How Close Are We to Star Trek Propulsion?

By David Warmflash | September 17, 2014 8:30 am


It’s popular to talk about how the original Star Trek, set in the 23rd century, predicted many devices that we’re using already here in 2014. It started with communicators that manifested as flip-open cell phones that many already consider too primitive, moved through computers that talk and recognize human voices and provide instant translation (all of which are constantly improving), to medical applications such as needle-free injection, anti-radiation drugs, and a medical tricorder.

But looking at the more exotic Star Trek technologies, it’s harder to find credible reports that we’re close to a Trek-like world. This is true for Star Trek’s transporter: Despite some success in “quantum teleportation,” which could have applications for computers and possibly communication technology, no experts are saying that this is about to lead to a technology for beaming humans or any other objects from place to place.

It’s also true for space travel. Star Trek depicted a world where people would move between planets and star systems (at least nearby systems) frequently and very swiftly. The United Federation of Planets contains worlds separated by dozens of light-years, which ordinary Earthlings regularly traverse over time periods measured in days to weeks.

Clearly that’s one aspect of Star Trek technology that is far from being a reality in the present day. But the topic isn’t just in the realm of sci-fi: Scientists are taking various approaches to try to create the next generation of space propulsion, beyond the chemical rockets that require most of the mass of the ship to be fuel.

If we want spaceflight to become routine for humans as aviation did, we’ll need major innovations. Are any just around the corner?

Everyday Space Travel

You may have heard about a new experimental NASA engine, as the story was circulating at warp speed less than a month ago. Stories have been quite optimistic, with headlines such as “Impossible NASA engine may actually work.” And now, because of inclusion of the word “impossible,” there’s been some backlash of skepticism based on a rationale that goes something like “How could it be that an engine violates Newton’s third law of motion (for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction)? Surely NASA is more likely to be wrong than Newton.”

We don’t know how the story will turn out, but for the record let’s establish one thing: if the new engine works, it does not violate Newton’s third law. The misunderstanding is based on the fact that the propulsion device does not require a supply of reaction mass. Instead the idea is that, using a kind of electromagnetic effect, it manages to exert force against virtual particles in space. These are subatomic particles that, according to quantum theory, continuously pop into and out of existence. Newton’s theory is a special case that does not apply in the quantum world, just as it does not apply to objects moving at relativistic speeds (close to the speed of light).

Einstein demonstrated the latter, which did not disprove Newton, but expanded on his discoveries, while a series of other physicists developed quantum theory, which also does not disprove Newton. Whether you’re throwing a basketball, performing a double twisting back somersault, or flying supersonic across the Atlantic Ocean, Newton is still correct. And he’d be correct with this experimental engine too, taking the virtual particles into account. Yes, they sound weird, but in terms of a reaction mass, they’re like the water or the air being pushed back by the propeller of a boat or airplane.

Warping Space

Now let’s go beyond this new engine. What about warp drive? On Star Trek, warp allows humans and others to travel faster than light without violating the laws of physics. The theory of special relativity, which Albert Einstein presented in 1905, shows that no object can reach the speed of light. Over the next several years, however, Einstein developed his theory of general relativity, consisting of various field equations that solved in different ways. It turns out that some of the solutions that can be worked out for the Einstein field equations allow us to move space itself faster than light. In other words, we could warp space, squeezing the space in front of a ship and stretching the space behind us.

Nobody knew this was possible back in the 1960s; at that time, Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, simply needed a way to move the USS Enterprise swiftly between star systems. In addition to going where no TV show had gone before by providing thoughtful social commentary, Roddenberry wanted a show that would be more plausible scientifically than other space shows of the time. Remember Lost in Space, and how the Robinsons started out in suspended animation, because it would take decades to get to the nearest star system, then all of a sudden they could traverse interstellar distances in a matter of days? Roddenberry wanted to do a lot better, and that’s what led to the warp engines.

Over three seasons, an animation series, movies, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and subsequent Star Trek series, we learned more of the details of warp drive. Warp had been invented by a human, Zefram Cochrane, in the mid-21st century, but the Vulcans had invented it centuries earlier. It required an exotic substance called dilithium and a device called a warp coil. And finally, the technology had progressed in increments; Cochrane’s warp had been relatively slow, and only by the mid 22nd century (a century before Kirk’s Enterprise) had humans achieved warp 5, equivalent to 125 times the speed of light (Cochrane scale). But slower warp had been good enough for Cochrane’s generation to colonize the Alpha Centauri system, 4.3 light-years from Earth.

Here in the real world, we’d be thrilled with any warp. Is it possible?

