Warp Drive Alcubierre metric - a ( inaccurate ) solution of Einstein Field Equation:

Faster than a speeding bullet

by Justin McLachlan

I remember when I first watched the seventh season episode of The Next Generation, Force of Nature (7×9). It aired in 1993 and I was in the sixth grade. The environment was a hot topic, but then we were talking about a hole in the ozone layer and not global warming. I was a budding environmentalist and complained to my mom about the chlorofluorocarbons coming out of our refrigerator. She pointed out, though, how much I enjoyed the air conditioner in our car (we didn’t have one in our house yet) and that pretty much shut me up as far as the environment went.

But it’s not hard to see, given the very real impact humans and our development have on the planet, why Star Trek’s writers wanted to dramatize an environmental issue. They just did it in a way that upended the Star Trek universe, limiting all federation vessels to Warp 6 except in an emergency because warp fields apparently damaged the fabric of subspace (and no one but a pair of wayward alien siblings noticed for hundreds of years). And then, uncharacteristically for a show that seemed to value continuity above almost anything else, such a dramatic storyline was pretty much brushed aside. My sharpest memory of this episode was reading a post on a nascent Internet message board after it aired titled “No WARP is the end?” The poster was not happy. As it turns out, many of Star Trek’s writers weren’t either.

Jerri Taylor, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, said, “I’ve been on enough series and tried to do environmental issues to realize that they are so hard to dramatize, because you’re talking about the ozone hole and it’s so, so hard to make it emotional…” Well, I think they certainly made it emotional for a lot of fans, just maybe not in the way they wanted. In Captains Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, Brana Braga said, “When you limit warp drive, the rug is being pulled out from under Star Trek. I wish more time had been spent with that, and less time with Spot the cat.”

This warp mess was all handily cleaned up by the time Star Trek: Voyager premiered, though, when we saw that Voyager’s warp nacelles could change their angle—what the producers called variable geometry warp nacelles—before speeding off. Indeed, a line in the unpublished Star Trek Voyager Technical Guide Version 1.0, an internal document used by the show’s writers, says, “Because Voyager employs a new folding wing-and-nacelle configuration, warp fields may no longer have a negative impact on habital (sic) worlds, as established in TNG.” It was all muddled again in a season seven Voyager episode, Renaissance Man (24), though, when we learned that actually, yes, Voyager’s warp drive was tearing away at the fabric of spacetime just like the Enterprise’s had.

I’m not sure what to make of how uncharacteristically and nonchalantly, given, as Braga said, the amount of time Force of Nature spent dealing with Data’s cat, the show handled this tearing down of one of mankind’s greatest achievements. Part of me likes to hope it was their nod, even unconsciously, to what we know today about faster-than-light travel. Not only is it beyond our technical capability, it might actually be completely impossible—at least the way most of us think of it.

I know, I know I’ve spent the entire book telling you to ignore naysayers and assume everything is possible in time, but hang on, we’ll get to the possible parts. And remember, I said “what we know today.” Five hundred years ago many in the world assumed the sun orbited the earth. Not long before that, we assumed our world was flat. It was just 100 years ago that we also assumed, wrongly, that space and time were separate things, each unaffected by the other. We thought we had the universe figured out. Newtonian physics were not only accepted and believed; almost no one challenged Newton’s explanations of the way things like gravity worked. Then this guy named Albert Einstein came along and in a few short years, upended everything. He not only answered the questions Newton’s ideas left behind, but also posed a whole host of new ones that we’re still trying to answer. Oh, and he also has some ideas about this whole faster-than-light travel thing.


When Albert Einstein started publishing, we realized, as Brian Greene says, that Newton’s views weren’t necessarily wrong—he presumed time and space were fundamentally different things that didn’t really interact—but just an “approximate description of how nature really works.” Right now, Einstein’s description (specifically, E = mc2) is the way we presume it does work. The chances, though, that technology will develop to allow greater experimental precision aren’t just good, they’re almost a given. In fact, we already know we’re missing a big piece of the puzzle.

On one hand, while we have Einstein’s theory of general relativity that tells us maybe transporters are possible but traveling at the speed of light isn’t, there’s an emerging field of physics called quantum mechanics that doesn’t jive with many of Einstein’s ideas. That tells us that there’s something we don’t know about the universe, a so-called “unified theory” that will bring the two fields together, much the way Einstein once reconciled the problems of space and time Newton’s theories proposed. Even as I write this, scientists may have discovered the elusive Higgs boson, a theoretical particle that could take us a long way toward figuring everything out.

But for all the conjecture, physical laws are physical laws until someone illuminates a deeper understanding of the universe and we find out the laws are wrong or don’t hold. So, as it stands, based on Einstein’s theories, we can never travel at the speed of light. There’s a big loophole, though. We can apparently change space to effectively do it anyway.


According to Star Trek and many people who are a lot smarter than me, you don’t actually have to travel at the speed of light to travel faster than the speed of light. We’ll get into the specifics of how that works in a minute, but first we have to take a look at one of Einstein’s last, and maybe his most significant, theories. Here’s the short version: space isn’t flat, it’s curved. More than that, matter and energy cause the curvature.

Brian Greene, in The Elegant Universe, has a really good way of looking at it. Imagine space as a big piece of latex. Hold it out so it lies flat, and then drop something like a bowling ball in the center. Doesn’t stay flat anymore, does it? The bowling ball, with its heavy mass, sinks down deeply, forcing the latex to curve to its shape. Thanks to Einstein, we know that the same thing happens in space, but instead of bowling balls, we have planets and stars and black holes (which are really just stars that have collapsed in on themselves). Greene says, not surprisingly, Einstein’s theory was radical at the time. “… space is not merely a passive forum providing the arena for the events of the universe,” he says, “rather, the shape of space responds to objects in the environment.” More specifically, Einstein’s “radical” idea provided a mechanism for large bodies to transmit their gravity. This curvature, for example, is how the moon stays in orbit around the earth.

Think back to Greene’s bowling-ball analogy. He says that if we set something like a marble in motion around the bowling ball, it’ll circle the ball, trapped in the curvature of the latex. That’s the same thing that happens to the moon, and on an even bigger scale, all the planets in the solar system, including earth. We’re trapped in the sun’s orbit because we’re on that path in the curved space the sun has created. “[Einstein] presented a radical revision of the concept of gravity … not as a force acting directly on objects, but as a consequence of the geometry of spacetime.”

Here’s another way to think about it. Remember those coin-collecting fundraising things that were often in malls? You put a quarter in the slot in the top and watched as, instead of falling straight down into the container below, it circled and circled and circled first? The idea here is kind of the same. In fact, the shape of the cone is similar to the way a heavy object like the sun warps space. Of course, the perspective is off. The sun exists in the three dimensions and our coin-collector and latex analogies are representations of the same idea with a just a single slice of space. There’s no “down” around the sun because space is wrapped all 360 degrees around it.

So, what does this all have to do with warp drive? In years of watching Star Trek as a kid it never occurred to me that the “warp” in warp drive was referring to how the Enterprise’s engines actually warp space to make the distance between two points shorter. I guess I wasn’t a very bright child.

Warp drive is actually even something of a colloquialism in Star Trek. When Zephram Cochrane made the first faster-than-light trip, the engines were known as CDP engines, short for continuum distortion propulsion. And so again, like with the transporter, we see that the basic idea behind warp technology is in line with our current understanding of the universe. We know, thanks to Einstein, that objects with heavy mass exert gravity—that’s how we stay on the Earth and how the Earth stays in orbit around the sun—and that gravity is really just warped, or curved space.

Think about a sheet of paper, laid flat. The shortest distance between its edges would be a straight line across the surface, unless we curve the paper to bring the edges closer together. This is what the Enterprise’s warp drive does, just in smaller bursts. When Captain Picard says “engage,” a warp field surrounds the ship and the space in the immediate vicinity, probably in front of and behind it, is warped or curved so that the Enterprise can skip ahead, propelled by the energy of interacting warp fields. “The idea is not to use any sort of rocket at all for propulsion, but instead to use spacetime itself—by warping it,” Krauss says. It’s just like bringing those two edges of the sheet of paper closer together. Do this enough times over and over again and a ship can cross vast swaths of space in a relatively short time.

While the concept was lost on me as a kid, Krauss thinks this it’s a pretty straightforward idea, actually. “If spacetime can locally be warped so that it expands behind a starship and contracts in front of it, then the craft will be propelled along with the space it is in, like a surfboard on a wave. The craft will never travel locally faster than the speed of light, because the light, too, will be carried along with the expanding wave of space.”

In fact, the ship itself, surrounded by warp fields, is left in normal space and isn’t traveling faster than light, or anywhere near light speed. To an outside observer, it appears that the ship is moving faster than light when, from the ship’s perspective, it’s just happily sailing along through a big loophole in the rules that Newton and Einstein put down. A starship like the Enterprise avoids the theoretical speed limit by not actually ever breaking it.

Tha’ts not all. The Technical Manual says the loophole also avoids “undesired time dilation” effects. Krauss adds, “Not only is [warp drive] designed to avoid the ultimate speed limit—the speed of light—and so allow practical travel across the galaxy, but it is also designed to avoid the problems of time dilation, which result when the ship is traveling close to light speed.”

But wait. Time is a constant, right? Didn’t Data even test this after he, the Captain, Troi and Geordi were caught in a time distortion (Timescape, 6×25)?

Data: I have been testing the aphorism, “A watched pot never boils.” I have boiled the same amount of water in this kettle sixty-two times. In some cases I have ignored the kettle; in others, I have watched it intently. In every instance, the water reaches its boiling point in precisely 51.7 seconds. It appears I am not capable of perceiving time any differently than my internal chronometer.

Data tests the aphorism that a watched pot never boils.

Data’s experiment aside, time is not constant. In Einstein’s theory, the constant is the speed of light. Space and time are relative. In fact, they’re so intertwined that an observed change in one precipitates a change in the other. The faster we move across space, the slower time actually moves. Everything we know says that as we approach the speed of light, time will slow to the point that we’ll never reach our destination. Eventually, if we could reach light speed, time would even stop.

We don’t notice this relativity in daily life, and Brian Greene tells us why in The Elegant Universe. We’re just too damned slow. “…our intuition is wrong—it is informed by motion that typically is extremely slow compared to the speed of light, and such slow speeds obscure the true character of space and time.” Krauss said something similar in The Physics of Star Trek. “…the reason all these implications of relativity of space and time are so hard for us to accept at face value is that we happen to live and move at speeds far smaller than the speed of light.” He says going just half the speed of light, or just around a staggering 93,000 miles per second, our clocks would only slow about fifteen percent. That’s just nine seconds per minute, a difference most of us wouldn’t even perceive. “On NASA’s space shuttle, which moves at about five miles per second…clocks tick less than one ten-millionth of a percent slower than their counterparts on Earth,” Krauss says.

Commander Riker made the same point to Data about his watched pot experiment.

Riker: Why don’t you turn it off?

Data: Sir?

Riker: Data, people do not have internal chronometers. Why don’t you see what happens if you turn yours off?

Data: Thank you, sir. I will try that.

[Riker nods and gets up to leave, but stops]

Riker: Just don’t be late for your shift!

You can see how big of a problem time dilation could cause. The Enterprise leaves for the Farpoint Station in 2363 and arrives… never. But just like the speed limit, the warp drive loophole manages to circumvent time dilation, too. Special, general and what the Technical Manual mysteriously calls “transformational” relativity—are all nicely circumvented.

Still, warp drive is easier to talk about on paper than to put into practice. Look at it this way. It takes the entire mass of the sun to warp space enough hold the solar system in orbit, so how does something as small as the Enterprise generate a warping effect strong enough to propel the ship across light years? In the words of Q, it’s simple.

An Inconsistent constant?

While we’re never given a clear run down of exactly how Star Trek’s warp drive works, there are some clues in the shows and some more specifics in the Technical Manual. We do know the warp effect comes not just from one warp field surrounding the ship, but several layered on top of each other, created by firing the warp field coils in the engine nacelles in distinct patterns. “The coils generate an intense, multilayered field that surrounds the starship, and it is the manipulation of the shape of this field that produces the propulsive effect,” the Technical Manual says.The interaction between these layers of warp fields also have the happy effect of changing the gravitational constant of the ship—this is the key—so that its relatively light mass can warp space in a way normally reserved only for things as heavy as planets and stars.

This is no small feat, and was actually a point of contention in the episode Deja Q (3×13). Q shows up on the Enterprise, but as a punishment for being himself, the Continuum has stripped him of his omnipotence and made him mortal. He flees to the Enterprise for sanctuary (there are more than a few alien species in the universe that want to take advantage of his new mortality) but the Enterprise is busy trying to rescue a planet threatened by a moon falling out of orbit. They ask for Q’s help, which he gives… in his own way.

Data: Can you recommend a way to counter the effect?

Q: Simple. Change the gravitational constant of the universe.

Geordi: What?

Q: Change the gravitational constant of the universe, thereby altering the mass of the [moon].

Geordi: Redefine gravity. And how am I supposed to do that?

Q: You just do it! Ow! Where’s that doctor anyway?

Data: Geordi is trying to say that changing the gravitational constant of the universe is beyond our capabilities.

Q: Oh. Well, in that case, never mind.

Changing the gravitational constant of the universe might be out of their reach, but changing the ship’s isn’t. They do it every time the Captain says “engage.”

Geordi: You know, this might work? We can’t change the gravitational constant of the universe, but if we wrap a low-level warp field around that moon, we could reduce its gravitational constant. Make it lighter so we can push it!

Q: Glad I could help.

Q offers Data and Geordi a simple solution.

So it’s all about the warp fields. The question for us is, how do they make these things, and better yet, how can we? On the shows, generating warp fields starts in the matter and antimatter reaction chamber, the piece of equipment and the part of the engine most visible in Main Engineering on the Enterprise. This is really tricky, actually. Matter and antimatter annihilate each other when they come in contact, but the Technical Manual says this is a more efficient energy source than the fusion systems used by the Enterprise’s sublight impulse engine (and presumably the kinds of fusion reactors we use for power generation today).

Here’s how they do it. Directly above the chamber is a supply tank of matter, a substance called Deuterium. Below, another tank sits containing a supply of antimatter, or more specifically, antihydrogen. Both are injected into the engine core much the same way cars inject fuel into engines, but antimatter requires special handling. A lot of magnetic fields are used to keep the antimatter from coming into contact with other matter, specifically the components that make up the engine, until it reaches the core. There, Dilithium crystals control the matter-antimatter reaction so it doesn’t destroy the ship. Dilithium has unique properties, apparently, as it’s the “only material known to Federation science to be nonreactive with antimatter,” at least when subjected to electromagnetic fields that make it essentially porous.

The reaction leaves behind a stream of plasma that’s then sent into the power transfer conduits, one for the starboard nacelle and one for the port. This plasma energizes the warp coils, which in turn produce the warp fields necessary to alter the ship’s gravitational constant and warp space in a way that simulates faster-than-light travel.

Good news for us, antimatter actually exists. We know this, again, in large part thanks to Einstein. Let’s jump back to his E = mc2 real quick. Remember, that’s the theory that essentially says, energy = mass and mass = energy. If you’re any good at math—okay, maybe really good at math—you’ve probably already noticed that there are two ways to solve Einstein’s equation. While E = mc2 is the version that’s become famous, it’s actually a reduced form of a bit more complex equation: E2 = m2c4. According to theoretical physicist and founding father of quantum mechanics Paul Dirac, E2 is a more important component than just the E we normally see. Why? Well when you take the square root to find E, there are, again, two solutions. How is that possible? I was never that good at algebra until I took calculus, and then I was okay at algebra and really bad at calculus, so let’s look at it from a much simpler angle. 2 x 2 = 4, right? Two is the square root of four, but then, so is negative two. -2 x -2 also equals 4.

Based on these two solutions, a positive and a negative, Dirac proposed the existence of the antielectron, or what we call antimatter. And just like scientists convert energy to matter everyday in particle accelerators, they create antimatter, too. But of course, having antimatter and using it to create a warp engine are two different things entirely. Remember, matter and antimatter annihilate each other when they come in contact, so we’d have to figure out how to harness the reaction safely. And even then, we don’t know that the reaction would generate a plasma stream or anything else that we could use for energy like they do on Star Trek.

Sound like some big problems to overcome? They are, but we might not have to worry much about them. We think we can create warp fields with something a little more… exotic.

The Alcubierre drive

In 1994, physicist Miguel Alcubierre published a paper titled “The warp drive: hyper-fast travel within general relativity,” in which he painstakingly laid out a bunch of math that proved the idea of faster-than-light travel was possible within the rules laid down by Einstein. I’ll spare you the equations because, trust me, they’re a little more complex than E = mc2, but his theory works just as it seems to in Star Trek. “By a purely local expansion of spacetime behind the spaceship and an opposite contraction in front of it, motion faster than the speed of light as seen by observers outside the disturbed region is possible,” he says.

It gets better. Because of some physical peculiarities, the ship inside Alcubierre’s warp field is in a kind of free fall, which means the passengers inside don’t feel any inertia. That’s important. One of the many problems with faster-than-light travel is the fact that the gravitational forces at such speeds would crush us frail humans—and probably everything else. Think about when your car accelerates from a stop, how you’re pushed back into your seat. Multiply that by the speed of light and you’ll understand the inertial forces at play here.

That was almost twenty years ago. So why haven’t we built this thing yet? Well, there is one big problem with Alcubierre’s theory—it requires what he called in a letter to the journal’s editor “exotic matter” that “has a negative mass.”

He’s not talking about antimatter here (which actually has positive energy and positive mass), but rather the idea that a region of space—space, being a thing that holds matter—can have less than nothing in it, and therefore an energy density that is less than zero. Classical physics tells us this is impossible, but quantum physics says—no, wait, maybe it is possible—under very special and precise circumstances. Those two are always at odds, and I’m obviously not the one to reconcile them. As hard as it is to understand how something can be both impossible and possible at the same time, let’s just take it on faith for the moment, because when we allow for the existence of exotic matter and negative energy, all kinds of strange and amazing things suddenly aren’t so far-fetched. We’re talking not just warp drive, but wormholes and even traveling backwards through time.

Still, even assuming the existence of exotic matter, Alcubierre’s equations require a lot of it to create a warp bubble that would enable a ship to travel faster than light. A lot. Almost an absurd amount, something equivalent to around 300 Earths or the weight of Jupiter. And while quantum mechanics might be okay with the idea of exotic matter in theory, it places “serious limitations on its magnitude and duration.” Most physicists concluded that Alcubierre’s warp field was either not possible, or would have to be very, very small, like the size of an atom. Even Alcubierre himself admitted that, assuming we can overcome the energy problem, we still aren’t sure if warping space would actually cause a starship to achieve faster-than-light speeds, or just crumple up and explode. We may know soon though, because the guys at NASA are already working on it.


Alcubierre’s equations required so much energy, most scientists wrote off his warp drive as unattainable. But in 2012, NASA physicist Harold White stunned the world when he said he thinks it would take just a few tweaks in the equations to reduce the energy requirement to something more like the mass of a small car. “My early results suggested I had discovered something that was in the math all along,” he said in a recent interview with Io9.com. “I suddenly realized that if you made the thickness of the negative vacuum energy ring larger—like shifting from a belt shape to a donut shape—and oscillate the warp bubble, you can greatly reduce the energy required—perhaps making the idea plausible.” Essentially, White believes taking the shape of Alcubierre’s warp bubble and making it a little curvier and thicker reduces the energy requirements dramatically, pushing the idea back into the realm of… not so far fetched.

Since presenting the idea last year, White and a team at NASA have hit the lab, conducting small-scale warp field experiments with lasers to see if they can cause any actual distortion in spacetime. We’ll see what they come up with.

Even if they succeed, though, it still might be a while before anyone straps a warp drive to a spacecraft—it took the humans in Star Trek something like a hundred years to progress from Zephram Cochrane’s first warp flight to a sustainable warp program. Still, a proof-of-concept experiment could be a defining moment in our history.

There would be other obstacles, of course. A team of scientists at the University of Sydney pointed out in a recent paper that space isn’t an empty vacuum, and that a whole lot of things like dust and particles might get caught up in a warp bubble moving across the galaxy. When a ship arrives at its destination, all that stuff will have to go somewhere. Hopefully not into a nearby planet, though, because the planet would be “blasted into oblivion,” as the authors put it.I’m sure Q would have a “simple” solution to that challenge, but us mortals will have to put a little more thought into it.


I generally love to get your hopes up about this stuff, because, like I’ve said about a thousand times now, we’ll never achieve anything if we approach a problem as unsolvable or stick our heads in the sand and blather on about the things we know, instead of the things we have yet to find out. On Star Trek’s timeline, we’re supposed to have warp drive in another couple of decades. I think it’s probably safe to say this is one case where the show was a little more ambitious than real life, based on the state of the science today, but I don’t like to make those kinds of predictions. I mean, after all, even NASA is doing experiments. Who’d ever have thought we’d travel to the moon sixty or seventy years before we actually did it? I’m sure there were a lot of naysayers, then—but where are they now?

Still, and please hear that while I don’t believe this, we might one day find that faster-than-light travel—globally, locally, loophole or no loophole—is not just beyond our ability, but physically impossible. We still might find that Einstein’s description is more accurate than not, that it’s more law than theory. But we’ve thought that countless times before, Newton being just one example. And, didn’t someone, somewhere once say, laws were made to be broken? Until then, let’s keep our eyes out for the next (or first, I guess) Zephram Cochrane. Hopefully he’ll be going slow enough we can actually see him.

This text is adapted from my book, Treknology: Star Trek’s Tech 300 Years Ahead of the Future
October 2, 2013



Warp Drives Don’t Exist … Yet

The fastest thing humans have ever built is a probe called Helios 2. It’s dead now, but if sound traveled in space, you’d hear it screaming as it whips around the sun at speeds of more than 157,000 miles per hour. That’s almost 100 times faster than a bullet, but even at that velocity it would take some 19,000 years to reach Earth’s first stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri. It’d be a multigenerational ship, and nobody dreams of going to space because it’s a nice place to die of old age.

To beat the clock, you need power—and lots of it. Maybe you could mine Jupiter for enough helium-3 to fuel nuclear fusion—after you’ve figured out fusion engines. Matter-antimatter annihilation is more scalable, but smashing those pugilistic particles together is dangerous. “You’d never want to do that on Earth,” says Les Johnson, technical assistant for NASA’s Advanced Concepts Office, which works on crazy starship ideas. “You do that in deep space, so if you have an accident, you don’t destroy a continent.” Too intense? How about solar power? All you’d need is a sail the size of Texas.


Far more elegant would be hacking the universe’s source code—with physics. The theoretical Alcubierre drive would compress space in front of your craft and expand space behind it so the stuff in between—where your ship is—effectively moves faster than light. Tweaking the Alcubierre equations gets you a Krasnikov tube, an interstellar subway that shortens your return trip.

All aboard? Not quite. Humanity will need a few more Einsteins working at places like the Large Hadron Collider to untangle all the theoretical knots. “It’s entirely possible that we’ll make some discovery that changes everything,” Johnson says. “But you can’t count on that breakthrough to save the day.” If you want eureka moments, you need to budget for them. That means more cash for NASA— and the particle physicists. Until then, Earth’s space ambitions will look a lot like Helios 2: stuck in a futile race around the same old star. —Nick Stockton

“Propellantless” Physics-Based Concepts ■ What’s different about these concepts compared to the others? p No mass ejection (propellantless)! – Eliminates the necessity to carry fuel or propellant. p Use the space-time medium as the energy source or “working fluid”. – Isp becomes meaningless. p Rely on fluidic space-time, quantum physics, string theory, electromagnetism and/or gravity to possibly create propulsive forces. p Some employ aspects of cosmological genres like dark matter, dark energy, black holes, gravity waves, alternate dimensions and universal expansion. p All are highly-speculative, but have strong foundations rooted in current scientific knowledge and experimental observations. ■ These concepts could not only propel a vehicle at very high sublight speeds (~70-99%), but at the speed of light or beyond! ■ Necessary for truly reasonable, manned interstellar missions! And now for something completely different…

Propulsion System Caveats & Overview ■ Candidate concepts to be discussed are intended for a vehicle’s primary interstellar propulsion system. ■ Propulsion systems not discussed: p Attitude control p Earth-to-Orbit launch p Electric p Sail-type p Beamed energy ■ Estimated status and NASA TRL, if available. Discussion Categories ■ “State-of-the-Art”: Conventional “Mass Ejection” Systems p Best Available and Improvements ■ Advanced Conventional Concepts p Nuclear Fission p Nuclear Fusion p Matter/Antimatter p Other Concepts ■ “Propellantless” Physics-Based Approaches p Space-Time Warp Drives p Gravity-Inertia-Electromagnetic p Alternate Dimension / Hyperspace 13

Important Definitions ■ Space-time Metric – The 3 spatial +1 temporal dimensional continuum in which all physical quantities exist. The medium through which electromagnetic energy permeates. ■ Negative Mass/Matter – Matter that produces negative (anti) gravity contrary to normal, positive matter. A negative mass object would have repulsive gravity. Sometimes called “exotic” matter. Antimatter is not negative matter since it has positive mass, but opposite charge. ■ Zero-Point Energy/Field (ZPE/ZPF) - The random, instantaneous, quantum energy fluctuations in a volume of empty space proposed through the quantum-mechanical view of the Universe. The smaller the length scale under consideration (approaching “zero” length), the larger the random fluctuations in energy, hence “zero-point energy”. Demonstrated through the Casimir effect. • ZPF “radiation pressure” forces two parallel ZPE vacuum conducting plates together fluctuations with a measurable force. • 1 cm sq. plates spaced at 1 Casimir plates micron generates 10-7N! 1 micron ...

