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Space Transportation Science

Introducing the Warpship 361

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the fastest-ship-in-the-west dept.
astroengine writes "Dr. Richard Obousy, a guy who has put modern science into the warp drive, has designed his very own warpship. Now, for the first time, he's shared it with the world. It might not be the sleek Starship Enterprise, but its structure has been optimized to harness local 'dark energy,' generating a warp bubble so faster-than-light velocities are possible." Now, the only question is: will the ship achieve faster-than-light travel ... or will the company hit those speeds once it has enough money from investors?
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Introducing the Warpship

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  • by ikirudennis (1138621) * on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:52PM (#28339561) Homepage
    How about we figure out how to warp time first and then figure out a ship to utilize that science for the sake of travel?
  • by whiledo (1515553) * on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:56PM (#28339635)

    The physics behind the warpship is purely theoretical, however. 'Dark energy' needs to be understood and harnessed, plus vast amounts of energy needs to be generated, meaning the warpship is a technology that could only be conceived in the far future. That said, Dr. Obousy's warpship design uses our current knowledge of spacetime and superstring theory to arrive at this futuristic concept.

    Translation: We have a theory based on a lack of theory.

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:00PM (#28339695) Journal
      I have a warpship, and the design doesn't need to rely on

      our current knowledge of spacetime and superstring theory to arrive at this futuristic concept

      Instead, the design relies upon our future knowledge of spacetime and superstring[1] theory. That's the nice thing about it... warping space time in a bubble around the ship can result not only in FTL travel, but also time travel. So why should I constrain myself to the currently available theory?

      [1] Also a little bit of sillystring theory, but it gets messy at that point, so I won't go into details.

    • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Monday June 15, 2009 @05:01PM (#28340671) Homepage
      I actually know this guy (he was a grad student where/when I was an undergrad). He's not crazy and at least mostly not a crank (I only say mostly because it's never possible to judge that sort of thing perfectly). The article, like most crappy science journalism, doesn't really go into details, so I'll try to recall for you all the contents of a talk I heard him give to a small group once.

      The basic idea, which you can probably get from the article, is to construct an Alcubierre bubble or Alcubierre warp drive. The Alcubierre bubble is a genuine solution to the Einstein field equations of general relativity; it is a spacetime metric which could conceivably exist. Part of the trouble with making one is that you (at least naively) need exotic matter of some sort (tachyons, negative mass, etc) in order to do it, but we obviously don't know of any exotic matter at all presently. What you really want is to make spacetime contract ahead of you and expand behind you. Well, we do know of something that makes spacetime expand: dark energy! So, if we had some way of manipulating the local strength of dark energy, then we could make spacetime expand behind us faster than normal and expand in front of us slower than normal (or maybe contract, I can't remember exactly how far that side of things went). There are apparently some suggestive features of superstring theory that indicate that we might be able to use the Casimir effect and/or cause an expansion or contraction of string theory's predicted extra compact dimensions to affect the local strength of dark energy. Here's another failure in memory, as I remember that the Casimir effect and extra dimensions were both involved, but don't remember which one was supposed to affect the other and which was supposed to affect dark energy. This is about all I can remember. My apologies that it is not more complete.

      Now, all this is of course very speculative. It depends on some things being true which might or might not be true. The existence of dark energy is at least strongly indicated by astrophysical data, whether or not it has a local strength is not known at all. The Casimir effect is quite well established. Compact extra dimensions and the rest of string theory remain a very good candidate for physics, but are of course notoriously difficult to test. If all of these things eventually work out, then Richard's ideas should work quite nicely. If any of them don't, then all bets are off; I don't know how his analysis would change then.

      Of course, even a few years ago when I heard all this presented, it was much more thoroughly developed. You have my poor memory to blame for a very incomplete and fuzzy account. I have no doubt he's been developing it further in the last couple of years.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bcrowell (177657)
        Thanks for the informative post. The thing is, if it's a proposal to build an Alcubierre drive, there are serious problems with that [wikipedia.org]. And they're not just problems as in "that makes it hard to do," they're problems as in "it wouldn't even do what people have in mind when they imagine FTL."
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hotdoghead (1577461)
        Here's his paper: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0712/0712.1649v6.pdf [arxiv.org] Besides discussing a mechanism, he also does some quick calculations about how much energy would be required to use this method to fly at light-speed. "Let us consider a spacecraft of dimensions 10 m x 10 m x 10 m ... The total amount of energy 'injected' locally would equal 10^45 J ... roughly the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter."
      • Hey, I'm all for manipulating dark matter and delving into the 11th dimension as the next guy...