The answer is yes, because of what I wrote earlier about solutions to the Einstein field equations. In 1994, inspired by watching Star Trek, Miguel Alcubierre, a college physics student at the time, published the first solution to the field equations that allowed for warp drive. It was a totally theoretical project, which Alcubierre has since abandoned. He doesn’t think it’s feasible technologically, because it requires something like all of the energy in the universe, or at least star-sized amounts of energy, and it also needs negative energy.

Crunching the Numbers

But a few scientists studying applied physics have tweaked Alcubierre’s theory in recent years, making the idea much more feasible, both in terms of the needed energy and in generating warp in a way that aligns with aspects of our current technological prowess.

First, the needed energy. Alcubierre’s original theory was based on the idea of compressing space ahead of the ship and expanding it behind the ship to create a bubble-like warp field whose walls would be thinner than the nucleus of an atom.

This, says Sonny White, director of NASA’s warp research program in Houston, is like trying to squeeze a wooden tabletop down to the width of a sheet of paper. “You couldn’t make the tabletop much thinner by squeezing it with your hand,” White says, since that would take more energy than your fingers could generate. “But you could squeeze it to be a nanometer or so thinner.”

Similarly, there are warp bubbles that would be much easier to achieve energetically than the one Alcubierre used in his calculations. The Alcubierre warp bubble has walls with a thickness on the scale of what’s called a Planck length (~1.62 x 10-35 meters), but if you increase the wall thickness up to a few hundred nanometers, meaning the size range of the wavelengths of visible light, it turns out that the energy requirement plummets.

And not only does the technology become more feasible from a quantitative standpoint (i.e. the amount of energy needed), but from a qualitative standpoint as well. “Not only does the thicker bubble wall mean that we’d need a lot less energy to generate the warp, but it also means we might do it with electromagnetic technology,” explains Eric Davis, a breakthrough propulsion physicist at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Austin, Texas. “And that’s precisely the kind of technology that we humans have developed.” Just think about that cell phone.

In other words, changing a few numbers in Alcubierre’s calculations makes warp at least thinkable in terms of doable technology. Based on similar tweaked calculations, White has also figured out that space can be softened to a certain extent, like changing the wooden table into foam, making it that much easier to compress. Another tweak, discovered by Davis, is that if the warp generator is pulsed, i.e. turned on and off really fast, that reduces the energy requirement further. And, by the way, even the need for negative energy that I mentioned earlier need not be a show-stopper, since there is a kind of negative energy — negative vacuum energy — that could be created by certain capabilities that we have, including lasers and a technology known as quantum optics.

Warp Research

Utilizing a quantum optics approach, the teams headed by Davis and White (the physicists, not the ice dancers) are thinking big, but taking careful baby steps. Explaining exactly what they’re doing requires a language of quantum physics, in which most interested readers (as well as writers) are not fluent, and that’s why you may have seen exaggerated stories, with illustrations of warp ships, suggesting that NASA already has the blueprints.

No, despite the beautiful drawings, there is no ship design. But what they’re doing is designing and modifying quantum optics devices to be able to detect minute warp effects from lasers and other technology. If this succeeds, the next step would be to track down whatever components of the devices produce the mini-warp effect and tweak the design so as to amplify that effect.

That’s a far cry from ships in the illustrations, or from the Enterprise, or even from Zefram Cochrane’s early primitive warp engines. Nevertheless, it could mean that we’re at least a little closer to Star Trek propulsion than you may have thought.


Image by Catmando / Shutterstock


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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration
  • Joshua Masland-Sarani

    The impossible space drive really is impossible. Most people miss the fact that NASA also tested a “dummy drive” which was the same in every way but purposefully made not to work, and it showed a similar thrust! Which means that there was something wrong with the experiment (understandable when measuring such minuscule amounts of thrust). It was journalists who came to the (wrong) conclusion that the engine “might actually work”. The impossibility of a reactionless engine is not helped by “virtual particles” or other quantum effects, which physicists say sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo. Newton’s third law still applies in the quantum world, it just looks a lot different than in the macroscopic world.

    Ion propulsion (which is very real, already in use, and fully compliant with Newton’s laws) is the closest we can get with known physics.

    • Jody

      As I recall, the experimenters accounted for that idea as well, showing it wasn’t a fault in their measuring system.

      Rather, the paper that was published was more of a “hey, we found something that doesn’t make any sense. We could be wrong. We could also be right. We need help figuring out if there’s a hidden goof we’re making or if we’ve really found something.”

      That was translated into the “Reactionless Drive Discovered!” headline the press used.

    • mursc2

      The dummy drive was not made to not work but to test if certain features of the drive made it work. The dummy drive worked so it wasn’t those features that made the magic happen. The thing works(!), they just still don’t know why..
      YOU get your facts straight!