Categories of Propellantless Concepts The concepts listed below are some of the “more popular” ones in their genre and have many variants beyond those presented. ■ Space-Time Warp Systems – Modify the space-time continuum to mitigate relativistic effects and allow for travel. p Alcubierre Warp Drive p Traversable Wormholes ■ Gravity/Inertia/Electromagnetic Coupling – Mitigate, reduce or artificially create gravity/inertia propulsive forces through novel electromagnetic interactions (Grand Unified Theory). p Heim Theory p Gravito-Electromagnetism (GEM) p Mach’s Principle and Mass Fluctuations ■ Alternate Dimensions / “Hyperspace” – Enter an alternate space-time where relativistic effects are circumvented and faster-than-light travel is natural and possible. p Hyperspace in General Relativity p String Theory-Based Alcubierre Drive p Tri-Space and Fluidic Space-Time..

Things to Remember… ■ Einstein’s field equations, quantum field theory and both Special and General Relativity do not discount FTL travel! ■ Science does not know the true nature of space-time. p Does it have fluid-like properties? ? p Is it pure ZPE? p Can energy be extracted from it? p Can it be manipulated without using mass? ■ Science does not know the true nature of mass. p Created by Higgs particles and fields? p Formed by knotted strings and quantum filaments? ■ Science does not know the true nature of gravity and inertia. p Created by “gravitons”? p Caused by the distortion and displacement of space-time? p Generated as the force from distant matter in the universe? How fast does it propagate through space-time? ? p ■ No proven model exists that explains “everything”. p Gravity-electromagnetism (GEM)? p String/Brane theory? p Heim’s theories? p Tri-Space? ■ Science does not know the nature of Dark Matter & Dark Energy. p Can it be synthesized? p Can it be used for propulsion?

Categories of Propellantless Concepts The concepts listed below are some of the “more popular” ones in their genre and have many variants beyond those presented. ■ Space-Time Warp Systems – Modify the space-time continuum to mitigate relativistic effects and allow for travel. p Alcubierre Warp Drive p Traversable Wormholes ■ Gravity/Inertia/Electromagnetic Coupling – Mitigate, reduce or artificially create gravity/inertia propulsive forces through novel electromagnetic interactions (Grand Unified Theory). p Heim Theory p Gravito-Electromagnetism (GEM) p Mach’s Principle and Mass Fluctuations ■ Alternate Dimensions / “Hyperspace” – Enter an alternate space-time where relativistic effects are circumvented and faster-than-light travel is possible. p Hyperspace in General Relativity p String Theory-Based Alcubierre Drive p Tri-Space and Fluidic Space-Time...

-Comparison of FTL Concepts Trans-Space FTL Travel has many advantages over other FTL concepts… Trans-Space FTL Travel Other FTL Travel Concepts Concept Basic Matter energy transferred from one space to - Disturbance created in spacetime via holes, another through spacetime medium warps, folds, etc. - Access to multi-dimensional spaces/branes Vessel traverses subluminal space by traveling Vessel travels through holes, warps, folds, or Energy Mass through superluminal space hidden dimensions in spacetime - Absolute throughout tri-space - Large amounts required - Conserved between all spaces - ‘Negative’ energy required (?) - No causality effects - Sometimes instantaneous - no causal effects Time - Time travel not possible - ‘Negative’ energy may pose temporal issues Navigation/ - Possible in superluminal space (similar to - Unknown, difficult or impossible Control subluminal space) - Destination must sometimes be known - Detection/Interaction using gravity wells beforehand - ‘Stationary’ EM energies for attitude control - No ‘negative’ quantities required - No guarantee of FTL velocities Other - Transition to FTL state at subatomic level - Quantum effects not defined - No initial velocity required to transition - “Brute force” to get to near-c velocities

- Interstellar Destinations with FTL Travel Within a 15-year mission, where can we go if FTL travel were possible? Distance (Light Years) Name 0.00 Sun (Sol) 4.24 Proxima Centauri (Alpha Centauri C) 4.36 Alpha Centauri (A&B) 5.96 Barnard's Star (Proxima Ophiuchi) 7.78 Proxima Leonis (Wolf 359, CN Leonis) 8.29 Proxima Ursae Majoris (Lalande 21185) 8.58 Sirius (A&B, Alpha Canis Majoris) 8.73 Proxima Ceti (A&B, Luyten 726-8, UV & BL Ceti) 9.68 Proxima Sagittarii (Ross 154, V1216 Sagittarii) 10.32 Proxima Andromedae (Ross 248 , HH Andromedae) 10.52 Epsilon Eridani (Proxima Eridani) 10.74 Proxima Piscis Austrini (Lacaille 9352) 10.92 Proxima Virginis (Ross 128, FI Virginis) 11.27 Proxima Aquarii (A,B&C, EZ Aquarii) 11.37 Proxima Cygni (A&B,61 Cygni) 11.40 Procyon (A&B, Alpha Canis Minoris) 11.52 Proxima Draconis (A&B, Struve 2398) 11.62 GX/GQ Andromedae (Groombridge 34 A&B) 11.82 Epsilon Indi (Proxima Indi) 11.83 Proxima Cancri (DX Cancri ) 11.89 Tau Ceti 11.99 Proxima Horologii (GJ 1061) 12.10 YZ Ceti (LHS 138) 12.1 LY Orange Text denotes presence of planetary system Green Text denotes possible planetary system 43
44. Summary of Propellantless Ideas ■ All “back of the napkin” concepts, so NASA TRL is about 0 or 1. ■ Of the propellantless concepts described, most appear to offer the possibility of light speed or FTL travel: p Alcubierre Warp Drive p Traversable Wormholes p Hyperspace in GR p String-Based Alcubierre p Tri-Space and Trans-Space FTL Travel ■ Subsystems required to support these concepts are still being conceived, as are the actual “devices”. ■ Cosmology and quantum mechanics are intimately related. ■ An “alternate space” is necessary for light speed or FTL travel to be possible. Bottom Line on Propellantless Concepts Right now, these are the only ideas that will allow human interstellar travel within a reasonable timeframe (if they work at all)! So what are we doing about it??

- Experimental Programs ■ Breakthrough Propulsion Physics (BPP) Program at operated by NASA Glenn Research Center (M. Millis), 1996-2002. p GOAL: Exceed the fundamental limits of existing propulsion by further advancing physics to discover the breakthroughs that could revolutionize spaceflight and enable interstellar voyages. p Developed a rigorous process for determining the scientific credibility and validity of unique propulsion ideas involving “new” or “breakthrough” physics. p First dedicated effort to experimentally explore fundamentals of physics- based propulsion concepts. ■ Summary of BPP Program: p Assessed 16 research approaches ($1.55M spread over 1996-2002). – Co-sponsored by WV, NASA-HQ, NASA-MSFC, ESA-ESTEC, NRL, & private industry. – 5 not viable (null) – 7 unresolved – 4 open for continued study p Produced 16 journal publications. p Produced award-winning public education website; “Warp Drive, When?” p Book: "Frontiers of Propulsion Science“ to be released Sept. 2008. – 23 chapters from 18 contributing authors (including editors). ■ Some experimental programs are continuing with favorable results! 45
46. Superconductor Gravitomagnetic Fields ■ Dr. Martin Tajmar and his associates at the Austrian Research Centers (ARC) have experimentally observed a gravity-like (gravitomagnetic) field generated within the vicinity of rotating, superconducting rings. p Field behaves like gravity, hence “gravity- like”. p A “frame dragging” field is predicted by General Relativity. p Characterization of the field is still on- going. ■ The field is 20-30 orders of magnitude greater in magnitude than theory prediction. p General Relativity may not be the parent theory to explain the phenomenon. p Observed field is in the 10-5 g range. ■ Experimental observations are not produced by electrical, magnetic, mechanical or instrumentation disturbances. No known theory in physics Superconducting can readily explain the strength of the Ring field and the observations made to date.

- Potential Gravitomagnetic Field Applications If the gravitomagnetic field can be amplified, controlled, directed, and efficiently produced, the foundation may exist for a remote force generation technology to potentially be used for… Vehicle Control Object Deflection Gravity Gradients Propellantless ■ “Propellantless” satellite ■ Projectile-less, satellite- ■ “Artificial” gravity in space propulsion? or upper stage RCS based missile defense p Extends astronaut ■ De-orbit capability ■ Asteroid or “space junk” endurance deflection p Changes space structure construction techniques ■ “Zero”/microgravity on earth p Crystal growth …Plus a myriad of other medical/manufacturing possibilities.

- Skeptics and Quotations ■ “There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service in the United States.” – T. Craven, FCC Commissioner, in 1961 (the first communications satellite went into service in 1965). ■ “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.” – Mid-1960s. A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.). ■ “Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weight only 1.5 tons.” – Popular Mechanics, March 1949.

- What’s Out There? ■ Mankind needs to venture out into the universe and seek the answers to questions about our evolution, and our fate. p Terrestrial-based and robotic exploration has extreme limitations. ■ Current propulsion technology and near-term advancements will not facilitate rapid, human exploration of the solar system or local stars. ■ A paradigm shift in propulsion technology must happen if we are ever to become a thriving, space-faring civilization. p A departure from the conventional systems into the more physics-based concepts enabling travel at light speed or faster. ■ Contrary to popular belief, the speed of light is NOT the speed limit! p Einstein and others have shown this to be true. ■ Some of the concepts that could take us to the stars could be developed within 50 years with proper program structure, dedicated research, and of course funding. And finally… ■ Open minds and the defiance of convention are essential for the advancement of technology. SO LET’S GO!!!

- Star Trek Star Wars Interstellar Exploration Vessel Orion Star (No...This isn’t from Star Trek)

A Warp Field, According to the Alcubierre Drive

Imagine: you've traveled all the way across the galaxy to some faraway, potentially life-embracing planet orbiting a faraway star, only to obliterate your destination upon arrival. It's a very real threat according to few physicists at the University of Sydney. It turns out that a spacecraft emerging from a so-called Alcubierre warp drive does so quite violently, releasing an accumulation of high energy particles that would annihilate anything in their path.

The Alcubierre warp drive--proposed by a Mexican physicist of the same name back in the 1990s--is a theoretical mechanism by which a spacecraft could deform the space-time continuum in a bubble around itself so it could travel faster than the speed of light while still staying within the parameters of special relativity. So a couple of honors students and their professor at the U. of Sydney School of Physics decided to take the Alcubierre warp drive for a theoretical spin. Their findings: there's no soft landing at the other end of warp speed.

It turns out that bending the space-time continuum has its hazards. During faster-than-light travel, particles that come in contact with this Alcubierre bubble get trapped and accumulate in front it. Some particles can even enter the warp bubble. There is an aggregating effect here, the physicists found, so the longer the bubble travels, the more particles accumulate in front of it.

When the spacecraft is finally decelerated at its destination, that energy is released all at once with such high energy that virtually anything they come in contact with would be instantly destroyed. The particles that wormed their way inside the bubble could also threaten the spacecraft itself. This could be handy if your cruiser drops out of warp speed in the midst of an asteroid field, but it also means that if you dropped out of warp too close to your destination planet you could inadvertently wipe it off the interstellar map. Don't tell The Galactic Empire.








March 10, 2015

Is Warp Drive Real?

Ever since the sound barrier was broken, people have turned their attention to how we can break the light speed barrier. But “Warp Drive” or any other term for faster-than-light travel still remains at the level of speculation.

The bulk of scientific knowledge concludes that it’s impossible, especially when considering Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. There are certainly some credible concepts in scientific literature, however it’s too soon to know if they are viable.

Science fiction writers have given us many images of interstellar travel, but traveling at the speed of light is simply imaginary at present.

In the meantime, science moves forward. And while NASA is not pursuing interstellar flight, scientists here continue to advance ion propulsion for missions to deep space and beyond using solar electric power. This form of propulsion is the fastest and most efficient to date.

There are many “absurd” theories that have become reality over the years of scientific research. But for the near future, warp drive remains a dream.

If you would like to know more about the theories of interstellar flight, you should visit the Tau Zero Foundation. Marc Millis, a former NASA Glenn physicist, founded the organization to consider revolutionary advancements in propulsion.

Past articles of warp drive found at this location have been archived.

Last Updated: Nov. 5, 2015
Editor: NASA Administrator


A energia criada derformara o espaço ao redor do anel. Essa e a dobra espacial.

PROPULSÃO DE DOBRA (Warp Propulsion System)

Sistema de Dobra (Star Trek)

Dobra Espacial: Em 1994, o físico mexicano Miguel Alcubierre propôs um método de alongamento do espaço em uma onda que, em teoria, poderia fazer com que o tecido do espaço à frente de uma nave espacial se contraia, enquanto que o tecido que está atrás da nave se expanda. A nave se deslocaria surfando esta onda dentro de uma região conhecida como bolha de dobra, onde as características normais do tecido espaço-tempo se manteriam inalteradas.











Here's NASA's New Design for a Warp Drive Ship

How NASA might build its very first warp drive

NASA unveils its futuristic warp drive starship

Warp Drive Ship Designs

A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. His proposed design, an ingenious re-imagining of an Alcubierre Drive, may eventually result in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating Einstein's law of relativity. We contacted White at NASA and asked him to explain how this real life warp drive could actually work.

The Alcubierre Drive

The idea came to White while he was considering a rather remarkable equation formulated by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. In his 1994 paper titled, "The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity," Alcubierre suggested a mechanism by which space-time could be "warped" both in front of and behind a spacecraft.

Michio Kaku dubbed Alcubierre's notion a "passport to the universe." It takes advantage of a quirk in the cosmological code that allows for the expansion and contraction of space-time, and could allow for hyper-fast travel between interstellar destinations. Essentially, the empty space behind a starship would be made to expand rapidly, pushing the craft in a forward direction — passengers would perceive it as movement despite the complete lack of acceleration.

White speculates that such a drive could result in "speeds" that could take a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in a mere two weeks — even though the system is 4.3 light-years away.

In terms of the engine's mechanics, a spheroid object would be placed between two regions of space-time (one expanding and one contracting). A "warp bubble" would then be generated that moves space-time around the object, effectively repositioning it — the end result being faster-than-light travel without the spheroid (or spacecraft) having to move with respect to its local frame of reference.

"Remember, nothing locally exceeds the speed of light, but space can expand and contract at any speed," White told io9. "However, space-time is really stiff, so to create the expansion and contraction effect in a useful manner in order for us to reach interstellar destinations in reasonable time periods would require a lot of energy."

And indeed, early assessments published in the ensuing scientific literature suggested horrific amounts of energy — basically equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter (what is 1.9 × 1027 kilograms or 317 Earth masses). As a result, the idea was brushed aside as being far too impractical. Even though nature allowed for a warp drive, it looked like we would never be able to build one ourselves.

"However," said White, "based on the analysis I did the last 18 months, there may be hope." The key, says White, may be in altering the geometry of the warp drive itself.
A new design

In October of last year, White was preparing for a talk he was to give for the kickoff to the 100 Year Starship project in Orlando, Florida. As he was pulling together his overview on space warp, he performed a sensitivity analysis for the field equations, more out of curiosity than anything else.

"My early results suggested I had discovered something that was in the math all along," he recalled. "I suddenly realized that if you made the thickness of the negative vacuum energy ring larger — like shifting from a belt shape to a donut shape — and oscillate the warp bubble, you can greatly reduce the energy required — perhaps making the idea plausible." White had adjusted the shape of Alcubierre's ring which surrounded the spheroid from something that was a flat halo to something that was thicker and curvier.

He presented the results of his Alcubierre Drive rethink a year later at the 100 Year Starship conference in Atlanta where he highlighted his new optimization approaches — a new design that could significantly reduce the amount of exotic matter required. And in fact, White says that the warp drive could be powered by a mass that's even less than that of the Voyager 1 spacecraft.

That's a significant change in calculations to say the least. The reduction in mass from a Jupiter-sized planet to an object that weighs a mere 1,600 pounds has completely reset White's sense of plausibility — and NASA's.

Hitting the lab

Theoretical plausibility is all fine and well, of course. What White needs now is a real-world proof-of-concept. So he's hit the lab and begun work on actual experiments.

"We're utilizing a modified Michelson-Morley interferometer — that allows us to measure microscopic perturbations in space time," he said. "In our case, we're attempting to make one of the legs of the interferometer appear to be a different length when we energize our test devices." White and his colleagues are trying to simulate the tweaked Alcubierre drive in miniature by using lasers to perturb space-time by one part in 10 million.

Of course, the interferometer isn't something that NASA would bolt onto a spaceship. Rather, it's part of a larger scientific pursuit.

"Our initial test device is implementing a ring of large potential energy — what we observe as blue shifted relative to the lab frame — by utilizing a ring of ceramic capacitors that are charged to tens of thousands of volts," he told us. "We will increase the fidelity of our test devices and continue to enhance the sensitivity of the warp field interferometer — eventually using devices to directly generate negative vacuum energy."

He points out that Casimir cavities, physical forces that arise from a quantized field, may represent a viable approach.

And it's through these experiments, hopes White, that NASA can go from the theoretical to the practical.

Waiting for that "Chicago Pile" moment

Given just how fantastic this all appears, we asked White if he truly thinks a warp-generating spacecraft might someday be constructed.

"Mathematically, the field equations predict that this is possible, but it remains to be seen if we could ever reduce this to practice."

What White is waiting for is existence of proof — what he's calling a "Chicago Pile" moment — a reference to a great practical example.

"In late 1942, humanity activated the first nuclear reactor in Chicago generating a whopping half Watt — not enough to power a light bulb," he said. "However, just under one year later, we activated a ~4MW reactor which is enough to power a small town. Existence proof is important."

His cautious approach notwithstanding, White did admit that a real-world warp drive could create some fascinating possibilities for space travel — and would certainly reset our sense of the vastness of the cosmos.

"This loophole in general relativity would allow us to go places really fast as measured by both Earth observers, and observers on the ship — trips measured in weeks or months as opposed to decades and centuries," he said.

But for now, pursuit of this idea is very much in science mode. "I'm not ready to discuss much beyond the math and very controlled modest approaches in the lab," he said.

Which makes complete sense to us, as well. But thanks to these preliminary efforts, White has already done much to instill a renewed sense of hope and excitement over the possibilities. Faster-than-light travel may await us yet.


NASA scientist and Advanced Propulsion Team Lead Harold White has the kind of job thousands dream of and few achieve — he’s in charge of the space agency’s efforts to determine if a faster-than-light warp drive is actually possible and, if it is, how we might create one. Now, in conjunction with artist Mark Rademaker, White has unveiled a new starship model that illustrates how our consideration of the concept has evolved over the decades. Rademaker designed the first theoretical warp ship concept to consciously echo the Matt Jeffries design for the UEV-47; the first faster-than-light version of the Starship Enterprise. This new version of the ship is chunkier, more compact, and according to Harold White, a better match for what the mathematics of an Alcubierre warp drive currently predict.

And of course, she’s called the IXS Enterprise.

Have we found any proof a warp drive can exist?

While a pretty concept design is nice, it still isn’t clear if a warp drive can actually exist. NASA’s current experiments are an attempt to measure whether the warp bubble Alcubierre theorized could exist can exist in our universe. There’s an enormous gap between saying “Mathematically this doesn’t violate any of the known laws of physics,” and saying “We’ve detected an actual warp bubble in the real world.”

The inferometer experiment White oversees is designed to measure such an effect at nanoscale. Currently, data is inconclusive — the team notes that while a non-zero effect was observed, it’s possible that the difference was caused by external sources. More data, in other words, is necessary. Failure of the experiment wouldn’t automatically mean that warp bubbles can’t exist — it’s possible that we’re attempting to detect them in an ineffective way.

Nonetheless, the fact that we’re struggling to even discover if a warp bubble can form is evidence of how much work remains until we could plausibly tap the effect for space exploration. This new ship is as much a PR move as a demonstration of capability — but the implications of a warp bubble that allowed for even fractional light-speed travel are enormous. The ability to move at 1% the speed of light would put the entire Solar System within our reach; 0.1% light speed would make exploration and colonization of Mars or the Moon a much simpler problem.

Harold White's possible warp drive, and star ship

In Harold White’s possible Alcubierre warp drive, the ring around the starship creates a “warp bubble” that allows for faster-than-light travel inside it.

One good piece of news is that early fears that a hypothetical warp drive could be a star system-annihilating event have been disproven by a better evaluation of the mathematics. New data suggests this is unlikely to be an issue, though vessels observing the warp drive ship in close proximity could still be at risk. Energy requirements have also come down sharply, from Alcubierre’s initial calculation that planetary-sized power sources would be required to more recent data that suggests we could build a ship with a power source the size of Voyager 2 — if we can create the necessary effect at the appropriate scale. [Read: The hunt for alien, star-encompassing Dyson Spheres begins.]

For now, a warp drive remains science fiction — but if we can ever build one, the impact on human civilization could rival the invention of fire. Despite some bombastic reporting in other places, it’s not a “real-life” Enterprise — not yet — but the fact that news of warp drive research continues to grab headlines is an example of just how exciting this technology could be.

 Warp field Mechanics paper from the 100 year Starship symposium

This paper will begin with a short review of the Alcubierre warp drive metric and describes how the phenomenon might work based on the original paper. The canonical form of the metric was developed and published in which provided key insight into the field potential and boost for the field which remedied a critical paradox in the original Alcubierre concept of operations. A modified concept of operations based on the canonical form of the metric that remedies the paradox is presented and discussed. The idea of a warp drive in higher dimensional space-time (manifold) will then be briefly considered by comparing the null-like geodesics of the Alcubierre metric to the Chung-Freese metric to illustrate the mathematical role of hyperspace coordinates. The net effect of using a warp drive “technology” coupled with conventional propulsion systems on an exploration mission will be discussed using the nomenclature of early mission planning. Finally, an overview of the warp field interferometer test bed being implemented in the Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory: Eagleworks (APPL:E) at the Johnson Space Center will be detailed. While warp field mechanics has not had a “Chicago Pile” moment, the tools necessary to detect a modest instance of the phenomenon are near at hand.

A good question to ask at the end of this discussion is can an experiment be designed to generate and measure a very modest instantiation of a warp field? As briefly discussed by the author in, a Michelson-Morley interferometer may be a useful tool for the detection of such a phenomenon. The photo above depicts a warp field interferometer experiment that uses a 633nm He-Ne laser to evaluate the effects of York Time perturbations within a small (~1cm) spherical region. Across 1cm, the experimental rig should be able to measure space perturbations down to ~1 part in 10,000,000. As previously discussed, the canonical form of the metric suggests that boost may be the driving phenomenon in the process of physically establishing the phenomenon in a lab. Further, the energy density character over a number of shell thicknesses suggests that a toroidal donut of boost can establish the spherical region. Based on the expected sensitivity of the rig, a 1cm diameter toroidal test article (something as simple as a very highvoltage capacitor ring) with a boost on the order of 1.0000001 is necessary to generate an effect that can be effectively detected by the apparatus. The intensity and spatial distribution of the phenomenon can be quantified using 2D analytic signal techniques comparing the detected interferometer fringe plot with the test device off with the detected plot with the device energized. Figure 5 also has a numerical example of what the before and after fringe plots may look like with the presence of a spherical disturbance of the strength just discussed. While this would be a very modest instantiation of the phenomenon, it would likely be Chicago pile moment for this area of research.

In this paper, the mathematical characteristics of the Alcubierre metric were introduced and discussed, the canonical form was presented and explored, and the idea of a warp drive was even considered within a higher dimensional manifold. The driving phenomenon was conjectured to be the boost field as opposed to purely the York Time which resolved the asymmetry/symmetry paradox. An early idea of a warp drive was briefly discussed within the context of mission planning to elucidate the impact such a subsystem would have on the mission trade space. Finally, a laboratory experiment that might produce a modest instantiation of the phenomenon was discussed. While it would appear that the model has nearly all the desirable mathematical characteristics of a true interstellar space drive, the metric has one less appealing characteristic – it violates all three energy conditions (strong, weak, and dominant) because of the need for negative energy density. This does not necessarily preclude the idea as the cosmos is continually experiencing inflation as evidenced by observation, but the salient question is can the idea be engineered to a point that it proves useful for exploration. A significant finding from this effort new to the literature is that for a target velocity and spacecraft size, the peak energy density requirement can be greatly reduced by allowing the wall thickness of the warp bubble to increase. Analysis performed in support of generating the plots also indicate a corresponding reduction in total energy when converted from geometric units (G=c=1) to SI units, but still show that the idea will not be an easy task. So it remains to be seen if the evolution of the phrase penned by J. M. Barrie in the story Peter Pan will ever be uttered on the bridge of some majestic starship just embarking on a daring mission of deep space exploration taking humanity beyond the bounds of this solar system and boldly going out into the stars: “2nd star to the right, straight on till morning…”

Now, I've never been that much of a ''Trekkie,'' but the idea that NASA is currently in the preliminary stages of building an actual warp drive sends my nerd-ometer off the scale. It may sound like science fiction, but this smart chap, Harold White, is currently in the process of creating and testing small ''warp bubbles'' created in his NASA lab.

The Alcubierre metric. Basically this = warp bubble

What Harold White is doing, is working on improving the efficiency of the above metric, an equation presented by Miguel Alcubierre in may 1994. This metric was inspired by one of his favorite TV shows; Star trek. The Alcubierre metric is a very complicated, multi-variable equation loosely describes the movement of space-time relative to a ''warp bubble'' enveloping a contained plane, referencing the velocity of this bubble moving through space.