        But we can't even get operating systems to work as we want. And car gas mileage hasn't increased much in the past few decades. [No, I don't consider it to be an huge accomplishment that some tiny 1500lb car now gets ~33mpg on the highway when my 6 year old V6 Camry gets an actual 30mpg on the highway at 70mph. Should I be thrilled if you show me a car getting 40mpg? ].

        I think we have much more pressing (easier)

  • I've been on the waiting list for one, like, forever.
  • by kheldan (1460303) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:58PM (#28339657) Journal
    I'm sure they won't have any problems finding investors -- so long as they cater to the investors who have interest in flying cars, another technology that hasn't actually gotten off the ground yet. What was it someone said about "a fool and his money"?
  • by argent (18001) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:58PM (#28339663) Homepage Journal

    You still end up with global causality violation if an object can communicate outside its light cone.

    • I don't think our current concept of causality requires information to be slower or equal to the speed of light to work out. No violation neccessary.
    • I thought causality didn't require faster than light travel to be impossible, only travelling backwards in time at more than 1s/s (i.e. cancelling the normal flow of time out and stopping) to be impossible?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nine-times (778537)

        If you can travel faster than light, then you should, by our current scientific understanding (general relativity) be able to travel backward in time. If you can send a message faster than light, then you should be able to send that message back in time.

        It's a bit tough to explain, and it would help to be able to give a diagram, but it has to do with the "light cone" the GP post refers to. If you can find information on a "light cone", Einstein said that anything outside of a light cone may be viewed as

    • by e4g4 (533831) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:21PM (#28340013)
      Causality-Shmausality. I dropped a glass because I found it in pieces on the floor just this afternoon...
    • by Amazing Quantum Man (458715) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:23PM (#28340047) Homepage

      Didn't Novikov solve that problem [wikipedia.org]?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Solved is a little strong for an essentially unverified theory. Posited a solution for, yes.
    • You still end up with global causality violation if an object can communicate outside its light cone.

      Perhaps a knowledgable phycisist can clarify: is the light cone thingy a fundamental rule necessary to make our current theories work, or is it merely a consequence following from the fact that our current theories generally do not allow for faster-than-light travel? If the latter, a warp drive wouldn't "violate" any causality rule.

      • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday June 15, 2009 @06:25PM (#28341589) Homepage

        I'll give a couple of examples, one using special relativity and one involving some general relativity, to amplify a little on what Geoffrey Landis said above.

        Let's start with a couple of definitions. An "event" in relativity means a combination of time and place. Event B is defined as lying outside event A's light cone if the distance from A to B, in light-years, is greater than the time-difference between A and B, in years.

        Example #1: Suppose that faster-than-light (FTL) were possible. Then it would be possible for event A to cause event B, where B lies outside A's light cone. You could simply travel in your FTL spaceship, starting at A and ending up at B, where you'd deliver a message. But according to special relativity, the time-ordering of events is not as absolute as in classical physics, because observers in different frames of reference disagree on the flow of time. Suppose the original setup was described according to one observer, O1, and now we have a second observer, O2, who is moving relative to O1 at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light. If the speed of the relative motion is high enough, then you can always get a situation where O2 says B happened before A, rather than after A. (This only happens if B is outside A's light cone.) So O1 says A caused B, but O2 says B caused A.

        Example #2: In general relativity, wormhole is a possible way to travel between different places, but since time and space are treated on the same footing in general relativity, there's every reason to believe that if wormholes exist, they would also go between different times, i.e., they would be time machines. But let's suppose for the sake of argument that you come across a wormhole that only goes between different places, with both mouths being synchronized in time. This would seem like FTL without time travel. But such a wormhole can always be used for time-travel as well. One method is to use gravitational fields to accelerate one mouth of the wormhole in some direction, bring it to a stop, and then use a similar acceleration and deceleration to bring it back to where it started. When you do this, you get something exactly like the twin "paradox" of special relavitity; the wormholes' times are no longer synchronized. So now if your no-time-travel FTL has been turned into FTL with time travel.

