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Star Trek's Warp Drive Not Impossible 541

Posted by samzenpus
from the engage dept.
Trunks writes "No doubt trying to ride the hype train that's currently going for the new Star Trek film, Space.com has a new article detailing how warp drive may not be impossible to acheive. From the article: '"The idea is that you take a chunk of space-time and move it," said Marc Millis, former head of NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project. "The vehicle inside that bubble thinks that it's not moving at all. It's the space-time that's moving." One reason this idea seems credible is that scientists think it may already have happened. Some models suggest that space-time expanded at a rate faster than light speed during a period of rapid inflation shortly after the Big Bang. "If it could do it for the Big Bang, why not for our space drives?" Millis said.' Simple, right?"
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Star Trek's Warp Drive Not Impossible

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  • So which is it (Score:5, Informative)

    by Endo13 (1000782) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:05PM (#27852887)

    Didn't we just have an article on this exact same thing a few days ago explaining why this is definitely NOT possible?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:11PM (#27852955)
      The last article was just to make the conclusion of this one seem more impresseve. It is impossible to do unless you reroute tacheons through the deflector shield.
      • by AP31R0N (723649) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @07:50AM (#27858297)

        USS Make Some Shit Up
        by Voltaire (no, not that Voltaire, the singer)

        I was stranded on a planet, Just me and Spock
        We met a nasty nazi alien who locked our asses up
        We found a hunk of crystal and a metal piece of bed
        We made a laser phaser gun and shot him in the head

        Bust a move, Tog

        I was standing on the bridge when Sulu came to me
        His eyes were full of tears he said "Captain, can't you see
        the ship is gonna blow do something I beseech"
        I grabbed a tribble and some chewing gum and stopped the warp core breach

        And I say,
        Bounce a graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish
        Thats the way we do things, lad, we're making shit up as we wish
        The Klingons and the Romulans pose no threat to us
        'Cause if we find we're in a bind we just make some shit up

        And though he's just a child, and some think him a twit
        Wesley is the master when it comes to making up some shit
        He's the guy you want with you when you go out in space
        Now if only he could beam those pimples off his face

        And if you're at a party on the starship Enterprise
        And the karaoke player just plain old up and dies
        Set up a neutrino field inside a can of peas
        Hold on to Geordi's visor and sing into Data's knee

        And I say
        Bounce a graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish
        Thats the way we do things lad, we're making shit up as we wish
        The Klingons and the Romulans pose no threat to us
        'Cause if we find we're in a bind we just make some shit up

        Sisko's on a mission to go no bloody place
        He loiters on a space station above Bajoran space
        The wormhole's opened up and now they come from near and far
        We'll keep the booze but please send back the fucking Jem-hadar

        What is with the Klingons, remember in the day
        They looked like Puerto Ricans and they dressed in gold lame
        Now they look like heavy metal rockers from the dead
        With leather pants and frizzy hair and lobsters on their heads

        And I say
        Bounce a graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish
        Thats the way we do things lad, we're making shit up as we wish
        The Klingons and the Romulans pose no threat to us
        'Cause if we find we're in a bind we just make some shit up

        Well, I was stuck on Voyager, pounding on the door
        When suddenly it dawned on me I've seen this show before
        Perhaps I'm in a warp bubble and slightly out of phase
        'Cause it was way back in the sixties when they called it "Lost in Space"

        We were looking for a way to make the ratings soar
        So we orchestrated an encounter with the Borg
        Normally you'd think that that would get us into shit
        But this one has a smashing ass and a lovely set of tits

        And I say
        Bounce a graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish
        Thats the way we do things lad, we're making shit up as we wish
        The Klingons and the Romulans pose no threat to us
        'Cause if we find we're in a bind we're totally screwed but nevermind
        We'll pull something out of our behinds, we just make some shit up

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by gustgr (695173)

      You were faster than me, I was about to link the paper. IIRC it had something to do with instability for the energy requirements if you take into account not only relativist effects, but also quantum effects. I did not read TFA, but maybe it's just going along with the hype of the new Trek movie.

      • by Yvan256 (722131) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:30PM (#27853145) Homepage Journal

        Of course he did. He's posting from the past about how warp drives are impossible only to hide the fact that HE has a time masheen.

