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Star Trek Warp Drive Possible?

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Memory Alpha, the wiki for all things Star Trek, describes the Enterprise's warp drive thusly:

Warp drive is a technology that allows space travel at faster-than-light speeds. It does this by generating warp fields to form a subspace bubble that envelops the starship, distorting the local spacetime continuum and moving the starship at velocities that exceed the speed of light. These velocities are referred to as warp factors.

http://rebka.tripod.com/enterprise.jpg

Two physicists at Baylor University are proposing that string theory suggests that faster-than-light travel using something like the Enterprise's warp drive may be possible.

[They] theorize that by manipulating the extra spatial dimensions of string theory around a spaceship with an extremely large amount of energy, it would create a "bubble" that could cause the ship to travel faster than the speed of light….

The method is based on the Alcubierre drive, which proposes expanding the fabric of space behind a ship and shrinking space-time in front of the ship. The ship would not actually move, rather the ship would sit in a bubble between the expanding and shrinking space-time dimensions. Since space would move around the ship, the theory does not violate Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which states that it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate a massive object to the speed of light.

One problem:

The Baylor physicists estimate that the amount of energy needed to influence the extra dimension is equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter being converted into pure energy for a ship measuring roughly 10 meters by 10 meters by 10 meters.

The Baylor press release on faster-than-light space travel here.

Addendum: Check out their two papers, "Putting the Warp in Warp Drive" and "Warp Drive: A New Approach" in arXive.

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  1. Baylor, for those who don’t know, is a low-tier Baptist university in Waco, Texas.

  2. The Baylor physicists estimate that the amount of energy needed to influence the extra dimension is equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter being converted into pure energy for a ship measuring roughly 10 meters by 10 meters by 10 meters.

    See, if only we could drill in ANWR, we’d have enough energy for faster-than-light travel.

  3. Professor Hubert Farnsworth: These are the anti-matter engines I invented. They allow my spaceship to travel to distant galaxies in mere hours.
    Cubert J. Farnsworth: That’s impossible. You cannot go faster than the speed of light.
    Professor Hubert Farnsworth: Exactly. That’s why scientists increased the speed of light in 2208.
    Cubert J. Farnsworth: Also impossible
    Professor Hubert Farnsworth: But what makes my engines remarkable is the capacitor, which increases efficiency 200%.
    Cubert J. Farnsworth: That’s especially impossible.
    Professor Hubert Farnsworth: Not at all. It’s really quite simple.
    Cubert J. Farnsworth: Then explain it.
    Professor Hubert Farnsworth: Now that’s impossible! It came to me in a dream, and then forgot it in another dream.

  4. The Baylor physicists estimate that the amount of energy needed to influence the extra dimension is equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter being converted into pure energy for a ship measuring roughly 10 meters by 10 meters by 10 meters.

    KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN

  5. LOL. Well we could always change the zero-point of local space and *hope* our universe isn’t a highly unstable local vacuum instability just *waiting for an excuse to collapse*.

    Man that would be a bummer.

  6. “One problem:

    The Baylor physicists estimate that the amount of energy needed to influence the extra dimension is equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter being converted into pure energy for a ship measuring roughly 10 meters by 10 meters by 10 meters.”

    Another problem: What do we do when we run out of Jupiters?*

  7. Who’d have thought that there were still physicists out there who still lend credence to string theory. Man, the things you can find on the Interweb.

  8. Hey, Nigel! Y’all come on down to Waco real soon! We got some serious total immersion baptising planned for your Yankee ass!

  9. Rimfax beat me to it. String theory is bunk.

  10. The Baylor physicists estimate that the amount of energy needed to influence the extra dimension is equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter being converted into pure energy for a ship measuring roughly 10 meters by 10 meters by 10 meters.

    I believe some may misread this. The problem is not in converting the energy. The problem is political, with the wacky Jupiter preservation luddite envirofundies causing a ruckus.

  11. Rimfax beat me to it. String theory is bunk.

    WTF is thoreau when you need ’em? Professional physicists are the Cheshire cats of modern Internet physics flash-hates.

  12. I believe some may misread this. The problem is not in converting the energy. The problem is political, with the wacky Jupiter preservation luddite envirofundies causing a ruckus.

    Don’t forget the neo-Hellenist Cthonic cultists and the Union of Astrologic star-chart readers!

  13. The Baylor physicists estimate that the amount of energy needed to influence the extra dimension is equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter being converted into pure energy for a ship measuring roughly 10 meters by 10 meters by 10 meters.

    So it would take, like, 10 Jupiters to move Ted Kennedy’s head faster than the speed of light?

  14. Hey, Nigel! Y’all come on down to Waco real soon! We got some serious total immersion baptising planned for your Yankee ass!

    I’m from Dallas. I’ve driven on 35. No thanks.

  15. So it would take, like, 10 Jupiters to move Ted Kennedy’s head faster than the speed of light?

    Can you convert that to wind turbine units please?