        There's nothing special about these two examples. The idea that FTL naturally makes time travel possible is tightly bound to the structure of relativity. Since time travel seems to lead to causality paradoxes (e.g., going back in time and killing yourself), the conclusion seems to be that FTL leads to paradoxes, and that makes physicists suspect that FTL isn't actually physically possible.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      is that like a universal 404 error?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Don't worry, you can just buy a causality default swap as a hedge, and then tranche the resulting multiverse into marketable reality instruments.

  • But I'm giving all she's got, cap'n!!
  • Reminds me of my preteen years making dozens and dozens of D&D characters, even though I had no idea (at the time) how to play the game. But man, making those characters sure was fun....let's just do that! What's 'psyche'? I don't know, but let's roll a d20 for it! WHEE!
    • by Culture20 (968837)

      Reminds me of my preteen years making dozens and dozens of D&D characters, even though I had no idea (at the time) how to play the game. But man, making those characters sure was fun....let's just do that! What's 'psyche'? I don't know, but let's roll a d20 for it! WHEE!

      Sorry, Psyche is Marvel Super Heroes. You'd roll d% for it and consult the chart. Maybe you were having trouble learning the games because you were mixing the two (they were both TSR). That could have been fun...
      "Galstaff, you have entered the door to the north. You are now by yourself standing in a dark room; the pungent stench of mildew emanates from the wet dungeon walls. ... There are there are seven ogres surrounding you."
      "Colossus prepares to throw Wolverine with a Fastball Special"
      "OGRES!?!

  • by StuartHankins (1020819) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:02PM (#28339717)
    A consultant, eh? Making the big promises, he is?

    Well when he's done and had his turn, I've got some marvelous things to show you. I wouldn't show just anybody, it's our secret. Everyone will want one and we'll be rich and famous so get them while you can now!
  • It puts me in mind of an Outsider ship, which is odd when you consider how they prefer travelling at sub-light speeds.
  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:04PM (#28339755)
    So, they are seeking funding from the same people that invested in the Moller Skycar [wikipedia.org], then?
  • is that a Cardassian ship I see?
  • by hardwarejunkie9 (878942) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:14PM (#28339905)
    This article bothers me primarily because it simply recovers old ground on a theory of the possibility of warp travel. The idea of utilizing dark energy to create waves in space-time is hardly new or original and so what we end up seeing in front of us is a series of explanations about possible "space time bubbles" that we have no idea how to create, or even if they're technically feasible, supplemented by a few minor CAD renderings and a wonderful representation of a planar mesh. Pardon me if I'm not entirely enthused. There seems to be no real mention of any progress since this topic was last covered in the scientific press. In short, while a nice idea, it's an old theory and less than stellar (if you'll pardon the pun). This is more science fiction than science, in my opinion.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:18PM (#28339965)

    I told them to say warship instead of worship. Stupid spiders.

    (will be downmodded before anyone gets the reference.)

  • but this fully speculative article will only confuse people.

    I can already hear my non-scientific-inclined friends assuring that it has been demonstrated by Dr. Blah that faster-than-light travel is absolutely possible and we even have the ship ready.

    When Jules Verne wrote his masterpieces he made it clear that it was scientific fiction, and people thrilled shuffling the pages. He was later called a visionary, but he did not pretend to be a scientist, merely a very intelligent writer.

    It bothers me when plausibly smart people make interesting points but place them in the wrong category - nothing wrong with being smart, creative, and wild but, please, let us distinguish science from speculation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fermion (181285)
      Putting a hat on a bunny confuses people. The difference between a Stop sign and a Yield sign sends people into convulsions. Most people don't know the difference between enter and return. Just because it is going to confuse people doesn't mean that smart people should be punished.