    • Re:So which is it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:11PM (#27852959) Homepage Journal

      Summary of the previous article: Here's a technical problem, which no-one will ever figure out how to solve, therefore it's impossible.
      Summary of the current article: Here's a tiny shred of scientific evidence that it may have happened before, therefore it is not impossible.

      Note that the previous article was just a logical fallacy. The fact that you've identified a potential problem in a technology that doesn't even exist does not rule it out as a possibility.. it just shows that it is hard, duh, we knew that already.

      Note that the current article is just wild speculation.. they're trying to say that if space warping happened slightly after the big bang then that might actually mean it is possible to do it now. And people tend to read what they want to read, namely, they confuse "possible" with "practical".

      • Simple, right? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:33PM (#27853199)
        All we need to do is create an engine that generates as much energy as there was present in the entire universe a few nanoseconds after the big bang... D'oh! Yeah, coating the entire surface of the Earth with gold foil to increase its reflectivity and eliminate global warming is technically possible too -- but that doesn't mean it's going to happen!
        • by maxume (22995) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:40PM (#27853287)

          I don't see why you are being such a negative Nancy, all you have to do is create a universe and suck the energy you need out of it.

          • Re:Simple, right? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Wild Wizard (309461) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:49PM (#27853389) Journal

            That's what the Romulans did.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @09:13PM (#27854731)

            Yo dawg, we heard you like to suck energy from universes so we put an universe inside your universe so you can suck while you suck

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Turns out thats not enough energy. You need *more* energy that in the entire visible universe. Oh and negative matter (matter that that comes up as a negative for the mass energy tensor in the GR field equations), and thats *not* antimatter. Also you can't use a warp drive to collect all this energy either.

            We have also left out that these solutions violate suspected conservation terms and that your warp bubble is causally disconnected from the universe. Seriously the infinite improbability drive is be be
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by c6gunner (950153)

          Yeah, coating the entire surface of the Earth with gold foil to increase its reflectivity and eliminate global warming is technically possible too -- but that doesn't mean it's going to happen!

          The thing is ... quite often, there's a happy mid-way point between the completely ludicrous, and the "no can do" attitude. In your example ... how about mandating that all roofing tiles be white or reflective, and constructing all drivable surface from light-coloured concrete instead of black tar?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lena_10326 (1100441)
          The mass and volume of a space ship are substantially smaller than an expanding universe (even a few nanoseconds after time 0), so the energy requirement would probably be substantially less also.
      • Re:So which is it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:39PM (#27853261) Homepage

        they're trying to say that if space warping happened slightly after the big bang then that might actually mean it is possible to do it now.

        Well supposedly space is warped slightly by ordinary particles, right? (gravity?) If there was a "big bang" then what happened shortly after the big bang would be more than "slight".

        I think the point they were trying to make about the big bang was not that it's possible to warp space (which happens), but that it must be physically possible to warp space to such a degree so as to allow matter to travel faster than light. The theory is that, at the time of the big bang, space was expanding faster than light, so that one year after the big bang particles would be more than 1 light-year apart from each other. So that would mean that those particles were moving faster than light, and it would be an example of faster-than-light travel already happening.

        Of course, I don't know how they know how fast things were moving after the big bang. Even if you were there to observe it, there wouldn't be anything periodic to compare the motion to (no sun for the earth to go around, and so no "year" measurement). But then even ignoring that, I'd think that an event like the big bang would distort time, too. But I guess some really smart mathematician must have figured it out, right?

        • Re:So which is it (Score:5, Informative)

          by HeronBlademaster (1079477) <heron@xnapid.com> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:47PM (#27853363) Homepage

          The theory is that, at the time of the big bang, space was expanding faster than light, so that one year after the big bang particles would be more than 1 light-year apart from each other.

          Just a nitpick... you mean "more than 2 light-years apart from each other". Think of a circle with a radius of 1 light-year...

          • Re:So which is it (Score:5, Insightful)

            by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:51PM (#27853419)

            The theory is that, at the time of the big bang, space was expanding faster than light, so that one year after the big bang particles would be more than 1 light-year apart from each other.

