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Surprising Science

Warp Speed May Be Here Sooner Than You Think

A NASA scientist reveals at a recent symposium that he and his team have taken the first tiny steps towards making faster-than-light speed -- generally seen as necessary for interstellar travel -- a reality.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

At last week’s 100 Year Starship Symposium, in which scientists came together to discuss the challenges and possibilities of interstellar space travel, NASA’s Harold “Sonny” White presented findings that put the concept of warp drive — faster-than-light travel popularized by “Star Trek” — into the realm of possible science. Building on a concept theorized by physicist Miguel Alcubierre, White and his team built a device that creates space-time warps at a micro level. It’s a long way from there to an actual starship drive, but he says it “represents a promising first step.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Scientists have long considered the speed of light the fastest any object could go, so the idea of going faster than that stayed largely within the imagination. The Alcubierre warp drive would allow a ship to remain within a static bubble of space-time created by a ring of matter that would warp the space-time around it, creating faster-than-light speeds. The hitch in this theory was the massive amount of energy that would be required for the drive. White’s research involves changing the shape of the ring, and possibly oscillating the warp intensity, so that the drive could operate with much less power.

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