Scientists warn that a real-life Star Trek warp drive would be killer

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012

If you've all been waiting for scientists to finally come up with a Star Trek-like warp drive—so that you could finally start building your very own Starship Enterprise in your basement/garage/backyard—then you're outta luck.

Scientists have just theoretically determined that the whole thing would prove to have a deadly, catastrophic effect on perhaps the entire universe. (Insert sounds of doom here.)

Below is a description of the famous Star Trek warp drive as described on Memory Alpha:

Warp drive, sometimes called hyperdrive, was a technology that allowed space travel at faster-than-light speeds. This was accomplished by generating warp fields to form a subspace bubble that enveloped the starship, distorting the local spacetime continuum and moving the starship at velocities that exceeded the speed of light. These velocities were referred to as warp factors. Warp drive was the most common form of interstellar propulsion used in the Milky Way Galaxy, making interstellar exploration, commerce, and warfare possible.

(Oooh! Look at that cool warp speed effect!)

Sounds awesome, right? After all, it always looked super cool on TV and on the big screen.


Below is what researchers at the University of Sydney have discovered about a potential warp drive, which they called an "Alcubierre warp drive," which would "propel a ship at superluminal speeds by creating a bubble of negative energy around it, expanding space (and time) behind the ship while compressing space in front of it."

They've crunched up the numbers and done the math, and, according to a report in Universe Today:

...Space is not just an empty void between point A and point B... rather, it's full of particles that have mass (as well as some that do not.) What the research team — led by Brendan McMonigal, Geraint Lewis, and Philip O'Byrne — has found is that these particles can get "swept up" into the warp bubble [when traveling faster than light] and focused into regions before and behind the ship, as well as within the warp bubble itself.

When the Alcubierre-driven ship decelerates from superluminal speed, the particles its bubble has gathered are released in energetic outbursts. In the case of forward-facing particles the outburst can be very energetic — enough to destroy anyone at the destination directly in front of the ship.

"Any people at the destination," the team's paper concludes, "would be gamma ray and high energy particle blasted into oblivion due to the extreme blueshifts for [forward] region particles."

Ouch. We don't know about you, but it all sounds rather, um, painful to us ... even if only for a nanosecond.

We guess no one's about to go where no one has gone before quite just yet. Oh, well. Time to cancel our trip to Risa.

(Universe Today via Nerd Approved)

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