            Just a nitpick... you mean "more than 2 light-years apart from each other". Think of a circle with a radius of 1 light-year...

            Your nitpick is wrong. More than one light-year away from each other after one year would require a relative speed greater than light speed, which would be sufficient to demonstrate an exception to the general principle that light speed is the greatest possible relative speed.

            • Re:So which is it (Score:5, Informative)

              by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @07:33PM (#27853845) Homepage Journal

              And that's the whole point... From what can be told, it appears that during the Inflationary Era the universe was expanding faster than light. The only reason that doesn't cause headaches is that space itself was expanding, so the objects in it weren't moving too fast. Only problem with the grandparent post is that he *under*estimated the speed.

              Even now it's estimated that less than 10% of the universe is within our light-cone, meaning that 90%+ got away from us, and can never be observed.

              • Re:So which is it (Score:5, Insightful)

                by lgw (121541) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:06PM (#27854141) Journal

                I thought the Inflatinary Era what what happens in a few years when the trillions we've been printing catch up with us?

                Actually, the Inflatinary Era is just a big WTF in current cosmology. Everyhting makes good consistant logical sense back to a certain point, with lots of hard evidence thans to the recent CMBR stuff. But then we have to invent a whopping great cosmological constant to makes sense of it all. I think that's probably as full of shit as each previous cosmological constant.

                I suspect there are better theories for why the CMBR temperature is so uniform, and given the fantastic progress that cosmology has in recent years, the whole Inflatinary Era idea may be abandoned by cosmologists by the time it's a reality for economists!

              • by Khashishi (775369) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @10:41PM (#27855359) Journal

                Expansion doesn't have a speed. It's a scaling. Points will separate from one another at some speed, which is just the distance times the rate of scaling.

                Consider ants on a rubber sheet. It's undefined to say that the rubber sheet is expanding faster than the speed of ants. You could say the ends of the sheet are separating at faster than the speed of ants.

                On an infinite sheet, if the distance is great enough, you'll be able to find points separating faster than the speed of ants, even with a small scaling factor.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              Two photons are emitted from a stationary point in opposite directions. What is the speed of photon A relative to photon B? I had assumed the answer would be 2*c, but if I understand you correctly you're telling me it's no more than c. This doesn't make sense to me...

              I realize this may be an elementary question to some of you, but I'm not a physics nerd ;P

              • Re:So which is it (Score:4, Informative)

                by Mr_Magick (996141) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:02PM (#27854105)
                I don't understand the physics behind the answer, but yes... photon A can never see photon B traveling away from it at a speed greater then light speed. It has to do with time being dilated for an observer on photon A or B. Light speed is the upper limit that any observable object can travel. Once in your light cone, always in your light cone.

                The thing that will really blow your mind, is that an observer from the stationary point (C) sees both of the photons traveling away from it a the speed of light.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                Two photons are emitted from a stationary point in opposite directions. What is the speed of photon A relative to photon B? I had assumed the answer would be 2*c, but if I understand you correctly you're telling me it's no more than c. This doesn't make sense to me...

                Photons are a bad choice for this thought experiment, since they are fundamentally different than things with mass.

                Photons move at c. Time doesn't pass for photons, so the movement of other photons is pretty much irrelevant to them.

                Particles

              • Re:So which is it (Score:4, Informative)

                by Jerry Smith (806480) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @02:12AM (#27856417) Homepage Journal

                w= resulting speed
                u= speed of one object
                v= speed of the other object
                c= speed of light

                                              u + v
                                  w = ---------
                                            1 + uv/c2

                Under 'human' circumstances the u and the v would be soo small compared to c, that uv/c2 would approximate to 0, and w could be considered u + v.
                Yet if u and/or v are high, for instance half the speed of light, w would not be u + v = .5c + .5c = c = the speed of light, but c/(1 + (.25c2/c2)) => c/1.25 = .8c

                Better explained here: http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Relativity/SR/velocity.html [ucr.edu]

