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Space Science

Warp Engines In Development? 1016

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'm-giving-her-all-she's-got-captain dept.
Toloran writes "Although a staple of Sci-Fi space travel, it is often deemed to be just that: Fiction. However, it seems that one is currently in development. "The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft. Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension.""
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Warp Engines In Development?

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  • This is SO neat! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:40PM (#14404056) Homepage Journal

    It reminds me of the experiments with the first atomic bombs: they didn't know that the chain reaction wouldn't ignite the atmosphere. Who knows what considerations they've given it. Will it jerk the earth out of it's orbit? Will it open a wormhole that sucks out the earth's atmosphere? Will it end life as we know it? I was under the impression that extreme magnetic fields were fatal to humans, to say nothing of throwing birds off of their migration patterns.

    I wonder who they will bestow the honor of first flight on...

    Like the WB Gophers:

    "After you!"
    "I wouldn't think of it, after you!"
    "Oh, but I insist you go first!"
    "I am most undeserving of that honour, you go first!"
    "I couldn't live with myself it I did, you first!"
    etc.
    Latest news: Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott still dead.

    wwgd: what would google do?

    • Re:This is SO neat! (Score:5, Informative)

      by s20451 (410424) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:47PM (#14404141) Journal
      It reminds me of the experiments with the first atomic bombs: they didn't know that the chain reaction wouldn't ignite the atmosphere.

      This is mostly a myth. Virtually every physicist associated with the Manhattan Project came independently to the conclusion that a nuclear bomb would not ignite the atmosphere, based on what was known about the nuclear cross-sections of atmospheric atoms (which was a lot).

      I guess it's possible that some unknown physics could have resulted in ignition of the atmosphere anyway, but we are always at risk from that, so it's somewhat silly to worry about it. For instance, if current physics is wrong, a passing strangelet [wisegeek.com] could destroy the Earth at any moment.
      • Re:This is SO neat! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:55PM (#14404251)

        This is mostly a myth. Virtually every physicist associated with the Manhattan Project came independently to the conclusion that a nuclear bomb would not ignite the atmosphere, based on what was known about the nuclear cross-sections of atmospheric atoms (which was a lot).

        Having had one of said people as mathematics instructor; he said it was about 1/3 of the team members who thought it would probably kill us all via igniting the atmosphere, or jettisoning a significant amount of it into space.

      • Re:This is SO neat! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by monopole (44023) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:02PM (#14404340)
        Supposedly, when Fermi ran an office pool allowing the staff to guess the yield of the Trinity device, "ignite the atmosphere" was a side bet.
      • Re:This is SO neat! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sabaki (531686)
        Virtually every physicist associated with the Manhattan Project came independently to the conclusion that a nuclear bomb would not ignite the atmosphere

        Maybe eventually, but only after several came to the scary conclusion that it might. Whereupon they re-ran the numbers until pretty sure it wouldn't. Then they crossed their fingers. I think Feynman talks about this in his book.

        And it does make sense to worry about it in those cases where someone has their finger on the button of the possible atmosphere-i
      • Re:This is SO neat! (Score:3, Informative)

        by bmajik (96670)
        IIRC, the real concern about atmospheric ignition was for the hydrogen bomb, due to the abundance of hydrogen in the atmosphere.

        When talking about nuclear weapons, the convention seems to be that "atomic" discusses fission devices, and "thermonuclear" discusses fusion devices.

        The risk of atmospheric ignition was really only discussed seriously for thermonuclear devices, i thought?

        The manhattan project dealt with the construction of atomic devices. I would imagine that the h-bomb work (led by Edward Teller,
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:58PM (#14404298)
      When you start going faster than the speed of light some joker with a faster warp engine in another dimension, the locals there are going to get pissed and start putting in transparent aluminum speedbumps and jersey barriers. They rip the tranny right out of your spaceship and knock your head on the ceiling faster than light. Your own grandpa will be shaking his rocket cane at you. Then we'll see who's boss, "mr what's-my-hurry".
    • by 2names (531755) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:01PM (#14404326)
      but does it have a bluetooth mouse that will fit in the slot on the tricorder?

