Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Star Trek Here We Come! (Maybe)

One of the truisms of science fiction vs "true" science is that faster than light travel is not possible and even near-light velocities are very difficult and the only practical way to go to the stars is by generation ships or by the crew hibernating during the flight.

Some physicists disagree and believe that it may be possible to create what is in effect a Warp Drive that would allow starships to make a transit between two points in space at a speed faster than light, and they will do it without actually moving. The theory and its math was worked out by a Mexican physicist named Miguel Alcubierre and its called the Alcubierre Drive.

Also see www.space.com article here.

The ship itself would not actually move in an absolute sense (though it would in a practical sense.) What would happen is that space behind the ship would somehow (and that's the hard part!) be artificially expanded in size while the space ahead of it is contracted thus causing the space containing the ship to move at a speed faster than light. It would be comparable to you moving by causing the ground beneath your feet to move while you actually stood still. Is it possible? Time will tell. I am intrigued, but like the Space Elevator it seems like an idea that still needs to be proved and not just so much talk. Let's say I'm intrigued but not ready to invest.

Now we are not talking about going to Alpha Centauri next year or even in the next decade. There are enormous, possibly even insurmountable, technical problems to solve and questions to answer. Part of the problem is that initial studies reveal that the energy required to expand and shrink space are well beyond our total energy production or anything we envision for quite a while.

It will be centuries before we build a "warp engine." But consider this: a mere two centuries ago the moon was considered beyond any possible human reach. Now we are talking not only about going back to the moon, but even going to Mars and beyond. Consider that flight by a heavier-than-air machine was considered impossible until the Wright Brothers actually did it. In the 1700s some scientists believed that a human would die if he moved faster than 40 mph because the pressure from the air going into the face and into the nose would prevent a man from breathing out so he would suffocate.

One way or the other, unless our Lord returns, we won't be around to see it.

3 Comments:

Blogger benning said...

What we can conceive we can do. Perhaps the Alcubierre Drive, or something like it will be the technique we use; perhaps something else again. If the Socialists don't destroy our ability to soar we may achieve interstellar flight faster than you think.

:D

8:44 AM  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

I can't help but think that, at some point in the future, SHOULD we continue as a species and not manage to wipe ourselves off the face of the Earth, we will discover some way to travel "faster than light" or cobble together some effect or a pathway towards the stars. And I also believe there are cogent civilizations out there awaiting discovery.

BZ

9:15 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

"If the Socialists don't destroy our ability to soar ..."

Dude, give it a rest. Everything is not about politics.

You have to imagine it before you can create it. I'm not sure it will ever actually be possible. Maybe the Good Lord in his wisdom placed the stars so far apart that rival civilizations could grow and thrive at their own pace ignorant of live elsewhere because of our warlike nature. If there are aliens capable of traveling here they may wipe us out in much the same way that the Spanish destroyed the early civilizations of South America. Even if the were benevolent, they may alter the natural corse of our development and destroy us by accident.

There are more things in Heaven and Earth...

11:52 AM  

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