Monday, November 12, 2007

Faster than the USS Enterprise?

From Science Guardian this piece, between science and science fiction (science faction?):

Researchers follow the Enterprise and look into warp speed

James Randerson

Captain Kirk and his crew may someday be followed on their travels across the universe at warp speed by the rest of us. If scientists meeting for a one-day international conference next week have their way, the starship Enterprise's warp drive will no longer be the stuff of science fiction but a viable means of travelling vast distances at faster than the speed of light.

Anyone wanting to boldly go on a trip to a far-off galaxy should not hold their breath though. Scientists admit there is little chance of anyone building a warp drive this century, but there is serious academic interest in the subject.

Next Thursday, the British Interplanetary Society is bringing together physicists for a conference entitled Faster than Light: Breaking the Interstellar Distance Barrier. "The main purpose is to raise awareness of this obscure field of research within general relativity and quantum field theory and attract new and particularly young researchers to work on the technical problems," said organiser Kelvin Long.

Although the subject is firmly in the realm of exotic physics, he said previously controversial ideas often find their way into the mainstream eventually. "Historically, black holes and worm holes were not taken seriously. Now, dozens of papers are published every year on these topics. It is desirable for warp field theory to receive similar attention, if we are to realistically appraise its potential," he said.

Scientists admit there is little chance of building a warp drive this century, but the makers of Star Trek have had a canny knack of predicting technological developments that are now part of everyday life. James T Kirk's orders from an alien planet were conveyed by a communicator that looks very much like a mobile phone.

The theory behind travelling at warp speed is that you bend the fabric of space and time in a small region around a space craft by creating an anti-gravitational field. This causes space behind the warp bubble to expand away from the vehicle. In front space collapses like in a black hole. This theoretically allows you to move your craft across enormous distances at a faster speed than light. One of the central tenets of Einstein's theory of special relativity is that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light within spacetime, but the idea with warp speed is that a small region of spacetime itself moves. It is a bit like standing on a moving walkway at an airport: because the walkway is moving you travel forward faster than you could by walking the same distance on solid ground.


At 5:07 PM, Blogger Cookie..... said...

Have always found this stuff fascinating and interesting, after all, I grew up with Star Trek. I kinda wish I had gone on and continued with my scientific studies when I was younger.

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Yep, science is great!


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