Warp Drives. Science Fiction, right?

A warp drive, at a conceptual level, is a propulsion system that allows faster-than-light travel. Under Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, this is currently impossible. This is because any object with mass would require infinite energy to accelerate to the speed of light.

Currently the fastest manmade object ever to exist was the Helios II probe, which made an elliptical orbit around the sun at approximately 70km per second in 1976. Blisteringly fast compared to Earth based travel, but only about .023% the speed of light.

Spacetime contracting and expanding around a warp drive spacecraft.

The Alcubierre Drive

In 1994 physicist Miguel Alcubierre published a paper outlining a possible mechanism for faster than light travel by altering space-time around a craft. Among the many flaws in the system, it required both negative mass (which hasn’t been proven to exist), and more energy than all of humankind could produce.

The drive works by exploiting the ability to manipulate space-time by contracting it in front of the craft, and expanding it in the rear. Thus a “warp bubble” is produces, and although the contents within the bubble do not travel faster than light relative to its local space-time, the craft will arrive at its destination faster than light traveling through static space-time. In essence, the distance between the craft and its destination shrinks.

Artist rendering of an Alcubierre/White warp drive

White’s enhancements

In 2012 physicist Harold White submitted a simple yet effective change to the warp drive in order to reduce the mass-energy requirement to a feasible size (that of the Voyager 1 spacecraft, approximately 700kg). To do so, he proposed a “doughnut shaped” warp bubble, rather than a sphere. He also proposed a reduction in total energy needed by oscillating the warp drive over time.


There are a number of issues with the Alcubierre drive, even with the refinements made by White. For instance, it has been argued that the craft could not control the bubble once engaged, therefore steering and stopping would be impossible. Also it has been suggested that the amount of Hawking Radiation would destroy anything within the bubble. It also is heavily dependent on whats known as “Exotic Matter”, or matter that currently defies the standard laws of physics.

One Response to “Warp Drives. Science Fiction, right?”

  • misc crew says:

    nice. the adds aren’t too intrusive. try some amazon affiliate books to expand on your shop section. i think some far out sci fi theories, sci fi movie reviews and links to videos or other media would hep draw in a larger crowd. good luck dan man

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