      • Re:So which is it (Score:5, Interesting)

        by moteyalpha (1228680) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:46PM (#27853339) Homepage Journal
        As much as it would simplify the process of meeting lonely, scantily clad, green alien women and make it possible for a geek to get a date, it seems that the only way to be sure that there is basis for this is to first create a time machine and go back to the big bang and verify the effect. The other problem then, is the fact that you won't get venture capital because of prior art.
        I agree with other posters that this might be far too coincidental to a movie release. It seems that radioactive spider stories declined after the release of Spiderman. I know correlation is not causation, but it might be suggestive :
        http://xkcd.com/552/ [xkcd.com]
      • Two Words: Dark Flow (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @07:48PM (#27853985)

        http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/080923-dark-flows.html

        In addition to the mysterious, and continuing observance of "Dark Flow", there is also the recently proven phenomenon of Frame Dragging, which was proven right here on earth. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v431/n7011/full/431918a.html

        I dont think it unlikely that both frame dragging and dark flow are really the same thing; a distortion on spacetime caused by a static high energy aggregation. In the case of the earth and its impact on satelites, that energy source is the gravitational well of the earth, coupled with its axial rotation. In the case of dark flow, it could just be an emergent property of the local cluster having an unusual impact on the surrounding spacetime.

        [begin wild supposition sequence]

        Assuming that gravitational waves do in fact occur, it would mean that the periodic rotations of massive or energetic bodies (since mass and energy are equivilent under relativity-- a very low mass object with VERY high rotational energy could be equivilent to an object with heavy mass, and low rotational energy) could have a sympathetic harmonic reaction within the local spacetime-- Similar to how one can induce a standing wave in a pool of water with careful callibration of sonar transducers. http://www.mes.co.jp/Akiken/whatsnew/new20060724.html (page in japanese)

        If similar properties can be measured and studied (in gravity waves), even small purturbations in a local spacetime could be greatly amplified by reinforcement from other sources, and produce "static" gravitational wells without the presence of a local causal mass. Viola-- Dark flow.

        However, in order to create such a pocket of distorted spacetime one would first need to measure gravitational waves, then measure the effect of wave interference for the phenomena. Two things that have not been conclusively accomplished, and so, at this time it would not be possible to build the equivilent "wave tank" field generator for creating standing gravitational waves in the lab.

        theoretically speaking, one could create "very" small gravitational waves using an array of off balance rotating masses, such as a lead weight on a motor shaft, as the source of the gravitational occilation. However, without a good measurement of rate of decay, or how these waves interact with one another, it is impossible to calculate what the "sweetspot" would be for creating standing gravitational waves, since you would not know how far apart to place the rotors, how heavy to make the masses, or what rate to turn them in relation to each other to produce the effect.)

        If it could be accomplished, a wave amplitude far greater than could be generated by the standing masses, as a result of the accumulating energy in the reinforcement pattern introduced by moving the masses in such a precise manner. EG, the energy used for propulsion would be directly coupled to the energy used to rotate your small masses, accumulating in the local spacetime, and thus alter it's shape.

        Rate of input would have to exceed rate of output for the accumulation to occur however, so we are talking a HUGE energy source requirement. Even an entire sun might not be enough to drive that kind of relativity curve, which is probably why we have only observed it in large star clusters. (Assuming this is indeed what causes dark flow)

           

    • by Tokerat (150341)

      All geeks ever do is argue anymore. That does it! Someone build one NOW.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Ghede (1521401)
      Yeah, although I can't find it on slashdot, here is a similar article: http://www.universetoday.com/2009/04/03/warp-drives-probably-impossible-after-all/ [universetoday.com]
    • Re:So which is it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by owlnation (858981) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:16PM (#27853013)

      Didn't we just have an article on this exact same thing a few days ago explaining why this is definitely NOT possible?

      So which is it? Neither. It's viral marketing piggy-backing on the hype surrounding the new ST movie. No news here. Nothing to see.

    • by LurkerXXX (667952)

      Sorry, I sent it in today, but I got impatient and decided to warp back to earlier in the week to post it.

      My Bad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AJWM (19027) *

      Didn't we just have an article on this exact same thing a few days ago explaining why this is definitely NOT possible? (Emphasis added)

      Nope. Not if you're referring to the hypothetical Finazzi instability and the possible problem of Hawking radition, anyway, that is anything but "definite".

