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Space Science

Students Calculate What Hyperspace Travel Would Actually Look Like 234

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-didn't-know-my-broken-tv-could-see-into-hyperspace dept.
cylonlover writes "The two Star franchises (Wars and Trek) and countless science fiction movies have given generations of armchair space travelers an idea of what to expect when looking out the window of a spaceship that's traveling faster than the speed of light. But it appears these views are – if you'll excuse the pun – a bit warped. Four students from the University of Leicester have used Einstein's theory of Special Relativity to calculate what faster than light travel would actually look like to Han and Chewie at the controls of the Millennium Falcon. The fourth year physics students – Riley Connors, Katie Dexter, Joshua Argyle, and Cameron Scoular – say that the crew wouldn't see star lines (PDF) stretching out past the ship during the jump to hyperspace, but would actually see a central disc of bright light."
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Students Calculate What Hyperspace Travel Would Actually Look Like

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  • Warp vs Hyperspace (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @08:52PM (#42598609)

    There are two methods of FTL being talked about here, but they are conflating the two.

    Traveling via "warp" means warping space and time itself so you're moving through space at less than C, but space is shrinking in front of you and expanding behind, so the net effect is that you've moved from point A to point B in less time than it would take light travelling without warping space. (Your actual velocity may actually be zero with this method.) This is how Star Trek does it (sort of).

    Traveling via "hyperspace" means punching some type of hole in space and traveling "somewhere else". Sometimes it is just a wormhole between points A and B, but it is commonly (like in Star Wars and Babylon 5) some other space within or without normal space. It's a short cut.

    Nerds should know this, and yet this is the second time within a week I've seen these two ideas talked about as if they are the same thing.

    (I'll leave it to someone else to explain how traveling by Guild vessel works...)

    • That's right... when you're traveling at warp speed, you're still going C relative to space around you. It's just the space itself which is warped.

      Watch Star Trek, say the Khaaan movie. They're doing Warp 5 toward Space Station Regula 1 when Saavik says "Admiral, sensors indicate a vessel approaching. It's the Reliant." Now look out the window, the stars around the Reliant look normal.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Iskender (1040286)

      (I'll leave it to someone else to explain how traveling by Guild vessel works...)

      Drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. You snort the line so fast you go right past c.

      Yeah I know it sounds weird, but are *you* going to argue with Frank Herbert? I know I'm not!

    • To confuse this even further, one must consider that Star Wars uses both the terms "hyperspace" and "lightspeed" at times. What to make of this, I don't know, and I also don't know that we can make a judgement about how long distance space travel is achieved in that "universe." Sure, Star Trek gives us a lot of pseudo-technical info about how they do things, but Star Wars canon is more limited and much more murky.
      • by TheMeuge (645043)

        Yes but Star Wars is also a movie in which time was measured in units of distance (your mother in how many parsecs?

        • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @12:41AM (#42600035)

          Fun fact: In a strange case of Hollywood writers actually getting basic science right, the error was intentional and explained in the original script: [imsdb.com]

          ...
          HAN: Han Solo. I'm captain of the Millennium Falcon. Chewie here tells
          me you're looking for passage to the Alderaan system.

          BEN: Yes, indeed. If it's a fast ship.

          HAN: Fast ship? You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon?

          BEN: Should I have?

          HAN: It's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve
          parsecs!

          Ben reacts to Solo's stupid attempt to impress them with
          obvious misinformation.

      • I noticed this too. I had always assumed that there were simply multiple ways of travel being sugested based on the fact that there were so many worlds who brought their technology to the galactic party. Some cultures on far away worlds developed "lightspeed" travel, while others found "hyperspace". The really mixed and divers galactic culture would have adopted both means of travel.
    • I assume when someone states "traveling faster than FTL" that they are not using a worm hole or "hyperspace" and that the ship is literally traveling through space faster than light.

      In which case, they would not see any light when traveling faster than light, because if said light touched the traveler the collision would cause a domino of effects that would certainly destroy the traveler.

      The field would need to have some field around it to avoid such collisions.