      • Emkay

        re-read your post…yes, you’re a moron…

    • beachmike

      Going to the moon was also impossible.

      • delphinus100

        Yes, and…?

        Some things truly *are* physically impossible. The question is, is this one of them?

        • Emkay

          as a man, I could go to Mars, or to Alpha Centauri or other places..but I could never have a baby…

  • John P. Tarver

    General Relativity supports the notion of a jump engine like the later Babylon 5 series, Warp engines are a violation of Relativity.

  • Guest

    I actually believe, that if Russia, US, Japan and China would work togehter (all politics aside), we would have that done. And would be on the moon and mars by now.

    • Erin Sherar

      We’ll Get There sooner Than you Think

    • delphinus100

      I actually believe that such an overarching bureaucracy would only make it take longer and cost more…

    • Alberto Contador

      Stephen Hawking postulates that if we start playing with the Higgs- Boson, we will create an insatiable black hole…I’m gonna watch Event Horizon again to see what’s in store for us

      • Naimit

        I feel certain that actual, literal planetary death would be less agonizing than a second viewing of Event Horizon. I would rather watch *Avatar*. ::shudder::

      • Emkay

        never trust an atom, they make up everything…

        • Reverend Joe Ruyle

          Love that!

      • gendotte

        One theory is that such a black hole could be used as a drive, by falling into it. Since it lasts only an instant, and is continually regenerated, it would be like the carrot on a stick.

  • Юрчик- И-Уррчик

    I actually believe, that if Russia, US, Japan and China would work together (all politics aside), we would have that done. And would be on the moon and mars by now.

    • noncarbonated

      In Communist Russia, warp drives you!

    • Tom Laz Bisley

      This is the sort of positive thing the world needs right now!

      • Юрчик- И-Уррчик

        Just imagine where we would be if politics was just looking after their own countries and cooperated with other countries. Mars would already be populated 10 years ago. So sad, that this will never happen. We have so many unbelievably smart people all over the planet, held down/back by politics and man made borders.

        • Kraig Cullen

          Couldn’t agree more. The Gene Roddenberry view of humanity is what we should all aspire too.

          • Alberto Contador

            Where the ladies are wearing micro-mini skirts. And we can spend 7 hours on the holodeck. Count me in !!

          • Jessica

            That was in the 70’s

          • Johnathan

            That was the ’60s. Star Trek was produced from 1966 to 1969. 😉

        • philb

          I agree in most ways but competition is what drives research money. It an unfortunate way to look at things but the space race would not have likely happened without this mentality. People don’t get motivated to do anything unless there is something to drive it on. The space race in the 50’s and 60’s caused some of the greatest breakthroughs. I have a feeling if people got along progress would have slowed unfortunately. I believe that is more likely the reason why rocket technology has not advance much after the 60’s. They have toyed with other technologies it just does not look like there is the same motivations from Countries. The other issue is there is not enough professors like Alcubierre and Whites out there thinking outside the box in the US and other Countries. The rest of the world just buys technology from US and Russia for Rockets. .

        • DodgeMiniVan

          Not only are people being held down by politics, they are also being held down by religion.

          • Flip3206

            I fail to see how religion is holding us down in this case. My brother-in-law is a Fundamentalist Baptist. If we had an active plan to build a warp ship, he’d happily write the software for it. His daughter would help with the quantum physics calculations. They’d both volunteer for the test drive if my sister would let them. (Okay, so my sister might be holding us back a little bit.)

    • Paul Shipley

      Doesn’t Russia already have warp drive? If you believe all f the misinformation and propaganda they feed their people. RT Russia TV is fun to watch in Europe to realise that Czar Putin has achieved everything by himself with nobodies help. A bit like Kim Jong-un he is another super hero that can travel faster that warp drive.

      • solerso

        Assholes like you are the reason the human species will destroy itself, long before it develops the technology to reach interstellar space.

        • Paul Shipley

          Sorry that I offended you about your beloved superhero. Maybe you should have someone else on your Bedroom wall to fantasize about. Ahhh Vladamir…. you make my sock so wet!

      • Andrew

        Holy crap, you’re an idiot Paul.

        • Paul Shipley

          Yep that’s what I was aiming for. I want to rule Russia and Nth Korea just like those fantastic super heroes.

    • Nick Anderson

      Russia would never be invited to the party given what assholes they’re currently being. And China would have to be viewed as an ally to the extent that Japan is for any unilateral scientific partnership to be possible, and for that to happen they would have to abandon over two thousand years of oligarchy and legalism in order to become the kind of democracy the western world is capable of relating to, and that’s 30 years away at best.