      ***ducks***

    • Re:This is SO neat! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kallahar (227430) <kallahar@quickwired.com> on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:15PM (#14404499) Homepage
      From wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manhattan_Project [wikipedia.org]

      Edward Teller also raised the speculative possibility that an atomic bomb might "ignite" the atmosphere, due to a hypothetical fusion reaction of nitrogen nuclei. Hans Bethe calculated, according to Robert Serber, that it could not happen. In his book The Road from Los Alamos, Bethe says a refutation was written by Konopinski, C. Marvin, and Teller as report LA-602 (declassified Feb. 1973, PDF), showing that ignition of the atmosphere was impossible, not just unlikely.
    • by MoreNoiseThanSignal (916548) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:24PM (#14404572) Homepage
      If videogames have taught me anything it's that these types of dangerous experiments should only be conducted off-world. Like on Mars. What could possibly go wrong there?
    • by MiKM (752717) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:26PM (#14404601)
      I wonder who they will bestow the honor of first flight on...
      Ace Rimmer?
    • Re:This is SO neat! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AxemRed (755470)
      Are extreme magnetic fields fatal? I remember watching a show on magnetic fields on TV one time, and some European scientists were levitating a living frog in a machine that could produce enormous magnetic fields. I can't remember anything other than that, but it was pretty cool. And the frog didn't die.
  • Original article (Score:4, Informative)

    by rfinnvik (16122) * on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:40PM (#14404061)
    Original article from New Scientist [livejournal.com] - (also) stolen from digg.com :)
  • by biocute (936687) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:41PM (#14404070) Homepage
    What if my Apocalypse battleship slipped into a different dimension where the speed of light is slower, and it would take me another 200 years to move my finger to the 'OFF' switch 2cm away just to come back again.
    • by Philip K Dickhead (906971) <folderol@fancypants.org> on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:44PM (#14404110) Journal
      You rock. Someone who GETS the law of unintended consequences, and sees its incredible potential for humor.
    • by murphyslawyer (534449) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:50PM (#14404174) Homepage
      What if my Apocalypse battleship slipped into a different dimension where the speed of light is slower, and it would take me another 200 years to move my finger to the 'OFF' switch 2cm away just to come back again.

      Or worse yet, due to a great miscalculation in size, the entire battlefleet could be swallowed by a small dog.

    • I prefer the Armageddon battleship [eve-online.com] to the Apocalypse [eve-online.com].
    • That has an improbability factor of 4,567,876,345 to 1.

      Me, brain size of a planet, and stuck here calculating improbabilities for /. jokes.

    • Re:Slower Dimension (Score:3, Informative)

      by aussie_a (778472)
      What if my Apocalypse battleship slipped into a different dimension where the speed of light is slower, and it would take me another 200 years to move my finger to the 'OFF' switch 2cm away just to come back again.

      Then for 200 years it would be presumed your dead and by the time you re-emerge they'll have fixed the flaw in the design and we'll have several colonies on different planets.
  • Whacky science.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:42PM (#14404087) Homepage Journal
    This should be a fun post. At any rate, the interest of the Air Force does not provide any more credibility to this story. I've seen some *really* whacky ideas based on science fiction rather than science fact move through the DOD that says more to me about the state of science education in the US than anything else.

    • by Gen-GNU (36980) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:58PM (#14404296)
      I think it says more about the science education of the high ranking military officers. Of course they have assistants, but who needs to listen to them? It's much more fun to say we're developing a warp drive than to ask someone who knows whether the theory behind it is crap.

      I do think the way technology has followed the sci-fi writing is cool and all, but that doesn't mean that every idea in a sci-fi novel is worth spending tax money on.
      • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @08:26PM (#14405962) Homepage Journal
        Well, I think the problem is not the education of the Air Force people, or hm ... probably it is ...
        Anyway, its the press.

        The drive is no warp drive. And the idea is NOT to slip it into a different dimension, at least not as far as I understood the stuff about Heim I read so far.

        Heim has a somewhat unified theory about forces. Like Lorenz force, that is a force affecting charged particles, the Heim-Lorenz force affects any particle that has mass. (But the force still needs to be shown to exist in experiments)

        According to that unified theory you only need compareable weak magnetic fields (compareable like on the surface of our sun, don't remember the exact numbers, but I googled once for references and I think I remember the strength of the field was a bit below the magnetic field of the sun) I think the field needs to be somewhat in the order of 10 times as strong as in the current fusion experiiments.

