. Which to us this isn’t practical. We were cursed to live in a rural part of the cosmos and to commute to more populated star systems we have to take the local bus going at low speed and the roof falling in. So we need another idea. 

In the past there have been talks about a special drive that can allow us to travel faster than the speed of light. Known as the Warp drive, many trekkers will instantly recognize this word, as it’s used to allow the star ship enterprise travel at immense speeds between galaxies and star systems. Now to most this seems like fantastical approach to space travel, inciting nothing more than sci fi hokum. Just a fancy word for a machine that does the impossible. With no mathematics or physics behind the idea.

 Fig.1 Graphical representation of Warp Theory.  
Credit: Ian Steadman, Wired UK

At NASA they look at things completely differently, looking into the possibility of a Warp drive that actually might be plausible. This machine could be theorised to bend and warp space and time to allow for the moving of vehicle or massive object through the fabric of space and time. Taking advantage of a physical loophole in laws of physics that do not permit the moving of mass faster than the speed of light. The drive has been theories before, by a scientist by the name of Miguel Alcubierre, who believed the warp drive was possible to make but required massive amounts of energy to actually power the device. This power requirement is a lot more than what we could currently generate. But now scientists claim that with the proper adjustments, the warp drive would be able to be used without the requirement of ridiculous amount of energy. Reports has suggested the energy required would be equal to the mass-energy of Jupiter.


  • Anonymous says:
    30 September 2012 at 09:30

    Hmmm i didn't know that this aerodinamics its so complicated...

Post a Comment