Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th May 2009 22:24 UTC
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

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.

RE: Comment by Laurence
by Tuishimi on Thu 7th May 2009 23:32 in reply to "Comment by Laurence"
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.

RE: Comment by Laurence
by joekiser on Thu 7th May 2009 23:45 in reply to "Comment by Laurence"
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

RE[2]: Comment by Laurence
by Tuishimi on Fri 8th May 2009 00:48 in reply to "RE: Comment by Laurence"
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.)

RE[2]: Comment by Laurence
by big_gie on Fri 8th May 2009 01:18 in reply to "RE: Comment by Laurence"
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...

RE: Comment by Laurence
by vasper on Fri 8th May 2009 10:50 in reply to "Comment by Laurence"
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).

RE[2]: Comment by Laurence
by Thom_Holwerda on Fri 8th May 2009 11:02 in reply to "RE: Comment by Laurence"
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.

RE[2]: Comment by Laurence
by boldingd on Fri 8th May 2009 19:36 in reply to "RE: Comment by Laurence"
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.

RE[2]: Comment by Laurence
by Drumhellar on Fri 8th May 2009 21:59 in reply to "RE: Comment by Laurence"
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.