Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th May 2009 22:24 UTC
Geek stuff, sci-fi... Today, the new Star Trek film has seen its official premiere here in The Netherlands tonight, and in honour of that, I figured an article on Space.com about the possibility of faster-than-light travel would make a good fit on OSNews. The article is quite technical, so bear with me on this one. I hope I get everything right.
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Comment by Laurence
by Laurence on Thu 7th May 2009 22:42 UTC
Laurence
Member since:
2007-03-26

Nitpicking I know, but technically this isn't FTL travel. Nothing can travel FTL. Warping space just brings two points closer so you don't have to travel faster than light.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Laurence
by Tuishimi on Thu 7th May 2009 23:32 UTC in reply to "Comment by Laurence"
Tuishimi Member since:
2005-07-06

I don't think it is, exactly, bending space around two points in this scenario... I think it is more along the lines of using the "pressure" of "space" to push around something contained in a sort of mis-shaped "bubble".

That's about as plebeian a description of it as I can muster. ;)

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Laurence
by joekiser on Thu 7th May 2009 23:45 UTC in reply to "Comment by Laurence"
joekiser Member since:
2005-06-30

Maybe I'm wrong, but I have always understood warp drive in Star Trek to be something like what happened in Childhood's End. If I remember correctly, a few humans traveled at near light-speed to the Overlords' home planet which was many light years away. As the spaceship speed up, time passed much more quickly than time on Earth. To the people on the spaceship, only a few weeks had passed round-trip, whereas on the earth, something like 80 years had passed. Obviously, in Star Trek the difference in time would not be nearly as substantial.

This is different from the whole "space folding" idea, which I understood best in the children's book A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. In this example, space is folded so that the jump between two points is instantaneous. There was a whole 'ant on a string' explanation that was given to visually explain the effect.

Maybe the whole Star Trek warp speed idea is a hybrid of both? Disregarding the obvious of course, that warp drive is only meant to work as a plot device, with the ship being just as fast and powerful as is needed for the good guys to win (or as slow and powerless as is needed to make the episode last an hour).

Edited 2009-05-07 23:47 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by Laurence
by Tuishimi on Fri 8th May 2009 00:48 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Laurence"
Tuishimi Member since:
2005-07-06

No... warp drive allows them to travel outside of time and space... they maintain "normal" space-time in the vessel because (as another poster mentioned) they are not REALLY breaking the light barrier.

NOW... They ARE limited to .25 SOL via their impulse drive which might be capable of reaching greater than .50 SOL... but the time dilation becomes a problem. So (theoretically) "full impulse" is only .25 the speed of light.

Warp drive (in Star Trek) basically generates a force that pushes space back away from the ship in a bubble, and by changing the shape of the bubble they can change the amount of "force" (for lack of a better term) being exerted by space on the bubble. It's the same idea as pinching a wet watermelon seed... because of its shape, it shoots out of your fingertips. The bubble isn't exactly a bubble as you or I would define it, but waves of warped space (again I think as someone mentioned) that sort of surround the ship, separating space outside from the space inside (which is why in effect the ship is not moving through space-time, yet it is.)

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by Laurence
by big_gie on Fri 8th May 2009 01:18 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Laurence"
big_gie Member since:
2006-01-04

As the spaceship speed up, time passed much more quickly than time on Earth. To the people on the spaceship, only a few weeks had passed round-trip, whereas on the earth, something like 80 years had passed. Obviously, in Star Trek the difference in time would not be nearly as substantial.

That is "simple" special relativity, nothing to do with general relativity.
See the twins "though" experiment. This happens everyday. Since particles travelling around the galaxies have a slow wall clock, they disintegrate in what appears for us to be many thousand years, thus allowing them to travel around the galaxies. But when they enter our atmosphere they slow down, their time accelerate back to our "normal" time, and disintegrate in our atmosphere...

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Laurence
by vasper on Fri 8th May 2009 10:50 UTC in reply to "Comment by Laurence"
vasper Member since:
2005-07-22

Nitpicking I know, but technically this isn't FTL travel. Nothing can travel FTL. Warping space just brings two points closer so you don't have to travel faster than light.