  16. if only we could drill in ANWR, we’d have enough energy for faster-than-light travel

    But even if we start drilling now,
    it will be 20 years before Americans start to see cheaper light speeds.

  17. But even if we start drilling now,
    it will be 20 years before Americans start to see cheaper light speeds.

    But if we used the wind turbines for oil drilling the price would come down faster than light speed.

  18. “Another problem: What do we do when we run out of Jupiters?*

    Peak Planet!

    also, this

  19. Kolohe,

    Yea, the price goes up and speed goes down.

  20. The Baylor physicists estimate that the amount of energy needed to influence the extra dimension is equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter being converted into pure energy for a ship measuring roughly 10 meters by 10 meters by 10 meters.

    Balderdash! That’s what the dilithium crystals are for!

  21. But if we used the wind turbines for oil drilling…

    I’m putting a wind turbine on my Prius. By doing so I hope to achieve speeds exceeding 3 MPH with a range of almost 20. I am so saving the planet. For The Children?.

  22. Balderdash! That’s what the dilithium crystals are for!

    Hopscotch mulligan! Dilithium just mediates the reaction! Where’s your tech manual, for godsakes, man?!

  23. Another problem: What do we do when we run out of Jupiters?*

    Proxima Centauri probably has lots of nice big gas giants.

    Oh- and an evil dictator who oppresses his people and plots our destruction.

  24. Why all the string theory haters.

    It will work if you just believe and never, never, never, never doubt your faith.

    You can power your warp drive with Jupiter-sized balls of faith.

    http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/

  25. String theory is highly speculative, not based on actual observation or experiment, so technology based on string theory would be pointless. (Right? I’m not a physicist.)

  26. Proxima Centauri probably has lots of nice big gas giants.

    Oh- and an evil dictator who oppresses his people and plots our destruction.

    I hear there’s mobile space stations there too, manufacturing weapons with our name on them.

    Quick, look over there!

    *runs off*

  27. daze, technology based on string theory would go a long way to proving string theory. If string theory is wrong and it doesn’t work, well, yeah, it’d be a like a square wheel.

  28. NW,

    You can fix that square wheel with a lot of grease.

  29. …Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, which states that it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate a massive object to the speed of light…

    Not true. Look:

    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0808/0808.0437v1.pdf

  30. What do we do when we run out of Jupiters?

    Make more Jupiters with the Ronco GasPlanet-o-Matic ™. Do I have to think of everything for you people?

  31. String theory is bunk

    It is—perhaps—not that simple.

    You get to string theory by taking our best fundemental theories to date (QED, QCD, and GR), extracting a list of important symmetries from them, adding a “nothing happens at zero length” assumption to get rid of the embarrassing singularities in QCD, and trying to bash together the simplest thing you can that has all these properties.

    This is a good plan.

    And it generated an elegant result.

    But…you end up with an unaccountably large number of dimensions, and an really embarrassing number of new free parameters.

    Our current theories have altogether more free parameters than makes a theorist happy, but at least we can identify (most of) them with observables.

    The new parameters are a hassle, because the character of the theory can change abruptly as various parameters change. So “string theory” is a label from a great many different types of physics, and we have no experimenntal handle of which ones might be right.

    Worse, there are very few predictions for any set of free parameters which might be testable in the foreseeable future. The problem of amplifying small effect to a point where they might be observable occupies a lot of time from those string theorist who are serious about treating this as physics rather than cool mathematics.

    The upshot is: there is a pretty good chance that some theory which can reasonably be called “string theory” is a good description of the universe, but we have no way of sorting it out from the bunk.

    Disclaimer: I’m a greasy hands type, not a deep thinker.

  32. http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0808/0808.0437v1.pdf

    Haven’t read the whole thing but…

    …by the second paragraph of the text the author is making statements about the way the physical community understands relativity that do not agree with my instruction in the 80s and 90s nor with my observation of the wild nuclear or particle physicist in his natural habitat.

    Looking further in: the author appears to have trouble with some ideas I’d expect an upper division undergraduate to get.

    Either I’m missing something important or L.B. Okun is.

  33. Baylor, for those who don’t know, is a low-tier Baptist university in Waco, Texas.

    Actually, its the top-tier Baptist university in the country.

    Where it ranks in universities as a whole, I couldn’t say.

    Another problem: What do we do when we run out of Jupiters?*

    One of the great SF series, by Somtow Sucharitkul, posited instantaneous travel by post-humans. Each transit consumed one (1) star.

    Did I mention that the stars were sentient?

  34. Wait, wasn’t there an anti-proton warp theory >10 years also? That by generating anti-protons you could bend space, theoretically to any degree such that you could make the distance between Point A and Point B go from “super ridiculous” to “manageable”. That also helped keep the speed of light limit intact.

  35. Hasn’t string theory been rejected in the way creationism was?

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