Much like in Star Trek, space is contracted in-front
of the craft, while expanded behind it.

Originally, this realistic model for creating a working warp drive would have required almost unimaginable amounts of energy to the tune of the mass-energy of Jupiter. Yeah, that's a lot. Harold White also thought that was an incredible amount of energy too, far outstripping the realms of possibility. So he did what any rational thinker would do.

He made the impossible, possible.

The geometrical curve of space time around a ship.

Harold White examined the Alcubierre metric and found that he could make it much more efficient by tweaking some of the variables. By designing the ring around the ship to be much thicker, he cut the energy requirement down to the mass of a 10m block; a world away from a Jupiter-sized mass. With more lab testing, he believes he can reduce that amount even further. Oh, and if you were wondering, the ''mass-energy'' I'm talking about is attributed to Einstein's equation, E=mc^2
Take a 1kg block of matter and multiply that mass by c^2 (300,000,000 multiplied by 300,000,000) and you get ''mass-energy.'' For a mass of 1kg, that would be 9 million, million joules of energy. Considering the average bilb in a house runs on 50 joules per second... that's a lot of energy.
The precise way of ''extracting'' this energy is though antimatter annihilation... yes, antimatter is a real thing; small amounts are produced in particle accelerators like at Cern every day.
As you have probably concluded by now, curving the fabric of space-time is a very difficult thing to do, requiring a lot of energy and some nifty scientific approaches. That's what Ph.D White is currently working on; producing tiny warp bubbles
and attempting to detect their existence.

This great man needs no introduction.
But... wait just a minute!

Didn't Einstein say something along of ''nothing with mass can travel faster than the speed of light;'' surely this means that warp drives are just science fiction, right?
Yes to the former, no to the latter. Einstein's law of special relativity, which deals with objects with mass being unable to travel faster than light is still correct; you can't break the laws of physics. However, this Alcubierre drive is exploiting a little physics loophole: while anything with mass has a speed limit of light, the relative movement of space time has no known speed limit. What Mr Alcubierre came up with is a device which doesn't move through space, but moves space around itself.
Talk about thinking outside the box...

While a fully working Enterprise is quite a way off, nerds around the world can rejoice that warp drives are no longer a thing of science fiction, but science fact. Only a few years ago, mankind's greatest minds agreed that if Humanity were to ever explore space, it would be over many generations between star systems and we would never see our brave explorers again. Well... the times we live in, eh?


The Alcubierre `top-hat' metric. A bubble of assymetric spacetime curvature surrounds a spacecraft which would sit in the center of the bubble. The disturbance in the positve z direction represents positive dark energy and the disturbace below represents negative dark energy. The space immediately surrounding the spacecraft would be expanding/contracting behind/in front of the craft. In this image the ship would `move' from right to left.


NASA's Warp Drive Ship Design

Thursday Jun 12, 2014

The above image was created in collaboration with researchers at NASA on what a ship with warp drive might look like.

One of the consequences of Einstein's theory of special relativity is that the speed of light effectively becomes a universal speed limit for moving objects. As an object approaches the speed of light freaky things start happening. Time slows down (dilation) and the object's mass approaches infinity since the energy which an object has due to its motion will add to its mass. At the speed of light (c), the object would have infinite mass. And since an object with infinite mass would be pretty damn hard for anyone to push, going the speed of light under those circumstances is nigh-impossible let alone going any faster.

In 1994, physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a metric for expanding the fabric of space behind an object into a bubble and shrinking space-time in front of the object that resembles Star Trek's Warp Drive.

The theories behind warp drive attempt to circumvent the limitation. While Einstein's limitations in special relativity would apply to an object attempting to go faster than the speed of light, nothing in general relativity forbids space itself from moving faster than light. In fact, Cosmic Inflation Theory says the universe did exactly that after the Big Bang, when for less than a second there was exponential expansion. This is the explanation for the "Horizon Problem." The idea of Warp Drive is the same principles behind cosmic inflation can be used to move a ship from point A to point B faster than light.

However, there are a whole lot of "catches" to this idea.

About two-years ago, Dr. Harold "Sonny" White of NASA's Johnson Space Center claimed to have made a discovery which made the idea of warp drive "plausible and worth further investigation."

Two-dimensional visualization of the Alcubierre drive, showing the opposing regions of expanding and contracting spacetime that displace the central region.
From NBC News:

For years, Harold "Sonny" White has been delving into the technical details of a concept known as the Alcubierre warp drive as part of his job at NASA's Johnson Space Center. The idea, put forward by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre, suggests that faster-than-light travel might be achieved by distorting spacetime in a clever way.

To illustrate his talks, White has drawn upon computer graphics from Mark Rademaker, an artist in the Netherlands whose work is often featured in calendars and other publications related to the Star Trek saga. Rademaker, in turn, incorporates the ideas from White's work into his graphics.

Since Alcubierre first proposed the idea, there's been many objections and modifications to it, with the latest iterations claiming to substantially bring down the energy requirement. However, the main tenets of the idea have stayed the same. A ship inside a warp bubble would ride the warping of space around it like a surfboard riding a wave. Since the ship is stationary within the bubble, it effectively circumvents Einstein's speed limit and other side effects. There might not be a need for "inertial dampers," no increase in mass and there isn't any time dilation.

But there is a really big catch to this.
The energy requirement has dropped from needing most of the energy in the universe, to the energy of Jupiter and now just the equivalent of the mass of one of the Voyager probes.

However, the biggest issue with warp drive is the type of energy it requires. In order to form the warp field/bubble, a region of space-time with negative energy density (i.e. repulsing space-time) is necessary. Scientific models predict exotic matter with a negative energy may exist, but it has never been observed. All forms of matter and light have a positive energy density, and create an attractive gravitational field.

From Popular Science:

Though no one has ever measured negative energy, quantum mechanics predicts that it exists, and scientists should be able to create it in a lab. One way to generate it would be through the Casimir effect: Two parallel conducting plates, placed very closely together, should create small amounts of negative energy. Where Alcubierre's model broke down is that it required a vast amount of negative energy, orders of magnitude more than most scientists estimate could be produced.

White says he's found a way around that limitation. In a computer simulation, White varied the strength and geometry of a warp field. He determined that, in theory, he could produce a warp bubble using millions of times less negative energy than Alcubierre predicted and perhaps little enough that a space craft could carry the means of producing it. "The findings," he says, "change it from impractical to plausible."

White shows me into the facility and ushers me past its central feature, something he calls a quantum vacuum plasma thruster (QVPT). The device looks like a large red velvet doughnut with wires tightly wound around a core, and it's one of two initiatives Eagleworks is pursuing, along with warp drive. It's also secret. When I ask about it, White tells me he can't disclose anything other than that the technology is further along than warp drive. A 2011 NASA report he wrote says it uses quantum fluctuations in empty space as a fuel source, so that a spaceship propelled by a QVPT would not require propellant ... White's warp experiment is tucked into the back corner of the room. A helium-neon laser is bolted onto a small table pricked with a lattice of holes, along with a beam splitter and a black-and-white commercial CCD camera. This is a White-Juday warp field interferometer, which White named for himself and Richard Juday, a retired JSC employee who is helping White analyze the data from the CCD. Half of the laser light passes through a ring—White's test device. The other half does not. If the ring has no effect, White would expect one type of signal at the CCD. If it warps space, he says "the interference pattern will be starkly different."

When the device is turned on, White's setup looks cinematically perfect: The laser is bright red, and the two beams cross like light sabers. There are four ceramic capacitors made of barium titanate inside the ring, which White charges to 23,000 volts. White has spent the last year and a half designing the experiment, and he says that the capacitors will "establish a very large potential energy." Yet when I ask how it would create the negative energy necessary to warp space-time he becomes evasive. "That gets into . . . I can tell you what I can tell you. I can't tell you what I can't tell you," he says. He explains that he has signed nondisclosure agreements that prevent him from revealing the particulars. I ask with whom he has the agreements. He says, "People come in and want to talk about some things. I just can't go into any more detail than that."


Warp Core (Traveller)

The Core

All ships capable of travelling between stars have a warp core located somewhere in the ship. Its one of the most expensive parts of a ship and is thus highly cared for as even a single mistake can cost the crew of the ship their lives as their atoms are spread across the galaxy.


A warp core is a piece of solid matter that has been excited to the point of it existing both in our quantum reality and the upper reality which is used to warp ships. The warp core then extends this field around the ship and thus forms a warp field. The core then propels the ship forward through creating a forward force inside the warp field (or warp bubble as its often called).

The amount of energy required to create a warp field is incredibly high and most modern power plants relies on fusion of matter and antimater to create the necessary energy to warp. This fusion of matter creates enough energy that when imparted into a material that can absorb it, the material is powered enough to generate an increasingly stable energy field which exists outside our space. It's this field that extends around the ship (or rather, is created around the ship) and lifts the limits of the world. If the field would be 100% outside our universe, the atoms would split because in the other quantum reality, there are no forces who keeps the atoms together.

You could claim, as a simplification, that a ship's warp engine 'lifts' the ship up from our universe halfway to another and thus allows it to exist in both realities at once (in truth, only the gravity of the ship as well as a tachyon stream exists in the hard space that is our universe). As long as the warp field connects to both realities the ship will be able to travel at faster than light speeds unhindered by our universal laws that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, thus ignoring the mass build up.


One of the few detectable signs of a ship in warp is the fact that the gravitational coefficient still applies to hard space even if a ship is in warp. This is thought to be because gravitons still connects the ship to hard space. Thus a ship is detectable if one has a gravity sensor. Gravitons are created in the Warp Core and released into the field. These gravitons thus encases the Warp bubble.

These Gravitons can then interact with gravity in hard space, making warping close to large objects fairly risky. If One would try to activate a warp field on a planet the energy output would need to be at least doubled to even establish a stable field, but, the worst thing that can happen, is that the gravitons of Hard Space may tear the warp bubble away from the ship, thus making the ship enter Hard Space at above light velocity...


  • If gravitons are flooding the warp core, the field is failing and can't support the gravitons, or the field itself has lost connection to the warp core. This can also be inverted, so that the field loses cohesion with the warp core because the gravitons aren't there to hold it in place.
  • An object of great mass might "rupture" the warp bubble surrounding the ship, letting parts of Real Space in. the bubble must either be shut down or regenerated somehow to correct this problem. If not fixed, small pieces of "Hard Space" will sift through the bubble and hit the ship at high velocity, causing hull damage.


It is entirely possible to warp without having any propulsion forward and thus 'lie in wait' inside the warp. While not perfect, this could act as a stealth method, especially if being close to an object of large mass (which in turn makes it increasingly difficult to enter warp). The warp signature can still be detected (although at a -2 penalty) by most basic sensors of TL 9+.

Interference and Interactivity

Major sources of gravity can interfere with a Warp drive, possible even forcing a ship out of warp prematurely (hence the importance of not navigating to close to stars). Other warp fields, especially larger ones, can also interfer witha ships warp field and thus destabilize the lesser field. It's, at least theoretically, possible to match two ship's warp fields so that they can exist in the same part of the warp at the same time and thus interact with each other, but it has never been tried or confirmed by Terrans.

The frequency of a Warp field can be calculated using the following formula: (TONNAGE * WARP SPEED)/(WARP DRIVE FREQUENCY * FIELD STABILITY)

Theoretically, if two not matching fields interact, the lesser field (or the most unstable one if the frequencies are close enough) will collapse.


While there are plenty of things that can interfere with a warp drive, the largest error factor comes from gravity which is generated by mass. Gravity imposes a difficulty for the warp field to fully stabilize as the propulsion part of the engine wants to take the path of least resistance, i.e. towards the object with the largest mass.

This pull can be calculated with the following formula:
(M * W^2)/U
Were U is the frequency of the warp field and the W is equal to the warp speed which the ship runs at.

if the distance to another object is less than short distance, apply the following penalty to any Jump check (note that you add mass together if there are several heavy objects near the ship):

Mass     DM
x1-x2    -1
x2-x5    -2
x6-x10   -3
x11-x50  -4
x51+     -10


If the Field Frequency suddenly starts to shift without command, there's probably a buildup of pressure inside the Warp Core, forcing the field to be generated at a higher rate than necessary. Such a buildup can occur when...

  • ...the buffers to the Field Stabilizers are full (Computers, rare)
  • ...the Field is being interacted with by a higher frequency field (Engineering, rare)
  • ...the Hard Space which the ship travels through has been affected by some sort of anomaly (Engineering W-Drive, rare)


A ship will distort the space around it as the warp field forces it out of our universe. This distortion will be worst just after entering warp and just before leaving warp. Strong fields can actually damage and destroy real space objects.


The first attempt at a Warp Drive was in 2147, just before the buildup of tension that would escalate into the Terran Civil War. The first conceptual build was that of a small rocket equiped with an experimental Warp drive to prove if the theory of relativity could be fitted togheter with the String theory in a way unheard of before 2147. The rocket was instantly vaporized as the warp field was to unstable. Schematics for a more stable drive was perfected, but the Civil War made any attempts to build the new rocket impossible.

The Second launch of a warp capable rocket was in 2227 as one of the unifying projects that the Terran Democracy set up to promote stability over the world. This proved to be a success as only four hours after the launch signals from over 200.000 miles away could be detected.

The first ship to enter warp was in 2235. The ship was completly vaporized as it smashed right into the moon, the scientists having failed to measure the time it took to cool down the warp field. the ship thus crashed right into one of Jupiter's moons...

This wasn't corrected until the second launch in 2237 after several attempts had lead scientists into discovering the field time variable. The second launch was successful (although it would've destroyed the ship had they aimed for the moon).

The third real warp trip was between Earth and Mars at a speed that could be compared to Warp 0.001, using a light fusion engine driven by hydrogen.


Rules and data

Whenever a new warp engine is installed (or the current one is heavily damaged) roll once for Field, Propulsion and Output. This roll designates the stability of the drive and how it handles under certain situations. This can't be noticed at first though as it takes roughly 2-12 jumps to nail down the personality of the drive and having a "bad" is non-refundable.


The field of a warp drive measures how stable the field is under normal circumstances. A failed field leads to immediate exit of our warp and also potentially to a lethal situation. Check agains teh Warp Drive Stability. If the roll fails, the ship is disintegrated and all aboard are killed. if successful, the drive manages to handle the situation and the ship drops out from warp with only 1d6-1 hits and 3d6 damage.


While the field value measures the stability of the warp field, the Propulsion value measures just how well a ship drives in the direction designated by the navigator. An unstable Propulsion may lead to misjumps and wrong directions. If the Propulsion fails, Roll 2d6 + stability DM. If this fails, the ship is sent off in the wrong direction and ends up at the wrong space. Treat this as a misjump.


Field and Propulsion handles finess... Output handles pure power of the warp drive. Output is also the potential of the warp drive and measures just how much one can tweak and improve the engine without severe consequences. An unstable output may lead to the ship dropping out of warp unexpectedly (possible with damage) and not travelling as fast as intended. If the Output fails, the ship drops slowly otu of warp and takes 1d6-1 hits to the warp engine.



Cooling Coils/Cell

Function: The Cooling Coils, or the "CC" as it's commonly called, are used to cool down the engine from the extreme temperatures that might spike inside the Core. These are often connected to the ship's environmental controls so that the ship might benefit from the extreme temperature by siphoning some of it off as to make living in the ship comfortable.

Malfunctions: If the Cooling Cell reaches a temperature it isn't designed to handle, the Cell might start to degenerate and loose cohesion, at which point it might even begin to melt! This requires either to redirect the flow of heat/energy from the Cell into a backup cell or


Function: The Core is the reactor were the anti-matter and matter collide to create the energy needed to create a stable Field. The core itself is heavily magnetically sealed to protect the rest of the ship from the reaction.

Malfunctions: The Core might "breach" if the magnetic field collapses, allowing the energy and the anti-matter to reach the ship. if it does, it'll begin to rip the ship apart.


Roll 2d6 for Field, Propulsion and Output and add any modifiers from the Type of Drive and then add any modifiers from the company producing the drive.

Roll                     Stability  Output  Propulsion  Repair Time  Repair Cost*  
0 to 5    Unstable       +2 DM      -2 DM   -2 DM       -25%         -10%
6 to 10   Stable         +4 DM      +0 DM   +0 DM       +0%          +0%
11 to 14  Very Stable    +5 DM      +1 DM   +1 DM       +10%         +10%
15+       Utterly Stable +7 DM      +3 DM   +3 DM       +25%         +20%
  • Measured in tonns of spare parts used

Max Warp: Max warp is a special value that is attributed to each engine. It modifies the warp speed of a given ship with its engine in it. Multiply the warp factor by this value when running the motor. It's written x/y/z, were x is the max warp that it can perform at within the standard limits set by the producer. The second value, the y, is the max warp that the engine can perform at normaly. the third value, the z, is the max warp it can perform at theoretically. Passing this limit is nigh impossible, as there's to little output from the warp engine. Going above the first value will result in loss of warranty.

Note: Stability DM starts at +4 while the other two are as per the table.


If we are talking field drives(drives that bends spacetime), then I have a few suggestions...

A field drive is a drive that affects spacetime in order to move the ship without it itself accelerating, so it can travel "faster" than the speed of light without contradicting E^2=(mc^2)^2+(pc)^2
Warpdrive, or Alcubierre drive, uses negativ matter(matter with anti-gravity properties) to bend spacetime and creates a "bubble" of spacetime being expanded behind the ship, while contracting it infront of the ship, which moves it forward.

One problem: The "bubble" will take up high energy particles between your point of origin and your destination, which will be released when the ship stops. It is no limit for how many high energy particles that can be collected this way, which means that the released radiation can destroy an entire starsystem and possibly more.

An other problem: The warp drive could turn into a black hole.

Diametric drive means to create a local gradient in spacetime. This can be done by having positiv energy at one end of the ship, which will cause spacetime to bend "downwards"(or creates a negative curvature if that explanation explains it better), and negative energy at the other end that makes the spacetime bend "upwards"(positive curvature).

Pitch drive works in a similar manner, but does not require two different fields, but only one field that creates the slope by itself.

23 Sep 2012

A bias drive alter the properties of space itself like for example the gravitational constant, to create a local gradient in space that moves the spaceship. This could fit as an Alien1 drive or an Alien2 drive, and it means that Scotty got no excuse.

A disjunction drive works by seperating a field from what the field reacts to, which wil result in "forces on the part that normally reacts to the field."(Link:disjunction drive)

I do not know wether these drives would catch high energy particles to, and I would be gratefull if any one could tell me if that is the case.

27 Jun 2013

A wormhole drive(as proposed by dr. Rodney McKay, link: Stargate Atlantis: Season 5 Episode 20-Enemy at the Gate) creates a tunnel of warped space that can be used for instantaneous travel from one point in space to another, and also through time and to other universes.

This could be used for an Alien1 drive.

Wormholes would be very unstable, so it would be necessary with negativ energy in order to keep the wormhole open while you travel through it.

Or you could just use a hyperdrive, which means that the spaceship "jumps" into hyperspace(a dimension outside ordinary spacetime) and jumps into space again at another point.

Or maybe a duality drive, that uses a principle of quantum mechanics that is that a particle can be at two places at once. It basicly causes the spacesip to be at two places in the universe at once, and then you can decide which of those places you want the ship to be in.

Millis space drives

Seven types of hypothetical space drives suggested by Marc Millis of the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program at NASA's Glenn Research Center (see Millis drives). Three are speculative and closely-related varieties of space sail: the differential sail, the diode sail, and the induction sail. The four others are the bias drive, the diametric drive, the disjunction drive, and the induction ring.

A disjunction drive is one of the most speculative of the seven types of hypothetical space drives suggested by Marc Millis of the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program at NASA's Glenn Research Center (see Millis drives).

The term "disjunction" refers to the idea of separating the source of a field from that which reacts to the field (normally considered inseparable), resulting in forces on the part that normally reacts to the field.

Artist's concept of a disjunction drive spacecraft

This one alters space-time to reduce gravity on one side, causing space-time to have be "sloped", and the ship falls of that slope.

Millis Drives

These are several different types of hypothetical space propulsion systems created by the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program. Between 1996 and 2002 it was funded by NASA (A total of $1.2 million) and eventually was shut down due to lack of immediate breakthroughs (Although this was to be expected, of course).


The founder and manager of the program, Marc G. Millis, now works for the Tau Zero foundation, which he founded, based on the novel of the same name.


The differential sail works absorbing the radiation that hits the frontal surface and reflecting the radiation that hits the back surface, pushing it forward ever so slightly, due to the difference in pressure (Radiation pressure) from both sides.


The diode sail works like a one-way mirror, letting radiation flow freely when it comes from the front, and reflecting whatever hits the back of the sail.

Internet Encyclopedia of Science posted:
The diode sail is mentioned in the screenplay by Steven Soderbergh of the 2001 film version of Solaris. Toward the end of the film, Sartorius says "We do not have time to deal with this. Get the diode sail into position and let me know when the bias drive and the induction ring are at zero point."


Well, this is just like the above, but the radiation pressure is reduced and increased on the frontal and back surfaces of the sail (Respectively).



This one alters space-time to reduce gravity on one side, causing space-time to have be "sloped", and the ship falls of that slope.



Well, I can't make out any of this, but this is what the Internet says:

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/D/diametric_drive.html posted:
A generic version of a 1957 negative mass propulsion concept, the diametric drive would somehow create an asymmetric field around itself. The interactions of the positive and negative field would then, it is conjectured, propel the spacecraft.


I don't... Whatever.

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/D/disjunction_drive.html posted:
The term "disjunction" refers to the idea of separating the source of a field from that which reacts to the field (normally considered inseparable), resulting in forces on the part that normally reacts to the field.


The induction ring would have a large ring of negative energy around it, creating a tiny bubble of warped space-time, allowing the ship to move freely without using any propellant.

Star Trek Tech...

Warp Drive
As the desire to expand outward beyond the Terran system grew in strength, it was immediately obvious that the sub-light propulsion systems of the time would not allow space travellers to reach out beyond the local borders. A need for a dramatically faster propulsion system became evident. Many scientists spent much time and effort into developing technologies that would allow distant worlds to be reached in a useful manner. The technology, in its theoretical stage, was generally referred to as Continuum Distortion Propulsion. It was known then that it would be necessary to "rebuild" the laws of physics to permit faster-than-light travel.


In time, a primitive engine system was developed. Credit for this goes to the team led by Zephram Cochrane working in the aftermath of the planet's Third World War. In early 2063, Cochrane's team created the first faster-than-light propulsion system. He calls this an Fluctuation Super-impeller. This system, mounted into a test vehicle, was able to straddle the speed of light, remaining on either side of the barrier for no longer than Planck time (1.3 x 10-43 seconds, the smallest amount of measurable time). This permitted Cochrane's device to overcome the infinite amount of energy otherwise required to accomplish the goal.

Early Continuum Distortion Propulsion systems, which were then starting to be called Warp Drives, were immediately installed into existing vessels with little difficulty. Though extremely inefficient and slow by today's standards, they allowed the travellers to get the start it needed in their mission of exploration and expansion. Existing timetables specifying decades and centuries for movement had become a matter of months and years. Cochrane and his team relocated to Alpha Centauri to continue their original work as well as exploring other applications of their invention.

The method for overcoming the limitations of non-Newtonian methods (propulsion from non-reactive products) is based on nesting multiple layers of warp field energy, each one interacting with others in certain ways. Working together, they drive the vessel forward in a manner known as Asymmetrical Peristaltic Field Manipulation (APFM). Warp field actuation conductors in the nacelles are energized sequentially in a fore-to-aft manner. The frequency of firing determines the quantity of field layers, therefore determining the ship's velocity. Each new layer pushes outward, experiencing rapid coupling and decoupling at varying distances from the nacelles, transferring energy and separating from other layers at speeds of .5*c* and .9*c*. When coupling, the radiated energy moves into subspace, apparently reducing the vessel's mass and allowing it to pass through the layers of warp field energy.


Power Measurement
To honour the inventor of warp propulsion, the energy of subspace field stress is measured in units called cochranes. This also measures non-propulsive applications of spatial distortion equipment, such as tractor beams and deflector shields. Strengths less than one cochrane are measured in millicochrane.

A field of 1000 millicochranes represents the subspace field existing at a velocity of warp factor one. Field intensity at higher warp factors increase in a geometric pattern.

Fuel Storage
There are two distinct fuel storage systems on board any starship; the matter storage is generally a single large fuel tank holding a large amount of slush Deuterium, sufficient for a mission period of three years assuming normal use of warp and impulse drive, orbiting of planets, etc.

The antimatter is contained within much smaller pods; the standard starship antimatter pod is capable of holding 100 m3 of fuel for a total of 3,000 m3. Starfleet is somewhat reticent about revealing exactly how much antimatter is kept on board its starships, as this would allow threat forces to make detailed estimates of the total output of a ships power systems. It is known that the antimatter used in the Intrepid class is anti-hydrogen, and that it is kept stored within magnetic fields. In the event of a systems failure which threatens antimatter containment, the pods can be thrown clear of the ship by emergency systems of considerable reliability.

Fuel from the pods is sent to the reactant injectors; these are designed to condition and feed streams of matter and antimatter into the warp core. The matter reactant injector is located at the top of the warp core; it is a conical structure some 5.2 metres in diameter and 6.3 metres high. The injector is constructed of dispersion strengthened woznium carbmolybdenide. Shock attenuation cylinders connect it to the deuterium fuel tank and the skeletal structure of the ship, allowing it to 'float' free within the structure.