      And there lies the true novelty of the i
    • Yet both are completely fictional and are not physically possible in even the remotest sense... and you're still arguing about the difference between 2 fantasy modes of travel. Next will you give us an in depth dissertation on the differences between Unicorn and Pegasus travel?

    • by nmb3000 (741169)

      I liked the detailed information about the FTL jumps in Battlestar Galactica found in the show bible by RDM:

      Faster Than Light (FTL)

      The ability to travel faster than the speed of light is, of course, impossible so FTL is a bit of a misnomer even in Galactica's world. Technically speaking neither Galactica nor any other "FTL" capable ship actually goes faster than the speed of light. What happens during a "Jump" is that the fabric of space itself is folded and the ship travels from point A to point B directl

    • by isorox (205688)

      There are two methods of FTL being talked about here, but they are conflating the two.

      Much easier not to travel FTL.

      Professor Hubert Farnsworth: These are the dark matter engines I invented. They allow my starship to travel between galaxies in mere hours.
      Cubert J. Farnsworth: That's impossible. You can't go faster than the speed of light.
      Professor Hubert Farnsworth: Of course not. That's why scientists increased the speed of light in 2208.

  • traveling at the speed of light, only the view would be a smaller dot.

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      Not if you are in a warp bubble.

      Light would impact the bubble across the front 'face'. Depending on how distorted, you could see everything that hit and would be directed towards your position on anywhere from all or none of that front 'face'.

      Now, if you didn't have a warp bubble around you, and traveled at the speed of light, it would probably appear solid field, since light would be heading straight in to every point of your eye, with the field being cut off more by how you turn your head or eye.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @08:57PM (#42598645)

    The A Slower Speed of Light [mit.edu] game from MIT does the same thing, just by slowing the light down to your speed rather than speeding you up to light speed. It's the same, since its all relative.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @09:00PM (#42598671) Homepage

    The slashdot summary is totally inaccurate. It makes it sound as though the paper calculates what would be seen by an observer going faster than c relative to the stars, but actually the paper calculates what would be seen by an observer going at v=0.9999995c.

    There is also basically nothing new in this paper. The effects they describe (relativistic aberration and Doppler shifts) have been well understood for a long time. ANU has made a nice educational video [youtube.com] showing these effects.

    The question of how things would look if you could go faster than c relative to the stars is a whole different issue. Special relativity doesn't forbid relative motion faster than c, but it puts a bunch of constraints on it: (1) it can't be achieved by a continuous process of acceleration from velocities less than c; (2) if it exists, it violates causality; and (3) although special relativity is consistent with the existence of faster-than-light particles (tachyons), it is not consistent with the existence of faster-than-light observers in a universe with 3 spatial dimensions and 1 time dimension, a.k.a. 3+1 dimensions. Result #3 (no tachyonic observers in 3+1 dimensions) has been known [harvard.edu] for a long time, but it seems to keep getting rediscovered.

    • by yelvington (8169)

      (2) if it exists, it violates causality;

      That would seem to be a problem, but maybe it contains its own solution.

    • (3) although special relativity is consistent with the existence of faster-than-light particles (tachyons), it is not consistent with the existence of faster-than-light observers in a universe with 3 spatial dimensions and 1 time dimension, a.k.a. 3+1 dimensions. Result #3 (no tachyonic observers in 3+1 dimensions) has been known for a long time, but it seems to keep getting rediscovered.

      I'm curious (but can't deal with 30 pages of relativistic physics right now). Can you answer one summarizing question,

    • by siddesu (698447)
      That video you posted has already traveled through the wormhole... This video contains content from EMI, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.
    • by Sigg3.net (886486)

      I'm not sure it is possible to violate causality. Causality is just a sequential description of what we already know happened or suspect will happen.

      So, let's say stuff happens. If you "violated causality" stuff would still happen, but our regular description would not apply (our physical constitution might not even allow it being perceived).

  • by xZoomerZx (1089699) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @09:06PM (#42598701)
    You wouldn't see anything at FTL speeds as even radio waves would come on as gamma radiation. If that doesn't kill you outright you can expect your clothes to no longer fit and your tan to turn a darker shade of green whereupon you smash the controls and die anyway.
    • You wouldn't see anything at FTL speeds as even radio waves would come on as gamma radiation.