Actually tachyons travel faster than light. Also light speed can vary, so... nitpicking it... it is relatively easy to travel faster than light... speaking relative that is... (last phrase copyright Rimmer from Red Dwarf).

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by Laurence
by Thom_Holwerda on Fri 8th May 2009 11:02 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Laurence"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Other than that, what is the definition of "faster than light travel"?

No matter the technique, if I get from point A to B faster than a beam of light can... I'm travelling faster than the speed of light. Whether I'm using space-time bubbles or not.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by Laurence
by boldingd on Fri 8th May 2009 19:36 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Laurence"
boldingd Member since:
2009-02-19

"Tachyons" aren't real. I can't tell if you where saying that some entity called a Tachyon routinely moves faster than the speed of lite in the real world - which is false - or if Tachyons travel faster-than-light in Star Trek. Fun fact: if a Tachyon existed in the real world, it would be carrying an infinite amount of (kinetic) energy, and would therefore be completely impossible to stop. It would also be doing any number of odd, insane things. The laws of physics do not work very well when you start talking about wandering about faster than the speed-of-light-in-a-vacuum.
In the real world, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum, period. Your point about the speed of light lowering in a medium is well taken, tho: light does travel more slowly through a medium, and it is possible to beat a light-pulse through a medium, in certain scenarios.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by Laurence
by gustl on Sun 10th May 2009 10:27 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Laurence"
gustl Member since:
2006-01-19

beating light which travelling through a medium is very usual.

You just have to put some beta-emitting material into water. Beta radiation consists of electrons of a certain (high) speed, which is higher than the speed of light trough water.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by Laurence
by Drumhellar on Fri 8th May 2009 21:59 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Laurence"
Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

Actually tachyons travel faster than light.


Tachyons are a hypothetical particle predicted by super symmetry. While super symmetry is useful as an attempt to describe what the universe was like during it's first microseconds of existence as well as trying to unite gravity with the other forces (weak, strong, electromagnetic), the fact that it predicts a faster-than-light particle is viewed as one of it's major flaws.

Also light speed can vary, so...


No, it doesn't. the speed of light is constant, no matter your frame of reference. If you travel at 99% the speed of light, and shoot a beam of light in front of you, it travels away from you at ~300k km/sec relative to your speed. Aim backwards, it travels away from you at ~300k km/sec. Those two beams will arrive at stationary individuals at ~300k km/sec. This happens because, as you approach the speed of light, you increase in mass, your large mass gives you a powerful gravity field, and time slows down in powerful gravity fields.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by Laurence
by tobyv on Tue 12th May 2009 00:34 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Laurence"
tobyv Member since:
2008-08-25

the speed of light in a vacuum is a constant.

light travelling through other materials (such as water) goes slower, allowing other particles that aren't slowed - neutrinos, i think don't slow in water - to go 'faster than light', at least for a time.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by Laurence
by Alleister on Fri 8th May 2009 14:49 UTC in reply to "Comment by Laurence"
Alleister Member since:
2006-05-29

In this idea, it would actually be ftl traveling, as it is not supposed to warp the whole spacetime construct between you and your target point, but to move a bubble of spacetime at ftl speed.

The older "tunneling" idea does not look feasible as it would require an infinite amount of energy as opposed to just an hardly imaginable huge amount of energy.

Reply Score: 2

Re: I want my own Serenity. With Kaylee.
by panzi on Thu 7th May 2009 22:51 UTC
panzi
Member since:
2006-01-22

> I want my own Serenity. With Kaylee.

Who in his/her right mind doesn't? ;)

Reply Score: 5

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

strait women and gay men

Reply Score: 2

Tuishimi Member since:
2005-07-06

LOVE the Onion. ;) Thanks for that!

Reply Score: 2

Confused for a second
by fsck on Thu 7th May 2009 23:26 UTC
fsck
Member since:
2005-07-06

Is it just me or did anyone else read the title completely incorrectly due to the double negatives?

