NASA to develop Warp Drive

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NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby FaxModem1 » 2012-09-17 05:21pm

http://gizmodo.com/5942634/nasa-starts-development-of-real-life-star-trek-warp-drive

NASA Starts Work on Real Life Star Trek Warp Drive
Jesus Diaz

"Perhaps a Star Trek experience within our lifetime is not such a remote possibility." These are the words of Dr. Harold "Sonny" White, the Advanced Propulsion Theme Lead for the NASA Engineering Directorate. Dr. White and his colleagues don't just believe a real life warp drive is theoretically possible; they've already started the work to create one.

Yes. A real warp drive, Scotty.

When it comes to space exploration, we are still cavemen. We got to the Moon and sent some badass robot to Mars. We also have those automatic doors that swoosh wide open when you get near them, but that's about it. It's cool, but we are far from being the space civilization we'll need to become to survive for millennia.

With our current propulsion technologies, interstellar flight is impossible. Even with experimental technology, like ion thrusters or a spaceship's aft pooping freaking nuclear explosions, it would require staggering amounts of fuel and mass to get to any nearby star. And worse: it will require decades—centuries, even—to get there. The trip will be meaningless for those left behind. Only the ones going forward in search for a new star system would enjoy the result of the colossal effort. It's just not practical.

So we need an alternative. One that would allow us to travel extremely fast without breaking the laws of physics. Or as Dr. White puts it: "we want to go, really fast, while observing the 11th commandment: Thou shall not exceed the speed of light."
Searching for warp bubbles

The answer lies precisely in those laws of physics. Dr. White and other physicists have found loopholes in some mathematical equations—loopholes that indicate that warping the space-time fabric is indeed possible.

Working at NASA Eagleworks—a skunkworks operation deep at NASA's Johnson Space Center—Dr. White's team is trying to find proof of those loopholes. They have "initiated an interferometer test bed that will try to generate and detect a microscopic instance of a little warp bubble" using an instrument called the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer.

It may sound like a small thing now, but the implications of the research huge. In his own words:

Although this is just a tiny instance of the phenomena, it will be existence proof for the idea of perturbing space time-a "Chicago pile" moment, as it were. Recall that December of 1942 saw the first demonstration of a controlled nuclear reaction that generated a whopping half watt. This existence proof was followed by the activation of a ~ four megawatt reactor in November of 1943. Existence proof for the practical application of a scientific idea can be a tipping point for technology development.

By creating one of these warp bubbles, the spaceship's engine will compress the space ahead and expand the space behind, moving it to another place without actually moving, and carrying none of the adverse effects of other travel methods. According to Dr. White, "by harnessing the physics of cosmic inflation, future spaceships crafted to satisfy the laws of these mathematical equations may actually be able to get somewhere unthinkably fast—and without adverse effects."

He says that, if everything is confirmed in these practical experiments, we would be able to create an engine that will get us to Alpha Centauri "in two weeks as measured by clocks here on Earth." The time will be the same in the spaceship and on Earth, he claims, and there will not be "tidal forces inside the bubble, no undue issues, and the proper acceleration is zero. When you turn the field on, everybody doesn't go slamming against the bulkhead, which would be a very short and sad trip."
The energy problem, solved

There was only one problem with all this: where does the energy come from? While we knew that warp drives were theoretically possible, physicists have always argued that they would require a ball of exotic matter the size of Jupiter to power it. Clearly, that was not practical. But thankfully, Dr. White has found a solution that changes the game completely.

The Eagleworks team has discovered that the energy requirements are much lower than previously thought. If they optimize the warp bubble thickness and "oscillate its intensity to reduce the stiffness of space time," they would be able to reduce the amount of fuel to manageable amount: instead of a Jupiter-sized ball of exotic matter, you will only need 500 kilograms to "send a 10-meter bubble (32.8 feet) at an effective velocity of 10c."

Ten c! That's ten times the speed of light, people (remember, the ship itself would not go faster than the speed of light. But effectively it will seem like it does).

That means that we would be able to visit Gliese 581g—a planet similar to Earth 20 light years away from our planet—in two years. Two years is nothing. It took Magellan three years to circumnavigate around our home planet—from August 1519 to September 1522. A four year roundtrip to see a planet like Earth is completely doable. And there are even closer destinations where we can send robots or astronauts.

The important thing is that there is now a door open to a different kind of exploration. That, like Dr. White says, "perhaps a Star Trek experience within our lifetime is not such a remote possibility." We may be witnessing the very beginning of a new age of space exploration, one that would finally take us from our pale blue dot back to where we belong.

I don't know about you, but I'm more excited than when Captain Kirk got his first unobtonanium underpants.


I hope this works out, and ensures a new era for mankind.
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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby eion » 2012-09-17 06:13pm

Get back to me when we've developed a way to manufacture and store for long periods one gram of "exotic" matter.

Wasn't there also an issue with the exterior of the bubble being so hot it would rip apart protons?

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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-09-17 07:06pm

The tone of the article makes it sound like a sensationalist piece designed to excite people who don't know the subject.

I wish it wasn't, but there you have it.

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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby General Zod » 2012-09-17 07:46pm

Simon_Jester wrote:The tone of the article makes it sound like a sensationalist piece designed to excite people who don't know the subject.

I wish it wasn't, but there you have it.


Gizmodo tends to be pretty bottom of the barrel when it comes to sticking to the facts and checking their facts.
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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby Channel72 » 2012-09-17 08:39pm

No, it's legitimate. They link to the technical paper from NASA, and it pretty much confirms what the article is saying. Here's another paper (PDF) on the subject by the same guy, Harold White. Of course, the Gizmodo article is probably blowing this way out of proportion. It sounds more like a theoretical, on-going side project that isn't very well-funded and probably won't produce anything workable ever for a long time.

