Mario Borunda is an associate professor of Physics at Oklahoma State University. This story originally featured in The Conversation.
The closest star to Earth is Proxima Centauri. It is about 4.25 light-years away, or about 25 trillion miles (40 trillion km). The fastest ever spacecraft, the now- in-space Parker Solar Probe will reach a top speed of 450,000 mph. It would take just 20 seconds to go from Los Angeles to New York City at that speed, but it would take the solar probe about 6,633 years to reach Earths nearest neighboring solar system.
If humanity ever wants to travel easily between stars, people will need to go faster than light. But so far, faster-than-light travel is possible only in science fiction.
In Issac Asimovs Foundation series, humanity can travel from planet to planet, star to star or across the universe using jump drives. As a kid, I read as many of those stories as I could get my hands on. I am now a theoretical physicist and study nanotechnology, but I am still fascinated by the ways humanity could one day travel in space.
Some characterslike the astronauts in the movies Interstellar and Thoruse wormholes to travel between solar systems in seconds. Another approachfamiliar to Star Trek fansis warp drive technology. Warp drives are theoretically possible if still far-fetched technology. Two recent papers made headlines in March when researchers claimed to have overcome one of the many challenges that stand between the theory of warp drives and reality.
But how do these theoretical warp drives really work? And will humans be making the jump to warp speed anytime soon?
Physicists current understanding of spacetime comes from Albert Einsteins theory of General Relativity. General Relativity states that space and time are fused and that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. General relativity also describes how mass and energy warp spacetime hefty objects like stars and black holes curve spacetime around them. This curvature is what you feel as gravity and why many spacefaring heroes worry about getting stuck in or falling into a gravity well. Early science fiction writers John Campbell and Asimov saw this warping as a way to skirt the speed limit.
What if a starship could compress space in front of it while expanding spacetime behind it? Star Trek took this idea and named it the warp drive.
In 1994, Miguel Alcubierre, a Mexican theoretical physicist, showed that compressing spacetime in front of the spaceship while expanding it behind was mathematically possible within the laws of General Relativity. So, what does that mean? Imagine the distance between two points is 10 meters (33 feet). If you are standing at point A and can travel one meter per second, it would take 10 seconds to get to point B. However, lets say you could somehow compress the space between you and point B so that the interval is now just one meter. Then, moving through spacetime at your maximum speed of one meter per second, you would be able to reach point B in about one second. In theory, this approach does not contradict the laws of relativity since you are not moving faster than light in the space around you. Alcubierre showed that the warp drive from Star Trek was in fact theoretically possible.
Alcubierre estimated that a warp drive with a 100-meter bubble would require the mass of the entire visible universe.
Proxima Centauri here we come, right? Unfortunately, Alcubierres method of compressing spacetime had one problem: It requires negative energy or negative mass.
Alcubierres warp drive would work by creating a bubble of flat spacetime around the spaceship and curving spacetime around that bubble to reduce distances. The warp drive would require either negative massa theorized type of matteror a ring of negative energy density to work. Physicists have never observed negative mass, so that leaves negative energy as the only option.
To create negative energy, a warp drive would use a huge amount of mass to create an imbalance between particles and antiparticles. For example, if an electron and an antielectron appear near the warp drive, one of the particles would get trapped by the mass and this results in an imbalance. This imbalance results in negative energy density. Alcubierres warp drive would use this negative energy to create the spacetime bubble.
But for a warp drive to generate enough negative energy, you would need a lot of matter. Alcubierre estimated that a warp drive with a 100-meter bubble would require the mass of the entire visible universe.
In 1999, physicist Chris Van Den Broeck showed that expanding the volume inside the bubble but keeping the surface area constant would reduce the energy requirements significantly, to just about the mass of the sun. A significant improvement, but still far beyond all practical possibilities.
Two recent papersone by Alexey Bobrick and Gianni Martire and another by Erik Lentzprovide solutions that seem to bring warp drives closer to reality.
Bobrick and Martire realized that by modifying spacetime within the bubble in a certain way, they could remove the need to use negative energy. This solution, though, does not produce a warp drive that can go faster than light.
Independently, Lentz also proposed a solution that does not require negative energy. He used a different geometric approach to solve the equations of General Relativity, and by doing so, he found that a warp drive wouldnt need to use negative energy. Lentzs solution would allow the bubble to travel faster than the speed of light.
It is essential to point out that these exciting developments are mathematical models. As a physicist, I wont fully trust models until we have experimental proof. Yet, the science of warp drives is coming into view. As a science fiction fan, I welcome all this innovative thinking. In the words of Captain Picard, things are only impossible until they are not.