      Science fiction is mostly about the relationship between people and technology, or people and ideas, or people and people, and how those relationships grow over time. In many cases, the main technology is a plot device, as i

  • The Spacing Guild http://dune.wikia.com/wiki/Spacing_Guild [wikia.com] have been harnessing the Holtzman Effect http://dune.wikia.com/wiki/Holtzman_Effect [wikia.com] for ages in the search for Melange http://dune.wikia.com/wiki/Spice_Melange [wikia.com] so may well be a case of Prior Art?
  • by starglider29a (719559) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:20PM (#28339995)
    From TFA #2:

    "but by manipulating extra dimensions with astronomical amounts of energy dot dot dot"

    Well, if we could manipulate astronomical amounts of energy, instead of sailing off to Alpha Centauri or Wolf 359, we could:
    • Have rolling roads (a la heinlein and Asimov) and eliminate the need for flying cars or rolling cars
    • Desalinate seawater to irrigate the arid lands
    • Control global climate change, or run a computer cluster model that can disprove it. Pick one.

    But we can't. I know this is a fun dream. But before you try to replicate the Federation, take a look at the world that they were based upon. The Earth of Roddenberry is VERY different than this one. Let us strive to achieve THAT before we strive for the fastest way off of here.

    • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:35PM (#28340301) Journal

      From TFA #2:

      "but by manipulating extra dimensions with astronomical amounts of energy dot dot dot"

      Well, if we could manipulate astronomical amounts of energy, instead of sailing off to Alpha Centauri or Wolf 359, we could:

      • Have rolling roads (a la heinlein and Asimov) and eliminate the need for flying cars or rolling cars
      • Desalinate seawater to irrigate the arid lands
      • Control global climate change, or run a computer cluster model that can disprove it. Pick one.

      But we can't. I know this is a fun dream. But before you try to replicate the Federation, take a look at the world that they were based upon. The Earth of Roddenberry is VERY different than this one. Let us strive to achieve THAT before we strive for the fastest way off of here.

      Imagine charities researching the causes you mention. Now imagine everyone giving a dollar to those causes every time someone repeats the "let's solve all the problems on Earth before we start exploring space" mantra. Those causes would then have enough money to fix all those problems, we'd have our utopia on Earth, and then we'd be free to go on exploring space.

      Personally, between 6 billion of us, I think we should be capable of working on more than one project at once.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DragonWriter (970822)

        Now imagine everyone giving a dollar to those causes every time someone repeats the "let's solve all the problems on Earth before we start exploring space" mantra.

        This would seem to be very bad for the substantial portion of the world's population living on $1/day or less, as the usage of the mantra on Slashdot alone would force them to donate several dozen times their total income.

  • From TFA:

    To initiate the warp drive, however, vast amounts of energy would be required. Also, there will be some practical issues to overcome, such as preventing the creation of artificial black holes

    Apparently the Romulans threatened a patent infringement suit if our warp ships do that.

  • ...which is really rather tacky looking.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:25PM (#28340093)
    William Shatner: [jt.org] "You know, before I answer any more questions there's something I wanted to say. Having received all your letters over the years, and I've spoken to many of you, and some of you have traveled... y'know... hundreds of miles to be here, I'd just like to say... GET A LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it's just a TV show! I mean, look at you, look at the way you're dressed! You've turned an enjoyable little job, that I did as a lark for a few years, into a COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME!"
  • Futurama? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fry-kun (619632) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:27PM (#28340131)

    "The tricky part is that the ship wouldn't actually move; space itself would move underneath the stationary spacecraft. "
    FTA

    "I understand how the engines work now. It came to me in a dream. The engines don't move the ship at all. The ship stays where it is, and the engines move the universe around it."
    Cubert J. Farnsworth

  • Wormhole? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PapaSmurph (249554)

    This sounds somewhat like the way the "Stargate" works in Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis, the main difference is this is a bubble rather than a tube between locations that are generating the "extremely large amounts of energy". We just need to find a few Zero Point Modules. Problem solved!

  • by Eil (82413) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:29PM (#28340155) Homepage Journal

    Dr. Richard Obousy

    Whoops, you spelled his name wrong, it should be "Zephram Cochrane".

  • by davidc (91400)

    That there's a flying saucer, if ever I saw one.

  • Wait, what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tnk1 (899206) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:36PM (#28340309)

    Ugh, every thing said in that article is basically a re-hash of the hit parade of technologies that "sounded really good at the time, but don't really work". Casmir effect, Alcuberre warp drive, extra spatial dimensions, etc. are just things that sound neat, but practical applications of them are impossible, misunderstood, or just plain useless.