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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby Sky Captain » 2012-09-18 10:47am

What is that "exotic matter" supposed to be and how they plan to produce it?

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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby madd0ct0r » 2012-09-18 11:37am

exotic matter is most easily sourced for Nasa from Hawaiian volcanic beaches.

Hawaii is exotic right ?
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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby whackadoodle » 2012-09-18 11:55pm

Sky Captain wrote:What is that "exotic matter" supposed to be and how they plan to produce it?

Maybe strange matter? From (yeah, I know) Wikipedia:
Wikipedia wrote:Strange matter is a particular form of quark matter, usually thought of as a "liquid" of up, down, and strange quarks. It is to be contrasted with nuclear matter, which is a liquid of neutrons and protons (which themselves are built out of up and down quarks), and with non-strange quark matter, which is a quark liquid containing only up and down quarks. At high enough density, strange matter is expected to be color superconducting. Strange matter is hypothesized to occur in the core of neutron stars, or, more speculatively, as isolated droplets that may vary in size from femtometers (strangelets) to kilometers (quark stars).
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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby whackadoodle » 2012-09-18 11:59pm

madd0ct0r wrote:exotic matter is most easily sourced for Nasa from Hawaiian volcanic beaches babes.

Hawaii is exotic right ?
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We can only hope.
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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby PeZook » 2012-09-19 05:43am

It seems to be the sort of thing that scientists who develop the theories that are used in experiments that will lead to research into developing a proof of concept will access one day to see where to start their work ;)
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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby Sky Captain » 2012-09-19 10:22am

whackadoodle wrote:
Sky Captain wrote:What is that "exotic matter" supposed to be and how they plan to produce it?

Maybe strange matter? From (yeah, I know) Wikipedia:
Wikipedia wrote:Strange matter is a particular form of quark matter, usually thought of as a "liquid" of up, down, and strange quarks. It is to be contrasted with nuclear matter, which is a liquid of neutrons and protons (which themselves are built out of up and down quarks), and with non-strange quark matter, which is a quark liquid containing only up and down quarks. At high enough density, strange matter is expected to be color superconducting. Strange matter is hypothesized to occur in the core of neutron stars, or, more speculatively, as isolated droplets that may vary in size from femtometers (strangelets) to kilometers (quark stars).


Sounds like something that could be created in a particle accelerator and exist for tiny fraction of a second. Very far from making and storing kilograms of that stuff.

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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby Magis » 2012-09-19 12:09pm

It's an enormous exaggeration to say that NASA is now working to develop a warp drive. What they're doing is building an experiment in which they will try to detect nanometer-scale disturbances in spacetime.

It's like if a lab was trying to detect a tachyon, and the media published a story saying they were building a time machine.

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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby Tolya » 2012-11-04 04:34am

This is both good and bad - I mean how the journalists moronify the news to make a sensation. This way, even distorted, the news that something major is going on reaches major public. News about some obscure experimentation would interest nobody outside a small circle of scientists and nerds.

Then again, it is basically a false news item which carries no weight. But we need to get people interested in space exploration however we can.

It should be the governments doing this, with education programs and whatnot, but when all politicians care only about the reelection, we need all the attention we can get. Hopefully someone will read that piece of garbage and become interested in the real thing. The world was much more on breaking the frontiers where there was some sort of global struggle going on.

Hmm, Kerbal Space Program should become mandatory in every school.

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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby PeZook » 2012-11-04 05:19am

It's alive!!!

Thread put down with shotgun.
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JULY 20TH 1969 - The day the entire world was looking up

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- NEIL ARMSTRONG, MISSION COMMANDER, APOLLO 11

Signature dedicated to the greatest achievement of mankind.

MILDLY DERANGED PHYSICIST does not mind BREAKING the SOUND BARRIER, because it is INSURED. - Simon_Jester considering the problems of hypersonic flight for Team L.A.M.E.

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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby Boeing 757 » 2012-11-04 11:11am

They started to work on it now, and will likely end it after we all are buried in the ground. I'll believe it when I actually see it.
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Re: NASA to develop Warp Drive

Postby Boeing 757 » 2012-11-04 11:20am

Tolya wrote:This is both good and bad - I mean how the journalists moronify the news to make a sensation. This way, even distorted, the news that something major is going on reaches major public. News about some obscure experimentation would interest nobody outside a small circle of scientists and nerds.

Then again, it is basically a false news item which carries no weight. But we need to get people interested in space exploration however we can.

It should be the governments doing this, with education programs and whatnot, but when all politicians care only about the reelection, we need all the attention we can get. Hopefully someone will read that piece of garbage and become interested in the real thing. The world was much more on breaking the frontiers where there was some sort of global struggle going on.

Hmm, Kerbal Space Program should become mandatory in every school.


Oh, if only. There are still too many folks out there that are blissfully unaware of all the benefits brought forth from the space program which influence their meager lives every day, when in reality it is one of the most worthwhile and productive endeavors that any nation could pursue that could revolutionize all as we know it. It isn't as if politicians are fools for ignoring it (and they should not be blamed as a whole because they are only doing their jobs), it is merely the common citizenry that do not understand its potential, and who would prefer to watch reality-TV shows instead of caring for the future of mankind.
Omnia praesumuntur legitime facta donec probetur in contrarium.

Kritisches Denken schützt vor Illusionen.

Παν μέτρον άριστον τῷ κρατίστῳ.


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