This classic line from Star Trek, although not as famous as the misquoted “Beam me up Scotty,” may actually one day be true. Last year NASA revealed they had a warp drive program, lead by Harold White. And in the early naughties there were calls for people to think of ways we could travel faster than the speed of light.
If you don’t know what warp speed is, it’s a faster-than-light (FTL) propulsion system, which means travelling millions of light years becomes possible. There are those of you that may know it as hyper-drive, which is basically the same thing, a faster-than-light propulsion system, but more widely used in science fiction, most notably, Star Wars.
The idea is that antimatter, combined with matter transforms into pure energy and it is believed that only 10mg of antimatter would propel a rocket to Mars in just a month and a half. At the moment that journey can take anything from 150 – 300 days!
However this is just not practical or possible at the moment with our technology, and anyway, in Star Trek we didn’t invent it until 2063.
Mars – 150-300 days
Pluto – 6,152 days or 17 years
Proxima Centauri – Our nearest star. Voyager is travelling at 37,000 mph. At that speed it would take Voyager 80,000 years
Canis Major Dwarf – Our nearest galaxy. At the speed of Voyager it would take 749,000,000 years!
Wibbly, wobbly, timey, wimey stuff
There is however another method for FTL travel. Bending space. Yep, you read that right, bending space. The idea is to make the distance between two points much shorter, making it quicker and easier to travel between. This is what NASA is working on. Bending space and time. I know, the antimatter thing seems simpler and makes more sense to me as well.
The research team, lead by Harold White, have created the White-Juday warp-field interferometer; a space warping experiment to detect a microscopic instance of the warping of space-time, with the intent on creating an Alcubierre warp bubble. That bubble is a way of explaining the possibilities of FTL travel, but within the laws of physics that we know, which basically say that FTL is impossible.
And if they crack this, interstellar travel would be possible and without adverse effects! A holiday to Mars would be simple, or even Gallifrey, who knows!
But why should I care?
You don’t have to. But this could affect the whole aerospace industry! Where would everything we know now fit in? Would this mean quicker flight times around Earth? What would the engines be like? Would this mean no more bearings?! Could I pop to Australia for the afternoon because it was cold and wet in the UK? But more importantly…
What do you think?