      How do you know? There is no known physics which can predict what FTL travel will look like because all the known laws of physics forbid FTL. This makes as much sense as using newtonian mechanics to explain quantum tunnelling: the existence of the phenomena you are trying to explain is forbidden by the very physics you are trying to describe it with! However that is NOT what the students did - they assumed a velocity very close to the speed of light but not greater than it then threw in the word "Millenium

      • From what I know of physics, FTL travel isn't forbidden. It's just passing the speed of light that's impossible. You can't go from a standstill to c (much less more-than-c), but if you could somehow "jump over" c, you'd be able to travel FTL. Whether any way of "jumping over c" exists or not is another story.

  • surely the whole point of hyperspace is to be a plot device where one can avoid unfortunate physical laws that would otherwise mess up a story, like momentum (these star-ships routinely crash or make sharp turns at millions of miles per hour and the crew-members just fall over gently or brace themselves against pillars), where even Heisenberg experiences no uncertainty and in particular where special relativity apparently does not apply.
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @09:14PM (#42598791)

    I giving all she got captain and I don't get the lines.

  • After reaching ludicrous speed, everything turns to plaid.
    • by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @10:10PM (#42599241)
      Please don't mix in ridiculous Space Balls bullshit, and pipe down while the adults are talking, you blasphemer! This is a SERIOUS conversation about Star Wars and Star Trek tech!
      • Please don't mix in ridiculous Space Balls bullshit, and pipe down while the adults are talking, you blasphemer! This is a SERIOUS conversation about Star Wars and Star Trek tech!

        Now you've done it. Time to say goodbye to your two best friends (and I don't mean the ones in the Winnebego).

  • by Dan9999 (679463) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @09:26PM (#42598871)
    gate and my favorite ship troopers
  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @09:31PM (#42598931)

    Nothing. You would see absolutely nothing. Blackness. Empty space. Here is why:

    The warp field used to push the ship would be a 100% metamaterial, which redirects all particles, including light, around the ship perfectly, and or, capturing the particles on the event shock, and preventing them from reaching you.

    That's the problem with cheating by removing the ship from the causally connected universe, via a albucuierre warpdrive; being no longer causally connected means you can't see anything, because you stop interacting with the universe outside the warp field.

    Ok, pedantically, you would see an insanely redshifted image of the universe you left behind, instead of empty space. But to human eyes, that heat map would appear literally black.

    When you rupture the field, and spill back into being causally connected with the universe at the remote reference frame, a shitton of energy and radiation will blast out.

    Piloting a ship with that kind of propulsion would require very precise calculations about the passing of local time inside the warp field, and the time frames of both site of departure, and site of destination. It would be impossible to measure spacial distance, so the unpredictable unit of variable time is all you would have to work with. Long distance navigation would be an almost absurd proposition due to this fact. This could be the fly in the ointment against this form of travel in fact.

    • by Nkwe (604125)

      Piloting a ship with that kind of propulsion would require very precise calculations about the passing of local time inside the warp field, and the time frames of both site of departure, and site of destination. It would be impossible to measure spacial distance, so the unpredictable unit of variable time is all you would have to work with. Long distance navigation would be an almost absurd proposition due to this fact. This could be the fly in the ointment against this form of travel in fact.

      In other words, it ain't like dusting crops.

  • He describes this in The City and the Stars, and possibly in an earlier work.

    • by luckymutt (996573)
      Also, Carl Sagan had a nice animation when Cosmos was re-released as a special edition in...1990? ish?
  • Why is it that hyperspace looks exactly like what one sees after 8 beers?

  • by Myria (562655) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @10:19PM (#42599299)

    What if in fact there is no way at all to exceed c? It could mean that the only way to really explore the galaxy would be with generation ships or with machines. It would be a quite depressing discovery, for it would place limits on our imagination. "Science fiction" would pass into the category of "fantasy".

    The only other possibility that would work is travel that is faster-than-light from your own perspective, but not from others' - time dilation. You could make a trip to another galaxy in a single lifetime, but it would be millions of years to everyone else.

