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Scientists Build Mini Warp Drive!

Scientists Build Mini Warp Drive!

By Scott Greenstone

The temptation to start this post out with something like "Space—the final frontier," or "Warp factor nine, Mr. Scott" is overwhelming. But the truth is, we're never going to get anywhere in this universe in a literal sense if we don't have some way to travel faster than light.

The problem is that everything in space is confined to the speed of light. Whenever something starts going at faster-than-light speeds, it contracts. No bueno for a spaceship, unless it's the Magic School Bus.

However, the fabric of space, space-time, is not limited to the speed of light.

In 1994, Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre suggested a feasible way to travel at faster-than-light speeds. A football-shaped craft would travel through space inside a larger ring made of some exotic matter. The space-time inside the ring, where the ship is, wouldn't warp like it would on a ship with no protection from faster-than-light space-time warping.

However, the amount of energy needed to power this design was out of the question (hint: it equaled the mass-energy of Jupiter) and the idea was scrapped until now.

Recently, Harold White of NASA's Johnson Space Center discovered that if we were to round the shape of the outer ring to more of a donut, the amount of energy needed to propel this shape at even 10 times the speed of light—hold on to your suits, ladies and gents, 'cause this is where it gets cool—could fit inside a spacecraft the size of Voyager 1.

So, White and his colleagues at NASA have set up a Warp Field Interferometer at the Johnson Space Center and are doing experiments warping space-time on a tiny scale. Don't worry, Planet Vulcan, we'll get there soon!

Tags: science, news, life, space

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