      It's not clear that the Hawking radiation issue applies to a Van Den Broek geometry warp bubble (vs Alucbierre's original warp sphere), nor is it certain (from Finazzi et al's paper) that the stress-energy tensor growth

  • LHC (Score:5, Informative)

    by spud603 (832173) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:06PM (#27852893)
    Isn't one of the doomsday theories surrounding the LHC that our section of spacetime will get shoved elsewhere in the universe?
    • Re:LHC (Score:4, Funny)

      by teko_teko (653164) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:11PM (#27852961) Homepage

      You can take a superconducting magnet from the LHC to build your own warp drive [wikipedia.org]. Just be careful not to fail the test after the aliens notice us.

    • by mcrbids (148650) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:39PM (#27853263) Journal

      The LHC hurls particles with about as much kinetic energy as a flying fruit fly around. Earth is constantly bombarded with particles having orders of magnitude more energy, so if LHC could cause a black hole, we wouldn't be here to build it!

      The point isn't the amount of energy (Earth is bombarded with higher energy particles constantly) but that it's finely controlled and we can observe exactly what happens when two sub-atomic particles collide with a respectable amount of energy to let us know what's really going on down at that level. And that's fascinating.

      Could LHC cause the earth to implode? Perhaps with the same likelihood that Universe was created by a 7 foot tall bunny made out of spaghetti, used VHS video tape and lug nuts, or that all the subatomic particles in your body will suddenly decide to move together through the wall behind you into the ladies room on the other side and you end up convicted of a sexual crime, even though you are innocent. Possible? Yes, but don't think that "possible" means anything other than "all but infinitely unlikely except that it's near impossible to prove a negative".

      And don't forget: there is a non-zero chance that the universe WAS created by a 7-foot tall bunny made of spaghetti, used video tape, and lug nuts! Everybody panic!!!

  • arrow of time

  • Keep dreaming! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dyinobal (1427207) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:09PM (#27852937)
    It's good to remind ourselves sometimes that such things may be possible. It's obvious from the articles length that it's publication is simply due to the movie coming out. How ever I think it's important not to simply shut our eyes and claim things impossible. Just a few centuries ago computers were impossible, as was flying and a great number of other things we think of as common now. The article though isn't much more besides an attempt to generate hits from the looks of things.
    • Re:Keep dreaming! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by colinrichardday (768814) <colin.day.6@hotmail.com> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:32PM (#27853181)

      Birds have been flying for longer than a few centuries. What widely accepted scientific law ruled out human flight? Or computers? It's true that they had not yet been achieved, but that's different from saying that they were impossible.

      • Re:Keep dreaming! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:45PM (#27853323) Homepage Journal

        Yeah, he's talking about this thing called "history" that you may not be aware of. Ya see, people actually did say that heavier than air flying machines are impossible. The fact that birds can fly is irrelevant. They obviously were created by God, not man, so they didn't count.

        • Not really (Score:3, Insightful)

          by aepervius (535155)
          The people which said that said it in the context that the engineering of such machine was impossible , and at the time they were right. Then came the brother wright and a few other which went on and USED SCIENCE and ENGINEERING from that epoch, got a bit of luck and a good deal of genius and put something together which worked. The problem is : most people use the brother wright as an example of science thinking something impossible and then it happens. IT IS NOT SO. What was thought is while the science
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DougWebb (178910)

        There never were any widely accepted scientific laws that ruled out human flight, but most people, including scientists, still believed it was impossible. They lacked one of two things:

        1. The scientific laws that describe how you can generate a lift force using an airfoil
        2. The audacity of a couple of engineers who decided to build an airplane without #1

        The OP's point is that we have to keep our minds open to new possibilities, because not all scientific laws are known yet, and the ones that are known aren't nec

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bcrowell (177657)

      Just a few centuries ago computers were impossible, as was flying and a great number of other things we think of as common now.

      Well, first off computers were not impossible a few centuries ago. Both analog computers (the slide rule) and digital computers (the abacus) existed 400 years ago. Flying was also not impossible a few centuries ago. The Montgolfier brothers flew more than 200 years ago.

      But more to the point, you're misunderstanding how science works. Modern physical science basically dates back

  • by mc1138 (718275)
    Best news I've heard all day. Some how I place more importance on things like this than really... anything else.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:15PM (#27853005)

    So to paraphrase Cubert... the engines don't move the ship, they move the universe around it?

