Scientists say warp speed would have killed Kirk and Spock

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

So you remember how Zefram Cochrane became the first human to travel at warp speed after transforming a Titan missile into Earth's first warp-capable ship in 2063, attracting the attention of the Vulcans and ushering in a new era of peace and harmony that led to the development of the United Federation of Planets and humanity's trek through the stars?

Well, the reality is that he would have fried instantly, and any other Starfleet travelers such as Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise would have perished had they really attempted to travel at faster-than-light speeds.

That's the conclusion of a new research reported in New Scientist:

Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew would die within a second of the USS Enterprise approaching the speed of light.

The problem lies with Einstein's special theory of relativity. It transforms the thin wisp of hydrogen gas that permeates interstellar space into an intense radiation beam that would kill humans within seconds and destroy the spacecraft's electronic instruments.

Frak me! But there's more:

According to William Edelstein of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, that sparse interstellar gas should worry the crew of a spaceship travelling close to the speed of light even more than the Borg decloaking off the starboard bow.

Special relativity describes how space and time are distorted for observers travelling at different speeds. For the crew of a spacecraft ramping up to light speed, interstellar space would appear highly compressed, thereby increasing the number of hydrogen atoms hitting the craft.

At faster-than-light speed, the effect would be like standing directly in the beam of the Large Hadron Collider. The fatal dose of radiation for a human is 6 sieverts, but Edelstein's calculations show that the crew would receive a radiation dose of more than 10,000 sieverts within a second.

Edelstein presented his results on Saturday at the American Physical Society meeting in Washington, D.C.

Our guess is he traveled there at less than warp one.

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