Astrophysicist Geraint Lewis from the University of Sydney in a speech few days ago explained that, theoretically at least, super-fast warp speed travel is probable according to Einstein’s theory of relativity. All we have to do is find the right materials to accomplish it. Lewis told ABC Science in an discussion before his appearance in Sydney “If you look at the equation that Einstein gave us, it shows you can bend and warp space so you can travel at any speed you like in the Universe,” Obviously, the difficulty is that even if warping space is theoretically possible, we have no clue how to do it. To reach warp speed, it won’t be our rockets that need upgrading. According to Lewis, rather than upgrading our rockets we’ll need to find a material that has a “negative density energy”.
|Image source: Mark Rademaker/NASA|
This is something that the NASA’s Eagleworks lab is studying at the moment. Run by mechanical engineer Harold ‘Sonny’ White, the lab last year made mock-ups of what a possible warp drive spaceship might look like. As you can all see above, the ship is suspended within two huge rings, which would hypothetically generate a warp bubble that twists space around the spacecraft. This is the similar type of thing that Lewis is suggesting, and it means that the ship itself would never essentially be roaming faster than the speed of light – it would basically twist space to make its target closer, so it wouldn’t need to break up any of Einstein’s laws.
But how do we even start to know how to warp space? White’s group has now set up an interferometer test bed, where they’ll use several tools to try and produce and spot microscopic occurrences of little warp bubbles by means of a device called the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer. For the time being, they haven’t found a way to bend space, but they have to make a first step.
Lewis told ABC Science “You just have to look at the work of Newton 400 years ago, and even people who work in quantum physics 100 years ago, and those things are real today and they started off as dreams essentially. Einstein’s theory is already a hundred years old, but we have only started to scratch the surface … I think in the next 100 or 1,000 years we will reveal a lot more about the Universe and maybe this hyper-fast travel will be realisable.”
One thing’s for certain, if we do ever discover a material with negative density energy and then find how to handle it, it would certainly revolutionize space travel. According to calculations, White’s hypothetical warp drive spaceship could get to our nearby neighbouring star system, Alpha Centauri, in “two weeks as measured by clocks here on Earth”. And that’s something we definitely need if we ever want to get serious about traveling and exploring the Cosmos.
Lewis said “Even travelling at the speed of light, it would take four years to go to the nearest star and 2 million years to go to the nearest large galaxy. [These distances] would stop you colonising the Universe … so you would need some sort of way to beat that speed limit, and Einstein’s theory of relativity gives it to you.”
Ah, fusion power is, no doubt, Holy Grail of all of our energy problems and our obvious key to the stars. A group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says that they have finally have a real reason to get thrilled. By using a new kind of superconductor, they say they can lessen the size of a potential fusion reactor while extremely increasing its power output. Dennis Whyte, a well-known professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and also the director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, said “It changes the whole thing,” Their suggestion includes a kind of reactor known as a tokamak, which is donut-shaped. A fusion reactor re-forms the Sun’s procedure of fusing hydrogen atoms together to create helium at its core, which discharges huge amounts of energy.
One of the toughest parts of redoing this here on Earth, however, is heating the plasma essential for the reaction to temperatures equal to the core of a star, about 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit), while keeping it limited and safe. Doing so has depend on on using magnetic fields formed by copper conductors to trap the heat and particles in the core of a reactor, but creating strong enough magnetic fields via this technique is a complex, not to mention massive, process. In the recent paper in Fusion Engineering and Design, the MIT group of researchers describe that use of the rare-earth barium copper oxide (REBCO) superconducting tapes, as an alternative of copper, can create high-magnetic field coils at a fraction of the size. Actually, they say they could essentially increase the fusion power by a factor of 10 in their new reactor, called ARC (hat tip to Iron Man), when it is chilled to the temperature of liquid nitrogen, about -200°C (-330°F). This is because the new superconductors generate a more powerful field than their copper counterparts.
Ph.D. candidate Brandon Sorbom from MIT, said “The much higher magnetic field allows you to achieve much higher performance,” The ARC reactor is just a suggestion for now, but the team said it could possibly be constructed in just five years. For contrast, construction on a massive $40 billion (£26 billion) experimental fusion reactor in France called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) started in 2013, and is anticipated to be finished in 2019. It was planned before these new superconductors were accessible.