Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Faster than Light Speed Travel?

Okay. Really?
"It's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs!"
(Never mind that parsecs are units of distance and not time - oh well, George still made a great movie.)

I know we all want it to be possible. The 'real' theory (not talking Star Trek/Wars here!) is based on an idea by Michael Alcubierre. The propulsion system doesn't really propel the space ship; it would expand space behind the ship and shrink space in front of the ship. The ship would then 'surf' the bubble as it zips through space. It was coined as the "Alcubierre drive."

This idea has been reworked a little (add a sprinkling of dark energy to control the manipulation of spacetime) by Baylor University physicists Gerald Cleaver and graduate student Richard Obousy.

It's an interesting thought experiment. It does seem to escape the problem of Einstein's theory of relativity. The ship is not actually 'moving through space,' but riding the bubble of stationary space. So then no infinite speed requiring an infinite amount of fuel mass.

I'm curious about time. Assuming that this will come to pass as real technology at some point. How will a bubble of space affect the passage of time in and around it?

The idea that space can move faster than light comes from data generated by the WMAP that space expanded faster than the speed of light for a short time after the Big Bang.

Sadly, we won't be able to enjoy the fruits of this theory, unless someone cracks the problem of the human life span. That's a story for another day.

Whole story at
Warp Drive Engine Would Travel Faster Than Light
by Eric Bland

Story with more detail about how dark energy fits into the picture at
Spaceship Could Fly Faster Than Light
by Jeremy Hsu

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