New warp drive research dashes faster-than-light travel dreams
But reveals stranger possibilities.
By Sam Baron, Australian Catholic University
In 1994, physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a radical technology that would allow faster than light travel: the warp drive, a hypothetical way to skirt around the universe’s ultimate speed limit by bending the fabric of reality.
It was an intriguing idea – even NASA has been researching it at the Eagleworks laboratory – but Alcubierre’s proposal contained problems that seemed insurmountable. Now, a recent paper by US-based physicists Alexey Bobrick and Gianni Martire has resolved many of those issues and generated a lot of buzz.
But while Bobrick and Martire have managed to substantially demystify warp technology, their work actually suggests that faster-than-light travel will remain out of reach for beings like us, at least for the time being.
There is, however, a silver lining: warp technology may have radical applications beyond space travel.
Across the universe?
The story of warp drives starts with Einstein’s crowning achievement: general relativity. The equations of general relativity capture the way in which spacetime – the very fabric of reality – bends in response to the presence of matter and energy which, in turn, explains how matter and energy move.
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