The major key plot devices in nearly every Sci-Fi movie or episode is the ability of starships to travel at lightspeed and beyond. But, let us tell you that this really happens! All thanks to a propulsion system known as warp drive! This sounds “science-fiction” and it is as warp drive doesn’t actually exist. However, in theory, some version of this propulsion system could be created from the idea—given enough time, money, and materials.
The logic behind the warp drive has not been disproven yet and this is the main reason warp drive seems to be possible. So, there may be hope for coming future ,where we can think of FTL (faster-than-light) travel, but not any time soon.
What is warp drive?
In science-fiction, warp drive is the technology allows ships to get across space by moving beyond the speed of light. This makes it an important detail, as lightspeed is the cosmic speed limit, the universe’s ultimate traffic law, and the barrier.
As far as we know, nothing can move pas the speed of light. According to the theory of Einstein on relativity, it takes an infinite amount of energy to accelerate an object with mass up to the speed of light. The reason why light itself is not affected by this fact is that photons (the particles of light) don’t have any mass. As a result, it would appear that having a spacecraft traveling at or going beyond the speed of light is simply impossible.
Yet, there are two loopholes. One is that there doesn’t seem to be a restriction on traveling as close as possible to lightspeed. The second loophole is that when we talk about the impossibility of reaching the speed of light, we are typically talking about the propulsion of objects. But the concept of warp drive is not necessarily based, only, on the ships or objects themselves travelling at the speed of light.
Warp drive challenges
The formation and movement of a warp bubble necessitate the space in front of it to annihilate, while the space at the back needs to rapidly grow. This annihilated space, which is referred to as negative mass or negative energy, a highly theoretical type of matter that hasn’t been “found” yet.
Amount of energy
With Alcubierre’s design in 1994 as well as others, it seemed that the sheer amount of energy required to create the necessary expansion and contraction of space-time would exceed the sun’s during its lifespan of 10 billion-year. But further research lowered the amount of negative energy needed to that of a giant planet, which, is still a challenge to come up with.
Traveling with warp drive
If scientists are successful in bending the space-time around a spacecraft, it would only lead to more questions regarding space travel.
Scientists’ studies showed that during interstellar travel, a warp bubble would potentially collect a large number of particles, which could result in massive explosions upon arrival. Other queries connected to this interstellar travel is how to navigate the whole warp bubble and how travelers would communicate with scientists here on Earth. From a technical point of view, we are still a long way away from warp drive, but with the technological advancements and further innovations, the answers are closer than ever before.