We have all seen Star Trek. So, it seems only natural that many people have had questions about warp travel. And whether or not it is possible? Well, according to some, it is and there are those who think that NASA is working on this technology already. It’s time to find out if the science fiction world can be true. Let's start!
Is Warp Travel Possible?
Warp drive is a fictional spacecraft propulsion system that allows travelling through space at speeds much faster than the speed of light. The idea is to compress the space between you and the star or planet you want to go to.
It is done by creating a bubble of flat spacetime around the spaceship and curving spacetime around that bubble to reduce distances. That way, you don’t need to go to the stars, the stars come to you.
However, to compress or warp spacetime, you would need negative energy or negative mass. Scientists have never observed negative mass, and it leaves negative energy as the only option.
To create negative energy, a warp drive would use a huge amount of mass to create an imbalance between particles and antiparticles. This imbalance results in negative energy density, and create the spacetime bubble.
But in order for a warp drive to create sufficient negative energy, you would need a lot of matter. It is estimated that a warp drive with a 100-meter bubble would require the mass of the entire visible universe. That's not practical, so the scientists gave up on the idea; except some.
In August 2020, Physicist Erik Lentz published a paper that offers a solution to the problem of the need for negative energy. He showed how positive energy is enough to create a Warp Drive bubble if you take advantage of hyperbolic space-time instead of linear. This way, a warp drive wouldn’t need to use negative energy.
To answer the question, theoretically, warp travel or warp drive is possible. While the concept is theoretically possible, it seems we are very far from the development of a practical warp drive.
Is NASA Building a Warp Drive?
In addition to the theoretical possibility of warp travel, there are many who think that NASA is building a warp drive. The idea that NASA is secretly working on warp drive technology has been around for a long time.
In fact, in the mid-2000s, NASA brought in scientist Dr Harold G. “Sonny” White to continue developing the Warp Drive. White made refinements to the original model, and in 2003 and 2011, significant leaps were made in Warp Drive theory.
However, he left NASA in 2019 to work at a Houston-based nonprofit called the Limitless Space Institute. Nevertheless, he continued working on his project with NASA's approval.
Fast forward to the present, White and his team at Limitless Space Institute have accidentally created the first warp bubble. Yeah, Mr White! Yeah, science!
However, according to White, the finding is "not a warp bubble analogue, it is a real, albeit humble and tiny, warp bubble”. Meaning, the manifested bubble is incredibly small to move an actual spacecraft, but the implications of this discovery are huge. Anyway, this is a breakthrough, and a full-sized, warp-capable spacecraft is now within our reach.
The recent development brought a new wave of interest in the idea of a warp drive. We can assume that NASA is doing or going to do some secret work in the area of faster-than-light travel. Interstellar travel has been hampered by the long time it takes to reach other stars.
It would take 17,000 to 76,000 years to reach our nearest star (Proxima Centauri) with our current technology. Meanwhile, warp travel would take us to the nearest star in less than 4 years.