Within Starfleet vessels, the MRI contains redundant sets of cross-fed injectors. Each injector would consists of a twin deuterium manifold, fuel conditioner, fusion pre-burner, magnetic quench block, transfer duct/gas combiner, nozzle head, and related control hardware. Other designs are in use by civilian craft and other species. Although operation varies from class to class, in general slush deuterium enters the inlet manifolds and is passed to the conditioners where heat is removed. This brings the deuterium to just above solid transition point micro-pellets are formed and then pre-burned by a magnetic pinch fusion system. The fuel is them sent on to a gas combiner where it reaches a temperature in the region of 106 K. Nozzle heads then focus the gas streams and send them down into the constriction segments.

Starfleet safety protocols require that should any nozzle fail, the combiner can continue to supply the remaining nozzles which would dilate to accommodate the increased fuel flow. The present generation of nozzles are constructed of frumium-copper-yttrium 2343.

The antimatter injector lies at the lower end of the warp core. Its internal design is distinctly different from that of the matter injector owing to the dangerous nature of antimatter fuel; every step in manipulating the anti-hydrogen must use magnetic to keep the material from physically touching any part of the structure. In some ways the ARI is a simpler device requiring fewer moving components. It uses the same basic structural housing and shock attenuation as the matter system, with adaptations for magnetic suspension fuel tunnels. The structure contains three pulsed antimatter gas flow separators; these serve to break up the incoming anti-hydrogen into small manageable packets and send them up into the constriction segments. Each flow separator leads to an injector nozzle and each nozzle cycles open in response to computer control signals. Nozzle firing can follow highly complicated sequences resulting from the varying demands of reaction pressures and temperatures and desired power output, amongst other factors.


Magnetic Constrictors
The magnetic constrictors make up the bulk of the warp core. They provide physical support to the reaction chamber, pressure containment for the whole core and, most importantly, guide and align the fuel flow onto the desired location within the reaction chamber.

The matter constrictor is typically longer than the antimatter constrictor, as antimatter is easier to focus and so requires a shorter distance for the same accuracy. Typically, the magnetic constrictors are divided into segments; each segment will contain several sets of tension frame members, a toroidal pressure vessel wall, several sets of magnetic constrictor coils and related power and control hardware. Constrictor coils will have dozens of active elements, and on more advanced designs these will be configures to contain the magnetic field almost wholly within the constrictor, with minimum spillage into the exterior environment. Starfleet warp cores usually have the outermost layers of the constrictors constructed of a semi-transparent layer which allows harmless secondary photons to escape from the inner layers, creating a glow effect. This gives an immediate visual cue to the current activity rates within the warp core.

As the fuel is released from the injector nozzles, the constrictors compress it and increase the velocity considerably. This ensures the proper collision energy and alignment within the reaction chamber.

Warp Core
This is in many ways the "heart" of the ship. The principle function of any reaction chamber is to allow the matter and antimatter streams to come together and direct the resultant energy flow into the power transfer conduits. This apparently simple task is rendered highly complex by the need to allow the various sensor and other monitoring and control equipment to function within the chamber. The addition of dilithium to regulate and control the reaction, while allowing far higher efficiency and so increasing the power output, has also lead to ever more complex designs - most especially in more recent starships which are designed to allow continual recompositing of the dilithium whilst in use. Nevertheless, reaction chambers of today perform fundamentally the same task as those of a century ago or more.

The USS Windsor has the added capability that the warp core can be ejected. Although this means a loss of warp power, the USS Windsor is capable of retrieving the warp core or alternatively replacing it with the auxiliary warp core located within the ship.

Power Transfer Conduits
The power transfer conduits are similar in nature to the magnetic constrictors of the warp core, in that they are ducts designed to use high energy magnetic fields to carry energetic plasma from one point to another. But where the magnetic constrictors operate only across relatively short distances and require a very high degree of precision with a comparatively low energy plasma, the PTC's must carry very energetic plasma across large distances with - relatively speaking - far less finesse.

Federation starships are equipped with a separate PTC line for each nacelle, a measure which increases resistance to battle damage or other failures. Since most Starships have twin nacelles, two PTC's will typically be arranged to be symmetrical about the ships centreline. These will proceed through the bulk of the engineering hull and along the connecting struts, if any, to the nacelles themselves.

Smaller versions of these heavy duty systems are also used to carry power to components such as the phasers, shields, and high energy scientific laboratories.

Plasma Injectors
At the terminus of the Power Transfer Conduits are the plasma injectors. One of these devices is fitted in each nacelle, and has the task of sending a precisely aimed plasma flow through the centre of the warp coils.

Because of the relatively low accuracy with which the plasma flow is usually controlled by a PTC, the plasma injector system must often be designed to re-condition the fuel flow in order to dampen down turbulence and so ensure a smooth flow through the warp coils. In many Starfleet designs, most especially those systems with the highest raw power output, the plasma flow from the PTC is split into two parts and sent through swirl dampers before being recombined during the injection process. Long experience has found that this method reduces the size of the required hardware to a reasonable minimum.

Warp Coils
After its long but brief journey from the fuel systems, the flow is finally directed down the warp coils. These devices are large split toroids which take up the bulk of the nacelle. In order to increase efficiency they are usually made from multiple layers of various materials; this complicates the manufacturing processes greatly and has - so far - kept the replication of warp coils beyond Federation science.

The warp coils generate a multi-layered set of fields around the craft, creating the propulsive forces that enable a Starship to travel beyond light speed. Manipulation of the shape and size of the field determines the velocity, acceleration and direction of the vessel.

These values can fluctuate to some degree based on local conditions (density of any gasses present, conditions of subspace in the area, magnetic fields present, etc.) Vessels normally travel under warp propulsion between solar systems but experience energy penalties due to quantum drag forces and engine system inefficiencies.

The power to maintain a warp factor velocity is a function of the cochrane value of the warp field. The energy required to transition from sub-light to warp propulsion is much higher than that used to maintain a warp velocity. This phase is called Peak Transitory Threshold (PTT). Once crossed, energy production requirements decrease significantly.

While the technology involved in these systems has improved greatly over the generations, there are still limitations in the warp driver conductor that make any great advancements in the near future unexpected. Major discoveries will have to be made to permit any significant improvements in existing systems.

Fractional warp factors refer to cases where a vessel is moving faster than an integral values (such as warp factor two or warp factor three). Such a condition results in the expenditure of more energy than that required to maintain the next higher integral warp factor. It is common practice to avoid travelling at fractional warp factors to minimize energy expenditure and extend fuel supplies.

The Threshold Limit establishes that warp stress increase asymptotically, approaching warp factor 10 (on the current warp factor scale) but never reaching it. The energy to reach the velocities approaching warp 10 increase geometrically, while the warp driver efficiency decreases at such velocities. The frequencies needed to perform the necessary coupling and decoupling become impossible to achieve. This eventually exceeds the limits of the controlling system, but more importantly Planck time measurement. Even if warp factor 10 were able to be achieved, a vessel at that speed would occupy all points in the universe at the same *time*. If such a condition were to be achieved, there is no known way to be able to control a vessel in such a state. One of the most important considerations resulting from reaching a velocity of warp factor 10 would be how to be able to control where the vessel would end up upon deceleration.

Windsor Warp Propulsion
The Warp Field Propulsion System (WFPS) of the USS Windsor comprise three major assemblies:

  1. The Matter/Antimatter Counteraction Module (M/ACM)
  2. The Power Distribution Channels (PDC)
  3. The Warp Field Actuation Nacelles (WFAN)

Reactant Infusers
The infuser units send precise amounts of matter and antimatter into the counteraction core. The Matter Reactant Infuser (MRI) receives super-cold deuterium from the Main Deuterium Storage Tank (MDST) from its location on Deck 23 and heats it in a continuous gas-fusion process. The infuser passes the gas through a group of throttled nozzles into the upper dynamic compression segment.

The MRI is built from a conical structural vessel 2.6 x 3.15 meters made of dispersion-strengthened berylium carbmolydbenide. Thirty-two impact-dampening bolsters (IDB) connect it to the MDST and major vessel space frame cross members on Deck 13. The entire assembly "floats" within the vessel to protect it from stresses put on the hull.

Inside the MRI are six redundant cross-fed sets of inducers, each consisting of twin deuterium inlet manifolds, fuel conditioners, fusion preburners, magnetic quench barriers, transfer duct/gas compositors, nozzle heads and controlling hardware. Slush deuterium enters the manifolds where it is cooled to a near-solid state. This results in the creation of microscopic pellets that are preburned by magnetic pinch fusion and sent into the gas compositor. Here the ionized gas streams into the compression segments. If a nozzle fails, the remaining ones will adjust to accommodate extra material. Each nozzle of the MRI measures 51 x 87cm and is made of frumium-copper-yttrium 2343.

Opposite the MRI is the Antimatter Reactant Infuser (ARI). Due to the nature of antimatter and how it reacts with matter, the ARI assembly has a design differing greatly from the MRI. All portions of the ARI must be contained within magnetic fields to prevent the antimatter from making contact with the ARI. The ARI is simpler in design in many ways, but is complicated by the precautions needed for handling antimatter.

The MRI and ARI structural housing and IDBs are quite similar with additional magnetic shielding for the ARI. There are three antimatter gas flow regulators that divide the incoming anti-deuterium into small packets that go into the lower compression segments. Each flow separator goes to an infuser nozzle, each opening based on computer controls. The nozzle operation sequences can be quite varying in nature based on operating conditions at any one time.

Dynamic Compression Segments
The upper and lower dynamic compression segments (DCS) comprise the central mass of the warp core. These support the Matter/Antimatter Counteraction Module (M/ACM). This provides a pressure vessel to maintain an operating environment and align the incoming matter and antimatter streams. The upper DSC is 9 meters in length while the lower unit is 6 meters; both are 1.24 meters in diameter. A normal compression segment has eight sets of tension frame members, a toroidal pressure vessel wall, twelve sets of dynamic compression conductors and related feed & control hardware. Compression conductors are high-density forced matrix cobalt-lathanide-boronite, having thirty-six active elements configured to provide maximum strength within the pressure vessel, permitting little or no field spillage into manned areas of Engineering. The vessel toroids are alternating layers of vapour-deposited carbonitic ferracite and transparent aluminum borosillicate. Vertical tension members are machined tritanium and cortentite reinforcing struts, phase transition-bonded in place during vessel construction. All engine frame members have conduits for reinforcement field energy for use in Patrol Mode. The outer layer is the only indicator of engine performance due to harmless photons being emitted through the multiple layers having a red glow. This is monitored by the Engineering department.

When matter and antimatter streams are sent out of their emitters, the compression conductors focus the stream and accelerate them by 100 to 150m/sec. This is done to help make sure the streams hit the center of the M/ACM chamber, where the dilithium crystal housing is located.

Reactor Core
This assembly consists of two bell-shaped cavities that contain and aim the matter and antimatter streams. This chamber is 1.5 meters high and 1.25 meters in diameter. It is made of twelve layers of hafnium six excelion-infused carbonitrium, phase transitioned welded under a pressure of 31,000 kilopascals. The outer three layers are shielded with acrossenite arkenide for overpressure protection.

The central band of the reactor core contains the housing for the dilithium crystal alignment support (DCAS). An armoured hatch allows access to the DCAS. DCAS consists of an EM-isolated cradle to hold 600cm3 of dilithium crystal material and two sets of crystal orientation linkages. The crystal assembly undergoes constant monitoring and adjustment to keep the crystals properly aligned for maximum efficiency.

The central band is connected to the upper and lower core segments with 36 structural connection pinions. These pinions are hafnium eight molyferrenite reinforced in tension, compression, and torsion. They are contiguous with the engine SIF. In the middle of the central band are two layers of diffused transparent tritanium borocarbonate for reaction energy visual monitoring.


Dilithium is the only substance known to Federation science (and the science of other races to our knowledge) that is able to come into contact with antimatter without reacting to it while in an environment of high levels of EM radiation. Dilithium allows the antimatter to pass through its structure without making contact. Until recent years it was thought that dilithium would be impossible to create until recent advancements made it possible. It has also become possible to regenerate used dilithium, making it useable again. This has been done by utilizing gamma radiation bombardment. Experiments continue to explore the possibilities of trilithium.

WFPS Startup Procedure

  1. From a cold condition, the entire system is raised to 2,500,000K from a combination of energy from the EPA and MRI systems with a "squeeze" from the upper DCS.
  2. The first amount of antimatter is passed through the ARI and aligned with the stream from the MRI into the dilithium crystal housing. The cross-section of the streams can vary depending on power settings. There are two reaction modes here:
    1. High levels of energy are directed to the EPA, similar to a standard fusion reaction, which provides power for the vessel at sub-light speeds. The DCAS positions the dilithium cradle so the facets lie parallel to the matter/antimatter streams. The reaction is governed by the dilithium, modulating the EM frequencies between 1020 (ten to the twentieth) and 10^12 (ten to the twelfth) Hz.
    2. Full use of the dilithium's ability to suspend the reaction is made. This beings the process of channelling energy into the warp nacelles, allowing faster-than-light velocity travel. In this case the matter/antimatter streams meet 20 angstroms above the upper dilithium crystal facet. Optimum frequency range depends on current warp factor and is continuously returned for maximum efficiency. The M/A ratio is stabilized at a ratio of 25:1 and is considered to be at "idle".
  3. Engine pressure is increased to 72,000 kilopascals. The operating temperature of 2x1012K is reached. The MRI and ARI units open up. M/A ratio is made 10:1 for power creation, which is also the ratio for warp factor one. The ratio is adjusted further for higher warp factors until warp factor eight brings the ratio to 1:1. Still higher velocities result from additional reactants being injected, though the ratio remains unchanged.

Warp Nacelle Power Conduits
Energy produced within the warp propulsion core is divided into two streams at near-right angles to the vessel centerline. Power Distribution Conduits (PDC) are similar in nature to the compression segments in that they compress the plasma flow into a small stream in the center of the conduit and force it into the nacelles. The energy is then utilized by the Warp Field Propagation Conductors (WFPC) for propulsion.

PTC channels extend aft from the engineering spaces where they meet the warp nacelle struts. These channels are fabricated from six layers of machined tritanium and transparent aluminum borosillicate that are phase transition welded into a single pressure-resistant structure. The connection to the counteraction module are explosive joints capable of separating within .08 seconds in the event the warp core needs to be jettisoned. These joints are created during construction and cannot be recycled.

EPA taps for the power distribution grid are installed in the PDC at three locations. The taps are of the following types:

Type I accepts 0.1% capacity flow for high-energy systems.
Type II accepts 0.01% capacity flow for experimental usage.
Type III accepts low-power input for energy-conversion devices.

Warp Nacelles
Energetic plasma created in the M/ARH unit passes through the PDC into the warp nacelles. This is where warp propulsion comes from. The nacelle is made up of several segments, including the Warp Field Actuation Conductors (WFAC), Plasma Infuser Module (PIM), jettisoning system and maintenance hatches.

The nacelle structure is similar to the rest of the Sulu. Tritanium and duranium framing is combined with longitudinal stiffeners. This is overlaid with 1.25 meters of gamma-welded tritanium hull plating. Three inner layers of directionally strengthened cobalt cortenide gives protection against high levels of warp-induced stress, especially at the jettisoning point. Triply-redundant conduits for SIF and IDF energy systems are installed in the structure. Inside the framing is impact-dampening bolsters for the WFAC, as are thermal insulation struts for the PIM.

The jettisoning system is utilized in cases where the PIM experiences a failure unable to be repaired in the field, or if damage sustained by the nacelle poses a threat to the rest of the vessel. Ten jettisoning charges are installed in the nacelle structure that would allow separation from the vessel at a rate of 20 meters/second.

Plasma Infuser Module
At the end of each PDC is the Plasma Infuser Module (PIM). This is a series of eighteen valved magnetic Infusers linked to the warp propulsion control system. Each warp field conductor has its own infuser unit that are fired in a variable sequence based on the manner of flight. These Infusers are made of arkenium duranide and single-crystal ferrocarbonite and magnetic constriction toroids of nalgetium serrite. Twelve redundant links maintain an interface to the computer control system. Fractional differences in timing exist between the control systems and hardware at startup time. Software routines are designed into the control system to compensate for this time lag.

The Infusers operate on a open/close cycle of between 25-50 nanoseconds. At the warp factor increases, so does the infuser firing frequency as well as the open/close cycle rate. At the highest warp velocities, infuser cycle time levels off due to limitations of the infuser mechanical operation. The fastest cycle time considered safe is 53 nanoseconds.


NASA unveils its futuristic warp drive starship – called Enterprise, of course

By Joel Hruska on June 11, 2014 a

ISX Enterprise

NASA scientist and Advanced Propulsion Team Lead Harold White has the kind of job thousands dream of and few achieve — he’s in charge of the space agency’s efforts to determine if a faster-than-light warp drive is actually possible and, if it is, how we might create one. Now, in conjunction with artist Mark Rademaker, White has unveiled a new starship model that illustrates how our consideration of the concept has evolved over the decades. Rademaker designed the first theoretical warp ship concept to consciously echo the Matt Jeffries design for the UEV-47; the first faster-than-light version of the Starship Enterprise. This new version of the ship is chunkier, more compact, and according to Harold White, a better match for what the mathematics of an Alcubierre warp drive currently predict.

IXS Enterprise

And of course, she’s called the IXS Enterprise.

Have we found any proof a warp drive can exist?

While a pretty concept design is nice, it still isn’t clear if a warp drive can actually exist. NASA’s current experiments are an attempt to measure whether the warp bubble Alcubierre theorized could exist can exist in our universe. There’s an enormous gap between saying “Mathematically this doesn’t violate any of the known laws of physics,” and saying “We’ve detected an actual warp bubble in the real world.”

The inferometer experiment White oversees is designed to measure such an effect at nanoscale. Currently, data is inconclusive — the team notes that while a non-zero effect was observed, it’s possible that the difference was caused by external sources. More data, in other words, is necessary. Failure of the experiment wouldn’t automatically mean that warp bubbles can’t exist — it’s possible that we’re attempting to detect them in an ineffective way.

Nonetheless, the fact that we’re struggling to even discover if a warp bubble can form is evidence of how much work remains until we could plausibly tap the effect for space exploration. This new ship is as much a PR move as a demonstration of capability — but the implications of a warp bubble that allowed for even fractional light-speed travel are enormous. The ability to move at 1% the speed of light would put the entire Solar System within our reach; 0.1% light speed would make exploration and colonization of Mars or the Moon a much simpler problem.

Harold White's possible warp drive, and star ship

In Harold White’s possible Alcubierre warp drive, the ring around the starship creates a “warp bubble” that allows for faster-than-light travel inside it.

One good piece of news is that early fears that a hypothetical warp drive could be a star system-annihilating event have been disproven by a better evaluation of the mathematics. New data suggests this is unlikely to be an issue, though vessels observing the warp drive ship in close proximity could still be at risk. Energy requirements have also come down sharply, from Alcubierre’s initial calculation that planetary-sized power sources would be required to more recent data that suggests we could build a ship with a power source the size of Voyager 2 — if we can create the necessary effect at the appropriate scale. [Read: The hunt for alien, star-encompassing Dyson Spheres begins.]

For now, a warp drive remains science fiction — but if we can ever build one, the impact on human civilization could rival the invention of fire. Despite some bombastic reporting in other places, it’s not a “real-life” Enterprise — not yet — but the fact that news of warp drive research continues to grab headlines is an example of just how exciting this technology could be.

For more on NASA’s warp drive tech, scrub through to the 40:30 mark in the video below and listen to White discuss the ship at SpaceX’s SpaceVision 2013 conference.


 What If NASA Could Figure Out the Math of a Workable Warp Drive?

Posted November 28, 2012 by Dave Glyde |

A new line of research hopes to drastically reduce the amount of energy required for warping space-time, and get us to Alpha Centauri in just two weeks time.

by Rebecca J. Rosen

When, a few weeks ago, astronomers announced that an Earth-sized planet had been detected orbiting a Alpha Centauri B, a star in the closest system of stars to our own, and that this planet might, just might, mean that there is another planet, maybe another Earth-sized one, maybe, just maybe, in that magical distance from a sun that could give rise to life, and that all this was taking place right there in our galactic backyard, the next thought was inevitable: What if there is life there?

What if we, the people of the early 21st century, could be among the generation -- the first and only of all the generations ever -- that would be first know that we were not alone?

But then there is the inevitable letdown: Even if we did find a planet in one of those nearby stars' habitable zone and even, even, if we could detect an atmosphere that could harbor life, then what? Alpha Centauri may be the closest star system to Earth, but it's still four light years away. Voyager 1, our farthest-traveled probe is moving at *38,000 miles per hour*, and after 35 years, it's still in our solar system (barely). Moving at Voyager's speed, it would take 700 *centuries* for a mission to reach Alpha Centauri. With speeds like that, we stand to become the first generation to know life is out there, and to not be able to know much more than that. The prospect is maddening.

Of course, our only hope would be to travel at much, much greater speeds. As MIT astronomer Sara Seager explained here at The Atlantic to Ross Andersen:

There are a lot of people who think we have the capabilities to get to a tenth of the speed of light. People are using that number as a benchmark of what they think is attainable, whether it's with a solar sail or nuclear pulse propulsion. If we could achieve that speed, then we could get to Alpha Centauri in just over 40 years.

Whenever I give a talk to a public audience I explain the hazards of living on a spacecraft for 40 years, the fact that life could be extremely tedious, and could possibly even include some kind of induced hibernation. But then I always ask if anyone in the audience would volunteer for a 40+ year journey, and every single time I get a show of hands. And then I say "oh I forgot to mention, it's a one way trip," and even then I get the same show of hands. This tells me that our drive to explore is so great that if and when engineers succeed at traveling at least 10 percent of the speed of light, there will be people willing to make the journey. It's just a matter of time.

So, one-tenth the speed of light and we could be there in 40 years. That's not half bad. As Seager notes, many people would be willing to give up Earth and make that assuredly miserable journey for the privilege of being the first humans to explore another solar system. But still: 40 years, it's no cakewalk.

That's why a new number, care of NASA physicist Harold White, is so stunning: Two weeks. Two weeks to Alpha Centauri, he told io9, if only we can travel by warping space-time.

Of course, of course, easier said than done, but White thinks it's possible, and he and a team at NASA are at the very early stages of making it so. io9's George Dvorsky explains:

The idea came to White while he was considering a rather remarkable equation formulated by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. In his 1994 paper titled, "The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity," Alcubierre suggested a mechanism by which space-time could be "warped" both in front of and behind a spacecraft.

space fabric

Michio Kaku dubbed Alcubierre's notion a "passport to the universe." It takes advantage of a quirk in the cosmological code that allows for the expansion and contraction of space-time, and could allow for hyper-fast travel between interstellar destinations. Essentially, the empty space behind a starship would be made to expand rapidly, pushing the craft in a forward direction -- passengers would perceive it as movement despite the complete lack of acceleration. ...

In terms of the engine's mechanics, a spheroid object would be placed between two regions of space-time (one expanding and one contracting). A "warp bubble" would then be generated that moves space-time around the object, effectively repositioning it -- the end result being faster-than-light travel without the spheroid (or spacecraft) having to move with respect to its local frame of reference.

And that's not even the hard part: Ever since this idea was floated, the catch has been the absolutely enormous amount of energy such an event would require. As White explains, "Space-time is really stiff, so to create the expansion and contraction effect in a useful manner in order for us to reach interstellar destinations in reasonable time periods would require a lot of energy." When he says a lot, he doesn't mean a couple of nuclear-power plants' worth; he means energy equal to the mass-energy of Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system. So that's not going to work.

But, as Dvorsky explains, White has recently come up with a new design for a warp drive, one that, theoretically, would require way, way less energy. "I suddenly realized," he told Dvorsky, "that if you made the thickness of the negative vacuum energy ring larger -- like shifting from a belt shape to a donut shape -- and oscillate the warp bubble, you can greatly reduce the energy required -- perhaps making the idea plausible." White believes that with his new design, warp drive could be achieved with the power of a mass that is even smaller than Voyager 1's. I'm not going to pretend that I have the faintest clue how this would work or how NASA would conceivably build such a thing, but the idea that physicists at NASA are even toying with it gives me hope that interstellar travel could one day be possible, even if this isn't how it is ultimately accomplished.

White emphasizes that all of this is *extremely* preliminary, just theoretical math and some very small-scale lab experiments. Additionally, other scientists have raised concerns that warp drive could be potentially very dangerous, potentially destroying the destination in its path. But, still, it's an exciting reminder that the parameters we accept today may some day melt away.


The far reaches of space – the final frontier – are within mankind’s grasp now more than ever. And the town of Vulcan AB, located in the Canadian Badlands, is set to bring the future of our civilization, our species and our planet one step closer with this monumental 40-year, $1.132 Trillion project to build a 1:1 scale fully functional U.S.S. Enterprise starship.

To prepare the full project launch, we need to raise an initial $2 000 000 000 in order to fund important research into the creation, and development, of warp-drive technology.

This is where we begin…


The town of Vulcan (pop. 1836), located in the Canadian Badlands of southern Alberta, is the Official Star Trek Capital of Canada, and the spiritual centre of the Star Trek universe. As such, Vulcan plays host to an annual mid-summer Star Trek celebration and festival called Spock Days. While the town was established in 1915 by the Canadian National Railroad, and named Vulcan in honour of the Roman god of fire, this vibrant prairie community has since grown to embrace it’s connection to all things Star Trek-related. The town has developed a Tourism and Trek Station to welcome visitors, and is also home to a stunning collection of authentic costumes and props from Star Trek television programs and films located at the Trekcetera museum. As a result, numerous luminaries from the Star Trek franchise have made the pilgrimage - a veritable must for all Star Trek fans - to Vulcan over the years.