Read the original post:
- Space Travel Updates: When Will We Be Able To Travel To Space? - Forbes - July 16th, 2021
- Richard Branson just flew to the edge of space. Heres what it means for space travel. - MIT Technology Review - July 16th, 2021
- Teenager to fly with Bezos in inaugural space tourism flight - Reuters - July 16th, 2021
- A 'new breed' of astronaut: Meet the citizen space traveler who'll be on Virgin Galactic's next flight - USA TODAY - July 16th, 2021
- Rocket men: Unregulated space travel posing a threat to the fragile environment of the blue planet - capitalcurrent.ca - July 16th, 2021
- Space Travel Calculator | Relativistic Rocket Equation - July 10th, 2021
- Fun Space Travel Facts for Kids - July 10th, 2021
- The History of Space Travel Timeline | The Fact Site - July 10th, 2021
- As space billionaires take flight, 'the right stuff' for space travel enters a new era - Space.com - July 10th, 2021
- Wally Funk, A Lifelong Aspiring Astronaut, Will Finally Head To Space At 82 - NPR - July 10th, 2021
- Are we ready for space tourism? - POLITICO - Politico - July 10th, 2021
- Local Travel Agent: Space Tourism is the Future - RochesterFirst - July 10th, 2021
- Op-ed | America's permanent and resilient presence in space will be nuclear powered - SpaceNews - July 10th, 2021
- The space race investing gold rush comes to Britain - iNews - July 10th, 2021
- Tech 24 - Heading to space on vacation? - FRANCE 24 - June 28th, 2021
- The UK's first space tourism travel agency has opened - and it's a world first - Euronews - June 28th, 2021
- The world's first luxury spaceflight experience from pioneering Space Perspective reimagines the thrill of space exploration - PRNewswire - June 28th, 2021
- China plans its first crewed mission to Mars in 2033 - Reuters - June 28th, 2021
- When Will Regular People Be Able to Visit the Moon? - Gizmodo - June 28th, 2021
- How Sun Ra Taught Us to Believe in the Impossible - The New Yorker - June 28th, 2021
- Chirps in space: new album captures the sound of black holes colliding - The Guardian - June 28th, 2021
- Strawberry Moon: We asked stargazers their thoughts on outer space and traveling to the Great Beyond - PAHomePage.com - June 28th, 2021
- Could the 'F9' Family Really Take a Car to Space? - Thrillist - June 28th, 2021
- Company offers space flights on the "balloon": the spacecraft has WiFi and drink menu | Technology - The Press Stories - June 28th, 2021
- Michael Baker International and Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority Partner with Space Perspective for First Space Launch to Fly from Space Coast Air... - June 28th, 2021
- Tens Of Thousands Sign Petition To Stop Jeff Bezos From Returning To Earth - NPR - June 23rd, 2021
- A Texas-size space summer has billionaires racing for the heavens - San Antonio Express-News - June 23rd, 2021
- GANNETT Launches ItsInauguralNon-Fungible Token Inspired by the First NewspaperOnthe Moon - USA TODAY - June 23rd, 2021
- Gannett Launches Its First Non-Fungible Token - Business Wire - June 23rd, 2021
- From Richard Branson to Jeff Bezos, space tourism takes flight - Livemint - June 23rd, 2021
- Jefferson research looks to outer space to learn about human health on Earth - The Philadelphia Inquirer - June 23rd, 2021
- Watch the Virgin Galactic Spaceship Soar at the Edge of Space - Robb Report - May 24th, 2021
- Travelling Through a Wormhole in Space May Be Possible, New Research Suggests - Gadgets 360 - May 24th, 2021
- As Interest In Space Tourism Booms, New Research Shows What May Happen To The Body In Space - Forbes - May 24th, 2021
- Space exploration China lands a rover on Mars - The Economist - May 24th, 2021
- A Serene Shore Resort, Except for the SpaceX Ball of Fire - The New York Times - May 24th, 2021
- ETF Battles: Want to Invest in Space Travel and Exploration? Try these 3 ETFs - TheStreet - May 24th, 2021
- Stronger together: Moving from space exploration to nuclear utilities - Modern Diplomacy - May 24th, 2021
- The ARKX ETF: Investing in the Final Frontier - ETF Trends - May 24th, 2021
- Heres how NASA will search for water on the Moon - Yahoo Entertainment - May 24th, 2021
- What We Know About Chinas Mars Rover Zhurong Landing - The New York Times - May 24th, 2021
- China says Martian rover takes first drive on surface of Red Planet - Reuters - May 24th, 2021
- An aspiring Irish astronaut is currently on a simulated moon mission - Siliconrepublic.com - May 24th, 2021