Reply Score: 5

RE: Confused for a second
by weildish on Fri 8th May 2009 03:19 UTC in reply to "Confused for a second"
weildish Member since:
2008-12-06

Haha, it wasn't just you. At first I thought it said that it WAS impossible, and I wondered why on earth that would make a headline on OSNews. Then I read closer. ;)

One of the most interesting theories I've come across in my short time.

Reply Score: 1

The article isn't "quite technical"
by JoeBuck on Thu 7th May 2009 23:37 UTC
JoeBuck
Member since:
2006-01-11

It has very little technical content, just a bit of speculation.

In any case, even with tricky physics you can't get FTL travel without time travel, because of the connection between space and time in special relativity.

Reply Score: 2

daedliusswartz Member since:
2007-05-28

Dunno about that. Every time I have something spicey I seem to be able to produce enough energy pushing out #2's to power a warp drive.

Reply Score: 2

Alleister Member since:
2006-05-29

The idea outlined (and i agree it isn't much) would probably avert relativistic effects, since there is no movement within spacetime as the idea is to move a part of spacetime itself.

Reply Score: 2

boldingd Member since:
2009-02-19

The idea outlined (and i agree it isn't much) would probably avert relativistic effects, since there is no movement within spacetime as the idea is to move a part of spacetime itself.


Any time you beat light-pulse somewhere (through a vacuum), you will have traveled in time. What clever trick you used to beat the light pulse does not change the fact that you have traveled between two events faster than a pulse of light could, which is an entirely sufficient fact to establish that you have potentially traveled in time.
Potentially because not everyone will agree about whether you have traveled in time or not: if it is not possible for a light-pulse to travel between two events - like if they are happening a light year apart, but only a second apart in time - then not all observers will agree on what order the events happen in (or, really, how far apart in time they're happening). Some people would say you arrived a long time before you left, others might say you took your sweet time making the trip.

Reply Score: 1

fury Member since:
2005-09-23

I'm not a physicist, but it *sounds* like parent is confusing the fact that it takes a long time for light to get around with actual time travel.

Yeah, if you told the guys at Hubble to watch Andromeda because something cool was going to happen, then instantly teleported there and as soon as you got there you turned on a massive lamp and pointed it at Earth, they aren't going to see it because the light is still travelling. Afaik, that doesn't mean you arrive at an earlier time than you left. But relativity is complicated and I don't think about it unless cool (mostly Star Trek related) articles like this one come along.

More generally (not just in reply to parent), I think it's hilarious how every commenter on this article thinks they know their shit, and each post differs so broadly. Yup, each person thinks they know exactly how things are, which clearly shows that they don't, because physics is a constantly changing field. Yeah, I'm sure many of you studied physics intensely at some point but that doesn't mean you get a lifetime license to think you're right about it. Throw some disclaimers in there so you don't look like asses.

That being said, I'll be the first to say, I am totally not a physicist.

Oh, and wtf Thom you basically just rewrote the article... and the article wasn't technical in any sense of the word either so it's not like you were simplifying or something (it's almost word for word...). Plus it's listed as a link article despite the fact there's a body beneath it.

Also, I don't think Star Trek introduced the space/time-moving bubble idea. That wasn't in the original article, and I'm pretty sure Thom made that up. If I remember correctly, travelling at 'warp speed' is the act of shifting the ship into 'subspace' so that relativity can be avoided. But, heh, IANAT (I am not a Trekkie), at least by the dictionary definition.

Reply Score: 1

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Also, I don't think Star Trek introduced the space/time-moving bubble idea. That wasn't in the original article, and I'm pretty sure Thom made that up.


Where did I claim Star Trek came up with it? I just used it "as an example of".

Reply Score: 1

Other Ideas
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Thu 7th May 2009 23:54 UTC
Bill Shooter of Bul
Member since:
2006-07-14

I used to read New Scientist back in the day which loved any story about warp drive physics.

One theorist calculated the amount of energy it would take to warp space time to the necessary extent to move the enterprise (TOS). He determined it would take more energy than existed in the universe, even if you took all the other matter and turned it into energy ( via e=mc^2 naturally).

Then there was a follow up a few months later where another one proposed the concept of negative energy as a solution. So you could warp space effectively if you only had such a thing as negative energy.