Vulcan AB - http://www.vulcantourism.com

Town of Vulcan @ Google Earth - http://goo.gl/bzvo0r

The Canadian Badlands – www.canadianbadlands.com

Beyond it’s unique connection to the Star Trek universe, the outskirts of town feature more than enough space to house the massive work force of more than an estimated 10 000 engineers, scientists and labourers required to complete such a massive undertaking. And the skies above the surrounding country side, in addition to the wide-open landscape itself, will allow plenty of room for construction and initial sub-orbital testing.


Upon reaching our initial funding goal we will construct a research centre in Vulcan that will become a repository for everything we, as a species, know about faster-than-light travel, gravity control and more. Most importantly, though, the VSLRC will also become home to an advisory panel comprised of the world's foremost thinkers on the subject, who will be tasked with determining which research projects into warp-related fields will be funded through the VSLRC.


Just outside the town of Vulcan AB, lies the decommissioned Vulcan Aerodrome. As a former Royal Canadian Air Force base, this historic site provides a unique foundation upon which the entire project can be built. Surrounded by the 90 000 sq. km. of beautiful big sky country that make up The Canadian Badlands, the site will be expanded, renamed The Vulcan Spaceport, and will become the permanent home to the production facilities required to construct the Enterprise, as well the spaceport required to service the mighty ship. This will comprise Stage #2 of the overall project to build a USS Enterprise.

Vulcan Aerodrome @ Google Earth - http://goo.gl/by8dYa


The most exciting aspect about this project is that the vast bulk of the technology required to complete it already exists. For instance, if we look at the dimensions of the Excelsior-II class variation of the starship USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-B) as an example, the length of the hull is stated as 469m. As a direct size comparison, the USS Gerald R. Ford, a US Navy Ford-class aircraft carrier currently nearing completion, is 337m. So building a starship of this size is certainly possible.

The primary component of a functional starship USS Enterprise is, of course, it’s warp drive propulsion capabilities. This gives the ship the ability to travel at faster-than-light (also referred to as ‘super-luminal’) speeds. Needless to say, at present the technology to create a warp drive does not exist. However, while there are a variety of technologies that will need to be developed for this project to be successful, faster-than-light propulsion is, essentially, the main technology required to build a functional USS Enterprise starship. And this technology is not unobtainable. The solution may not be a true warp drive, as it exists within the Star Trek universe but, if the goal is super-luminal travel, then there are a variety of potential alternatives that could be engineered into a working propulsion system.

A detailed list provided by NASA can be found here: http://goo.gl/dkGAz8

In order to achieve the technology required to construct a faster-than-light propulsion system, breakthroughs in a variety of scientific fields must be achieved. And there are researchers already pushing at the boundaries of what is possible in these areas - a prime example is Harold G. “Sonny” White (a mechanical engineer, aerospace engineer and applied physicist research) who is the Advanced Propulsion Team Lead at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre. He and his team have created a White-Juday warp field interferometer, and are working towards the potential creation of an Alcubierre warp bubble.

Listen to Dr. White explain his research and the theoretical concepts upon which his work in warp drive research is based here:

Additional detailed information on this particular research project can be found here: http://goo.gl/ECt3DB

And this is a diagram of a potential warp-drive engine based on current theoretical physics concepts:

Through the initial funding raised by this project to ultimately build the USS Enterprise, we will direct substantial portions towards the support of crucial research projects into scientific fields associated with warp technology. In order to make the scientific advancements we need, the best and brightest research minds on the planet must be able to focus on these fields, and we intend to provide them with the resources necessary to do so. The Apollo space program and the Manhattan project are just two examples of theoretical technologies made real through the dedication of substantial, focused funding.

At present, we know that NASA - which has done an incredible job since their inception at pushing the envelope of all that is possible with regard to space exploration technology - has a finite budget that they are able to allocate to advanced research projects. And our goal is supplement the push to develop those fields while groups like NASA, Space X and others work to develop relevant current, and near-future, space technologies.

Once we have achieved our initial goal to fund warp technology research, we will proceed to secure the funds required to complete the entire USS Enterprise project.


How Close Are We to Star Trek Propulsion?

By David Warmflash | September 17, 2014


It’s popular to talk about how the original Star Trek, set in the 23rd century, predicted many devices that we’re using already here in 2014. It started with communicators that manifested as flip-open cell phones that many already consider too primitive, moved through computers that talk and recognize human voices and provide instant translation (all of which are constantly improving), to medical applications such as needle-free injection, anti-radiation drugs, and a medical tricorder.

But looking at the more exotic Star Trek technologies, it’s harder to find credible reports that we’re close to a Trek-like world. This is true for Star Trek’s transporter: Despite some success in “quantum teleportation,” which could have applications for computers and possibly communication technology, no experts are saying that this is about to lead to a technology for beaming humans or any other objects from place to place.

It’s also true for space travel. Star Trek depicted a world where people would move between planets and star systems (at least nearby systems) frequently and very swiftly. The United Federation of Planets contains worlds separated by dozens of light-years, which ordinary Earthlings regularly traverse over time periods measured in days to weeks.

Clearly that’s one aspect of Star Trek technology that is far from being a reality in the present day. But the topic isn’t just in the realm of sci-fi: Scientists are taking various approaches to try to create the next generation of space propulsion, beyond the chemical rockets that require most of the mass of the ship to be fuel.

If we want spaceflight to become routine for humans as aviation did, we’ll need major innovations. Are any just around the corner?

Everyday Space Travel

You may have heard about a new experimental NASA engine, as the story was circulating at warp speed less than a month ago. Stories have been quite optimistic, with headlines such as “Impossible NASA engine may actually work.” And now, because of inclusion of the word “impossible,” there’s been some backlash of skepticism based on a rationale that goes something like “How could it be that an engine violates Newton’s third law of motion (for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction)? Surely NASA is more likely to be wrong than Newton.”

We don’t know how the story will turn out, but for the record let’s establish one thing: if the new engine works, it does not violate Newton’s third law. The misunderstanding is based on the fact that the propulsion device does not require a supply of reaction mass. Instead the idea is that, using a kind of electromagnetic effect, it manages to exert force against virtual particles in space. These are subatomic particles that, according to quantum theory, continuously pop into and out of existence. Newton’s theory is a special case that does not apply in the quantum world, just as it does not apply to objects moving at relativistic speeds (close to the speed of light).

Einstein demonstrated the latter, which did not disprove Newton, but expanded on his discoveries, while a series of other physicists developed quantum theory, which also does not disprove Newton. Whether you’re throwing a basketball, performing a double twisting back somersault, or flying supersonic across the Atlantic Ocean, Newton is still correct. And he’d be correct with this experimental engine too, taking the virtual particles into account. Yes, they sound weird, but in terms of a reaction mass, they’re like the water or the air being pushed back by the propeller of a boat or airplane.

Warping Space

Now let’s go beyond this new engine. What about warp drive? On Star Trek, warp allows humans and others to travel faster than light without violating the laws of physics. The theory of special relativity, which Albert Einstein presented in 1905, shows that no object can reach the speed of light. Over the next several years, however, Einstein developed his theory of general relativity, consisting of various field equations that solved in different ways. It turns out that some of the solutions that can be worked out for the Einstein field equations allow us to move space itself faster than light. In other words, we could warp space, squeezing the space in front of a ship and stretching the space behind us.

Nobody knew this was possible back in the 1960s; at that time, Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, simply needed a way to move the USS Enterprise swiftly between star systems. In addition to going where no TV show had gone before by providing thoughtful social commentary, Roddenberry wanted a show that would be more plausible scientifically than other space shows of the time. Remember Lost in Space, and how the Robinsons started out in suspended animation, because it would take decades to get to the nearest star system, then all of a sudden they could traverse interstellar distances in a matter of days? Roddenberry wanted to do a lot better, and that’s what led to the warp engines.

Over three seasons, an animation series, movies, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and subsequent Star Trek series, we learned more of the details of warp drive. Warp had been invented by a human, Zefram Cochrane, in the mid-21st century, but the Vulcans had invented it centuries earlier. It required an exotic substance called dilithium and a device called a warp coil. And finally, the technology had progressed in increments; Cochrane’s warp had been relatively slow, and only by the mid 22nd century (a century before Kirk’s Enterprise) had humans achieved warp 5, equivalent to 125 times the speed of light (Cochrane scale). But slower warp had been good enough for Cochrane’s generation to colonize the Alpha Centauri system, 4.3 light-years from Earth.

Here in the real world, we’d be thrilled with any warp. Is it possible?

The answer is yes, because of what I wrote earlier about solutions to the Einstein field equations. In 1994, inspired by watching Star Trek, Miguel Alcubierre, a college physics student at the time, published the first solution to the field equations that allowed for warp drive. It was a totally theoretical project, which Alcubierre has since abandoned. He doesn’t think it’s feasible technologically, because it requires something like all of the energy in the universe, or at least star-sized amounts of energy, and it also needs negative energy.

Crunching the Numbers

But a few scientists studying applied physics have tweaked Alcubierre’s theory in recent years, making the idea much more feasible, both in terms of the needed energy and in generating warp in a way that aligns with aspects of our current technological prowess.

First, the needed energy. Alcubierre’s original theory was based on the idea of compressing space ahead of the ship and expanding it behind the ship to create a bubble-like warp field whose walls would be thinner than the nucleus of an atom.

This, says Sonny White, director of NASA’s warp research program in Houston, is like trying to squeeze a wooden tabletop down to the width of a sheet of paper. “You couldn’t make the tabletop much thinner by squeezing it with your hand,” White says, since that would take more energy than your fingers could generate. “But you could squeeze it to be a nanometer or so thinner.”

Similarly, there are warp bubbles that would be much easier to achieve energetically than the one Alcubierre used in his calculations. The Alcubierre warp bubble has walls with a thickness on the scale of what’s called a Planck length (~1.62 x 10-35 meters), but if you increase the wall thickness up to a few hundred nanometers, meaning the size range of the wavelengths of visible light, it turns out that the energy requirement plummets.

And not only does the technology become more feasible from a quantitative standpoint (i.e. the amount of energy needed), but from a qualitative standpoint as well. “Not only does the thicker bubble wall mean that we’d need a lot less energy to generate the warp, but it also means we might do it with electromagnetic technology,” explains Eric Davis, a breakthrough propulsion physicist at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Austin, Texas. “And that’s precisely the kind of technology that we humans have developed.” Just think about that cell phone.

In other words, changing a few numbers in Alcubierre’s calculations makes warp at least thinkable in terms of doable technology. Based on similar tweaked calculations, White has also figured out that space can be softened to a certain extent, like changing the wooden table into foam, making it that much easier to compress. Another tweak, discovered by Davis, is that if the warp generator is pulsed, i.e. turned on and off really fast, that reduces the energy requirement further. And, by the way, even the need for negative energy that I mentioned earlier need not be a show-stopper, since there is a kind of negative energy — negative vacuum energy — that could be created by certain capabilities that we have, including lasers and a technology known as quantum optics.

Warp Research

Utilizing a quantum optics approach, the teams headed by Davis and White (the physicists, not the ice dancers) are thinking big, but taking careful baby steps. Explaining exactly what they’re doing requires a language of quantum physics, in which most interested readers (as well as writers) are not fluent, and that’s why you may have seen exaggerated stories, with illustrations of warp ships, suggesting that NASA already has the blueprints.

No, despite the beautiful drawings, there is no ship design. But what they’re doing is designing and modifying quantum optics devices to be able to detect minute warp effects from lasers and other technology. If this succeeds, the next step would be to track down whatever components of the devices produce the mini-warp effect and tweak the design so as to amplify that effect.

That’s a far cry from ships in the illustrations, or from the Enterprise, or even from Zefram Cochrane’s early primitive warp engines. Nevertheless, it could mean that we’re at least a little closer to Star Trek propulsion than you may have thought.



Engineer Studies Advanced Propulsion Systems

Graphic depicts how an Alcubierre drive would distort space-time, creating negative gravity behind a spacecraft and a positive “gravity well” in front of it. The spacecraft rides this “gravity wave,” possibly faster than the speed of light.

In a windowless office, the walls adorned with “Star Trek” and rocket engine posters, Aerospace project engineer Greg Meholic studies the kind of things that seem taken from, well, an episode of “Star Trek” — warp drives, wormholes, gravity drives, that sort of thing.

These all relate to propulsion systems that do not use propellants, but instead “manipulate the very framework of mass, energy, space, and time to alter the environment such that unique characteristics and vehicle motions are possible,” as Meholic wrote for an Aerospace Technical Report.

Although these propulsion systems are undoubtedly far in the future, there is a good reason to be aware of them now.

“If anyone is doing credible, serious work on rocket engine or propellantless propulsion systems — no matter how theoretical it is at this point — we want to be cognizant of that work,” said Meholic. “Since this kind of technology could potentially benefit national security space, Aerospace needs to be made aware and prepared to evaluate it because it could really be a game-changer.”

Meholic, whose full-time job is assessing new propulsion system and space launch technologies for the Space and Missile Systems Center’s development planning and projects group, nonetheless finds time occasionally to delve into the more exotic aspects of rocket science. He has contributed sections on breakthrough propulsion physics and nuclear thermal rockets to an Aerospace Independent Research and Development project called Beyond Next Generation Access to Space. He has also developed a presentation on propulsion systems theoretically capable of taking humans to nearby stars that has proved rather popular among various American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) audiences — he gave the invited presentation eight times last year to AIAA groups around the country.

One part of the AIAA presentation deals with the warp drive, a fundamental feature of the “Star Trek” storylines.

There are a couple versions of a warp drive, the traditional one familiar to “Star Trek” fans is now called an Alcubierre drive, named for the Mexican theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre, who described how the drive would work in “The Warp Drive: Hyper-fast travel within general relativity,” which appeared in the science journal Classical and Quantum Gravity in May, 1994. As the title of Alcubierre’s paper indicates, this is an example of real physicists adopting terminology and concepts from fiction, since warp drives were extensively described in the original “Star Trek” television series, which aired from 1966 to 1969.

In an Alcubierre drive, space-time is manipulated so that a positive gravity well is created in front of a spacecraft, while a negative gravity pushing force is created behind it. The spacecraft rides this “gravity wave,” and according to the laws of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, the spacecraft essentially stands still while the universe moves around it, possibly at speeds faster than the speed of light.

While the mathematics of the Alcubierre drive are sound, some practical problems remain, such as producing enough energy to create the negative gravity and coming up with a workable navigation system.

Another type of warp drive, called a traversable wormhole, bends the fabric of space, much like folding a sheet so that opposite ends are on top of one another, and creates a hole of sorts through which an object can instantaneously go from one part of space to another. Again, mathematically possible, but creating the wormhole involves enormous quantities of both positive and negative matter (the latter being very different from antimatter) as well as very powerful magnetic fields.

Other popular concepts receiving extensive consideration among the propellantless propulsion community include gravity-inertia electromagnetic coupling systems that involve creating or manipulating gravity through precise control of electromagnetic forces, and various types of alternate dimensions, sometimes called “hyperspace.” The latter is sometimes related to the esoteric concept of modeling spacetime like a fluid and would permit faster-than-light (FTL) travel without violating Einstein’s relationships. To that end, sparsely funded experiments are actually being performed to validate the fundamentals of these ideas and are producing some interesting, noteworthy results.

As one would expect, NASA has a vested interest in propellantless concepts. The agency funded research into breakthrough propulsion physics (BPP) at its Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1996 through 2002. The BPP project, which cost under $1.6 million over six years, produced 16 peer-reviewed journal articles, an AIAA book detailing the concepts and technical challenges of propellantless systems as well as the website, Warp Drive, When?, which is written for the general public and is still available at:


“Because these ideas are built around controlling the fundamental building blocks of nature with as-yet- unknown aspects of physics, we have no idea what their development cycle is or how long it would take to turn a concept into a workable engine,” said Meholic, “But if and when anything ever does come to fruition, Aerospace will be ready to educate and engage our customer on the application to national security.”

—Lindsay Chaney


Faster-Than-Light Drive

Instead of using rockets or thrusters, a craft equipped with warp drive would move by distorting space.
By Konstantin Kakaes Posted April 1, 2013

Kris Holland, based on Enterprise Design by Matt Jeffries

The Warp Drive

The warp drive proposed by Miguel Alcubierre would achieve faster-than-light speeds by distorting space-time. The device would generate a field of negative energy that would squeeze or stretch space-time, creating a bubble. The bubble would ride the distortions like a surfer on a wave. As evidenced in the big bang, space-time can expand so quickly that objects move faster than the speed of light.

1) The vertical dimension represents how much a given volume of space-time expands or contracts in Alcubierre's model. Positive values [red] imply an expansion. When space-time expands behind a craft, it propels the ship forward.

2) Inside the warp bubble, neutral space-time would leave the ship undisturbed. Passengers would experience a gravitationally calm zero-G environment.

3) Negative values [blue] imply a contraction in space-time. The contraction balances the expansion of space-time as the bubble moves forward.

Negative Energy: Creating a warp drive requires negative energy—a mysterious form of matter that repels rather than attracts. While predicted to exist, it has never been measured in a laboratory, and known methods for creating it are extremely limited; they would generate so much positive (normal) energy that any negative energy effects would likely be drowned out.

Faster-Than-Light Limitation: If scientists could generate a powerful field of negative energy, they would need to position some of it in front of the craft. "The problem," says Alcubierre, "is that you wouldn't be able to make this field reach the region you need." In other words, to get the energy in front of the craft, it would need to move at faster-than-light speeds, which is impossible.

Destabilization: Even if scientists could generate and position a field of negative energy, there is little reason to think the integrity of the field would hold. A group of Spanish and Italian researchers wrote a paper in 2010 arguing that quantum mechanical radiation, analogous to the Hawking radiation that appears at the event horizon of black holes, would show up and "inevitably lead to [the warp bubble's] destabilization whenever superluminal speeds are attained."

Courtesy Thomas Müller and Daniel Weiskopf, based on Milky Way Panorama by ESO/S Brunier

Watching Warp

If a ship with warp drive zipped past a stationary observer, according to a simulation by German researchers, he or she would see the drive's effect on space, pinching as it approached [top], transitioning as it passed [middle], and dilating as the ship moved away [bottom].

Read the Popular Science_ profile of NASA engineer Harold "Sonny" White and his research into warp drives here, from the April 2013 issue of the magazine._



The Alcubierre class is a class of starships operated by the Joint Terrestrial Space Agency. The first ship of the class, the TSS Miguel Alcubierre, broke the light barrier on 14 July 2156. The ships have made the first surveys of other systems and the first voyage to Avalon and back by a human-built starship.

The Alcubierre and its line are named for Dr. Miguel Alcubierre, a 21st-Century Mexican physicist, who first advance the theory that effectively superluminal travel could be achieved by creating a warp field in space. Prior to Alcubierre's discovery, superluminal travel was strictly in the realm of science fiction; after the discovery, it remained there for nearly 130 years, as the energy requirements needed to create a warp field appeared essentially impossible, even with refinements on the idea by Dr. Harold White of the United States.

That impossibility was solved in the early 22nd century with the creation of artificial gravity, which allowed a means of warping space that did not require converting 1 MJ into pure energy. The first partial warp field was created at CERN in 2138, and the European Space Agency immediately began efforts to turn it into a practical drive. Those efforts were taken over by the JTSA in 2148, and construction began on the Alcubierre at the Google Shipyards in 2152. The ship was originally slated to launch in 2159, but after First Contact, the development of a practical warp ship was dubbed a matter of international importance, and the JTSA was granted additional funding to complete the ship, which launched on 1 March 2156.

Further ships were launched over the next decade. The Alcubierre traveled to Avalon between 2163 and 2165, a significant milestone in human space travel, and one which gained the notice of the Titan Empire.

The Alcubierre ships have all been retrofitted to Warp 1.1; while a more powerful power plant could hypothetically push their speed to Warp 1.6, further speed developments are likely to focus on the new Orion class vessels, which can hold five times the crew and have a hypothetical maximum speed of warp 5 -- though they will initially launch with a maximum speed of warp 1.4.

Miguel Alcubierre

The TSS Miguel Alcubierre (1C-001) is warp starship operated by the Joint Terrestrial Space Agency. The lead ship of the Alcubierre class , the ship was laid down in 2152, launched three years ahead of schedule in 2156, and was commissioned on 1 January 2158. First commanded by Capt. Ted Martínez, and currently commanded by Capt. Rudolf Köhler, the ship was the first human-designed and constructed vessel to break the warp barrier, first to travel to another star system (Alpha Centauri), and first to travel to Tau Ceti.

The Alcubierre is named for Dr. Miguel Alcubierre, a 21st-Century Mexican physicist, who first advance the theory that effectively superluminal travel could be achieved by creating a warp field in space. Prior to Alcubierre's discovery, superluminal travel was strictly in the realm of science fiction; after the discovery, it remained there for nearly 130 years, as the energy requirements needed to create a warp field appeared essentially impossible, even with refinements on the idea by Dr. Harold White of the United States.

That impossibility was solved in the early 22nd century with the creation of artificial gravity, which allowed a means of warping space that did not require converting 1 MJ into pure energy. The first partial warp field was created at CERN in 2138, and the European Space Agency immediately began efforts to turn it into a practical drive. Those efforts were taken over by the JTSA in 2148, and construction began on the Alcubierre at the Google Shipyards in 2152.

Alcubierre Logo Experimental

The ship was originally slated to launch in 2159, but after First Contact, the development of a practical warp ship was dubbed a matter of international importance, and the JTSA was granted additional funding to complete the ship. Ted Martínez, who served as second officer on the TSS Stanisław Lem during First Contact, was named captain of the Alcubierre in August of 2156. At launch, much of the interior of the ship remained unfinished, especially crew quarters and space designed for supporting the crew during interstellar flight. The interior of the ship was completed by JTSA staff at Titan Station .

Breaking the Light Barrier

Humanity officially became the ninth known species to break the light barrier when the Alcubierre reached 1.003c during a test flight on 14 July 2156. Though the test run was supported by staff from the Titan Empire, the Empire did not assist in any way with the construction or operation of the Alcubierre prior to the mission.

Missions to Alpha Centauri and Tau Ceti

The Alcubierre formally transitioned from spaceship to starship on 29 September 2158, when the ship entered the Proxima Centauri system. It then traveled to Alpha Centauri B, landing on the third planet in the system, which was named Skathi by Martínez. After departing Skathi, the Alcubierre traveled to the Alpha Centauri A system, before returning home, docking at Titan Station on 22 December.

The Alcubierre then traveled to Tau Ceti in 2161, reaching the system after a two-month journey in July of that year. It surveyed the system for two months, including two months on Tau Ceti e, which the Alcubierre's crew declined to name, as they reported that it is an excellent colonization candidate, assuming the Empire would ever be persuaded to let Earth colonize it, and that naming the world should be left to potential colonists.

Avalonian Mission

The Alcubiere's most consequential mission was its 2163-2165 mission to Avalon. The mission took over a year in total, with most of that time in transit to and from the Sol Tarsuss system. In addition to being the first human-constructed ship to make the journey, the Alcubierre surveyed super-Mu class planets at 40 Eridani and π3 Orionis, and ultimately surveyed fourteen star systems, including the Sirius system. The mission earned Martínez and the ship a share of the 2166 Nobel Peace Prize.

Post-Avalonian Service

The Alcubierre has continued to survey local star systems, returning twice each to 40 Eridani and π3 Orionis, and discovering a variable super-Mu class world at 53 Ursae Majoris that even the Empire had failed to find. The ship has also made one return trip to Avalon, this one shorter due to upgrades in its warp drive.

The Alcubierre and other ships of its class will remain in service at least through 2200; it has been upgraded to a cruising speed of Warp 1.0 with a maximum speed of Warp 1.2, which is the limit of this particular airframe's speed.

In 2174, its second captain, Cato van der Graaf, was promoted to command of the TSS Orion. Rudolf Köhler, the executive officer of the TSS Pavel A. Cherenkov, was promoted to serve as the Alcubierre's third captain.


Has NASA designed a warp drive?

NASA hasn’t designed a warp drive and is not looking to in the near future. Image Credit: Adrian Mann

Asked by Jon Terrance

NASA has not designed a warp drive and it does not plan to in the future. In fact, the idea of a warp drive is still, in scientific terms, at a level of speculation rather than true science. The main issue with this technology is that nearly all of the scientific knowledge we have acquired suggests that faster-than-light travel is impossible.

One scientist, Miguel Alcubierre, suggested a model a for warp drive in 1994 that involved compressing space in front of the object, rather than making the object travel faster than the speed of light. However, subsequent calculations proved that a vessel would require negative mass in order for this to be possible!


 Posted on 21 ottobre 2015


NASA’s concept for a warp drive equipped spaceship, the IXS Enterprise. Unfortunately for the moment it’s just daydreaming.

In this post let’s leave ASPS at its researches and have a look at the most famous space agency of the planet: what is it doing for reaching the stars?

Well, it’s watching Star Trek…

In this famous sci-fi series mankind travel among stars thanks to warp propulsion. According to this fictional technology a spaceship is enclosed in a stable space-time bubble, while outside the space is compressed in front of the ship and expanded behind. The ship doesn’t even move, it is the space itself that transport it toward the destination. To simplify this concept we can imagine an ant that is walking on a rubber band stretched between two nails: normally the ant must cover the entire length of the rubber to reach the other side but if we reduce the tension of the rubber by getting it close to the destination nail the ant will be closer to its goal and it will have to cover a much shorter distance.

