Daily Archives: March 11, 2021
For decades, we’ve dreamed of visiting other star systems. There’s just one problem – they’re so far away, with conventional spaceflight it would take tens of thousands of years to reach even the closest one. Physicists are not the kind of people who give up easily, though. Give them an impossible dream, and they’ll give you an incredible, hypothetical way of making it a reality. Maybe. In a new study by physicist Erik Lentz from Göttingen University in Germany, we may have a viable solution to the dilemma, and it’s one that could turn out to be more feasible than other would-be warp drives.
This is an area that attracts plenty of bright ideas, each offering a different approach to solving the puzzle of faster-than-light travel: achieving a means of sending something across space at superluminal speeds. There are some problems with this notion, however. Within conventional physics, in accordance with Albert Einstein‘s theories of relativity, there’s no real way to reach or exceed the speed of light, which is something we’d need for any journey measured in light-years. That hasn’t stopped physicists from trying to break this universal speed limit, though.
While pushing matter past the speed of light will always be a big no-no, spacetime itself has no such rule. In fact, the far reaches of the Universe are already stretching away faster than its light could ever hope to match. To bend a small bubble of space in a similar fashion for transport purposes, we’d need to solve relativity’s equations to create a density of energy that’s lower than the emptiness of space. While this kind of negative energy happens on a quantum scale, piling up enough in the form of ‘negative mass‘ is still a realm for exotic physics. In addition to facilitating other kinds of abstract possibilities, such as wormholes and time travel, negative energy could help power what’s known as the Alcubierre warp drive.
This speculative concept would make use of negative energy principles to warp space around a hypothetical spacecraft, enabling it to effectively travel faster than light without challenging traditional physical laws, except for the reasons explained above, we can’t hope to provide such a fantastical fuel source to begin with. But what if it were possible to somehow achieve faster-than-light travel that keeps faith with Einstein’s relativity without requiring any kinds of exotic physics that physicists have never seen?