    Maybe we know now why Mark Millis is the former head of the project.

  • by Nkwe (604125) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:19PM (#27853033)
    If we can skip through space and time, can we use this to skip commercials?
    • by drpimp (900837)
      And the answer is that commercials actually skip you since time around "you" being inside the "bubble" moves and time essentially stands still to you. So in other words, you don't age when commercials skip you. Imagine if you actually could do this for things like commercials or hey even sleep. You could like live 1/3 longer "in time" but you'd still croak at the same physical age, but your relative age would be more like 100+.
  • Simple (Score:3, Funny)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:21PM (#27853069)
    "Instead of driving your car to work each morning, you leave your car in one place and rotate the earth until your car and workplace are at the same place. Simple, right?"

    I'll believe Faster Than Light travel when I actually see it...
    • We should build all workplaces to the west of where people live. The since everyone will be going the same direction cooperatively the earth will move thereby reducing total mileage and commute time. Even if it's only a small amount, when you mutiply that by billions of commuters you will be saving many lifetimes per year in aggragate.

      additionally you get a daylight savings time effect where the drive to work is better lit without sacrificing daylight at the end of the day

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by peragrin (659227)

      er you do know you can't actually see faster than light travel as it is traveling faster than the light you re using to see it.

      the best you can hope for is setting two atomic clocks that are synced exactly the same several light years apart and use that as your testing ground.

  • by RiotingPacifist (1228016) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:28PM (#27853127)

    "If it could do it for the Big Bang, why not for our space drives?"
    You see that is where your going wrong, anything that involves trying to recreate big bangs is not a good idea.

    I also though inflation theory was just a stop gap, its a model not as pure as the original big bang theory, yet doesn't quite close all the problems, so its a good starting point for progress but its defiantly not right!

  • by leto (8058) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:29PM (#27853137) Homepage

    that sounds more like Guild Heighliner technology where they Fold Space.

    "travel to any part of the universe, without moving".

    It also avoids the acceleration/deceleration with WARP speeds :P

    I was not here, I did not say this.....

  • Crash? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tyanque (1524571)
    If it does turn out that it is possible, isn't there the possibility that you would crash in to stars and space rubble, etc...
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:30PM (#27853157)

    "The vehicle inside that bubble thinks that it's not moving at all. It's the space-time that's moving." One reason this idea seems credible is that scientists think it may already have happened. Some models suggest that space-time expanded at a rate faster than light speed during a period of rapid inflation shortly after the Big Bang.

    Its also worth noting that, as well as the inflationary period shortly after the big bang, this is also believed to occur in close proximity to the event horizon of rotating black holes (specifically, within the ergosphere [wikipedia.org] of such an object.)

    OTOH, a tricky part of Star Trek-style warp drive is coming up with a way of generating such an effect that will selectively move the object you want moved at FTL speeds over a vast distance without disrupting a vast swath of the universe near the path of movement. While generating a rotating black hole with an ergosphere large enough to accommodate your starting and ending location may get you from point A to point B at better than light speed, its going to cause a lot of collateral damage in the process, even if you can somehow "turn off" the black hole when you have arrived.

  • by tlambert (566799) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:34PM (#27853213)

    Who put the military in charge anyway?

    Who is the General Relativity, and why does he think he can order us around; we're civilians, right?

    -- Terry

  • by WCguru42 (1268530) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:36PM (#27853233)
    So let's get this straight. It might have happened during the Big Bang. So, if we want to recreate it we're probably going to need to create a power source within a few magnitudes of the Big Bang. I don't know about you, but I don't feel comfortable using up significant percentages of the Universe's total energy. No need to accelerate the Big Freeze.
  • This is old news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by coppro (1143801) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:37PM (#27853245)
    Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen write about this in The Science of Discworld III:

    Warp drives have the same drawback as wormholes. You need exotic matter to create the gravitational repulsion needed to distort spacetime in this unusual way. Other schemes for warp drives have been proposed, which allegedly overcame this obstacle, but they have their own drawbacks. ... [I]n fact, Ken Olum and others have proved that any type of warp drive [requires negative energy].