Then I believe I remember someone else showed that negative energy couldn't exist for some reason or another.

So basically, the answer is a big maybe. We're so far away from actually doing any of it, it might as well be magic to us. I've already advised my friends working on the LHC to look out for negative energy ( they sort of just laughed ).

Reply Score: 2

RE: Other Ideas
by Tuishimi on Fri 8th May 2009 00:49 UTC in reply to "Other Ideas"
Tuishimi Member since:
2005-07-06

:)

Who knows what awaits to be discovered!

Reply Score: 3

Captain John Luke Picard
by shazzed on Fri 8th May 2009 06:37 UTC
shazzed
Member since:
2009-05-08

Make it so number 1

Reply Score: 1

RE: Captain John Luke Picard
by nbensa on Fri 8th May 2009 12:12 UTC in reply to "Captain John Luke Picard"
nbensa Member since:
2005-08-29

Learn french my dear.

Reply Score: 1

I love this topic...
by looncraz on Fri 8th May 2009 07:06 UTC
looncraz
Member since:
2005-07-24

Seriously.. I L-O-V-E this topic...

First, to determine if you have faster than light travel, you must determine how to define that speed. Yes, we have a mph figure - but what about perspective?

If I defined faster-than-light (FTL) travel as based upon the perspective of the immobile starting point - outside the space bubble - then FTL *IS* possible [theoretically / mathematically].

If I were to define this as propelling matter in space to FTL speeds, then no - it is not possible.

Another item which must be understood is time dilation. In the space-bubble scenario time is being moved with the space which contains the vessel - there would be no time dilation from any perspective.

In the second case, there would be a time dilation for those traveling. The closer you get to the speed of light, the closer you are to the speed of time itself - so time, relative to the origin, has slowed ( time being the delta between speed of travel and the speed of time itself - which will almost always be the speed of light ). So you feel like you 'flew' for 8 weeks, but your grand children are starting retirement.

-

Remember: when you move a space & time bubble you will also displace the space and time around that bubble - though it will be nearly impossible to notice if you're in that altered space/time.

Also, I don't think space-time itself is compressed around the bubble, it is merely a displacement. There is a 'hole' at the origin, a 'bubble' at the destination, and 'bump' on the route. Our concerns would rest with the origin and the destination displacements, though it should be possible to setup 'swaps' so that travel is accomplished via two origins simultaneously.

In this manner we may well be able to 'fly' right through a planet with no concerns what-so-ever beyond suddenly, accidentally, exiting or collapsing the bubble.

Of course, our speed - from our perspective on the ship - would be 0. You don't need to move within the space you are moving, though you may want to get your rockets online to travel the final jaunt from your destination point. I still think looking outward would look something like how it appears on Star Trek, but I haven't really put much thought into that.

Oh well, I need to watch something while I wait for the Windows 7 RC to finish downloading...

--The loon

EDIT: how do I *ALWAYS* type the wrong word somewhere and NOT catch it when I preview??

Edited 2009-05-08 07:12 UTC

Reply Score: 3

Comment by abstraction
by abstraction on Fri 8th May 2009 07:36 UTC
abstraction
Member since:
2008-11-27

This article wasnt hard to grasp. I actually wish there was more in-depth articles here on osnews!

Reply Score: 1

Kaylee
by anda_skoa on Fri 8th May 2009 07:57 UTC
anda_skoa
Member since:
2005-07-07

With Kaylee


Jewel! Her name is Jewel, Nathan, err, Thom ;)

http://xkcd.org/579/

Edit: forgot obligatory XKCD link

Edited 2009-05-08 07:58 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Great News Everybody
by REM2000 on Fri 8th May 2009 08:04 UTC
REM2000
Member since:
2006-07-25

I think Prof Farnsworth FTL drive was rather unique and an interesting take on the whole space travel. Instead of actually moving the ship, the drive moved the universe around it.