    I want a warp drive as much as anyone, but I'm beginning to tire of hearing people keep spitting out the same concepts that anyone who can read the Wikipedia entries for them already knows are not practical or are probably not possible.

    Vacuum energy may exist in some form, but the apparatus to generate any significant amount of it would probably take orders of magnitude more energy to operate. No break even. Virtual particles are a hypothesis based on the logic of the Uncertainty Principle, but even if this logic is not simply explained away at a latter point, one needs to only look at what apparatus is needed to demonstrate the Casmir effect to get an idea how you would need to scale in order to get anything out of it.

    The warp drive not only requires us to somehow warp space time, but to actually survive in those conditions. There's only one known thing that combines significant warping of space time with a small area. We call those... black holes. Also, Alcuberre also acknowledged a number of problems with his drive including the fact that it wouldn't be able to see where it was going.

    As for extra dimensions, besides the fact that most places I have read indicate that those dimensions are probably extremely tiny, they would probably require the Planck energy to explore, which no one knows if it is even possible to attain. So, you would spend an incredible amount of energy to be able to go from one side of a quark to another, maybe even quickly.

    Or not at all, considering that a spatial dimension isn't just what's on the other side of a magic wardrobe. Either our 4 dimensions couldn't fit in the smaller ones, or we could, but we'd end up like 2-D Flatlanders walking around in a 3-D world. How could we interact with such a reality? How would it benefit us at all, even if we could survive the experience?

    In the matter of dimensions, there are benefits we can glean from trying to understand if they are real and learning about them, and maybe even the Casmir effect would be good for something like generating antimatter or something. Having said that, planning a spaceship based on these ideas is like planning a ship to sail the Phogiston. It's gibberish, and what's more, its stale gibberish.

  • by voss (52565)

    We use cars now...because some guy decided at some point to hook up an engine to a belt to turn a wheel to make a cart go without horses.

    At some point science has take the crap or get off the pot, stop endlessly theorising about doing and just try and do it.

  • by nausea_malvarma (1544887) on Monday June 15, 2009 @06:06PM (#28341359)
    on the same day I play Duke Nukem Forever in HURD.
  • I always wondered... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anachragnome (1008495) on Monday June 15, 2009 @07:19PM (#28342123)

    I always wondered about Faster-then-light travel and all the muck in the universe getting in the way whilst zipping through space.

    Think about it.

    That galaxy might be well out of our path when that path is calculated, but where the hell will it be when we are actually passing through that area, and just how, exactly, does our mucking around with time effect our spatial relationship to other celestial bodies, especially since some of them display complex interactions with both time and space?

    Wouldn't that galaxy be in a different location in space since it is in a different location in time (assuming it was moving to begin with, as Big Bang Theory suggests)? One would think we would have to map all the trajectories, and not just locations, of damn near every celestial body simply to avoid crashing into them.

    But hey, since we could go forward in time, we should also be able to go backward as well, right? If that is the case, it might as well be "Full speed ahead...and pass the bong." Anything goes wrong, you just go back.

    But then, I could be wrong. Or could have been...or will be...man, my head hurts.

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Monday June 15, 2009 @08:58PM (#28342937) Homepage

    It was several years ago, illustrated by Larry Gonick [larrygonick.com] in his cartoon science series, "Light Elements". Same premise, same idea, but the biggest problem that was mentioned in the cartoon, has not been mentioned in this article?

    You can start the compression in front of the ship, and also start the expansion behind the ship, which will get it moving.

    However, once you've generated the compression/expansion wave, its self-sustaining. That brings up the problem, just how do you get the forward compression to stop??? What sort of "signal" do you send ahead of the compression wave to nullify it and allow you to stop? According to the Discover article, it "involved some sort of 'anti-gravity'.", which so far hasn't been invented yet.

    So what you've got is a one-way, warp-speed trip around existence for all of eternity.

  • Too Slow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by daveime (1253762) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @07:24AM (#28346055)

    Warp Drive is soooo slow :-(

    Stargates FTW.

    (Sorry, just got a 14 day EVE trial and getting a bit too immersed).

The Universe is populated by stable things. -- Richard Dawkins

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