    There are limits to the lifetime of any given amount of negative energy. For wormholes and warp drives these limits imply that such structures must either be very small, or else the region of negative energy must be extremely thin ...

    Warp drives, if anything, are worse. To travel at 10 times lightspeed (a mere Star Trek Warp Factor 2) the thickness of the bubble's wall must be 10^-32 metres. If the starship is 200 yards (200m) long, the energy required to make the bubble has to be 10 billion times the mass of the known universe.

    Engage.

  • by acehole (174372) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @06:50PM (#27853407) Homepage

    IF I had a stick 100 Million light years long. With me holding the stick on one end, and a tiny model spaceship on the other end of the stick and I move that stick left or right, would the ship not move faster than light?

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @07:14PM (#27853659) Homepage

    This seems to be describing the Alcubierre drive. The Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] is much, much better than the crappy article linked to from the slashdot summary.

    A few ideas to keep in mind about general relativity:

    The structure of general relativity implies, on fundamental grounds, that to build anything like this would to require godlike mastery over huge amounts of mass and energy. This is because the basic field equation of GR relates the curvature of spacetime to its mass and energy content.

    The structure of relativity also implies that any faster-than-light technology will also be a technology for time travel. This is because if two events A and B are separated by a distance x that is greater than ct, where t is the time interval separating them, then there are some frames of reference in which A occurs before B, and some in which B occurs before A.

    General relativity does not forbid FTL on a totally generic basis.

    A good book on the subject is Time Travel in Einstein's Universe, by Gott. (Yes, it's the same subject as FTL, because FTL is equivalent to time travel.)

  • by I)_MaLaClYpSe_(I (447961) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @07:22PM (#27853735)

    The Enterprise does not move without actually moving but the Futurama spaceship does.

    As far as I can remember (and I read the Enterprise technical manual over 15 years ago), the warp gondola create a field in which space-time is bended and thus much smaller. So, this vastly decreases the length of the space surrounded by the enterprise and thus it can fly through the shortened space with "normal" means in much less time, therefore creating the possibility to travel faster than light: light has to travel the "long way", outside of the shortened space whereas the enterprise can take "the shortcut" while traveling with nearly light speed, thereby going faster than light.

    Why this will never work IRL is left as an exercise to the reader. (Hint: even in a shortened space-time, a mile is still a mile and a second is still a second when measured from within that space)

    Now, the Futurama spaceship in contrast works by moving the universe aroud itself. Way cooler, isn't it?

  • Michio Kaku Book (Score:3, Informative)

    by olddotter (638430) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @09:59PM (#27855083) Homepage
    If you are interested in this type of thing, I suggest listening to the FIB podcast [twit.tv] interviewing Michio Kaku or read his book Physics of the Impossible [amazon.com], which also discusses teleportation.
  • Yes but... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Sfing_ter (99478) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @10:20PM (#27855229) Homepage Journal

    Yes but does it go to ELEVEN?

  • by caywen (942955) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @12:28AM (#27855933)
    Maybe the real problem to solve is just how to make everyone immortal. That solves the issue of it taking tens or hundreds of millions of years to go somewhere. If I were a lifeform that had a lifetime of 10 minutes, going from New York to California would seem about as daunting as us going to the nearest star.
  • by jandersen (462034) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @02:46AM (#27856587)

    The reasoning in this article builds on the assumption that we can somehow rip out a region of space and move it along independently of the rest of space, which is of course nonsense. The geometry of space is basically equivalent with the gravitational field the permeates space, if you will. If we "move a region of space", we fundamentally change the geometry - just imagine a 2D coordinate system and move a region of that space around (0,0); you would either have to break the coordinate axes or bend them, both of which will have a huge impact on the geometry of the thing. If we were to move a piece of space along like that, we would see some really weird gravity distortions.

    But apart from that, what Einstein's assumption was, was not that "it is impossible to do anything faster than light", but that it was impossible to transmit any signal that propagates through space faster than light. There are some unspoken assumption in this wording - like eg that a signal propagates through space in much the same way as through an elasic media; if one could find a way of not propagating through space in that fashion, perhaps things can move faster. Indeed, the famous "Ghostlike Action at a Distance" phenomenon must be of that category.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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