Faster-than-light interstellar travel at ‘warp speed’ is now thought possible

In another example of how truth is often stranger than fiction, scientists have taken a major step toward turning the sci-fi concept of “warp drives” into a viable reality.

According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, going faster than the speed of light is off limits in the real world. For this reason, warp drives, like those that power spaceships in Star Wars and other science fiction films, have always been a domain of the imagination until now.

New research, led by Dr. Jared Fuchs from Applied Physics and published in the prestigious Classical and quantum gravity magazine, presents a new solution to one of the long-standing challenges in realizing warp drive technology.

Traditional warp drive concept

The traditional sci-fi concept of a warp drive involves warping spacetime in a very specific way: compressing it in front of the ship and expanding it behind.

In theory, this would allow the ship to effectively travel faster than the speed of light without actually exceeding the local speed limit.

However, previous research into this idea suggested that it would require exotic forms of matter with ‘negative energy density’.

Understanding Negative Energy Density

In our daily experience, energy is always positive. Even in a vacuum there is a small amount of positive energy called the ‘vacuum energy’ or ‘zero point energy’.

This is a consequence of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics, which states that there are always fluctuations in the energy of a system, even at the lowest possible energy state.

The existence of a negative energy density is highly speculative and problematic within the framework of known physics. The laws of thermodynamics and the energy conditions in general relativity appear to prohibit the existence of large amounts of negative energy density.

Some theories, such as the Casimir effect and certain quantum field theories, predict the existence of small amounts of negative energy density under specific conditions. However, these effects are usually very small and limited to microscopic scales.

New approach to warp drive technology

This is where the new research comes into play. Applied Physics researchers have identified a new way in which warp technology could one day be possible. The team introduced the concept of a ‘constant-velocity subluminal warp drive’, aligned with the principles of relativity.

The new model eliminates the need for exotic energy and instead uses an advanced mix of traditional and new gravity techniques to create a warp bubble that can transport objects at high speeds within the limits of known physics.

“This study changes the conversation about warp drives,” said lead author Dr. Fuchs. “By demonstrating a model that is one of its kind, we have shown that warp drives may not be relegated to science fiction.”

Warp Factory: Enable warp drive spacetimes

The team’s theoretical model for a new type of warp bubble uses traditional and innovative gravity techniques, made possible with their publicly available Warp Factory tool.

This solution enables the transportation of objects at high but subluminal speeds without the need for exotic energy sources. This can be achieved by designing warp drive spacetimes to attract them just like regular matter, which is a unique solution.

“Although such a design would still require a significant amount of energy, it shows that warp effects can be achieved without exotic forms of matter,” added Dr. Christopher Helmerich, co-author of the study, adds. “These findings pave the way for future reductions in warp drive energy requirements.”

No g-forces for passengers

Unlike airplanes or rockets, passengers in a warp craft do not experience g-forces. This is in stark contrast to some science fiction fantasies. The team’s research shows how we can build such a craft using ordinary matter.

“While we are not yet packing for interstellar travel, this achievement heralds a new era of possibilities,” explained Gianni Martire, CEO of Applied Physics. “We continue to make steady progress as humanity enters the Warp Age.”

The beginning of faster-than-light travel?

The Applied Physics team is now focused on addressing these challenges as they continue to refine their models and collaborate across disciplines and institutions to make this once fantastic dream a reality.

As we stand on the threshold of a new era in space exploration, the prospect of warp drives becoming a reality excites us more than ever. With every new discovery and breakthrough we get closer to the stars and the limitless possibilities that await us in the vast expanses of the cosmos.

As humanity begins the quest for faster-than-light travel, perhaps with the help of warp drives, we can only imagine the incredible adventures and revelations the universe has in store for us.

The full study was published in the journal Classical and quantum gravity.


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