  -  The hypothetical warp field   -

While physics was advancing, the screenwriters of Star Trek were drawing from it with both hands , inventing over time more and more detailed explanations that were, all things considered, believable. They’ve been so good at it that warp drive has become subject of research of the official science. In 1994, Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre elaborated a theoretical model that aims to create a warp bubble by applying the modern scientific knowledge. On paper, the warp equation works, however there is a small setback before making it real: in order to deform space-time and move a ship at ten times the speed of light the amount of fuel required is equal to Jupiter mass. Quite unpractical, isn’t it? This means that Alcubierre’s equations, though fascinating, probably will remain a mathematical pastime for a long time.

Still, there is who believes in the feasibility of this idea and has decided to pledge time and resources. This is where NASA comes into play: one of its scientific teams, led by mechanical engineer Harold White, is trying to improve Alcubierre’s model and make workable the warp hypothesis. To reduce the amount of fuel requirement White developed a mathematical model that doesn’t consider a bubble shaped warp field but instead it uses a toroid shape. In this configuration a spaceship would ride the distortion like a surfer the waves. By using this trick he believes that the fuel required to reach 10c will drop to 700Kg.

   - Harold White toroid warp field -

In order to look for practical proofs White invented a device, called Warp Field Interferometer, that aims to detect the existence of the elusive field. At the moment the device has only detected a very feeble distortion, and White himself admits it could be just an instrumental error.

So.. Will we have our real life Enterprise to explore strange, new worlds anytime soon?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

In fact, although all the enthusiasm that flows around the experiment, White’s work is aground even before starting: no one, even White himself, knows which kind of substance can fuel the warp engine. The only sure thing is that it must release negative energy. On the paper it’s easy: we put a minus sign before E in the equation and the engine works like clockwork but in reality the element required may be dark matter, which existence is mere speculation.

It hurts me to say it, but I think that this research is a waste of money. It could make sense after the eventual discovery of negative energy, at least there would be a stable starting point for the practical research. Trying to discover the unknown relying on unknown principles leads to a dead end.It would be as if the ancient Romans had wanted to design an internal combustion engine while ignoring the concept of explosion: how far they could had gone?

Honestly I can’t figure out why NASA (and other scientific communities) loves to focus on overly complex concepts that usually are the product of pure theoretical speculation unsupported by practical experimentation. Isn’t it a bit ridiculous that they easily dismiss tangible concepts like EmDrive when they are so keen to accept the idea of bending the space-time by using an undiscovered substance that might emit negative energy?

For the record: Harold White is one of NASA’s engineers who tested the EmDrive in 2013. It is not surprising that his explanation, instead of considering E.M fields like Shawn’s, takes into account another hypothetical construct: the quantum virtual plasma. In practice he’s adding complexity to an already puzzling device. All because he (like his colleagues) can’t pronounce the taboo phrase: “it violates the laws of dynamics”, therefore is forced to invent a believable theory, no matter how much it relies on unproven concepts.

At the end of all these considerations, isn’t the whole warp drive research far more absurd than PNN (or EmDrive)?


Star Trek Technology
Warp drive

A warp engine is the primary faster-than-light propulsion system aboard all known starships within the Milky Way Galaxy.


1- Physics
2-System Mechanics & Basics
3-Warp Field Nacelles
4-External Links


While the laws of relativity prevent an object from moving through space at faster than light speed, an object can move with space at faster than light speed if space itself is moving. Warp drive technology works on this principle.

Because gravity and electromagnetism are simply different manifestations of a single universal force, gravitational forces can be manipulated through the application of precisely generated and controlled electromagnetic forces. Electromagnetic forces, therefore, can be used to alter and control the geometry of space, as gravity is the curvature of spacetime. The controlled electromagnetic fields generated by a warp drive engine on a spacecraft manipulate gravity in order to distort the spacetime immediately around the spacecraft in a manner that causes that specific area of spacetime to be propelled to velocities that exceed the speed of light with the spacecraft remaining inside this accelerated spacetime.

Travel at faster than light speed is possible in this fashion because the spacecraft is, strictly speaking, stationary while spacetime itself is traveling. Similar to a surfboard being carried by a wave of water, the spacecraft is merely being carried by a distortion of spacetime.


System Mechanics & Basics

The WPS is comprised of three major components:

1-Matter/Antimatter Reaction Assembly (M/ARA)
2-Power Transfer Conduits
3-Warp Engine Nacelles - the best part about this setup is that not only does it power the warp engines, but also all primary systems allowing the Warp Core to act as ships Main power core.

The basic mechanics of a warp core are no different to a 20th century automotive internal combustion engine. The matter/antimatter reaction assembly is made up of 4 secondary systems:

1-Reactant Injectors
2-Magnetic Constriction Segments (MCS)
3-Matter/Antimatter Reaction Chamber (M/ARC)
4-Power Transfer Conduits

There are 2 sets of reactant injectors, these are similar to a cars fuel injectors. One is the Matter Reactant Injector (MRI). The other is the Antimatter Reactant Injector (ARI). The MRI takes in Sub-Zero cold Deuterium from the Primary Deuterium Tankage (PDT) and then heats it up to a gas. The MRI itself is constructed of Dispersion-Strengthened Woznium Carbmolybdenide. In dealing with antimatter many precautions must be taken because if some were to mix with normal matter outside of the chamber, there would be an explosion that would make the atomic bomb look like a sparkler. The MRI and ARI are basically the same except that the ARI uses Antihydrogen and dealt with in smaller amounts. Also, the ARI uses magnetic fuel paths to control the antihydrogen.

The reactant injectors each take up a deck by themselves. Connected to the two hooks in the middle are the MCS. The two injectors are slightly different as you can see.

The Magnetic Constriction Segments (MCS) have the most important job. Their job is to keep the M/ARC at the perfect conditions for optimum power output and to avoid a core breach. A segment is made of tension frame members, a toroidal pressure vessel wall, and magnetic constrictor coils. The pressure vessels are made of alternating layers of vapor-deposited carbonitic ferracite and transparent aluminum borosilicate. The pressure vessels do like they say, they control the pressure of the M/ARC. The magnetic constrictor coils are made of cobalt-lanthanide-boronite with 36 other elements to keep from spilling. The coils propel the matter and antimatter into the chamber so that they collide right in the middle of the chamber, this where the combustion begins. The frame members are the first things that help keep the reactants together. They are bonded together to form one complete structure. The frame members also have conduits for structural integrity fields. The outermost layer of the MCS is transparent and allows the crewmembers to insure that everything is running smoothly. To the right is a picture of a MCS.

Then there's the Matter/Antimatter Reaction Chamber (M/ARC) which is similar to a cars fuel ignition chamber. This part is made up two bell-shaped wells. The center band of this assembly holds the structure for the Dilithium Crystal Articulation Frame (DCAF). The most important part of the M/ARC is Dilithium. This legendary substance is the only thing known to 24th century science that will NOT react with Antihydrogen.

The final part of the engine system is the Power Transfer Conduits (PTC). These components do exactly what they sound like they would do. The PTC is very much like the constrictor segments, in that they use magnetic field to control a plasma stream and force it towards the nacelles. This is the systems Rack and piston section.


Warp Field Nacelles

Warp field diagram

Basic Warp Nacelle Schematic Field
(Warp propulsion systems graphic)



 Star Trek Technology:

The schematics and engineering of ships in Star Trek...

Such as:

matter/antimatter reaction assembly using dilithium crystal as an main part of powering up warp propulsion system.

Speaking of warp propulsion, you can look at the next couple of GIFs, in which Enterprise D and Enterprise E are ready to go into warp.

The warp core runs on a reaction of matter and anti-matter. What is the matter used in the reaction?

 Wormhole---a wonderful phenomenon depicted by Star Trek universe mostly shown in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It's not related to blackhole; instead, it works as a pathway to a place where we have to travel much further to reach (if taking a standard route). From what I remembered, that to apply the concept, in which you have to think two dimensionally, think about a folded paper. Punch two holes, one at the top of the paper (representing present location) and one at the bottom (representing destination). Fold it so the two holes match. Take a pencil (reprensenting a spaceship) and penetrate the holes that were already made, as a simulation of traveling through a wormhole. Then in theory, that is pretty much about how wormhole works.

Sovereign-class warp core

"Warp drive has been around for three centuries. It's a proven technology."
– Geordi La Forge, 2370 ("Force of Nature")

Warp drive was a technology that allowed space travel at faster-than-light speeds. It worked 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 could greatly exceed 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.

24th century Federation warp engines were fueled by the reaction of matter (deuterium) and antimatter (antideuterium), mediated through an assembly of dilithium crystals, which were nonreactive with antimatter when subjected to high-frequency electromagnetic fields. This reaction produced a highly energetic plasma, called electro-plasma or warp plasma, which was channeled by plasma conduits through the electro-plasma system (EPS). The electro-plasma was funneled by plasma injectors into a series of warp field coils, usually located in remote warp nacelles. These coils were composed of verterium cortenide and generated the warp field.

Other civilizations used different power sources, such as the Romulans' use of artificial quantum singularities to power their warp drives, but the basic process was similar. In some vessels, such as the Intrepid-class, the nacelles were mounted on variable geometry pylons.


Galaxy class warp core

Imagine the next big As A Service being Warp Core as a Service. This service manages your warp core for you, so you don’t have to, and it exposes an API to give you the power to control it.

The Enterprise Warp Core - Hard Real-Time

The safety notifications API really needs to be a real-time API because if there’s a warp core breach in process you really need to know about that instantly. If that API isn’t real-time then it’s saucer separation time!

There are real world examples of APIs that have to be real-time because the associated data has a time-factor and constraint between the event occurring (e.g. the service detects a warp core breach) and that event being received by the API consumer.

Main Engineering

The Main Engineering control center on Deck 36 served as a master control for the ship's warp propulsion system, as well as the impulse propulsion system and other engineering systems. Main Engineering also served as a backup control center in the event of failure of the Main Bridge and the Battle Bridge. Workstations at this location could be reconfigured to emulate Conn, Ops, Tactical, and other command operations

 Propulsion systems

Main engineering aboard an Intrepid-class starship was located on deck 11. The room was constructed around the matter-antimatter reaction assembly warp core, a class 9 warp drive with a tricyclic input manifold. (VOY: "Relativity") The core provided a maximum output of four thousand teradynes per second. (VOY: "Drone") The warp drive was designed to operate for up to three years before refueling. The reaction chamber was equipped with a compositor, which allowed recrystallization of dilithium. (VOY: "Innocence") The warp drive allowed the ship a top sustainable cruise velocity of warp factor 9.975. (VOY: "Caretaker", "Relativity") The Intrepid-class also featured a secondary warp assembly.

The Nacelle itself is an outboard engine housing structure that both helps and creates a Warp Field. Due to massively dangerous levels of radiation generated by the Nacelles themselves they are kept separately from the ships main hull with the use of large pylons in which sections of the Power Transfer Conduits are housed.

Most Warp Nacelles are equipped with a Bussard Particle Ramscoop which is located at the fore end it collects several forms of common and rare particles, however it mainly gathers Hydrogen (to convert into Antihydrogen).The process in which the Nacelles work is after the Matter/Antimatter is converted into Electro or Warp Plasma and forced through the Power Transfer Conduits into the Electro Plasma System or (EPS) Conduits. The Electro-plasma is then funneled through a series of plasma injectors and into a series of Internal Warp Field Coils (Warp Field Generators).



These Coils are composed of Verterium Cortenide creating a "Warp Field". The field itself is basically a Sub-Space displacement field which warps the very fabric of space and allows a ship to "Ride" along a spacial distortion. However this can be explained in much easier terms. Imagine holding a bar of wet soap, as you squeeze the soap harder and harder the faster it is likely to shoot out of your hands. This is the basic principal of Warp Drive as the nacelles eject more plasma into the Warp Coils the tighter the external Subspace Bubble squeezes around the ship allowing it to move faster through space.


Warp Engines

Starfleet vessels use warp engines to travel at velocities up to 3,000 times the speed of light.

A warp engine works by distorting the space-time continuum, pushing a vessel into subspace and thereby reducing its apparent mass. Once its effective mass has been reduced, a vessel can overcome the restrictions imposed by Einstein's general theory of relativity (E=mc2 or energy=mass multipled by the speed of light squared) and accelerate to faster than light speed (c). Following the model that was established by Zefram Cochrane, Federation vessels' warp engines accomplish the transition into subspace by using a matter-antimatter reaction to generate a series of warp fields that exert force against one another. The matter-antimatter reaction takes place in the warp core; the warp fields are generated in the nacelles. A vessel's warp engine relies on three distinct elements; a matter-antimatter reaction assembly (commonly known as the warp core), power transfer conduits, and warp nacelles. The warp core not only produces power for the ship's propulsion systems, but acts as the vessel's main power generator, supplying energy to all the ship's systems.

In the simplest terms, the warp core works by burning deuterium to create gases, which are then forced together with antimatter in the form of antihydrogen. The reaction is controlled by dilithium crystals to create a plasma stream that is split in two and routed to the warp nacelles. In the nacelles, the plasma is used to energize the warp field coils, which are made of verterium cortenide. When this substance is energized, it causes the energy frequencies in the plasma to shift into subspace, creating warp fields. The nacelles combine to create a multilayered warp field that surrounds the ship. Starships cross the light-speed barrier by manipulating this field. The field coils in the nacelles are arranged in rows so that they generate separate layers of warp field energy which nest against one another, with each layer exerting a controlled amount of force against its next outermost neighbor. The cumulative force of the nested fields drives the vehicle forward. The effect is known as asymmetrical peristalitc field manipulation (APFM).

Warp fields are measured according to the amount of subspace stress they generate; field stresses are measured in cochranes. Fields that are below warp 1 are measured in units a thousands times smaller called millicochranes. A field of one cochrane or greater is often referred to as a warp field. The warp scale has been drawn up so that warp 10 is infinite velocity; in theory any vessel traveling at this speed would occupy every point in the universe at once. As a warp field approaches the stress needed to achieve this speed, the power requirements rise dramatically and the warp drive efficiency drops. Speeds below warp 10 are plotted on an exponential curve. Thus, whereas a ship traveling at warp 1 is traveling at c, a ship moving at warp 4 is traveling at 102c, and a ship flying at warp 9 is traveling at 1516c. The curve becomes extremely steep in the warp 9.9 range, and enormous increases in speed are needed to progress from warp 9.91 to warp 9.92. In a few rare instanced starships have traveled incredible, even intergalactic, distances in a matter of seconds. These journeys probably took place in the warp 9.9999999996 range, but Federation science cannot measure speeds approaching this range. Crossing the warp barrier requires a disproportionate amount of energy. Once the warp threshold has been passed, the power needed to maintain the field lessens.

As the field layers expand from the nacelles they experience a rapid force coupling and decoupling; they simultaneosuly transfer energy and separate from the previous layer at velocities between 0.5c and 0.9c. As the fields force couple, the radiated energy makes the transition into subspace, effectively reducing the mass of the spacecraft. This unbalances Einstein's equation and enables a vessel to overcome the restrictions of general relativity; because the ship's mass has been reduced, enough energy can now be generated to accelerate beyond the speed of light. The warp field coils are energized in sequentual order, moving from the front to the back. The more often the coils are energized, the more fields they generate, and the higher the warp speed.

Most vessels use two warp nacelles and maneuver in space by creating slight imbalances in the warp field geometry produced by each nacelle. The symmetrical warp nacelles help to create this imbalance if one or the other is damaged, the operation of a single warp nacelle can literally tear a ship apart. Nacelles are usually located near the rear of a ship, connected to the engineering hull by long, sweeping support pylons that keep the potentially dangerous warp fields away from the inhabited areas of the ship. The shape of the hull has been designed to help it achieve warp speeds and to influence the geometry of the field itself.

Warp nacelles are constructed from tritanium, duranium, cobalt cortenide, verterium cortenide, and tungsten-cobalt-magnesium - and assembled with gamma-welding manufacturing techniques 2.5 meters thick. The pressures exerted on the nacelles are extreme, and is countered by three levels of cobalt cortenide that line the structure's inner hulls. The power contained within nacelles are so potent that they can be extremely dangerous if they malfunctioned, so safety features are incorporated that allow them to be jettisoned in an emergency; explosive structural latches are fired, driving the nacelles away from the ship at a rate of 30 meters per second. New features on the Sovereign-class includes emergency plasma purge vents in the nacelle support pylons. The vents trace the length of the pylons, and are adjacent to the power transfer conduits that supply plasma to the warp field coils. This ventilation system provides engineers with another safety buffer by allowing them to bleed off heated plasma before it reaches the warp field coils, obviating in some circumstances the need to shut down systems or eject the warp core.

Inside the nacelles, the warp plasma generated by the warp core is turned into energy that propels a ship. In emergencies, when plasma is unable to reach the warp nacelles the Bussard ramscoop assembly at the front of each nacelle is able to draw in low-grade galactic matter and use this as an energy source instead. There are two major components to warp nacelles: the plasma injection system, and the warp field coils. A plasma injection system is located at the terminus of each of the power transfer conduits that carry plasma from engineering, where it is generated, to the warp field coils, where it is turned into energy. There is one injector for each of the warp field coils.

Each pair is fired in variable sequences, allowing for the permutations to be specified for different types of flight function. The open-close cycle can vary between 25 and 50 nanoseconds; low warp factors require the injectors to be fired at low frequencies, remaining open for short periods, higher warp speeds require higher frenquencies and longer openings. The longest safe cycle for which an injector can be open is 53 nanoseconds. The warp field coils generates the actual warp field that propels a ship, by forming an intense, multi-layered effect that surrounds the starship. The ship is propelled beyond the speed of light by the manipulation of the shape of this field. On the Galaxy-class each nacelle contains 18 warp field coils and 26 sets on the Sovereign-class which, combined, account for almost a quarter of the weight for the entire starship.

The Sovereign-class nacelle design includes some new features inspired by Starfleet's encounters with the Borg and the Dominion. Most the of the redesigns are the result of development in areas of high-frequency subspace modulation, ship profiling studies, and the introduction of variable-geometry pylons. While most Federation ships cruise in the warp 6 range, the larger, more efficient warp nacelles, coupled with a decrease in the ship's internal volume, yield a cruising velocity of warp 8, with a high warp velocity of 9.95 - about 5,000 times the speed of light. The Sovereign-class ships can travel at high speeds with impunity, as the warp drive system no longer creates the warp field effect - dramatically highlighted by Dr. Serova in 2370 - that weakens the subspace continuum. While technological advances continue to push the upper limits of the warp speed scale, the increasing energy requirements are so great that significant improvements appear unlikely. It seems greater speeds will require different technologies.


Q: How does Picard on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” choose a warp speed
Related: Star Trek: The Next Generation

Jeff Saporito | October 20, 2015

A: “Set a course for Starbase 9, Warp six. Engage!” - Captain Jean Luc Picard

Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), one naturally wonders about the logistics of the scientific procedures performed by the crew. The show is largely theoretical, and theory encourages inquiry. One big question people tend to have when watching TNG is how Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), or whomever is giving the order, decides which warp speed to use.

Galaxy class starships like the Enterprise-D have a maximum warp speed of 9.8, which is more of a theoretically achievable rate that would put the ship at risk. Warp 9.6 is the fastest speed the ship can maintain for a sustained amount of time under regular operation, but it can only hold that velocity for a few hours. Warp 5 - 6 is the ship’s standard cruising speed, while 8.2 is the maximum sustainable speed for longer amounts of time without overly detrimental effects.

All this leads to wonder about how they decide which speed to use. Picard occasionally asks the android Data (Brent Spiner) for a quick calculation to determine speed but more often throws out a velocity off the cuff.

The real deal is that higher warp speeds lead to higher energy consumption. Even in the 24th century with the advanced technology behind the ship’s warp engine, the energy source is not infinitely renewable. Deuterium and antideuterium are required to power the matter/antimatter reaction that powers the ship's warp engine. Stored in tanks, these fuels are replenished at Starbases, but during voyages the crew is limited to what they have on hand. There’s also an element of wear and tear on the ship’s mechanics. It may be a highly advanced 24th-century vessel, but it’s still constructed of physical materials that wear out as strain is put on the ship over time.

This is evidenced by Captain Picard’s log in Season 6, Episode 20, “The Chase,” in which he notes, "Our frequent use of high warp over the last few days has overextended the propulsion systems. We are finishing minor repairs before returning to Federation space."

All that being true, the Captain must weigh the urgency of the voyage against the wear on the ship. If it’s routine travel, he can choose a warp speed that doesn’t put a heavy load on the vessel. If it’s an emergency, he may employ Warp 9 or greater, getting there more quickly but creating the need for earlier repairs and maintenance and opening up the ship to increased risk.

Additionally, in Season 7, Episode 9, “Force of Nature,” we learn that warp speeds harm the structure of subspace, similar to the eventual wear from repeatedly running over a carpet. Therefore, it's only ethical to cause this damage when it's absolutely necessary.


Section 2 Technology

Section 2.1 The Physics of Faster Than Light Travel

2.1.1 A Warp Field

2.1.2 Warping Space
2.1.3 What We Know About the Mechanics of Warp Drive.
2.1.4 Alternative Uses of Lowering Mass.
2.1.5 High Warp Speeds
2.1.6 High Speed Transportation
2.1.7 Alternative High Speed Propulsion
2.1.8 Alternative Low Speed Propulsion

The various Federation and non-Federation ships are capable of reaching velocities in excess of the speed of light. Starfleet ships are capable of this feat by the use of a warp core.The most important component of the warp core is the matter/antimatter reaction assembly. This is the component in which the massive amounts of energy needed for the creation of a warp field is generated. The energy is released from the annihilation of matter (deuterium) and antimatter (anti-deuterium). The reaction is controlled by a material known as dilithium, a substance that is not affected by the passage of anti-particles. The properties of dilithium are discussed below. The warp core is surrounded by a large Tokomac device. this consists of a number of magnetic fields, often generated by torroidal magnets . These magnetic fields curve the trajectory of the anti-particles ensuring they do not inadvertently interact with the matter of the storage devices. The failure of the magnetic fields can lead to a warp core breach. A core breach is normally a positive feedback event culminating in the complete destruction of the ship. The antimatter storage devices were significantly improved circa 2315 when new, reliable superconducting field sustainers and other safety measures were developed for storage. (Sternbach and Okuda 1991) The antimatter used in propulsion is generated at major Starfleet refueling facilities by combined solar-fusion charge reversal devices, which process proton and neutron beams into antineuterons, joined by a positron beam accelerator to produce antihydrogen, specifically heavy hydrogen known as deuterium. Unfortunately there is a net energy loss of 24% using this process. The antimatter is stored in magnetic conduits and compartmentalized tanks aboard the refueling depots but when transferred to starships this method is less effective due to the additional stresses that can be applied to a starship. The Enterprise D had an antimatter loading port on deck 42 where thirty 4*8 meter polyduranium storage pods were located. The magnetic containment field was generated by inner layers of ferric quonium. Each pod contains a maximum volume of 100m3. Therefore the thirty pods when filled would supply 3000m3 of antimatter. The power conversion levels on a Federation Starship are very high. During matter/antimatter reactions usable energy obtained from the energy-conversion is normally around 97%. In 2370 Chief Engineer Geordie LaForge increased the power conversion levels to 97.2%. On a Galaxy class Starship the full antimatter storage pods even given the 3% loss of energy is considered to supply enough energy for 3 years of ship operation. (Sternbach and Okuda 1991). In 2372 the USS Voyager ejected a full antimatter pod in the hope of disabling three Vidiian ships. The fuel supply of matter is stored in the primary deuterium tank located in the engineering section of the hull. This consists of slush deuterium stored at 13.8 Kelvins. The normal deuterium load of a Galaxy class vessel was rated at 62,500m3. A certain amount of deuterium is known to diffuse through the tank walls at a rate of <0.00002 kg/day. The deuterium quantities are expected to last 3 years. In late 2374 the Starship Voyager after three and a half years operation in the delta quadrant initiated Grey Mode cut power to decks 4 through 9 and de-activated all non essentials taking them offline to conserve energy due to severe deuterium shortages, remaining systems operated at 20%. This suggests similar operational time frames to the Galaxy Class Starships. The annihilation of matter and antimatter have been known to create subatomic particles known as omicron particles. These particles can also be used to supplement antimatter supplies aboard a starship. On stardate 48546.2 the USS Voyager attempted to harvest omicron particles from a "nebula" to use as an antimatter substitute. Okuda and Okuda 1997 read this as a method to aid in antimatter production, a facility all starships possess, however this seems to contradict Szollosi and Piller 1995. This site favours the earlier work suggesting that omicron particles can be used to supplement antimatter energy production.

The warp field coils on a starship located within the ship's nacelles are designed to produce a series of interacting, cumulative layers of energy. These fields are designed to reduce the apparent mass of the object in question. (Sternbach & Okuda 1991). As the warp field reaches an intensity of 1000 millichocranhes the ship’s velocity is increased to that of c but for a time less than 1.3*10-43 seconds.

The geometry of the warp field is controlled by coils within the nacelles. The three forward coils producing a stronger field than their rear counterparts thus allowing the ship to be driven forwards. (Sternbach & Okuda 1991) The field geometry is affected by the design of the ship. For this reason there is a slight determining factor in the geometry of space frames for warp vessels. Figure 2 below shows a field emanating from the two nacelles of the USS Enterprise NCC 1701 D.