        Such a field would basically work like an "anti grav" drive, not like a warp dirve, and no, you would not be faster than light, you only could speed up pretty easy. In fact I have no clue how you just would use a field as drive anyway ...

        angel'o'sphere
    • by kabocox (199019)
      I've seen some *really* whacky ideas based on science fiction rather than science fact move through the DOD that says more to me about the state of science education in the US than anything else.

      The proper term is blue sky research projects. Only 1 out of 1,00 pays off, but when it does it is usually worth it.
  • Come again, please? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slavemowgli (585321) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:44PM (#14404109) Homepage

    The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.

    OK - so far, so good.

    Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension.""

    Err, what? I hope this is a joke...

    • The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.

      OK - so far, so good.


      Um, what?! Granted I'm not a physicist or even a wanna-be, but if they had discovered (in the 50s!) the GUT/TOE that combines the gravitational force with the already unified electric, magnetic, and weak nuclear forces, I think I would have heard about it!
      • Considering the high magnetic fields we create for scientific research into plasma containment and the fact that no gravitational anomolies have been detected from these it scares me a bit to think about the magnetic field that they would need to generate to supposedly make this thing work.

        I can see it now...

        One of the engineers mistakenly wears a belt with a ferrous buckle during a test. The belt destroys the engine, flying at it at near C speed, but the scientists realize that the engineer was sliced so
  • by RoffleTheWaffle (916980) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:47PM (#14404143) Journal
    Maybe it'll be powered by somehow catalyzing really bad Star-Trek fanfiction.
  • by Odonian (730378) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:49PM (#14404165)
    Anyone else find it amusing that the warp engine story appears on 'scotsman.com'? James Doohan's probably smiling somewhere...
  • by namespan (225296) <namespan&elitemail,org> on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:49PM (#14404166) Journal
    Although a stable of Sci-Fi space travel

    Staple. A *staple* of Sci-Fi space travel. A stable would be... well, I don't know what it would be, but it would be something else besides a staple.

    People: spelling phonetically doesn't always work. This is getting "rediculous" [sic].

  • hey!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by revery (456516) <charles@c[ ].net ['ac2' in gap]> on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:50PM (#14404176) Homepage
    The hypothetical device, which has been outlined in principle but is based on a controversial theory about the fabric of the universe, could potentially allow a spacecraft to travel to Mars in three hours and journey to a star 11 light years away in just 80 days, according to a report in today's New Scientist magazine.

    Wow, I just logged onto their "theoretical" website and bought me some "hypothetical" tickets. I'll be staying in the VaporWare Resorts located on the crater-rific Southern Highlands, where I'll play Duke Nukem Forever on my Cold-Fusion powered Phantom Game Console....

    Sigh.

  • OMGWTFBBQ! (Score:3, Funny)

    by bill_kress (99356) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:50PM (#14404178)
    I think more "Fake" sci-fi stuff becomes reality than not, but honestly I never thought there would be a way to implement a practical FTL engine.

    On top of this, it works exactly as specified on startrek, with the "Warping" entering another dimension, ...

    If they figure out that they can creat some new crystal that will power such a monster, I'm going to quit my job and start designing a world that can wrap all the way around a star.

  • Warp drive? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AC-x (735297) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:51PM (#14404187)
    Forget that! We could've had interplanetary ships by the 70s if Kennedy hadn't killed Orion.
  • At last (Score:3, Funny)

    by truckaxle (883149) * on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:52PM (#14404208) Homepage
    Clearly a warp engine in the garage would more than make up for science and progress failure for not delivering a practical flying car and dishwashing robots.
  • by Control Group (105494) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:52PM (#14404216) Homepage
    The theoretical engine works by creating an intense dark energy field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft. Also, if a large enough dark energy field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension.

    And really, they might as well replace "magnetic" with "pork chop," for all the real science that's discussed here.

    FTA: But this thing is not around the corner; we first have to prove the basic science is correct and there are quite a few physicists who have a different opinion.

    Yeah. Like almost all of them. This, however, is the most reasonable statement made in the whole article.

