No this isn’t a joke, it has been recently believed that going at speeds faster than light may be achieved. However before you start saving up your credits for a ride on the Millennium Falcon or enlist in Star Fleet, this is only a calculation.
But don’t be so downhearted, a calculation is the real-life possibility of a theory existing. Therefore if it can be proven, it exists and therefore can be done!
So how did this happen?
Well a few months ago a physicist named Harold White and a team from NASA had started developing a
prototype warp drive. However the ‘drive’ is nothing more than a modified Michelson-Morley interferometer, which allows the measurements of microscopic perturbations in space time.Â So although it’s not exactly spaceship material, it is still the first tiny steps to a much larger opportunity. If it is successful, then White’s re-imagining of the Alcubierre Drive may become the foundations of a new age of space faring humans. It has been calculated that traveling to the nearest star, which is over four light years away, would take a mere two weeks instead of it’s previous multiple year calculation. This is an astonishing time frame which could be compared to a long holiday cruise or even several past or present space missions.
White has said “This is possible by looking at mathematical calculations, but it remains to be seen when we reduce this to practice.”
What is a warp drive exactly?
A warp drive is a theoretical/mathematically practical way of getting around the cosmos. Just as the name says, the drive warps the fabric of space time around a ship, contracting it on the front and expanding it at the back, whilst the ship itself stays inside it’s own personal bubble field. Think of an elastic band in slow motion.
In the real world, the warp drive is seen to be the most realistic form of traveling around in the universe. There are other theories such as Hyperspace or the use of artificial wormholes, however unlike the warp drive, these theories involve fictional elements. (i.e. there is no such thing as hyperspace or wormholes.)
Will it work?
Of course if the tests were successful, to make this drive to work fully, a huge amount of energy will be required. And we’re talking
planet-scale huge, which obviously we do not have…yet. However there is a silver lining. White explained that this new design can reduce the required energy, which was previously equivalent to the mass of Jupiter, to something no bigger than the Voyager 1 probe. Although this is excellent news, we still need to generate a substantial amount of power which will most likely come in the form of fusion, of which we don’t have available for another decade or so. (We’re close, but not close enough to achieve self sustaining fusion.) But once we do, then things start to become far more exciting!
It sound’s a bit too good to be true, surely it won’t be available for a long while.
It is unknown however on how long this experiment will take. It could be months, weeks, days or even years or decades. But as newer, smaller and much more powerful technologies come into our lives, things will become far easier and more efficient.
Now call me optimistic, but if the tests are successful, we will see massive funding into this. Hopefully NASA will bounce back to it’s former glory as it once was in the 1960′s. And even help boost other agencies such as the ESA, Chinese, Russian and Indian space programmes. This will definitely get us to the moon and even mars in half a second or less. (roughly) But for me, I’d say with the rapid advancement in technology, the ever nearing goal of obtaining self-sustaining fusion power and better, safer ways of getting into space (e.g. the SKYLON project, when it gets developed in the next decade or so.) We could be traveling into space in possibly the next 30-50 years…that’s if the project actually works.
After all, White did state about the ‘Chicago Pile’ moment when in late 1942, the first nuclear reactor generated a massive half a watt, which wasn’t even enough to power a lightbulb, but under a year later, they managed to achieve 4MW which is enough to power a small town. If that can happen then, then this can happen in the future. Especially when we can physically see technology advancing in products such as phones and computers. It’s just a matter of time!