We are told that the most basic warp field was generated on Earth by C.D.P. mechanisms, that is continuum distortion propulsion. The early designs used quantum fluctuations around the speed c never retaining a given speed for longer than 1.3*10-43 seconds. This is presumably the type of drive used on the Phoenix. (Berman, Braga, Moore 1996)

Image Showing Cochrane's First Successful Manned C.D.P. Warp Capable Vessel; The Phoenix.

Launch date April 4th 2063.


(Image from Okuda and Okuda 1997)

The warp field creates a bubble that has the effect of reducing the local gravitational constant, the factor relating force to mass and distance in Newton’s law of gravitation. It is universal and only more recent investigation suggests possible alteration with time. The constant approximates to 6.670*10-11 Nm2 Kg-2. The field coils in the nacelles must create a balanced field, thus they must operate in union. In practice the general form is to have two (or multiples thereof) engines mounted parallel to the axis of desired movement but offset from the line of the ship's center of mass. The nacelles are usually above or below the ship's center of mass. In many occasions they project arterially from the engineering section but held apart from the ship's central line by struts. These are in place to allow a vessel to jettison them should an emergency occur. A recent addition to the Starfleet, USS Prometheus (NX 59650), has been shown to employ warp nacelles above and below the axis and in a central line with the ship's center of mass. These small nacelles were used on the saucer section module during multi-vector-assault mode. Though traditional vessels use one pair, exceptions including the Constellation Class vessel have been noted where multiples of two are employed. (Forrester 1987). Most recently Starfleet has found methods of alternating nacelle and engine use to maintain speeds previously only useable as emergency velocities. (Zimmerman et al. 1998). Many of these improvements are based on the initial Pathfinder development programme developed first for the Defiant class spacecraft. The nacelles are of tritanium and duranium framing combined with longitudinal stiffeners and overlaid with 2.5 meters of gamma-welded tritanium hull skin. The alternate future USS Enterprise 1701-D from "All Good Things" had a third warp drive along the ship's central line. Though the episode neither confirms or denies this, the ship is referred to as a transwarp Enterprise, the third nacelle perhaps giving the transwarp capability. Nevertheless, the ship like the two nacelled Olympic Class USS Pasteur achieved warp 13. The calibration of warp scales is discussed below.

Image Showing Two Lobed Warp Field Produced Around The USS Enterprise NCC 1701 D

(Sternbach & Okuda 1991)

The energy to drive the ship into warp is most commonly provided by the controlled annihilation of matter and antimatter. This takes place in the matter/antimatter reaction chamber housed in main engineering. The reaction was originally controlled by lithium or cracked lithium but has been replaced since 2266 with 2<5>6dilithium 2<:>1 diallosillicate 1:9:1 hetoferranide (dilithium crystals). When subjected to high-frequency electromagnetic radiation in the mega-watt range the dilithium crystals become non-reactive with antimatter. It allows the passage of antihydrogen through its crystalline structure, without atoms coming into direct contact. Similarly tungsten targets are used in particle accelerators to retard and redirect incoming antimatter particles. This principle is presumably identical to the use of dilithium aboard the Enterprise. As Wesley Crusher pointed out in "Coming of Age", the reactant ratio between matter and antimatter would always remain fixed at 1:1 though the absolute quantity of reactants could be changed.

2.1.2 Warping space

Special Relativity postulates that no object may move locally faster than that of light in a vacuum, that is approximately 2.997925*108 ms-1. However, general relativity tells us that space-time is curved by mass and that the whole universe is curved. Instead of a flat Euclidean geometry we must think in terms of non-Euclidean surfaces where the trajectory of particles are geodesic about the space time distortions created my mass. These theories have been supported quite accurately by the discovery of wrinkles in space-time. The famous COBE image can be found at the early universe section of this site. This means that the local markers need not be seen as necessarily be considered preventive to faster than light travel. (Krauss 1995). Space itself has had periods of faster than light expansion when matter was created forcing the space to expand faster than light even though no particle possessed a speed in excess of c. Therefore, bending or creating space would allow apparent speeds that are very high. Unfortunately, the energy requirement to do either is prohibitive. That is not simply a problem that can be solved if we could develop a method of creating more energy, as the total mass of the universe if annihilated could not create enough energy to propel the Starship Enterprise.

Here enters a discussion on the use of zero point energy or zero point motion. First and foremost the above statement, that we do not have enough mass, is based on a false assumption. The assumption being we know how much mass is in the universe. Quite simply this is wrong as you will see in the page dedicated to  dark matter the mass of the universe has a margin of error so large that we can not at present make any predictions about the energy available. Even so, collecting enough mass to warp space to allow "rapid" movement between the stars seems unlikely. This brings us back to zero point motion. Heisenberg’s indeterminacy principle states that there is an uncertainty in energy time measurements. (Hey and Walters 1987).

We now turn to look to the work of one of the twentieth-centuries greatest scientists and possibly its second greatest thinker, second only to Albert Einstein’s famous thought experiments. Paul Dirac born 1902 in Bristol England Dirac went on to discover antimatter, the material that powers the Enterprise's warp drive and most primary systems (Sternbach and Okuda 1991). (see Matter Antimatter Reaction Assembly). Dirac stated that empty space was not in fact empty, we were just observing the absence of the positive charge we wanted to see. This meant space-time was a boiling pot of virtual and real particles. (Watkins 1983). We now turn to an experiment to help in explaining where our discussion will go next. The experiment is quite simple; to freeze helium liquid into a solid. Simply put all matter must exist in one of four states plasma, gas, liquid and solid. The difference between them is simple the energy of the particles referred to colloquially as heat. Therefore, if we remove the energy, cool down, the particles the matter will revert to one of the less excited states. Unfortunately, the cooling of helium was very difficult. In 1898, Sir James Dewar announced hydrogen liquefaction at 12K. Switching to the problem of helium liquefaction in 1904 Dewar predicted the temperature needed would be 6K even though he could not experimentally prove this as 6 K was colder than his apparatus would currently achieve. In 1908, Kamerlingh Onnes liquefied Helium at around 4 K. However, the change from liquid to solid has never been achieved. There is a zero point motion of atoms as described by Heisenberg’s Indetermiancy Principle that keeps the helium from solidifying. (Hey and Walters 1987).

Therefore, we see energy existing where one would expect there to be no motion. This coupled with the existence of virtual particles may lead one to suspect that there is quite a lot of untapped energy that could be harnessed to power a spacecraft. Once again though the uses of such energy sources are bleak and at the present the best use of zero point motion in helium is for super conductivity not for faster than light travel. For, even if one could find energy surpluses the use of them would still be confined by Special Relativity and acceleration to high speeds would incur the Fitzgerald Lorentz manipulations discussed later. A similar example to this can be seen in Nature volume 232 page 440 and followed in volumes 240 and 246 where the birth of the universe from a quantum fluctuation is addressed. The theory here is known as the Free Lunch Universe Theory. This is a theory that gave much concern to Eistein and almost led to his an friend George Gamow's death. (Gribben 1996)

While crossing a road in the 1940’s Albert Einstein and George Gamow were talking and he brought up the fact that the negative gravitational energy of a star could equally but oppositely match the mass of energy. Thus, if the two cancelled then according to the equations of Quantum Mechanics stars of such type could be born out of quantum fluctuations. In addition, it is understood that in Quantum Mechanics if something is not forbidden then it must occur. According to Gamow:

"Einstein stopped in his tracks, and since we were crossing a street, several cars had to avoid running us down." (Gamow 1970)

Were the universe a product of a quantum fluctuation then it would have destroyed its self instantly by gravitational collapse. The problem of this was "resolved" by Guth in the early 1980’s with Inflationary Theory. A theory that has been revised many times until we arrive at the theories available today.

(Hawking 1988 Gribben 1996)

The concept that the mass (energy) density in any one frame would always be at least equal to or greater than zero is called the "weak energy condition." Ken Olum of Tufts has followed a reverse tack in arguing that superluminal travel is possible in certain warped versions of space/time but that this would entail the existence of negative energy. In this case the concepts of superluminal motion and of negative energy need to be explored. An object with negative mass would be less massive than empty space. We don't know of any such object, but physicists have detected small regions of space characterized by a very slightly negative energy density (the so called Casimir effect; see Updates 122 and 300). If you combine negative energy with positive energy you get nothing, very different from the explosion you get when you combine matter and antimatter. As for superluminal travel; in Olum's model objects and signals do not actually travel faster than light. Rather, the curvature of a spacetime incorporating a negative-energy density is such that one can arrive quickly at distant places using sub-light speeds. (Physical Review Letters, 26 October 1998.) This work is very much a continuation of ideas that Miguel Alcubierre is quite often attributed with being among the first to begin work on. Though this is by no means correct Alcubierre did conduct extensive work into the manipulation of pace itself as a driving force for a vehicle. In his work the space behind a starship is expanded and contracted in front of it. The starship would rest in a "warp bubble" between the two spacetime distortions. The result would be a wave in spacetime along which the starship would travel almost surfing along the displacement wave. The idea allowed for faster than light travel because the vehicle did not need to accelerate and so no relativistic effects would effect it, the ship never attained high speeds the instances just altered. A very interesting side effect became that the vehicle and crew would be weightless as we have discussed the ship suffers no acceleration and given the principle of equivalence acceleration and gravity are indistinguishable. Given that there is no  acceleration the risk no longer exists of injury due to extreme G-forces of acceleration and deceleration. (BBC Online Network). On the USS Enterprise this is countered by the use of a Structural Integrity Field, which maintains ship rigidity and monitors the gravitational effects within the ship to counter dangerous G-forces. It is therefore unlikely that Enterprise uses this form of distortion technology. However, Miguel Alcubierre's work shows no Lorentz Fitzgerald contractions; once again no acceleration means no dilational effects. This effect is shared by the Starfleet vessels. While using extreme impulse speeds the crew are affected by the dilation of time, which is why Starfleet imposes restrictions on the use of impulse drives. However, while within a warp field the crew are not effected by dilation. 

While Alcubierre's idea was a sound and supported mathematically it was completely impractical, as discussed above, even considering large amounts of energy from zero point motion the construction of a warp bubble would be impossible in practice. More energy than the entire universe could supply would be needed to create the spacetime distortions.

However, more recently June 1999,  Dr Van Den Broeck's analysis has suggested a similar plan with far lower overhead of energy. The reduction in required energy is of the order of 1*1062. Dr Van Den Broeck is quick to cautions in his forthcoming paper in General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology:

"This does not mean that the proposal is realistic."

Dr Van Den Broeck concludes his analysis by saying, "The first warp drive is still a long way off but maybe it has now become slightly less improbable."

USS Enterprise NCC 1701 D

Red Dwarf and Star Trek Galleries


2.1.3 What We Know About the Mechanics of Warp Drive.

The warp drive creates the field discussed above. The effects within that field are outlined by (Sternbach an Okuda 1991) and in various episodes (Richard Danus 1990). In Deja Q (Danus 1990) Geordi and Data try, and fail, to alter the trajectory of an asteroidal moon at Bre’el IV by reducing the Gravitational Constant of the universe. However, if one lowers G the localised warping of space-time is made more difficult.

The warping of space around a celestial body is defined by the equation:

Schwazchild Radius = 2GM/c2 (Kaufmann 1991).

As G decreases the effect is the same as reducing the bodies mass. This means that a warp field negates the possibility of curving space and bringing distant objects "closer".

This leaves us with a problem, the warp drive can not disturb space time. However, one may question whether the warping is relative. The lowering of G in the bubble would be equivalent to the highering of G on the outside. Could therefore, the warping of space, which is too difficult to perform over such massive distances, be achieved by lowering G on a small area, that of the bubble around the ship? Alas this is not so, the increase in G is not enough to warp space time as an objective observer would not notice the increase and therefore the ship would not move.

A further indication of the fact the Federation does not employ a curvature type propulsion is in their meeting with various races whose technology differ from their own. Folded space transport was employed by the Sikarians in Voyager’s "Prime Factors" (George & Stillwell 1995) and the Ansata terrorists of Rutia IV who used a simpler method based on the Elway Theorem (Danus 1990). We are told in this episode that the folding of space was abandoned in the mid 23rd century when it was deemed unviable due to the damage to the subject. However, there is clearly a difference between personnel transport and ship transport. We assume Starfleet abandoned both lines of research.

2.1.4 Alternative Uses of Lowering Mass.

We know that the Gravitational Constant is lowered and have already touched upon Zefram Cochrane’s C.D.P. devices. A discussion of the development of faster than light travel can be found in the History of the Federation section of the website. The interesting fact is that General Relativity breaks down below the Plank time and that is one of the contributing factors to the problems describing the early universe. (Kaufmann 1991).

Plank time = Ö Gh/c5=1.35*10-35

Relativity predicts that as energy is applied to an object to accelerate it part of the energy is transferred to mass. The relation between mass and energy is described by the equation:


This means that some energy is transferred to mass and the increased mass retards the propulsion of the object. The amount of energy transferred to mass is exponentially related to the actual velocity whereby the faster the object is moving the more energy subsequent acceleration transforms into mass. The result is before an object can be accelerated to a speed in excess of c its mass approaches infinity. This is known as a Fitzgerald Lorentz transformation and by the equation:

M=Mo/Ö 1-(v2-c2)

As v upon c approaches 1 the mass approaches m/0=¥ . However, if one could proportionally lower m with increase of v so that m/v= constant, then mass would not increase and the energy would be converted into kinetic energy instead of mass thus propelling the ship forwards. The warp field is therefore designed to limit the mass of the ship to an observer in the manner that increased velocity would not increase mass. (Kaufmann 1991).

Unfortunately, time and length would also be affected as one crosses the threshold of warp so that the clocks aboard the enterprise slowed radically during acceleration and length to an objective observer would collapse towards the plank length. The opposite of what we observe in the episode, i.e. the ship stretching as it goes to warp.


2.1.5 High Warp Speeds.

Warp 10 represents infinite velocity therefore it can not be exceeded. Infinite velocity being instantaneous travel to any point in the universe and quite possibly the occupation of every point simultaneously. When Paris attempted to cross this threshold we can assume he reached warp 10 and did not exceed it (voy: Threshold). The Borg conduits (Descent etc.) are extremely fast but not warp 10.

The progression curve up to warp 9 has been plotted below, I have cropped the graph and made the y axis logarithmic, the same kind of graph can be seen on page 55 (Sternbach and Okuda 1991).

For speeds below warp 9 the curve is a simple geometric expression:

Note the actual speed varies dependent on local interstellar medium density and subspace effects. (Sternbach and Okuda 1991)


Multiples of c stated/calculated

Used exponent





































Above warp 9 the exponent gradually changes but below warp 9 using 3 1/3 is acceptable. If one wanted to know the exact exponent for warp 9, then it would be a simple case of re-arranging the equation. Given that 9x = 1516. Then if take logs to base nine of either side we get

log9 9x = log9 1516

x = 3.333218935

However, though this works perfectly for warp 9 it is slightly less successful for the other warp factors. Remember though, that this is really a void discussion given that each warp factor can only approximate to a given ideal velocity, as this velocity is affected by many external influences. It is important to note that the original series of Star Trek used the exponent 3 for all warp velocities. The velocity being simply the cube of the warp factor. The original Enterprise had a rated cruising speed of warp 6 (216 c) and a maximum rated speed of warp 8 (512 c). The Nomad modifications from the episode "The Changeling" (Lucas 1967) allowed the ship to move at warp 11 (1331 c) as did the Kelvan modifications the following year in "By Any Other Name". (Fontana and Bixby 1968). The fastest recorded speed the Enterprise moved at was Warp 14.1 in 2268 when the computer image of Losira from the Kalandan Outpost sabotaged the ship. "That Which Survives" (Lucas 1968). A warp factor of 14.1 would have given a velocity equal to around 2803.221 times the speed of light. All these higher speeds were made at extreme risk and duress.

Warp factor Speed in multiples of c Simple Exponent Source
9 1516 3.333219/3.33333 Calculations based on Sternbach and Okuda 1992
9.2 1649 3.338101 Speeds based on Okuda and Okuda 1997
9.6 1909 3.34002 Speeds based on Okuda and Okuda 1997
9.9 3053 3.500004 Speeds based on Okuda and Okuda 1997
9.92 3061.929 3.498198 Extrapolated from Zimmerman et al. 1998
9.975 6671.28 3.828366 Extrapolated from Maneuvers 1996
9.99 7912 3.899981 Speeds based on Okuda and Okuda 1997
9.9999 199516 5.300001 Speeds based on Okuda and Okuda 1997

In 2370, it was established that a warp field effect could result whereby damage to subspace could manifest in real space. In an area known as the Hekaras Corridor long term damage to subspace caused disruptions near Hekaras II. (Naren Shankar 1993) The region was 12 light years long and due to the intense tetryon fields that saturated the region of space surrounding the system was the only means of safe passage for starships. In 2366 two Hekaran scientists, Serova and Rabal, submitted a preliminary report to the Federation Science Council detailing the stresses in the Hekaras Corridor and the likelihood of a rupture. Unfortunately at the time the Council believed that there was insufficient proof. By 2370 problems had escalated to the point where Rabal and Serova deployed Verteron mines across the corridor. The purpose being to alert Starfleet of the dangers continued high warp use would incur in Hekaras Space, the ruptures predicted in the scientists work would have isolated Hekaras II. Unfortunately, to demonstrate her point Serova caused a warp core breach killing herself but also opening a subspace rupture, thus proving that continued warp propulsion systems would destroy the space around her homeworld. After this point Starfleet restricted all Federation vessels to a maximum speed limit of warp factor 4.7. In the time after the ban certain missions allowed ships to move beyond warp 4.7 for emergencies. Soon afterwards ships were commissioned that were capable of moving above the warp speed limit. It would appear that at some stage more "environmentally friendly" warp cores were introduced, high warp propulsion has also been observed in older model vessels suggesting that these could be remodified.

The Starbase, Deep Space 9 is supplied from a network of Federation outposts. Due to the current (circa 2373+) political structure of the Alpha Quadrant, most prominently the continuing hostilities between the Federation and allies (Klingon Empire, Romulan Star Empire etc.) and the Cardassian Union and Dominion, certain precautions need to be taken along shipping lanes. As such the final leg of the supply run begins at Star Base 375 at a distance of 50.3 light years. Once clearance is obtained the run is completed within 6 days by high warp courier. This means an extended flight at warp factor 9.92 (approximately) a speed only normally possible for short periods. This is accomplished by using alternating twin M/ARAs and nacelle pairs. It has been noted that modifications on space frames, allowing the use of four-engine (nacelles?) allows the passing of the previous 1,000 light year per year efficiency boundary. (Zimmerman et al. 1998)

2.1.6 High Speed Transportation

The ship in Vis à Vis used a method that Starfleet had been unsuccessful in properly utilizing but were "dreaming of". Though Tom Paris does say the transport is instantaneous over huge distances, his later words do imply a limitation, and also when Tom is on the ship towards the end of the episode the length of scene time, suggest a none instantaneous travel time. Also the test pilot "Steth" mentioned that Co-axial drive allowed incredible speeds. (Robert Doherty 1998) It would not have been logical for "him" to make this statement if the ship traveled instantaneously. This information suggests co-axial is not at or exceeding warp 10. However, it is clearly far in excess of the drive system used on USS Voyager or any other Starfleet ship to date. The drive system, apparently using a "warp core" of some description worked by folding space. A flow field was present, the parameters of which allowed the differential induction drive to come on-line a device that starts a co-axial leap. The deceleration of a co-axial ship into normal space was signified by spatial anomalies and localised folding of space. The drive system, though very efficient ran the risk of a warp core overload. Such an explosion could collapse space for a radius of 1 billion kilometers. A symmetric warp field contain instabilities in the space folding core advanced subspace geometry. Even after deceleration residual folds in space could be felt by starships in the wake of a co-axial warp powered ship. Co-axial is a violent procedure, but the act of folding space was in spurts but instabilities were known to overload the engines. Isokinetic containment fields were tried to balance the instabilities but this was found to be ineffective. The vessel's drive system was powered by a co-axial induction drive, a small device removable from a tripod energy containment facility that was bathed in blue light from above the apparatus and a red glow from below core. The co-axial induction drive itself was perhaps 12 cm long 4 cm diameter. The device draws in subatomic particles and reconfigures their internal geometries. This is what allows the ship to fold space, however the act was sporadic at best. The spurts were caused by the instabilities in the particle stream. A polaric modulator from a standard impulse drive can be used as a carburetor to dilute the particle stream as it enters the co-axial drive. This was successfully tested on the co-axial ship when Thomas Paris was sent back to Benthos space. However, as this was a single and probably small (20 light year) jump, we can not be certain if the polaric modulator would work for extended periods of space folding (if indeed the concept of extended periods is applicable to a drive as advanced as that used by the alien ship). "Steth", while disguised as Thomas Paris, was instructed to implement the technologies found in the co-axial ship onto a Type 9 shuttle craft. It would appear that the shuttle was salvaged and even given the fact that a chromoelectric pulse knocked out the polaric modulator there is no reason to believe that the systems could not one day be re-used to create a workable co-axial drive. However, there is no certainty that diluting the flow stream would allow the co-axial jump, but the simulations and the aliens attempt to escape would suggest that one of Voyagers Type 9/2 shuttle craft may well be capable of the incredible speeds allowed by folding space.

In 2284 Starfleet built what was deemed "The Great Experiment", to explore transwarp speeds. The Excelsior was given a transwarp engine and launched circa 8210.3. The transwarp drive was at first tampered with by her then Chief Engineer, Montgomary Scott. Later the ship was considered a failure and outfitted with a standard warp system. This ship and its class went on to become one of the single most important part of the fleet. The class was later modified in 2293 and this upgrade is still in service as late as 2375. During the second Borg threat to Starfleet in 2368/69 the Enterprise found a series of transwarp conduits through subspace. We consider that the Borg conduits were simply very fast (sub warp 10). It is important to note that the Borg seen using the conduits were not in fact members of the Borg collective. Rather they were drones whose individuality had re-asserted and had come under the influence of The One (Lore). Seven of Nine has stated on many occasions that the Borg do use subspace conduits or the like to travel through space. However on many occasions including the Enterprise's first encounter with a cube in sector J7 the Borg pursued the Enterprise in normal space. Also the cube that entered Federation territory in 2373 was detected and intercepted at the Typhon sector suggesting it too demonstrated normal warp propulsion. After passing through a subspace conduit Geordi Laforge stated that the speed was at least twenty times faster than top rated Starfleet warp capabilities. Starfleet vessels have been able to utilise these conduits by emitting an encoded high-energy tachyon pulse alternating over two separate frequencies. The fact that the Borg conduits are described as transwarp may be part of the problem in the interpretation of their actual speeds. The encyclopedia categorically states that transwarp is:

"A velocity equaling warp 10"

It can be argued that given the many episodes that have dealt with the subject we can state this quite so confidently. It is my opinion that this is another example of not necessarily a mistake, on the behalf of Okuda and Okuda 1997, but certainly an oversimplification in their work. Subsequent appearances of the Borg conduits have shown slightly different versions and methods of use, it seems now that ships use a transwarp coil, to initialise the conduit travel. An idea of the speeds used by the Borg in circa 32623, can be seen when the Raven encounters a Borg Cube. The Cube is preceded by a tri-quantum wave and a symmetrical warp field measuring some 2.9 terracochranes and rising. Bearing in mind that a normal ship can only move in the kilocochrane range one therefore gains an appreciation of Borg transwarp conduits. 2.9 terracochranes approximates to 29,000,000,000,000 c. this is many order of magnitude faster than anything available to Starfleet and many order of magnitude faster than the conduits used by the Borg during their time with Lore.

A similar method to the Borg Conduits was a propulsion method developed by Arturis' species (Species 116 Borg Classification). This drive system was known as Quantum slip stream and was first seen in "Hope and Fear" (Berman et al. 1998). The drive was very efficient requiring 3 months to cover 61,000 light years. This is approximately 244,000 times c or 73,200,000,000 kilometers per second. The ship did not use antimatter but channeled the energies produced through the ship's main deflector. The Quantum Slip Stream system took the ship out of normal space, however moving into and through the slipstream puts extreme stress on the hull of a starship. One significant difference between Quantum Slipstream and the Borg transwarp conduits seemed to be the control over the actual tunneling. While in control of the USS Dauntless NX01A Arturis was capable of changing the speed of the ship. It is noted that when the USS Voyager later attempted to move through a Quantum Slipstream a maximum speed limit was imposed, this may have been due to the fact that the Intrepid Class was not outfitted to travel through Slipstream like the ships of Arturis' race, even though it is noted that the Voyager did manage to intercept Dauntless with the aid of sabotage onboard Arturis vessel. Early versions of the Borg conduits seemed to act at a single speed and were apparently fixed "streams" of high warp subspace material. Therefore, though one could very well drop back into normal space at a given point the trajectory was defined by the conduit one entered. This did not seem to be the case with Quantum Slipstream technology which allowed not only movement within a single conduit but also changing the heading of the ship was possible. Quantum Slipstream was seen again in the fifth season episode "Timeless", here the standard Class 9 warp drive on Voyager has been integrated with Borg technology and benamite crystals (possibly found in the previous episode "Once Upon A Time, where the Delta Flyer crashes into a planet with a benamite mantle). The quantum slipstream drive seen here is substantially faster than previous version, possibly due to the integration of the Borg systems. In under a day the Slipstream will take Voyager home, but a phase variance destabilises the drive.

