Monday, December 13, 2010

Michio Kaku Discusses Faster Than Light Travel With Warp Drive Inventor

Discovery Channel's Michio Kaku interviewed theoretical physicist, Miguel Alcubierre Moya who has found a way to travel faster-than-light (FTL) without violating the Einstein's Theory of Relativity - the so called "Alcubierre drive".

Alcubierre's theory of a warp-drive, trans-light propulsion model, is right out of pages of Star Trek. The theory essentially proposes developing a "warp bubble", that once formed, creates a wrinkle in space-time with an expanding rear wave that seeks to "catch" a collapsing forward edge. Once established this wrinkle can effectively travel infinite distances across the universe, carrying a space ship positioned between the waves at trans-light speed due to the folding of space between the wrinkles.

The ship isn't really moving faster than light, but due to the reduced distance from the rear to the forward edge of the wrinkles, the ship is effectively traversing twice the distance (or more depending on the size of the space-time distortion created by the wrinkles) in a fraction of the time required to travel normally in a smooth, flat plane of space.

Theory aside, is this really possible? Apparently creating a warp bubble that is capable of distorting space, effectively folding it to create less distance from point A to B, checks out mathematically. However, there are at least two wee little problems to solve before we can start rolling Warp Drives off the Alcubierre Motor Company assembly line:
  1. The energy requirement for establishing the initial warp bubble is rather gargantuan ("absurdly gigantic" as quoted in Wikipedia) and well beyond our present technology - after all, we're still trying to figure out how to make fossil fuels more efficient, let alone creating an exotic energy power source capable of running a small city we would have to cram into the engine room of a space ship
  2. Even assuming one now had the power to create this "space warping" bubble, the space ship would also need to be be surrounded by an anti-gravity field, creating an inertia-less environment to safeguard both the structure of the ship and it's inhabitants. Otherwise acceleration to warp speeds, even if it were fractions of sub-light speed, would effectively transform the ship and it's inhabitants into a thin molecular paste, from the ultra-violent forces of both the instantaneous jump to and back out of warp speed.
There are probably a few more issues we could no doubt mention, but minor details aside, it's exciting to know that warp-drive capability would enable man to travel the vast distances of the universe at will within a single life time.

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