Up until now, warp drives have been the preserve of science fiction series such as Star Trek. According to scientists at NASA, however, it might not be too long before we’re able to zip around faster than the speed of light: warp drives may be more feasible than previously thought.
A warp drive would work on the principle that, even though nothing in space can travel faster than the speed of light, space-time itself isn’t limited by this cosmic speed limit. By expanding the fabric of space behind it and contracting the space-time in front, a spacecraft equipped with a warp drive would be able to reach its destination without actually moving, allowing it to travel faster than light without breaking any physical laws.
Dr Harold “Sonny” White this week revealed that he and colleagues from the Eagleworks laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre have been exploring the possibilities of these futuristic devices. “Eagleworks has initiated an interferometer test bed that will try to generate and detect a microscopic instance of a little warp bubble,” he says. Such a bubble would be a huge achievement – proof that the researchers are able to manipulate space-time.
Previous research had suggested that a warp drive would require a Jupiter-sized ball of mass-energy. But White claims that the energy requirements can be greatly reduced by altering the warp bubble’s thickness and intensity.
“Perhaps a Star Trek experience within our lifetime is not such a remote possibility,” he says.