Friday, 20 June 2014

NASA releases design for a warp drive ship

NASA releases design for a warp drive ship
As some of you may have heard, scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center are working on warp technology (did your little Trekkie heart just skip a beat?).
Alcubierre warp drive via Anderson Institute
Alcubierre warp drive via Anderson Institute
In 1994, physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a new kind of technology that would allow us to travel 10 times faster than the speed of light without actually breaking the speed of light. Sound confusing? Well, the Alcubierre drive does not actually propel the ship to speeds exceeding light; instead, it uses the deformation of spacetime permitted by General Relativity to warp the universe  around the vessel. Essentially, when the drive is activated the spacetime behind expands, while in the front it contracts. In this respect, the path taken becomes a time-like free-fall.

In 2010, NASA physicist Harold White revealed that he and a team were working on a design for this faster-than-light ship, and he’s created a new, more realistic design of what such a ship might actually look like. As you can see in the image, the ship rests between two enormous rings, which create the warp bubble.
Image via Mark Rademaker
Image via Mark Rademaker

Artist Mark Rademaker worked on the project with White. In the release, Rademaker asserts that he spent over 1,600 hours working on the design.
enterpriseship2 The ship is called the IXS Enterprise, and it is meant to fit the concept for a Faster Than Light ship. Mike Okuda also brought input, and designed the Ship’s insignia. To give you some idea of just how awesome warp technology would be: A trip to the nearest star (Proxima Centauri), which rests some four light-years from Earth, would ordinarily take over 17,000 years. However, with the Alcubierre drive, it would take a little under five months. For those of us who have a mental breakdown on 10 hour plane flights, 5 months might still seem like quite a bit of travel time.
enterpriseship But when we are talking about the vast cosmic distances between Earth and Proxima Centauri, a 5 month trip would be an achievement of monumental proportions (keep in mind, it took Curiosity 8 months just to reach Mars).
Star Trek fans get hyped as scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center have just unveiled a design for a warp drive ship. NASA scientist and Advanced Propulsion Team Lead Harold White revealed that he was investigating if a warp drive ship could travel faster than light and if so, how can we build one.
In 1994, physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a method of warping space-time in his paper titled, “The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity,”  The idea is not to propel the ship faster than light, but to expand space time behind it, which subsequently would contract space time at the front of the ship. This decreases the time it takes to travel a distance enormously  and the method is said to be valid within Einsten’s General Relativity.
Now White has teamed up with artist Mark Rademaker to produce some stunning concept design images to imagine what the craft would look like. Spending over 1600 hours, Rademaker has produced some beautiful renders of the ship dubbed the IXS Enterprise – of course!
So, how fast would it go. White says that the ship could travel at 10 times the speed of light and reach the nearest star Alpha Centauri in just in under 5 months. Alpha Centauri sits 4 lightyears away from Earth and at today’s speeds, it would take us 17,000 years to get there! It took Curiosity 8 months to reach Mars.
The images show the ship sitting between two enormous rings which would be responsible for the expansion and contraction of space time. A ‘warp bubble’ is generated that moves space-time around the craft. “Remember, nothing locally exceeds the speed of light, but space can expand and contract at any speed,” White told reporters.
However, calculations found that a ridiculous amount of energy is required for the warp drive, something around the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter (what is 1.9 × 1027 kilograms or 317 Earth masses) and hence, the idea was brushed aside. However, White says that the key to making it possible is by altering the geometry of the ship and has already worked on designs that reduce the amount of energy required.
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