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05-17-2024

Faster-than-light 'warp speed' interstellar travel now thought to be possible

In another example of how truth is often stranger than fiction, scientists have taken a significant step towards turning the sci-fi concept of “warp drives” into a feasible reality.

According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, going faster than the speed of light is off-limits in the real world. For this reason, warp drives, like the one powering spaceships in Star Wars and other science fiction movies, have always been firmly in the realm of imagination — until now.

New research, led by Dr. Jared Fuchs from Applied Physics and published in the prestigious Classical and Quantum Gravity journal, presents a new solution to one of the long-standing challenges in realizing warp drive technology.

Traditional warp drive concept

The traditional sci-fi concept of a warp drive involves distorting spacetime in a very specific way: compressing it in front of the ship and expanding it behind.

In theory, this would allow the ship to effectively travel faster-than-light without actually exceeding the speed limit locally.

However, previous studies of this idea suggested that it would require exotic forms of matter with “negative energy density.”

Understanding negative energy density

In our everyday experience, energy is always positive. Even in a vacuum, there is a small amount of positive energy called the “vacuum energy” or “zero-point energy.”

This is a consequence of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics, which states that there are always fluctuations in the energy of a system, even at the lowest possible energy state.

The existence of negative energy density is highly speculative and problematic within the framework of known physics. The laws of thermodynamics and the energy conditions in general relativity seem to prohibit the existence of large amounts of negative energy density.

Some theories, such as the Casimir effect and certain quantum field theories, do predict the existence of small amounts of negative energy density under specific conditions. However, these effects are typically very small and confined to microscopic scales.

New approach to warp drive technology

This is where the new study comes in. Applied Physics researchers identified a new way in which warp technology might one day be possible. The team introduced the concept of a “constant-velocity subluminal warp drive” aligned with the principles of relativity.

The new model eliminates the need for exotic energy, using instead a sophisticated blend of traditional and novel gravitational techniques to create a warp bubble that can transport objects at high speeds within the bounds of known physics.

“This study changes the conversation about warp drives,” said lead author Dr. Fuchs. “By demonstrating a first-of-its-kind model, we’ve shown that warp drives might not be relegated to science fiction.”

Warp factory: Enabling warp drive spacetimes

The team’s theoretical model for a new type of warp bubble uses traditional and innovative gravitational techniques, made possible with their publicly-available tool Warp Factory.

This solution enables the transportation of objects at high but subluminal speeds without the need for exotic energy sources. This can be achieved by engineering warp drive spacetimes to gravitate like ordinary matter, which is a first-of-its-kind solution.

“Although such a design would still require a considerable amount of energy, it demonstrates that warp effects can be achieved without exotic forms of matter,” added Dr. Christopher Helmerich, co-author of the study. “These findings pave the way for future reductions in warp drive energy requirements.”

No g-forces for passengers

Unlike in planes or rockets, passengers in a warp craft experience no g-forces. This is a stark contrast to some sci-fi fantasies. The team’s research shows how we might construct such a craft using regular matter.

“While we’re not yet packing for interstellar voyages, this achievement heralds a new era of possibilities,” explained Gianni Martire, CEO of Applied Physics. “We’re continuing to make steady progress as humanity embarks on the Warp Age.”

Dawn of faster-than-light travel?

The team at Applied Physics is now focused on addressing these challenges as they continue to refine their models and collaborate across disciplines and institutions to turn this once-fantastical dream into reality.

As we stand on the threshold of a new era in space exploration, the prospect of warp drives becoming a reality tantalizes us more than ever. With each new discovery and breakthrough, we inch closer to the stars and the boundless possibilities that await us in the vast expanse of the cosmos.

As humanity begins the chase for faster-than-light travel, perhaps using warp drives, we can only imagine the incredible adventures and revelations that the universe has in store for us.

The full study was published in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity.

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