    I'm not normally on the "bash slashdot" bandwagon, but...come on. Since when are completely unsubstantiated claims that it might be possible someday to violate fundamental physical laws news? If they are, here's more news:

    A method to cheaply and easily turn any given substance into gold has long been the goal of alchemy, and widely regarded as fantasy. However, it seems that one is currently in development. According to slashdot user Control Group: "the theoretical process works by imbuing heavy metals - such as lead - with the essence of the sun's emanatory spirit, resulting in the lead taking on a yellowish hue. Also, if enough essence is crammed into any given substance, the very nature of it is changed, allowing incredible transformations to be performed.

    *eyeroll*
    • by Sebastopol (189276) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:37PM (#14404741) Homepage
      But pork chops are so cheap! Are you suggesting the government invest in pork belly futures to offset the glut of would-be time travellers?

      Mmmmm... pork chops...
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:53PM (#14404919)

      the theoretical process works by imbuing heavy metals - such as lead - with the essence of the sun's emanatory spirit, resulting in the lead taking on a yellowish hue.

      I remember reading once about how every now and again someone finds a pile of platinum hidden somewhere. It was believed by some gold prospectors that platinum was gold that had not yet turned yellow, thus they hid it so they could come back later and see if it had become valuable gold yet. That has nothing to do with anything, but I find it amusing.

  • by rufusdufus (450462) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:56PM (#14404271)
    This [uibk.ac.at] is a paper on the subject. The only thing that differentiates this from crackpot science is that it is testable. The authors won an award from AIAA for suggesting a method for testing the theory. There is no reason to believe that the theory won't be falsified.
  • Nutjob or not? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clem (5683) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:57PM (#14404286) Homepage
    Here's how to determine if you're dealing with complete scientific quackery or not. Let's examine a quote from the linked article:
    "But this thing is not around the corner; we first have to prove the basic science is correct and there are quite a few physicists who have a different opinion.
    "It's our job to prove we are right and we are working on that."
    Now let's take the typical nutjob quote:
    "Naysayers! My contemporaries conspire against me in refusing to acknowledge my genius!"
    This doesn't mean that the physicist is right, but merely an indicator that this is a controversial theory rather than the workings of a complete and utter looney. For more information on loonies, see http://www.timecube.com/ [timecube.com]
  • translation (Score:5, Funny)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquar ... m ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:57PM (#14404292) Homepage Journal
    "The bullshit press release works by creating an intense bullshit field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Rube Goldberg in the 1950s, would produce a suspended disbelief field and result in trust for the bullshit. Also, if a large enough bullshit field was created, the press release would slip into a different dimension, where the trust in bullshit press releases is automatic, allowing incredible levels of naivete to be reached. Switching off the bullshit field would result in the press release reappearing in our current dimension, where none of this bullshit makes any sense."
  • by hcg50a (690062) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:13PM (#14404471) Journal
    Do a Google search on "Burkhard Heim" [google.com].

    Read some of the entries. Or simply look at the domain names of the pages found.

    Then take the following test [ucr.edu] to see if he's actually a revolutionary physicist of Gallileo's, Newton's, Einstein's or Feynmann's stature, or merely just another 2-bit crackpot.
  • Unnecessary (Score:3, Interesting)

    by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:14PM (#14404491)
    Why do people think that it is necessary to go faster than the speed of light "to go faster"? You can go arbitrarily fast by simply getting closer and closer to the speed of light. If you could reach the speed of light (which is impossible), you would be able to traverse the entire universe in no time (from your reference frame). "Warp" speed is not necessary.
    • Re:Unnecessary (Score:3, Insightful)

      by P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022)
      what do you mean by 'arbitrarily fast'? you get heavier and heavier, not faster when you approach C
      • Re:Unnecessary (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot@@@castlesteelstone...us> on Thursday January 05, 2006 @06:14PM (#14405086) Homepage Journal
        You need a basic lesson in relativity.

        Point A: All motion is relative. If I walk down the asile of a plane, I'm not suddenly walking at 202 mph; I'm walking 2mph in a 200 mph plane, so long as that plane is around me and at a steady flight.

        Point B: The speed of light is NOT relative. It's always c. Always, always, always.

        Point C: When you move relative to an object, the speed of light stays constant both for you and that object.

        Point D: The only way to have a constant c with different relative speeds is to change the other side of a speed equation -- that is, time.

        Conclusion: As you go faster, you travel through time faster.

