June 11, 2018
The science fiction literature provides many ideas on how to achieve supernatural speed. Physicists contributed theoretical designs. Whether a corresponding drive is feasible remains speculation.
In the “Star Trek” series Captain Kirk gives the command “accelerate” casually on the bridge of the spaceship “Enterprise”. First, special antimatter aggregates bring it to the so-called pulse velocity, which is about one quarter of the speed of light. Then Scotty detonates the warp reactors in the engine room, and the Enterprise dives off into the subspace. There are different laws of physics than in the normal universe, so a faster than light flight is possible, and the communication can be practically timeless.
But science fiction friends must now be very brave: The great idea of exploring the universe or at least the Milky Way with superluminal spaceships, is not possible according to recent research. Not only that there is no prospect today of a technology that could accelerate space cruisers beyond the cosmic speed limit set by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (about 300,000 kilometers per second). The authors of the study also found physical effects that should in principle prevent lightning-fast flights.
The Star Trek writers devised a series of fictional techniques to transgress Einstein’s seemingly iron speed limit. Their warp drive consists of spools in the engine nacelles, which are fired consecutively from front to back, creating energy fields. These are radiated and thus drive the ship ahead. This is still conventional physics and one day may even be technically implemented.
After science then begins the fiction. Because the radiated energy should cause a “transition” into the subspace. The space, as we know it, is – so the idea – “underlaid” at each point with subspace. It is actually an additional dimension. There the mass of the spaceship is reduced. Now the warp fields drive it to above-light speed. At the same time, they bend the space-time, so that the distances between two points in space are shortened. So an artificial warp of space-time is created. The speed is measured by “warp factors”, with factor 10 defined as infinite speed. The spaceship is in warp 10 flight at any point in the universe at the same time