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Space Science

Students Calculate What Hyperspace Travel Would Actually Look Like 234

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...)

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

    The A Slower Speed of Light [] 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 Ol Biscuitbarrel ( 1859702 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @09:37PM (#42598981)

    The Void Captain's Tale by Norman Spinrad [] has FTL powered by female orgasm. Anybody know of other unorthodox propulsion methods from SF?

    Aside from whatever the hell was involved in moving the ships in Cordwainer Smith's stories. Cats fending off meta-dimensional dragons in Space3?

  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @09:44PM (#42599065)

    The actual geometry of a wormhole is too peculiar for most viewers, so "zipping really fast across the galaxy! Wheeeee!" Is more familiar. It's a TV show. Lighten up fancis.

    Really, an actual wormhole would resemble a sphere in 3d space, through the center of which, you see straight through out the other side of the companion spherical appearing disruption at your desintation. The "edge" of the sphere would look mirrory, and highly distorted. Traveling into the wormhole on any sufficiently oblique trajectory would be "a bad thing(tm)". It is this oblique interaction that is hypothesized to make any artificially stabilized wormhole rapidly become unstable, as particles get caught in tight "circular" loops and literally feedback the wormhole shut.

    None of this "disc shaped portal" nonsense.

    Because that would be mindfucking to most viewers, special effects people make wormholes flat, for fragile human minds.

  • by uvajed_ekil ( 914487 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @10:04PM (#42599197)
    But Newtonian physics begins to break down at quantum scales, despite Newton's ignorance to that fact, so perhaps there are other exceptions that we don't know about? There are a lot of Wars/Trek technology and happenings we can't fully explain, so I don't think it is too far fetched to think that we don't have the science to properly understand and explain warp or hyperspace travel. So get back to work, and keep us posted!
  • 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: []

    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

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

  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @02:39AM (#42600605)

    No, it means that at most, you might be able to send a message through a wormhole as a beam of light precisely send exactly at the exact computed centerpoint of the sphere, and very little else.

    Sending a human through the wormhole would have a sizeable number of the human's atoms entering on trajectories that don't precisely intersect the sphere's centerpoint, meaning the shearing effects of the wormhole would rip the human apart. They would come out the other side as a spray of microparticulates. (And if entering highly oblique, would turn into a fireball of radiation whirling around the edges of the wormhole.)

    It is possible that with a sufficiently "large" wormhole, the shearing forces would be sufficiently diffused over a large enough entry window to permit a human sized object, but the wormhole would have to be fucking enormous. I mean. Fucking. Enormous. The human would still experience radical compression and shearing forces, but they would be below the energies needed to tear the human apart. That doesn't mean the experience would be in any way "enjoyable."

    Atmospheric gasses interacting with the wormhole's event horizon? Hoooboy... can you say nuclear fireball? No. Travel through a wormhole would require as close to absolute vacuum as possible, a fucking enormous wormhole, and a pair of depends diapers, because you are gonna need em.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982