        (Bad) Example: Imagine you have ten identically sized strings ("time"), and you have to stretch them from one line on the ground to another line in the ground. The space between the two lines is the speed of light -- a constant. Normally, exactly ten strings reach from one line to the other. But if the line became further apart (as if you were moving faster through space), you'd still have to stretch those ten strings between the lines, but you'd have gaps -- time would be dilated, or slowed.
        • Re:Unnecessary (Score:5, Informative)

          by cryptocom (833376) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @07:46PM (#14405722)
          *buzzer sound*...WRONG.

          "Point A: All motion is relative. If I walk down the asile of a plane, I'm not suddenly walking at 202 mph; I'm walking 2mph in a 200 mph plane, so long as that plane is around me and at a steady flight."
          -this proves nothing. you are still MOVING at 200mph in relation to the observer who is on the ground. and if you take 3 steps in a plane moving 200 mph, you've just traversed the same distance as the plane did...in 3 steps.

          "Point B: The speed of light is NOT relative. It's always c. Always, always, always."
          -nope. c = the speed of light in a vaccum. c can be much much slower when in a medium...such as water. scientists have recently been able to slow the speed of light down to walking speed.

          The very word, RELATIVITY, indicates the complexity and the depth that must be considered when working with the laws of physics. The laws can change and DO change relative to where you are and how fast you are moving and any number of other factors.

  • by AviLazar (741826) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:24PM (#14404574) Journal
    April fools is three months away.
  • Finally (Score:3, Funny)

    by No2Gates (239823) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:40PM (#14404779)
    I've been waiting for this for a long time. Maybe it will allow me to go back in time and make my first marriage never have happened.
  • by rabtech (223758) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:45PM (#14404840) Homepage
    This is basic science at its finest.

    Someone comes up with a theory that may permit FTL space travel. There isn't any known way to test the theory with the current techniques.

    Sometime later someone comes up with a way to test the theory to see if it works or not (we are here).

    If the theory works, the nature of human society changes forever as we become a true spacefaring race.

    If the theory fails to hold up then we've disproven it and learned something new about the nature of the universe in the process (or possibly just confirmed a different conflicting theory).

    By all means - bring on the experiments/tests!
  • Psuedoscience (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:47PM (#14404853) Homepage Journal
    It's such a shame that crap like this gets on Slashdot but real technological breakthroughs don't. For example, how many of Slashdot's readers are aware that antimatter is currently being produced and stored in quantity at CERN and soon in facilities in the US? Antimatter is the ultimate in energy storage. Creating an antimatter rocket is trivial compared to regular chemical rockets. All you need is a sufficient supply of antimatter and a way to store it and we now have both.
    • Re:Psuedoscience (Score:3, Interesting)

      They already create antimatter here in the US. At FermiLab, they routinely create antimatter (antiprotons) for smashing with regular matter. This is how they found all of the quarks they did.

      See: http://www.fnal.gov/pub/inquiring/matter/smallest/ index.html

      Also, I don't know if antimatter is the ultimate energy source. They use way more energy to produce the antiprotons than they get out of them smashing them with regular protons. It's the same problem that we see with hydrogen fuel cells. You still h
    • Re:Psuedoscience (Score:5, Informative)

      by jim_deane (63059) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @06:55PM (#14405403) Journal
      Antimatter is the ultimate in energy storage. Creating an antimatter rocket is trivial compared to regular chemical rockets. All you need is a sufficient supply of antimatter and a way to store it and we now have both.


      Antimatter may be the ultimate in energy density, but it is not the ultimate in energy storage. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to create that antimatter, much more than you will get from its annihilation with matter.

      On to the "trivial" rockets, you may be able to produce lots of thrust with a matter/antimatter engine, but you also produce enormous amounts of radiation. How will you shield the crew compartment, or even the electronics? Lots of heavy metals? More mass = less acceleration.

      Finally, the net world production of antimatter is what, femtograms per year? We're nowhere near ready to fuel even one bottle rocket, let alone a spaceship.
  • by heroine (1220) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @05:54PM (#14404929) Homepage
    The problem is we have the most powerful magnet on Earth. It's in Gainesville FL and it doesn't change gravity. The most powerful magnet ever detected was a magnetar of many billions of tesla and that didn't change gravity. We've observed very powerful magnets for years they have never ever slipped into alternate dimensions or changed gravity.

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