Real Warp Physics

Ever since I first encountered Miguel Alcubierre’s paper “The warp drive: hyper-fast travel within general relativity“(1994), or, more accurately, read the Alternate View article in the november 1996 issue of Analog magazine, I have been fascinated by the possibility of a real-life warp drive.

Since that time I’ve seen a lot of research that has tempered my enthusiasm. The original Alcubierre warp drive metric has some difficulties. A big one has been the requirement for exotic matter with negative mass. This is, to put it lightly, a pretty extreme form of unobtainium at present. At least antimatter is actually known to exist. Rather worse, an early estimate of the required quantity of exotic matter was on the order of -1064 kilograms, significantly greater than the positive mass of the observable universe. I wouldn’t want something like that chasing me around. A later analysis by Chris Van Den Broeck brought the negative mass requirement down a bit to “only” a few solar masses. Serguei Krasnikov, who also came up with the Krasnikov tube, reduced the negative energy requirement to a few milligrams(times c2). A significant reduction in only a few years. David Coule(no link:-( ), proposes a further problem that, essentially, as I understand it, in order to initiate a superluminal Alcubierre effect you’d have to have material moving at superluminal velocities. A bit of a catch-22 there. José Natário further suggests that, because no signal could actually reach the wave-front of a warp field, that it would be impossible for the ship to steer or stop. I can see that as being not necessarily a fatal problem assuming you could somehow arrange for the field to decay when initiating it(however you might do that); the result would be a sort of jump drive, once you start you stay for the ride. To make things worse, Carlos Barceló, Stefano Finazzi, and Stefano Liberati suggest that million degree Hawking radiation from the wall might make the environment within the warp bubble unlivable. All in all, not terribly promising.

Today, while doing some actual serious research on the internet(well, maybe… sort of), I came across mention of a paper by Harold “Sonny” White. Sometime around september, he published a paper, “Warp Field Mechanics 101,” which described a different warp field metric or at least a different way of looking at the metric. When it comes to high-level non-Euclidean geometries and topologies I’m a babe in the woods. I know how a donut and a coffee cup are similar, but that’s about my limit. But as far as I can tell he’s introducing a concept of “boost” that seems to involve riding the edge of the warp field’s event horizon as a means to accelerate(or “accelerate”) to potentially faster than light speeds. Yeah, I’m a little hazy here. This seems to be a way around David Coule’s objection, and he only claims a need for about 750 kg of negative mass. Combine this with Van Den Broeck’s little trick, if that’s possible, and you should be able to reduce the negative mass requirement still further. Don’t know if some of the other problems will also plague this concept. I did read some discussion about using a plasma sheath to protect a spacecraft from Hawking Radiation at least temporarily.

The more exciting part of this is that he is proposing an actual experimental procedure to test the ability to create such a warp field. Ideas are cool, actual experiments… that’s when it starts looking like science. According to some people on the Nasa Spaceflight forum, this Sonny White guy is reputable, so… I don’t know. But I’m excited to see how the White-Juday Interferometer experiment works out. And if it proves to be repeatable. I’m praying this isn’t cold-fusion.

The Astrographer.

EDIT: Some additional links I forgot to post.

How NASA might build its very first warp drive, the page that got me into this whole mess.

2012 NASA Roundup, check out page 8.

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2 Responses to Real Warp Physics

  1. netdragon says:

    fyi. “cold fusion” is repeatable, has been having very positive results and is being funded again. It’s called LENR and isn’t thought to be true fusion but it does result in net energy gain on orders less than fusion, but still significant.

    It’s recommended you do some research before abusing cold fusion to give an example of bad science. LENR is good science, but poor management of how the results were published by Pons and Fleischmann, and lack of patience by those trying to reproduce it. Follow up research has been significantly more careful and is done by big groups including DARPA and EXXON.

    • Astrographer says:

      Perhaps. I have actually been following the cold fusion debate, although with less and less interest as time passes. Looking over the publicly available research more recently doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

      Barring some real breakthroughs, and given the record of what actually has been bad science surrounding the phenomenon, I don’t see any reason to use the term abuse.

      Comparing cold fusion to research into FTL that has already been done, I’d have to say in many ways the FTL research has benefited from being very much in the abstract talk, math and conjecture phase. I suspect if it ever reaches a stage where practical applications look possible(like fusion, always, “fifty years away”), then I suspect it’ll be swarmed by crackpot “scientists” looking for patents. I’m not entirely sure that isn’t what we’re seeing with “Sonny” White. I hope not.

      I hope LENR, and better yet real fusion can get off the ground soon. Maybe our septic tank to the stars will be powered by a rugged LENR power cell.

      Peace.

      p.s.
      Nothing I say here should be taken to mean FTL is any less “cranky” than cold fusion or any other field, it just provides my wishful-thinking science fiction with enough plausibility to hang my disbelief suspenders on while I go have some fun.

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