    I think that some of the biggest scientific discoveries to come will not be of possibilities, but of limitations. Not what we can do in the future, but what we can't. Humankind is going to have to live with this.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)

      It's likely that you cannot exceed c. However, current theories do not preclude the existence of wormholes, or heck, the creation of them. A wormhole would technically allow travel between two points in space in a time much shorter than what would be required going at near c outside the wormhole, all while never going faster than c, by "folding" space so that the two points are effectively closer together.

      That's just one way we know. It's also possible that other methods would work.

    • by wierd_w (1375923) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @01:28AM (#42600241)

      Not really. It just means "one way trip, everyone you know on earth will be dead when you arrive at your destination".

      This is because of time dialation caused by being bound by special relativity. The faster you go in relation to c, the less "time" you experience compared to the outside observer. When you hit c (which is impossible for massed objects anyway) you experience exactly 0 seconds of time.

      So, while the people on earth wait the 25+ light years for you to reach gleise, you might only experience a few seconds of time aboard the starship, thanks to special relativity.

      Due to realistic constraints on energy requirements for space vehicles, the best you are looking at for reaching a distant star system is a couple of years of local starship time, at some significant fraction of c, but considerably less than 99%. (Probably closer to 20 to 40% c, at best, assuming a crazy powerful engine.)

      At relativistic velocities, every tiny hydrogen atom in front of the ship floating listlessly in space suddenly becomes a high energy alpha particle, and every electron becomes a high energy beta particle. This means the ship needs absurd amounts of radiation shielding to make the trip feasible.

      • by locofungus (179280) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @03:50AM (#42600897)

        20-40% of c doesn't introduce significant relativistic effects.

        You need to be doing just under 87% of c in order to get a time dilation factor of 2. 99% of c gets you a dilation factor of 7.

        Tim.

        • by wierd_w (1375923)

          Without swinging around a black hole, I don't see a reasonable method of accellerating something the size of an interstellar starship to 99% of c. It takes ungodly amounts of power to accelerate single protons to that speed in the LHC. A starship!? Wow....

          I stll hold to the estimate of 20 to 40% c with "reasonable expectations" (ahem. Cough, sputter.) Of what you can wring out of physics in regard to such a large vehicle. That means that the 25 lightyear trip will still take about 50 to 100 years for the s

      • Why wouldn't we have enormously extended lifespans by then? Like thousands of years, there's no physical reason why not...

  • Everyone knows that once you pass a certain threshold it goes plaid.
  • Don't go into the light, Luke!

    • by MrKaos (858439)

      Don't go into the light, Luke!

      So what you're saying is that when we die we go into hyperspace?

  • Except: If you were traveling at the speed of light, time would stop. So you wouldn't see a damned thing because the universe would end instantaneously for you. Also you'd implode into a singularity and devour all the energy in the universe to achieve light speed, but lets not let physics get in the way.

  • Even so, if the universe is a simulation one would expect to see alert messages such as "Please wait... Loading level 2" or "Undefined pointer at 0xa0123ebf6a78ca2a@20010db8:00000000:0000ff00:00428329"

  • by HuguesT (84078) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @03:28AM (#42600807)

    The paper talks about traveling at 0.9999995c, i.e. definitely relativistic speeds but not any kind of hyperspace travel.

    They made some fairly straightforward blue-shift and pressure calculations. The bright spot in front of the travelers is actually the Cosmic Background Radiation, normally microwave radiation, but blue shifted towards the visible end of the spectrum. Starlight would be shifted toward X-rays in front of them and microwave behind them.

    The authors don't talk about any acceleration phase, they assume the travelers simply travel at that speed and what they would see.

    Essentially nothing new in this paper, but just some fun calculations.

  • "Han and Chewie at the controls of the Millennium Falcon [...] wouldn't see star lines stretching out past the ship during the jump to hyperspace, but would actually see a central disc of bright light."

    George Lucas will need to re-edit again his movies with up-to-date CGI.

  • It's going to be great. ET will shoot at TIE fighters with a walkie talkie while the genie from Aladdin flies around on a magic carpet. Harrison Ford will probably play a cameo both as Indianna Jones and as an octagenarian Han Solo.

  • Without the SSL error on it?

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