Warp Drives: Faster Than Light Itself

Warp drives will break the current boundaries in space exploration, and we may have just found a way to develop them in the future.

Aditya Sharma
Nov 27, 2020 · 4 min read
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Spaceships in the distant future, presumably 2200, may be able to travel faster than the speed of light, which will allow them to travel through space/time. (Picture Credit: ZidBits)

As a kid, you may have pondered, is there anything faster than light? We would watch movies like Star Wars, Interstellar, and Star Trek and see spaceships going near or above the speed of light traveling through space and sometimes even time! How? Spaceships in these movies would use , propulsion systems that allow spacecraft to travel faster than light. These systems are commonly used in science fiction, but will they ever cross the boundary from sci-fi to reality? Let’s find out.

What are Warp Drives?

Most versions of the warp drive use a loophole in general relativity to avoid the universe’s ultimate speed limit: the speed of light. As something with mass accelerates towards the speed of light, more and more energy is required to accelerate faster. Because of this exponential increase in the energy requirements, to accelerate just a single electron to the speed of light would require more energy than what exists in the entire universe. That’s why it’s called the “ultimate” or max speed limit universally.

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If a spaceship uses a warp-drive, it can alter spacetime around it to travel faster than the speed of light. (Picture Credit: Steemit)

A warp drive gets around the problem by not accelerating at all, and instead, manipulates the region of spacetime around the craft. You cannot accelerate anything with mass to the speed of light, but spacetime itself has no mass and is not bound by this ultimate speed limit under general relativity. In fact, we believe that spacetime has already been warped faster than light once during cosmic inflation, also known as the time after the Big Bang when the universe started expanding rapidly.

How Fast Are Warp Drives?

Interestingly enough, there is a limit to how much spacetime can be warped under M-theory. Physicists found that the ultimate warp speed limit (for an Alcubierre warp drive) is 1032C, or roughly 3.3 trillion light-years per second. This is a ridiculous amount of speed to even think about! Reaching this speed would require an incomprehensible 1031J of energy. However, if you could travel at that speed, you would be able to reach the edge of the visible universe (14 billion light-years) in a mere 4.4 femtoseconds (4.4E^{-15} seconds). Warp drives other than the Alcubierre kind would still be able to go about 186,282 miles per second in a vacuum-like space.

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Warp speeds in the solar system (Picture Credit: r/space)

By going at this incomprehensible speed, conquering galaxies could be done in a jiffy and humans could become a type three civilization in no time. Humans would be able to contact other advanced civilizations, which could revolutionize the way we live. We would be able to attain nearly an infinite amount of energy from different stars and gain valuable resources from different asteroids and planets. By going at this speed, our perception of space, time, and energy would be changed forever.

Can Warp Drives Be Achieved?

Even though Warp Drives are a brilliant idea to conquer our entire galaxy and distribute the human civilization, our current understanding of physics and how light travels excludes objects from reaching a speed greater than lightspeed, but it does not exclude the possibility of space itself traveling at or beyond that speed. In fact, some people who have examined the problem claim that in the early universe, space-time expanded at superluminal speed, although only for a very minimal interval of time.

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By going at a speed greater than the speed of light, using warp drives would manipulate and bend the region of spacetime around the spacecraft. (Picture Credit: Space.com)

If these hypotheses are proven true, a warp drive could take advantage of this loophole, leaving behind the issue of the propulsion of objects and instead tasking scientists with the question of how to generate the energy needed to warp space-time and help spaceships move at a speed far greater than the speed of light.

Unfortunately, with our current understanding of physics and the amount of technology we have at the moment, producing such intricate technology would take decades, if not centuries to deviate a blueprint and put it to the test. Research alone would amass a majority of the time needed to construct a project like this. Hence, build a warp drive with the level of understanding we have currently.

The dream of being in a spacecraft going at the speed of light could turn into reality. With warp drives, a new sense of reality would come upon us and help us break several barriers we once thought were impossible. By being able to warp spacetime and manipulate it around the spacecraft, the human race would be able to expand and become a far more efficient civilization. Our perception of science, physics, and energy would greatly be changed. However, with the minuscule amount of information we know about constructing and theorizing warp drives, we won’t be able to successfully produce them for a while. Until then, we will have to keep dreaming.

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Aditya Sharma

Written by

A writer at TechTalkers. Science, tech, and Space are topics that intrigue me. My goal is to help spread useful information to everyone about those topics.

TechTalkers

Posting articles about the most interesting science and tech innovations. Follow to keep up with the constantly changing worlds of science and technology.

Aditya Sharma

Written by

A writer at TechTalkers. Science, tech, and Space are topics that intrigue me. My goal is to help spread useful information to everyone about those topics.

TechTalkers

Posting articles about the most interesting science and tech innovations. Follow to keep up with the constantly changing worlds of science and technology.

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