- To the moon...literally: Should you buy into the future of space travel? - Global Banking And Finance Review - May 24th, 2021
- SpaceX's dearMoon mission has pitted two brothers against each other. One of the siblings said he was shocked - Business Insider India - May 24th, 2021
- Virgin Galactic Shares Rocket Higher: What Investors Should Know - Benzinga - May 24th, 2021
- Warp Drives and Negative Energy: Physicists Give Chances of Faster-Than-Light Space Travel a Boost - SciTechDaily - May 18th, 2021
- LSU student from Zachary provide work that will make NASA mission to moon in 2022 - The Advocate - May 18th, 2021
- Connecting the Dots of History: Recognizing an Oklahoman's contribution to the U.S. space program - Oklahoman.com - May 18th, 2021
- The $10 billion Space telescope that will help us travel back in time - Euronews - May 18th, 2021
- Helen Sharman: Thirty years since first Briton went to space - BBC News - May 18th, 2021
- A Florida Kayak Excursion That's Like Paddling through the Milky Way - Red Tr... - Red Tricycle - May 18th, 2021
- SpaceX Files Paperwork for First Spaceship Orbital Flight: Texas to Hawaii - Weatherboy - May 18th, 2021
- Malachy Clerkin: Sport is all about fun - like hitting a golf ball on the moon - The Irish Times - May 18th, 2021
- If Earth falls, will interstellar space travel be our salvation? - Yahoo News - May 16th, 2021
- Not just Earth, humans are polluting space too. Heres how we can stop - ThePrint - May 16th, 2021
- OPINION: SpaceX is making history The Appalachian - The Appalachian Online - May 16th, 2021
- Air and Space Museum in Spotlight as X-wing Exhibition Announced - The Great Courses Daily News - May 16th, 2021
- US Intel Chief: Chinese Space Station is a Threat to National Security - Futurism - May 16th, 2021
- Warp drives: Physicists give chances of faster-than-light space travel a boost - EarthSky - May 11th, 2021
- First American In Space: The Flight of Alan B. Shepard - National Air and Space Museum - May 11th, 2021
- The second Israeli in space: "I'm aware of the risks, but not afraid of the dangers" - Geektime - May 11th, 2021
- Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter Lands at the National Air and Space Museum - Smithsonian Magazine - May 11th, 2021
- Want to become a space tourist? You finally can if you have $250,000 and a will to sign your life away - The Conversation AU - May 11th, 2021
- Space tourism is here 20 years after the first stellar tourist, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin plans to send civilians to space - The Conversation US - May 9th, 2021
- Southwestern to explore the health effects of space travel at the next Physics and Astronomy Lecture - Coos Bay World - May 9th, 2021
- Israeli Mission to Test Tech for Next Generation of Space Travel - Bloomberg - May 9th, 2021
- A bottle of wine aged in space could sell for $1 million how and why it tastes different than Earth-bound wine - CNBC - May 9th, 2021
- Bringing sci-fi concepts to real space exploration | Stanford News - Stanford University News - May 9th, 2021
- #SpaceWatchGL Opinion: Five reasons why astronomy is important to our future in space. - SpaceWatch.Global - May 9th, 2021
- Veteran NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams talks about the future of space travel, Mars, and a Woman on the Moon - CW39 - May 9th, 2021
- Smithsonian Will Display Star Wars X-Wing Fighter - The New York Times - May 9th, 2021
- NASAs Defunct Space Runway Will Be Used By a New Spaceplane in 2022 - Observer - May 9th, 2021
- 60 years ago, Alan Shepard became the first American in space | US Embassy & Consulates in Italy - US Embassy Rome - May 9th, 2021
- 44 Israeli Research Projects Headed For Space On Rakia Mission - NoCamels - Israeli Innovation News - May 9th, 2021
- Elon Musk is right about the inevitable risks and rewards of space travel - The Independent - May 9th, 2021
- Breaking News - discovery+ Documents Backyard Engineers Pursuing Their Dreams of Space Flight in All-New Limited Series "Homemade... - May 1st, 2021
- The Food Tech Show: The Future of Space Food - The Spoon - May 1st, 2021
- Light This Candle: What You Need to Know About Alan Shepard's Historic Spaceflight - National Air and Space Museum - May 1st, 2021
- Virgin Galactic Reschedules First Quarter 2021 Financial Results and Conference Call In Response to Recent SEC Guidance Relating to Warrants Issued by... - May 1st, 2021