Saturday, April 6, 2013

FTL - Faster Than Light

If you read or watch scifi at all, you're probably familiar with the term FTL, or faster than light travel, because it's the only way we will ever be able to explore more of our solar system - nevermind the universe. Well, okay, not the only way (wormholes come to mind), but the fact is because everything in space is so damn far away if we want to know more then we've got to invent FTL travel.

One method would be to employ an Alcubierre drive, which, unlike most methods of FTL travel actually conforms to the General Theory of Relativity rather than violates it. This method of travel was conceived by Miguel Alcubierre who imagined a bubble of normal space–time around a spacecraft that would allow for FTL travel by expanding space itself behind the ship and compressing it in front. Normal physics still applies within the bubble, and so the passengers don’t feel any acceleration at all. The bad news according to Popular Mechanics:

You can’t get in or out of the bubble. Crossing the threshold would probably crush and obliterate a spaceship.

You can’t destroy the bubble. One must deform space–time to make the bubble in the first place. How would you re-form it? No one knows.

You might destroy your destination. Even if scientists knew how to stop the bubble once it started, decelerating would release high-energy particles from the front-facing side. Anything at the destination "would be high-energy-particle blasted into oblivion." 

It requires energies that might be impossible (or incredibly difficult) to achieve. In mathematical models, the sides of the bubble would require energy per unit of volume to be less than zero. We’re not sure this "exotic energy" exists. And if it does, it would take 10 billion times the mass of the observable universe.

The good news is NASA is actually working on this (is that not so cool?!) and physicist Harvey White says the energy problem may be surmountable by "tweaking the warp drive's geometry" and thereby reducing the energy needed from "a planet with a mass equivalent to over 300 Earths, down to an object that weighs just under 1,600 pounds.

What’s more, if you oscillate the space warp, White claims you could reduce the energy load even further. Instead of taking “decades or centuries,” White says this would allow us to visit a spot like Alpha Centauri — a little over four light years from us — in as little as “weeks or months.”


So, where do you want to go?

27 comments:

  1. I'm a sci fi geek, but I can't remember having ever heard that term before. Ya learn something new every day!

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  2. You can do that? You can just tweek the warp drive's geometry?

    It is cool that NASA's working on this, but I have no idea where I'd want to go.

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    1. I know, I was a little surprised by it too.

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  3. Trapped inside the bubble for all eternity does not sound like fun.
    I guess NASA will produce it and private business will go there, huh?

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    1. I guess we'll have to wait and see...

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  4. Sounds like we've got a ways to got before we figure out FTL. But it would open up the frontiers of space so much more.

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    1. If we are ever going to explore much further than our own solar system we will need FTL.

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  5. I love the FTL ideas in various stories. I remember being so sad when scientists said the Star Trek warp bubble wasn't feasible - hopefully they can fix that!! :)

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    1. Well, as shown by my post, it IS possible, just not yet.

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  6. Sometimes when I read these posts I feel like I'm reading a script from THE BIG BANG THEORY! :)

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    1. Wow! Thanks...I think. I haven't seen that show but I've heard it's good :)

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  7. Loved this. Nice to come across a really original blog.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by :)

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  8. I think there was an episode of Star Trek Voyager that played with this theory. Or maybe it was Stargate SG1. In any case, I love playing around with the idea of FTL travel with my stories. Personally, as much as I would love to see technology advance to the point where we have FTL travel, I think practicality call for us to focus on generational arks.

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  9. The good thing about being a writer is we can jump ahead and assume they've already tweaked the physics. :)

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  10. Very interesting. I don't know a whole lot about physics, but I would have to guess that anything having to do with FTL travel would mean bending Einstein's theory until it almost broke.

    Who knows, though, and very neat concept :)

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  11. I'm soliciting work for the next issue of The Woven Tale Press and would love to use this post. You can see the current ins sue here:

    http://woventalepress.com

    email me at sandratyler@me.com and reference this post.

    Thanks! Sandra

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  12. Just tell someone it's impossible, and they'll start looking to find a way...

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  13. still fascinated but not wanting to travel in space any time in the near future :)

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  14. Very cool, this. And completely exciting that they are actually working on this at NASA! Yesterday when I was reading your post about exotic matter, the FTL part really intrigued me. I hadn't considered any of the 'bad news' things, though. Hopefully it's all research in the right direction. :)

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  15. Okay, I can't solve it all, but it seems to me that we could adjust to aim for a spot NEAR the destination in order to not particle blast it to bits when we "landed." If we calculated how to arrive at an angle or that sort of thing, that problem would be solved, right? You're welcome, NASA. :)

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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  16. I think I would want to go to Saturn. No idea why. :)

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  17. oh, warp, sweet warp!

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  18. Love it. And purely pliable for fictional writing. I'm picking and choosing what works, and molding it to my needs. Yikes, hope it turns out halfway decent. lol
    BTW exotic matter made an appearance in my ms already, thanks to your Friday post.

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