Last week the internet was abuzz with news that NASA had created the warp drive. While my mind quickly raced and thought of all the wonderful things our species could see and accomplish if this were true, I think the headlines were a little misleading.
So let’s start at the beginning. Einstein said that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. It would take an infinite amount of energy to propel an object to near the speed of light but it would also become infinitely massive so it could never cross the threshold. But as with most rules they seem to have some exceptions and at the very least they seem to be bendable. Scientist and science fiction fans alike have put forth many different ideas about how we could circumvent the laws of nature to achieve faster than light travel.
Among the top candidates are worm holes, perhaps circling a black hole, and warping space time itself. The latter is the one that seems to be the most plausible. Einstein also said that space time can be warped, mainly by very massive objects or things that have a lot of gravity, like a black hole or a massive star. But since neither of these are very close cosmically speaking they are of no help to us. So that leaves us with “warping” space time itself to achieve faster than light travel. Both of these articles explain how this could be possible in simplistic terms.
Basically as I have explained above nothing can travel than the speed of light, but “warping” space itself circumvents this notion. In theory you can constrict the space in front of a ship and expand the space behind the ship thus warping the area around the ship propelling it faster that the speed of light. The cool thing here is that if this is possible it would not break any of the laws of physics because the ship itself is not traveling fast than light, but the space around the ship it what is moving fast than light (this is wrong see below). So it is an idea that is a little backwards but as I have mentioned is the sort of outside of the box thinking that we will need to solve some of the biggest mysteries in our universe.
So what next? If I am being optimistic you can take the experiments at face value and think that we are well on our way to taking the first steps to colonize our solar system and later the galaxy. While this would be an amazing feat I think there are a multitude of questions still to be answered. My first one would be how the human body would hold up to this sort of travel. It could be that FTL travel will put too much stress on the frail human body and even if we achieve it we will never be able to experience it. But, as I mentioned above the ship is not breaking the FTL barrier, it is simply warping space around it and space is what is moving FTL. So if that is the case I do not think that would necessarily place any significant stress on the body. I could be wrong but I am not sure. I guess there is just so much we don’t know about this and things we don’t know we don’t know. I would assume that there would be problems and issues that come up, so of which we may have foreseen, while others we would have never seen coming.
While that is all well and good, and speculating is fun, I think we may be getting ahead of ourselves. I always like to gather as much information on a particular topic when I talk about it, mainly because it makes for a more interesting post. So while I have found quite a few articles suggesting that we are well on our way to creating a real life warp drive, this article says otherwise along with this one as well. The problem with the first two articles is that they are from sources that I am not familiarly with, while both saying it is not true is from Forbes and Wired, which are real respected media outlets so I would be inclined to believe them. They both say that basically just says we should be skeptical right now because this has not been verified by peers or duplicated in another lab. So while the author is not saying that they did not do it, more or less, they are at least saying that we need more information and someone else to give it a try. Kind of a bummer I suppose. The Wired article goes into more detail about how this does in fact violate certain laws of physics so I guess I was wrong from what I said above.
Regardless if this is true or not it seems that this idea is near impossible. I read theWikipedia page about the warp drive and the whole idea needs “exotic matter” to be factored into the equation. While some if not most scientist believe this stuff does exist we seem to be in very short supply of it at the moment. Honestly, the more I read about this the more I am skeptical of the experiment and more importantly the fact that we will ever achieve FTL travel. The Wikipedia page really put a cast a hard shadow of reality on the idea and brought the fantasy of traveling through the stars with ease crashing back down to Earth.
While this was fun to think about and I have to say I was pretty excited and mostly amazed at the story lines over the past week, but if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. I guess theoretically this is possible, and I am getting that info from Wikipedia, but I have also heard it on a show I was watching one time. The issue is that the warp drive or engine would require dark or exotic matter to construct it, so in a roundabout way it is not possible, I have a very hard time saying something is impossible, so right now it is not probable based on our technology and what we know about the universe. So I this is basically saying that even if we were to get our hands on dark matter the other argument says that we would not have the wherewithal to figure out how to use it properly to construct such a device, which again is very depressing, but also has some truth in it. Although, I think that if we were able to obtain a suffecient amount of dark matter, I would imagine that such a process though which we would get it, we would be able to identify all its properties and study it accordingly. I think that if we were able to obtain the dark matter, I would imagine that we could figure out how to use it and constuct the device that was capable of warping space. But currently we do not have that problem and there are way too many if’s and unproven ideas in the last few sentences. This once again shows how far the real world and the theoretical world are sometimes. The funny thing with this one is the requirement of dark matter. So this idea has two problems, and even if we solve one constructing the actual device could also be another impossibility.
At the end of the day we are still here on our lonely planet circling our sun. Perhaps one day so many of our fantastic ideas will start to make the transition to become fact, but for now they are very deeply rooted in the theoretical world. They don’t seem to be making that transition any time soon…