Whether using standard warp or other methods if one were to eventually find a technology many times in excess of warp factor 9.975 it would then become inconvenient to list a warp speed consisting of multiple decimal points. A recalibration occurred between TOS and TNG and it seems likely this would once more occur before the alternate future events in All Good Things. Where warp speeds of 13 were quoted, a speed impossible under the current calibration.

In the episode Where No one Has Gone Before, the Enterprise is recorded as exceeding Warp 10 but we must examine exactly what happens. We are seeing speed increases due to the Kosinski field equations more we are examining how the Traveller used himself as a lens to travel beyond our space. Initially to the M 33 Galaxy, which is obviously still in our "dimension" then most probably beyond what we observe as space time. Star Trek is very fond of parallel dimensions beyond what we discuss traditionally in math’s or physics. Even though warp 10 might represent infinite velocity, it only does so in three dimensions. The concept behind the Traveler's abilities to create new high speed travel was that there is more to space-time than we arrogantly believe at the moment. The question might more accurately be, how did Geordie record faster than warp ten velocity over simply how did the Enterprise exceed warp 10.

2.1.7 Alternative High Speed Propulsion

Dr. Ja'dar of Bilana III developed a means for faster than light travel that would not require the use of a large warp drive. Planet based soliton wave generators were used to create a non-dispersing wave of subspace distortion. The concept involved the surfing of a space vessel on the distortion wave. The wave needed large planet based generators to generate and disperse the wave. The planet based generators allowed significantly higher propulsion efficiencies than those experienced by conventional warp drives. The first actual test was conducted on 45376.3 between Bilana III and Lemma II. The test was partially successful but there were considerable problems with the dispersion and control of the wave.
The Bajorans utilised lightships (Bajoran solar-sail vessel) to travel space. The ships lacked drive sections but instead deployed reflective sails that catch the tenuous solar winds. The ships were used 800 years ago to travel space. The lack of warp capabilities suggested that the ships could not travel interstellar distances. However, a test by Benjamin Sisko in 2371 of the practicality of the ship's transport potential showed that if the sails were struck by tachyon eddies the ship would be accelerated to very high sublight speeds allowing the travel across interstellar space. It is believed that early explorers from Bajor crossed the 5.25 light years to Cardassian space. Cardassian archaeologists reported after the test by Sisko that an ancient wreckage of a sail vessel existed on Cardassia Prime.
The Cytherian Probe encountered on stardate 44704.2 created no normal subspace distortions which are phenomena generally indicating a warp propulsion system. The probe used a system of propulsion that was far more efficient than Starfleet warp propulsion.

2.1.8 Alternative Low Speed Propulsion

A considerable problem for any space vehicle is that of fuel storage. To travel any distance massive fuel reserves would be required and the greater the fuel reserve proportionally the greater the mass of ship. The Bajoran light ship (Explorers, Accession), utilised a method whereby no fuel was required to be carried as momentum was derived from stellar winds. A similar method has been under development at JPL Pasadena since 1998, though the idea dates back to Robert L. Forward in 1984 though the concept dates back to the ideas of friedrich tsander in 1934. The acceleration from a G2 star would likely be small of the order of a few millimetres per second per second. However, this would be continous and thus over time the speed attained could become very high. Studies by JPL in Pasadena during the 1980’s determined that a sail eight hundred metres squared would be sufficient to propel a fifteen hundred-kilogram spacecraft to orbit Halley’s Comet. The method employs similar designed light sails but with a different propulsion method. It was argued that if the fuel requirements were high could the engine or fuel reserves be kept on Earth while propelling the vessel through space. This method is referred to as beamed energy. Of the major considerations for new high yield low storage fuels (fusion, antimatter, beamed energy) the theory of beamed energy was by far the most practical and well understood.

The method employed would be to use a laser to target the sail of a space vessel. The laser would be on Earth and would literally push the sail away. The reason for this is the coherent nature of the laser beam. Unlike normal light, lasers can project energy over vast distances with greater coherence. When this is combined with the large surface area and low mass of the sail material the space craft could be propelled to high speeds. When a photon interacts with the sail it can either be absorbed or reflected or transmitted. If the sail is optically opaque then either of the first two will occur. If the photon is absorbed which heats the sail ever so slightly and causes the sail to move away from the source. If however an elastic collision occurs whereby the photon is reflected by the electromagnetic force of the sail atoms, the energy imparted is greater and the sail is moved away from the source, similar to absorption but with a greater acceleration. Quantifiably reflection is twice as effective as absorption, it is therefore logical to make the sails of a reflective material.

Unfortunately the ability of a sail to act as a reflector is related to the thermal properties of the sail material. As an object gets hotter, its ability to reflect decreases and as such the acceleration becomes less effective. To facilitate the continued acceleration needed to reach high velocities it would be possible to coat the far side in materials that radiate heat. Unfortunately this would result in a deceleration according to Newton’s third law (see Gravity, space craft retardation) What would be more effective would be to try and introduce heat sinks that could radiate energy back to Earth. As well as insuring the sail does not become too hot there is also the consideration that to continue acceleration the sail must be supplied with almost continuous radiation. Up to a critical value known as the diffraction distance laser light is coherent and the energy it can impart is undiminished. However beyond this distance the power delivered becomes negligible, very rapidly. The diffraction distance is a function of a laser’s aperture. Fortunately, the aperture can be considered the combined size of many smaller apertures meaning that arrays can be employed. This method would be far more cost effective and practical than the construction of a single large aperture. JPL have recently developed a tessellated aperture that approaches 100% packing density. Even so the aperture for an interstellar mission would need to be some 1000 km in diameter. For planetary missions a 15 metre 46-gigawatt laser would suffice to send a 50 metre gold-plated sail to Mars in 10 days or to the ISM in three to four years which contrasts with the 7 months Mars Pathfinder and 10 month Global Surveyor missions to Mars.

JPL has suggested that a probe could be returned if the outer layer were detached and continued to reflect light onto the inner layer propelling it back to earth. This method has inherent problems. First, a method for shielding the inner section from incoming radiation would have to be developed otherwise it would retain a near constant velocity as the outer sail provided an equal and opposite force to the laser. Also the sail on the inner section would need to be reversed otherwise the reflected radiation would be incident on a radiative surface not the reflective one. Also one must consider the fact that the original sail would continue to move away from Earth and might move beyond the diffraction distance even though the inner part was within the limit. This would mean the reflected light was no longer enough to accelerate the inner part of the craft. If enough photons had interacted with the sail it may continue to move to Earth albeit very slowly or continue away from Earth just in a retarded motion.

Henry M. Harris 1999 Scientific American February 1999

Dr. Robert Forward, , vice president of Tethers Unlimited in Seattle Starwisp concept would have used a mesh of superconducting aluminum wires to receive its impulse from microwave photons, and then reflect to produce an equal magnitude thrust. This would propel the craft from Earth orbit past Neptune, at 1/20th the speed of light, in just a week.

"My major message is, that's wrong, don't use it" 

said Forward as he pointed at the equation he used in his initial studies. Since 1984, he has determined that the sail material would absorb a significant amount of the energy, weakening the structure and possibly letting it collapse. Forward now proposes putting that absorption to work in a "gray sail" made of carbon. The sail would absorb the light, getting a push from it, and reradiate it as infrared energy. With the sail oriented properly to the source, this would generate a significant amount of thrust in the desired direction. A mission to interstellar space could be accomplished with a combination sail. An aluminum coating - just 70 atoms thick - would serve as a traditional reflective solar sail to boost the spacecraft out of Earth orbit, then cancel its solar orbital velocity so it plunges on a near-miss trajectory towards the sun. As it passes just 3 solar diameters from the sun's visible surface, the aluminum would evaporate, exposing the carbon structure underneath. The carbon would absorb sunlight and heat to 2,000 K (almost 3,600 deg. F). Radiating infrared light would accelerate the craft at 14 times Earth's gravity (the Space Shuttle reaches a maximum of 3 G during launch).

"The trajectory is nearly a straight line" away from the sun, Forward said.

Setting Sail for the Stars  NASA 1999

Alternative to the photon method include both the use of microwaves or even the transmission of charged particles. The particles on reaching the craft would pass through a superconducting magnetic loop, thereby creating a Lorentz force. That is that any charged particle moving in a magnetic field, experiences a force proportional to its charge, velocity and the magnetic field. The force is directed at right angles to the particle velocity and the magnetic field. This would drive the ship forwards.

NASA are looking to implement a form of solar propelled craft within a ten year time frame (New Scientist Aug 19 1999). 

The University of Washington will be developing the M2P2, a mini-magnetospheric plasma propulsion system for use in NASA space missions, with a view to increasing speeds by an order of magnitude. The central component of the M2P2 is a small plasma chamber around 250 mm in diameter. Solar cells and solenoid coils around it create a dense magnetized plasma, or a halo of ionised gas. This in turn creates a huge magnetic field about 10 miles in radius surrounding the spacecraft. It is this field that is used as a sail to catch the solar wind. It is hoped that in a similar manner to the actual deployment of a sail the charged particles from the sun will impart energy to move the central core.

The current work on the plasma-sail is producing figures for the space craft speed at around 4.3 million miles a day. By contrast the most advanced chemical engine in the world can propel the Space Shuttle plods to just 18,000 mh-1 or some 430,000 miles a day.

The previously discussed sails would have to be deployed mechanically and would need to be very much larger than the craft they propel if they are to give any appreciable thrust. In contrast the M2P2 plasma chamber is far lighter and less bulky, and can give a much larger sail for just a few kilowatts of power.

When considering space flight one must consider the enormous quantities of fuel required to maintain acceleration. One method around this is to use fuels, whose energy return is very high proportional to the mass of fuel taken. Two of the most efficient fuels are fusion based propellant and antimatter based reactions (both of which are employed aboard Federation starships). A craft using fusion based mechanics could return 100 trillion joules of energy per kilogram of fuel taken aboard. This is over 10 million times greater than the energy density used in today’s most efficient chemical propellants. Matter-antimatter reactions are even more efficient returning 20 quadrillion joules for each kilogram of fuel. A single kilogram would supply the world’s energy budget for approximately 26 minutes.

Fusion is very effective but is difficult to control and contain. Fusion occurs in very hot electrically charged plasmas. These have to contained in magnetic torus’. In November 1997 researchers in England at the Joint European Torus produced a reaction delivering 65% of the energy put into the reaction.

In fusion reactions the most desirable particles to use are the isotopes of hydrogen, (deuterium and tritium). The reaction creates a helium nucleus and neutrons. The helium nucleus or alpha particle is the particle responsible for thrust. The neutrons are not directable by the magnetic fields and therefore are difficult to harness and use. Besides neutron radiation being very hazardous to the crew. Therefore eliminating the neutrons by using deuterium and helium 3 to produce alpha particles and a proton may be preferable. Unfortunately helium 3 is very rare on earth also the reaction is far harder to ignite than the deuterium-tritium reaction. The major obstacle to the implementation of fusion reactions is whether they will ever pass the break even point where more energy can be released than needs to be fed into the reaction. The National Ignition Facility under construction at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory expected to begin operation in 2001 hopes to liberate ten fold the energy supplied to begin the reaction. (Leifer Scientific American February 1999) 

Figure Showing The Valley of Stability.

Fusion releases large quantities of energy due to the consequence of matter trying to find a stable point. Only iron is considered stable from a nucleo-synthesis perspective with all other elements attempting to alter their internal structure to reach this configuration. It is the re-arranging of this structure that gives the release of energy. Even though the fusion process is still hard to start, traditional approaches resting on the use of overcoming repulsion through the use of the energy of massive lasers. Devices that cost hundreds of millions of dollars; or relying on even more expensive options such as uncontrolled nuclear fission or reactors using superhot gas confined within magnetic fields. Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have already (March 1999) triggered fusion with a small laser costing less than $1 million. Each infrared laser pulse has less energy than a Christmas tree light emits in a second but because the laser pulse lasts just 35 femtoseconds (35 x 10-15 seconds), its energy is highly concentrated. It is currently the world's most powerful laser, with pulses of 1.3 quadrillion (peta) watts for half a trillionth of a second, more than 1300 times the entire electrical generating capacity of the US, if only for a short time.  Todd Ditmire and his colleagues injected deuterium gas into a vacuum, in which the atoms clustered together. Then they fired the laser at the deuterium clusters. When a laser pulse struck the clusters, the heat made them explode. Many of the deuterium nuclei hit others with enough speed to make them fuse, creating helium and neutrons.

"We looked to see if we were producing fusion neutrons--lo and behold, we were," said Ditmire.

The fusion reaction also released energy, but only 10 millionths of the energy consumed by the laser.

"This is not, in the present guise, a path to fusion energy production," admits Ditmire. "But it may potentially lead to a compact neutron source."

A steady, cheap stream of neutrons could be slammed into materials to test their susceptibility to damage by energetic particles in space, for instance. Martin Schmidt, a nuclear physicist at the Commission for Atomic Energy in Gif-sur-Yvette, France, agrees. But he thinks the best reason to celebrate is that fusion reactions can now be studied without expensive equipment. "You don't need $1.2 billion to produce fusion." From New Scientist, 3 April 1999 Charles Seife.



The soliton wave is a method of warp propulsion that could revolutionize the way spacecraft are powered.

Although still in its testing stages, the soliton wave may one day eliminate the need for bulky warp engines and nacelles. Using the wave as a propulsion system takes away the onboard problems of maintaining the heavy fuel and energy generating equipment needed to achieve warp speeds. An Impulse Propulsion System (IPS) would still be required, but the size and energy specifications are much less significant. The theory behind the soliton wave is to create a swell of subspace distortion that a ship can ride like a surfboard between points 'A' and 'B'. Although the soliton wave would require the two points - planets or planetoids - to be equipped with wave generators and wave dispersal facilities, the energy and power efficiency benefits make it a worthwhile proposition. The soliton wave provides warp speed without a warp drive.

To initiate the propulsion wave from point A on a planet's surface, field coils create the soliton wave and direct it towards the coordinates of a waiting ship. The ship is then enveloped by the wave and rides it at warp speeds to point B, which may be several light years away, where the energy of the wave is scattered by a sister facility on the planet. The ship drops out of warp as the wave is dispersed. The leading developer of the soliton wave is Dr. Ja'Dar, a scientist from Bilana III. Ja'Dar conducted key tests, with the help of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D, in 2368, stardate 45376.3. The first full test of the soliton wave provided much excitement for those involved; they historically compared it to the breaking of the sound barrier by Chuck Yeager in 1947, and the light speed barrier by Zefram Cochrane in 2063. During initial testing, the Enterprise was instructed to record telemetric data, while keeping 20 kilometers away from the test ship because of the high levels of subspace interference generated by the wave. Once the unmanned test was towed to a position two million kilometers from Bilana III, the test commenced and the field generators were charged, sending the wave. This appeared as a bluish, rippling band of light that enveloped the ship and successfully carried it to warp speeds. The Enterprise followed the wave and monitored all relevant data.

At first the wave was steady and stable, and the test ship's speed was recored at warp 2.3. There was two percent energy loss between the wave and the ship, suggesting the system was over 450 percent more efficient than the warp drive of a Galaxy-class starship. Following this, however, the wave efficiency suddenly dropped to 73 percent, due to a power fluctuation. As the warp field became unstable, severe subspace disruptions occurred. This effect expanded, and even caused damage to the nearby Enterprise. The test ship dropped out of warp, and exploded due to severe shearing stress. It was reported that a sudden drop in transfer efficiency occurred just before the explosion. The wave, however, continued toward the terminus at planet Lemma II, but its power increased at an exponential rate. The scattering field on Lemma II was not designed to cope with a wave this powerful, and the Enterprise was forced to fly through the wave and head it off at the pass, firing a salvo of photon torpedoes to disrupt it. This dangerous maneuver stopped the soliton wave and save many lives on the planet.

The initial tests on the soliton wave were therefore only partly successful, and its practicality remains uncertain. Whether the soliton wave will ever replace warp drive on starships remains to be seen, although early tests reveal some advantages to the wave. For now, Dr. Ja'Dar and the other scientists are at least left to ponder the results of this test and work out how to make the procedure less dangerous.


The space-time bubble. Unfortunately, quantum physics may have the final word (Michael Alcubierre)

Warp Drive and Cloaking Devices: Not Just Science Fiction Anymore?

24 Dec , 2015
by Nancy Atkinson

Standard in almost every Star Trek episode are warp drives and cloaking devices. But in reality these science fiction gadgets defy the laws of physics. Or do they? Different scientists have been working on developing these two devices and they say they are getting closer to actually creating working prototypes. While warp drive won’t be available anytime soon, scientists are gaining a better understanding of how faster-than-light speed could possibly be achieved. And as for cloaking devices, don’t look now, but researchers recently cloaked three-dimensional objects using specially engineered materials that redirects light around objects.

Previously, scientists at the University of California, Berkley were only able to cloak very thin, two dimensional objects. But now, using meta-materials, which are mixtures of metal and circuit board materials such as ceramic, Teflon or fiber composite, scientists have deflected light waves around an object, like water flowing around a smooth rock in a stream. Objects are visible because they scatter the light that strikes them, reflecting some of it back to the eye. But the meta-materials would ward off light, radar or other waves. In effect, it would be a type of optical camouflage.

The research group, led by Xiang Zhang say they are a step closer to being able to render people and objects invisible. Their findings will be released later this week in the journals Nature and Science.
The path that light rays would take through a theoretical cloaking device. Credit: John Pendry

The path that light rays would take through a theoretical cloaking device. Credit: John Pendry

Another scientist and one of the leaders in cloaking research is John Pendry, a theoretical physicist at Imperial College, London. It was he who first worked out how a cloak could be built in theory, and then he helped build the first working cloak. Pendry recently submitted an abstract that discusses what he says is a new type of cloak, one that gives all cloaked objects the appearance of a flat conducting sheet. Pendry says this type of cloak has the advantage in that nothing remarkable is required to create the cloak. Pendry said the device could be “made isotropic. It makes broadband cloaking in the optical frequencies one step closer.” This type of cloak seemingly creates a mirage to render an object invisible to the eye. Pendry’s own website says information on his new cloak will be available soon.

While cloaking devices would have military applications, a group of scientists researching warp drives say they just want to have the ability to travel to Earth-like exoplanets, like Gliese 581c to better understand the origin and development of life. “The only way we could realistically visit these worlds in time-frames on the order of a human lifespan would be to develop what has been popularly termed a `warp drive,'” said researchers Gerald Cleaver and Richard Obousy from Baylor University in Texas.

Their work expands on research done by theoretical physicist Michael Alcubierre from the University of Mexico, who in 1994 demonstrated space could be made to move around a spacecraft by `stretching’ space so that space itself would expand behind a hypothetical spacecraft, while contracting in front of the craft, creating the effect of motion. So, the ship itself doesn’t move, but space moves around it.

Their new research tries to take advantage of advances in understanding dark energy and why our universe is ever-expanding in every direction. Comprehending that might give us a leg up in being able to generate an asymmetric bubble around a spacecraft. “If we can understand why spacetime is already expanding, we may be able to use this knowledge to artificially generate an expansion (and contraction) of spacetime,” said Cleaver and Obousy in their abstract.

They propose manipulating the 11th dimension, a special theoretical part of an offshoot of string theory called the “m-theory” to create a bubble of dark energy by shrinking the 11th dimension in front of the ship and expanding it behind.

Obviously, this is highly theoretical, but if it leads researchers to a better understanding of dark energy, so much the better.

Thereâs one hitch, however. Cleaver and Obousy calculated that the energy needed to distort the space around a spacecraft-sized object is about 10^45 Joules or the total energy of an object the size of Jupiter if all its mass were converted into energy.

This creates a chicken and the egg type of conundrum. Which comes first: understanding dark energy or having the ability to create huge amounts of energy?

But Cleaver and Obousy are upbeat about it all. “This is a hypothetical propulsion device that could theoretically circumvent the traditional limitations of special relativity which restricts spacecraft to sub-light velocities. Any breakthrough in this field would revolutionize space exploration and open the doorway to interstellar travel.”




Traveling at near or faster than the speed of light has always been an intriguing idea to scientists and dreamers.
Just that thought has been around ever since we realized how far everything actually is in space.
With current technology, it would take an unfathomable amount of time to reach the nearest star outside of our
solar system. For example, the Voyager I spacecraft which was launched in 1977 has traversed the furthest distance
from Earth, out of any manmade object. With recent technology, in the past 30 or 40 years, the Voyager I
represents the limit of how fast we can actually travel, moving at a pitiful .0006% of the speed of light.
This is a humbling fact, keeping in mind that Alpha Centauri (closest neighboring star) is just over four light
years away from us. So for those not familiar with this form of measurement, traveling at 100% of the speed of
light, or 1c, it would take over four years (from the static observer's perspective) for that spacecraft to get
there! Now if you think that is hard to grasp, then just hold on, because it's going to get even more mind

The Problem

In pretty much all science fictional stories, the human race has figured out a way to solve the problem of
covering vast distances in much shorter periods of time. For example, in the book, The Forever War a 'Tachyon'
drive is used to transport soldiers and traverse around the universe at whopping speeds up to about .97c or 97%
the speed of light. This is a significant improvement from actual technology, but in fact still isn't fast
enough to get anywhere in a reasonably short period of time. This opens up the discussion of "faster than light"
travel. There are ideas that have been utilized in plenty of science fiction stories that are for the most part,
still science fiction. However, just because they aren't current reality, this hasn't stopped physicists in trying
to figure out ways to actually make sense of them.

Means of Travel - Examining the Warp Drive
The most infamous sci-fi drive is the Warp Drive from Star Trek, but some other ideas worth mentioning include
wormholes and some sort of hyperspace drive. The basic idea of a Warp drive is not too hard to comprehend.
Once aboard some sort of spacecraft, you create some sort of 'bubble' that surrounds your craft completely.
Once that is done, the real action can take place! To start your warp, in front of the bubble your drive will
be used to compress the fabric of space-time, while expanding it behind you. Once that is done, you can proceed
forward at a relatively slow speed along the compressed section. Once the drive is disengaged, space-time
returns to the way it was previously and your spacecraft can ride out the compressed part like a surfer on a
wave. Here's what warping space can be visually perceived as:

Warping Space

In order to gather and coalesce ideas in a productive manner, NASA decided to start a new project. In 1997
NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Physics (BPP) Project was initiated. This essentially laid some decent
groundwork for what we can expect to accomplish in the generations to come. As the former head of this project,
here is Marc Millis with his outlook on space drives:

Marc Millis

Fragility of the Human Body

So say we could get a space craft to travel at near light speeds, how would that feel? Well it would all depend
the rate of acceleration or change in velocity. The greatest acceleration that the human body could endure is
roughly 3 to 5 times Earth's accleration (referred to as a 'g'). If we want to endure more than that, we need to
employ a method that reduces the stresses done to the body. It is common with fighter pilots to use 'g suits'
to help with this. Current technology allows for sustained accelerations of up to 6 g's which is still not good
enough to combat conditions of space travel. In The Forver War, they loaded everyone into capsules which was a
decent method to solve this problem. In the story, the method of injecting certain drugs into the body, and
filling the capsule with special fluid was employed. The interesting thing is this might work! (but we'll leave
this one up to the medical experts)...

Traverse Through Black Holes?
Again, referencing The Forver War, because their Tachyon drive couldn't accelerate them beyond the speed of
light, an alternate and much faster method of travel had to be explored. So called 'collapsars,' which can be
thought of as what is commonly referred to as a black hole, were utilized. There are currently many scientists
researching the concept of a black hole with all of the strange phenomena that occur to objects near them.
Currently it is believed that once something has reached the 'event horizon' (or point of no return) that
something will be stretched, atom-by-atom, into an infinitely long string, similar to spaghetti. Bringing it
back to sci-fi, black holes are often thought of as being direct passages or links to distant locations, times,
or even other dimensions. These ideas sound unreasonable, but in fact might not be too far from the truth.
Due to a black hole's immense gravitational pull (so strong that light cannot even escape), there is no telling
what it is completely capable of. To help wrap your mind around these concepts here is a short clip from the
History Channel's The Universe:

Black Holes

Relativity & Time Dilation

Now when comparing science to science fiction, for different reasons, there are many technicalities that will be
overlooked, usually for sake of a story. The main technical and probably most interesting aspect that can be
easily overlooked is the concept of time dilation. The basic idea stems from Einstein's Theory of Relativity.
Time dilation refers to the concept that as an object is moving faster and faster approaching near the speed
of light, time actually slows down (from an outsider's frame of reference). A traveler aboard this hypothetical
spacecraft will feel time passing at a normal rate, but it would seem to the traveler that everything outside
of the spacecraft is moving much slower relative to them, hence the Theory of Relativity. This is a compelling
concept only explored by a few science fiction stories. If we possessed the ability to travel at near light
speed, yes it is true that we could get places much faster, but the more time spent at that incredible speed,
builds a greater and very noticeable gap between crew aboard the vessel and everyone else back home on Earth.
This concept is so interesting because it sounds like something straight out of science fiction, but in fact is
considered science and accepted by most if not all physicists. In a sense, time dilation can be viewed as a
method of time travel. If one would want to venture to the future, just catch the next vessel moving at .99c
and return home in 5 years. By then, approximately 7 times that would have passed on Earth putting you 30
years into the future! Still confused? Here is a quick and dirty explanation of time dilation with the Theory
of Relativity:

Time Dilation

So in certain ways, the ideas that science fiction brings us is not too far from current science. In other
ways it clearly is. As long as the human race has the will and drive to aim for the stars, there's no reason
we won't eventually get there. All in good time...

Written by Shawn Wittick, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. 2012.


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