Reply Score: 3

Inner Space
by orfanum on Fri 8th May 2009 10:09 UTC
orfanum
Member since:
2006-06-02

Unless you change this first, what will FTL or warp drives bring? We'll just end up shunting human ignorance around the universe. I am all for technological change and advancement but let's start with our own minds and souls here on Earth, first.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Inner Space
by vasper on Fri 8th May 2009 10:51 UTC in reply to "Inner Space"
vasper Member since:
2005-07-22

Unless you change this first, what will FTL or warp drives bring? We'll just end up shunting human ignorance around the universe. I am all for technological change and advancement but let's start with our own minds and souls here on Earth, first.


The universe is a big place. It can handle it... :-)

Reply Score: 2

I Though This was Done Already?
by segedunum on Fri 8th May 2009 14:31 UTC
segedunum
Member since:
2005-07-06

The article doesn't really give us much information because you can't just warp space time and go from A to B in the way they're saying there. You need a lot of energy to do that, and the further apart things are and the more space and time you have to warp then it is reasonable to assume that the energy requirements will go up spectacularly.

What you would need is a light speed drive that you could use when you're in normal space. 'Impulse engines' in other words. You would then use your warp drive to warp space/time so that in your own space/time bubble point A and point B are far closer together and then you would use your light speed drive in your own space/time to get there within a reasonable amount of time, dramatically reducing energy requirements of warping. Neat. To everyone else you would apparently be going faster than light.

It gets neater, because the transporter technology in Star Trek is almost certainly not feasible as it is. Disassembling crap and putting it back together? No thanks. However, you'll only be using it over short distances so you could use that very same warp capability to transport people and items safely, apparently instantaneously.

Reply Score: 2

Knowledge and fuel
by Sabon on Fri 8th May 2009 14:33 UTC
Sabon
Member since:
2005-07-06

Our current understand of Warp Drive is pretty much at the same stage as our understanding of airplanes and helicopters was in the 17 or 18 hundreds.

As that time (1800s and earlier) we thought about being able to fly but had no idea how to create an engine, or the fuel it would use, to propel something fast enough to fly. Plus we didn't know enough about airfoils either.

Only when several things came together, including how to control the airfoil on a wing, were humans finally able to create an airplane plus the engine that used a fuel with enough power to sustain flight.

We are still basically trying to use wood or coal fires to think about warp flight with no understand yet of what kind of actual "engine" or fuel we would need to build something to make warp drive possible.

Reply Score: 4

FTL, teleportation
by Bounty on Fri 8th May 2009 17:36 UTC
Bounty
Member since:
2006-09-18

Quantum entanglement and all it's related properties were unheard of a couple of decades ago. Now we have access to spooky effects at a distance. Teleportation is possible now with single photons and now atoms, so do freak out when your children or grand children beam to school.

As for FTL, if you warp space, you're not really "traveling" FTL, not in local space. You can't compare speed from different mediums (spaces), that's cheating. I can run faster than your car if it's at the bottom of a lake, that doesn't allow me to honestly claim to be faster than a car. Or if I run with a long treadmill I still won't make the olympics. If I turn on a flashlight on the ship, the photons will zip right past me.

Reply Score: 2

FTL won't be the answer
by Dasher42 on Sat 9th May 2009 00:05 UTC
Dasher42
Member since:
2007-04-05

I am just a layman.

However, I am increasingly skeptical that we'll ever find a way to send anything other than electromagnetic waves (as opposed to actual particles) at faster than light speeds. I think we're going about this wrong. Sure, if you download Celestia and move the camera around at speeds less than c, it sinks in how very far away we are from anything, and a lot of us geeks want to see another frontier. We aren't going to get there by assuming anything earthlike about space, or what can live there!

We have a lifespan of 70-80 years, and we haven't a real clue how we'd go faster than maybe 1/10th the speed of light. We aren't going to pile into a vehicle and take a drive and ask "are we there yet" the whole way. Suspended animation is the closest thing I can imagine to that on our list of conceivable options. Beyond that, I really think we need to evolve an actual biosphere that can live inside environs we can actually build in space. If we want to make the trip, we're going to have to engineer the human body for it, in terms of longevity and radiation resistance. Our bodies just aren't ready to live out there.

The alternative is to leave space to the probes, as capable and smart as we can make them, and accept that we belong right here on Earth where our genetic ancestors have evolved to live in for over a billion years.

Reply Score: 1