Paging Zefram Cochrane: Humans have figured out how to make a warp bubble

Don’t pack your bags and go to Bozeman just yet. Its discoverer, Dr. Sonny White, says this tiny bubble warp wouldn’t be able to propel, but it could have a myriad of other applications.

alcubierre-bubble-white.jpg

Alcubierre warp bubble built correctly. As space narrows in front of the ship and expands backwards, the ship is theoretically propelled forward at a speed greater than the speed of light.

Image: LSI, White, et al.

The space is vast. Really, really wide. So wide, in fact, that Voyager 1, the farthest man-made object from Earth, would take more than 73,000 to reach our sun’s closest star, Proxima Centauri, at its current speed of more than 38,000 miles per hour, if it was headed that way to begin with. In short, if we ever want to find a way to explore beyond our own solar system, we need to find a way to bend the laws of physics to make faster-than-light travel possible.

A team of scientists working with DARPA, including warp drive pioneer Dr. Harold G “Sonny” White, may have taken one step closer to this reality by announcing that they have discovered a space warping bubble, the essential thing required for faster-than-light travel in the Star universe. Trek.

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Before we turn to romantic visions of space travel, Dr. White said, we need to think about what we can do with a tiny warp bubble, like the one his team discovered, before we dream about what could be in the future. White is passionate about space travel, but says we need to start simply. “There may be a lot of other things along the way before we get there that could have some really interesting implications,” he said.

What is bubble warp?

This is a very complex idea that involves a great deal of math, but at its most basic level, a torsion bubble is a small area that shrinks in the front and expands in the back. Contraction/expansion theoretically pushes the bubble and its contents forward at speeds exceeding the speed of light without ever violating the laws of physics: you are not Technically Traveling faster than light, you’re browsing a bubble of condensed space.

Warping bubbles are also important because they eliminate a major problem with superlight travel: time dilation. Let’s say you manage to travel faster than light: everything else outside of your craft will be accelerating, which means that the three-hour tour you took to a gentle, tropical planet could be equal to years of time passing on Earth. Simply put, if you plan to move faster than light while following the known laws of physics, it is best to say goodbye to everything you loved before heading out.

Again, warp bubbles circumvent this problem because the space inside the bubble remains unaffected, so an hour of travel at warp speed means that only an hour has passed for everyone else who’s not currently in a pocket of sci-fi space.

Warp bubbles have long been the domain of science fiction, until theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre came along and put his theories into the Alcubierre warp engine in 1994, which maintained general relativity while allowing faster-than-light travel. The key I rested on, was an energy density field that was configurable in a vacuum bubble that would make anything inside of it have negative mass.

Unfortunately, the amount of power required to power the Alcubierre engine made that impossible, until 2012 when Dr. White proposed changes to the math and shape of the craft designed to create the field, cutting the power needed from “impossible” to powering a source the size of the Voyager 1 spacecraft. Then, developing an actual bubble warp or Alcubierre engine remained a distant dream.

Detect bubble warp

Fast forward to 2021, and Dr. White, whose research paper was written in 2012 while at NASA as head of the Advanced Propulsion Objective, is conducting DARPA-funded research on objects called Casimir cavities. These cavities consist of two parallel plates with a shaft running between them. These things are tiny – just microns in size – and they do something really interesting: create a passive vacuum between the panels when exposed to normal vacuum.

“You can expect zero pressure outside and zero pressure in the cavity, but what we find is when we measure negative pressure between the plates,” said Dr. White.

“What we’re trying to do is explore the quantum void on a fundamental level,” said Dr. White. “We think these voids are a little more than we currently know. Some unknown properties can be used to create some really useful technologies.” Hence the interest of DARPA.

These uses could include surprising things, like batteries that rely on what Dr. White calls “quantum vacuum solar cells” that will never run out of power. A potential use could be telecommunication products that use unperturbed longitudinal waves from buildings or natural barriers, as could optical sensors that do not suffer from chromatic aberration because they sense all elements of the electromagnetic spectrum equally.

Regardless of their potential applications, testing those cavities led to an interesting discovery: a negative vacuum energy field just like a two-dimensional slice of an Alcubierre warp bubble.

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White: “Our custom Casimir cavities are basically two large planes with a long pole in the middle. By comparison, the Alcubierre scale needs a full ring of negative vacuum energy density, which means it needs to look more like a lifesaver.” He said.

After actually doing all the calculations and collecting all the data generated by the experiment with the 2D version of the bubble the team had observed, the next logical step was to take that data and change the shape of the object in the center, get rid of the pole and put in the shape of the dreaded Vulcan spacecraft shown at the top of the article.

Dr. said. White After running simulations in the modified form, the math has just been added. “We conducted a purposeful analysis using [the warp ship shape], and F – hey, that matched Alcubierre’s measurement requirements. ”

The warp bubble team has published a paper about their findings, which Dr. White says in no way demonstrates the warp bubble’s analogue: Their data shows that, given the correct shape placed in the same physical cavities they are now experimenting with, a warp bubble will be created Honest warp with God.

“We can tell the physics community that there is a real kind of structure that we can make that expect analysis to predict. It will show a negative steric energy density, so that it shows a real nano-warp bubble, not analog… This will be a real nano-sized warp bubble, no kidding”, Dr. White said.

Question 299,792,458 m/s: When is the first contact?

In the Star Trek universe, a warp bubble works essentially the same way: Enterprise doesn’t actually travel faster than light, it’s just traversing a cosmic space wave created by a matter/antimatter warp core.

Zefram Cochrane was responsible for building the Trek universe’s first warp-capable functional ship in 2063, and at that point, the Vulcans, who had just happened to pass by, decided it was time to make their first contact and welcome humans into their galactic community. We may be right, then, with Dr. White’s team laying the practical foundation for theoretical concepts that take us away from Earth and toward the stars.

So, when can humans expect to vacation in Risa, do business in Feringenar, and study at the Vulcan Academy of Sciences (provided they meet the strict admission requirements)? Dr. White says: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

“A lot of people want to get straight into the app: When are we going to go make something like this? I’m motivated, but science is a slow and arduous process.” Dr. White says his motto has been “crawl, walk, run” when it comes to this kind of cutting edge thing. He says the dream is important, but doing the basic research that goes into finding additional practical and valuable applications now is important, in the age when we are still grounded.

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“I don’t have a crystal ball more than anyone else,” Dr. White said. “I don’t know when this idea might be applied to space travel, or even if that could become a reality.” This is understandable given that we are currently talking about warp bubbles generated in cavities smaller than the width of a human hair.

“Science will continue to turn crank and hammer rock, slowly cleaving away from some of the unknown to get to more of what is known,” said Dr. White. Consider this discovery just one slide in the right direction.

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