See what a real-life warp-driven starship might look like

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Think a Star Trek-like warp-drive starship is pure science fiction?

Discovery.com has asked a physicist how a real one would work and what it would look like. You can see it after the jump.

Dr. Richard Obousy shared his concept for a futuristic, yet scientifically accurate, warpship design with the site.

The physics behind the warpship is purely theoretical: "Dark energy" needs to be understood and harnessed, plus vast amounts of energy need to be generated, meaning the warpship is a technology that could only be conceived in the far future.

That said, Obousy's warpship design uses our current knowledge of spacetime and superstring theory to arrive at this futuristic concept.

The physics behind the warp drive is, as you'd expect, complex. But it is hoped that in the future mankind will learn how to harness "dark energy," an energy that is theorized to permeate the entire universe. Cosmologists are particularly interested in dark energy as it is most commonly associated with the observed expansion of the universe.

According to Obousy, the extra dimensions predicted by superstring theory could be shrunk and expanded by a warp drive through manipulation of local dark energy. At the front of the warpship spacetime would be compressed, and it would expand behind.

The shape of the warpship was chosen to optimize the manipulation of surrounding dark energy, creating a spacetime bubble. How exactly the bubble would be created is still a mystery. But once the bubble gets created, spacetime at the front of the warpship would be compressed, and behind it would expand. Inside the bubble, spacetime remains unchanged; therefore the warpship floats in the center of stationary space while the bubble moves through spacetime.

The bubble itself, containing the warpship, "drives the spacecraft forwards at arbitrarily high speeds," Obousy told the site. This means the warpship can travel faster than the speed of light.

To initiate the warp drive, however, vast amounts of energy would be required. Also, there will be some practical issues to overcome, such as preventing the creation of artificial black holes, as well as catastrophic warp bubble collapse when the power is switched off. I'm sure Mr. Scott could figure something out, though.