      • solerso

        LOL. you mean the “democracies” of the western world? Wherein every 4 years billionaires whom you don’t know, (and who would have you be arrested if you tried to) select 2 of their lackeys to stand for president, who we may affirm, or deny as we choose since it makes no difference at all….you mean someone should “relate” to that in some meaningful way? why?

        • Nick Anderson

          Because what Russia has been doing for over a century has worked out sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo well for it.

    • Otade Gafron

      i totally agree.if every human didnt care just about himself and how will he have more money and more stuff and cared about helping others…..who doesnt wanna go on the moon??(for example)if everyone cared about each other and not about how will he go to the moon…. we could all be on the moon by now.but its in the human nature to consume,destroy,and care only for itself:(

      • Emkay

        sober up and try again…..

      • Reverend Joe Ruyle

        Altruism is a wonderful trait but a poor motivator. Progress is made when the lack of government interference allows people to work in their own self interest. Making something or providing a service which benefits someone personally is what motivates. And if the product or service becomes popular then that person is free to employ others to help in either producing something or providing more service. While caring for other and helping other is good…. neither act produces anything beyond good will. And face it…. who is in a better position to help the most people…. someone with money and resources acquired from working in their own self interest…….. or someone of minimal means?

    • Bryan C. Winter

      This is really hard science. I’d rather it be a competitive venture, than a cooperative one. You have a high risk of betting on the wrong horse when everyone is working together. You have dozens or hundreds of companies trying different approaches from different perspectives though, much better chance of a break though.

    • Roland Racilis

      yes i agree with your comment:) set aside all politics …however natural resources that we humans are dependent on from each of these nations continues to divide us, how we trade in goods and services also divides us, how our Government controls how we live also controls us ….yes i agree …if we can work together as a team like in our Olympics, im sure we as a human civilization can come closer doing more research and development on Warp Technology. When we humans will finally master Warp Speed we can truly travel among the stars and be classified as a type 2 civilization

  • CharlesJQ

    “but for the record let’s establish one thing: if the new engine works, it does not violate Newton’s third law. The misunderstanding is based on the fact that the propulsion device does not require a supply of reaction mass. Instead the idea is that, using a kind of electromagnetic effect, it manages to exert force against virtual particles in space. These are subatomic particles that, according to quantum theory, continuously pop into and out of existence.”

    Actually, for the record, exerting force against virtual particles still counts as violating Newton’s 3rd law. The fact that they are virtual means that they’ll exist only for a short time, after which the momenta you transferred into them is lost, and conservation of momentum breaks. Noether theorem is inescapable in this

    If the effect is real (a big if until they make the tests in vacuum to discard possibilities like ionic airflow), there are a few possibilities that would preserve 3rd law. One of them is that such microwave cavities are striking some kind of resonant effect with galactic dark matter. Since one possibility is that dark matter is made of axions, and these have rest masses that are in the microwave portion of the spectrum, is not a completely preposterous idea. But it is also a big if nonetheless

    • Joseph Perkins

      Or the structure of space itself. Think “Higgs Field”.

      • gendotte

        If Doc Smith figured it out, so can we.

  • Kirk Leadbetter

    Is there a way we could look into space and detect these or similar fields that might tell us if people are out there zooming around?

    • Erin Sherar

      That’s a possibility as They’ve heard of The annunaki and The Greys who fly round, They are starting To Get better with Telescopes That can see dark matter, The more we know bout The physics of space The more we could understand how To make a warp engine That can Go Through It

  • Erin Sherar

    They Talk bout This moving Them ahead In Time, Why not reverse warp where we can Go back In Time also, There’s ways To make It happen, And They also say That The warp engine can burn out If pushed To hard like what happened In Star Trek enterprise, What are They Gonna do Get a Good sling shot effect like jump start at It Then slow down To somewhere round half of warp speed, Btw cochrane’s Star ship was Two Times The speed of light, Over 1.3 billion mph, Ai’nt To bad but To Get To alpha centauri at warp Two would Take 19,139.14 hrs That’s almost 26 months, Who In The hell would want To Take That long Getting anywhere, Sure as hell not me, We can do better at warp Travel

    • Avris

      Your words already seem to be generating warp fields. You may take this the wrong way, but I strongly recommend reading up on proper English syntax; it’s not just about pedantry, it’s about ease of communication. It’s very difficult to read what you’re writing.

      Anyway, using Star Trek as any sort of basis for speculation is a problem in that none of it represents real-world technology, even if some of it is conceptually viable. Remember, Star Trek is a fictional story, and almost no genuine research went into defining the things that happen in it. That said, spacial deformations that link through “time” are already hypothesised; study a bit about wormholes for more on that.

    • Alberto Contador

      Some physicists seem to concur that time travel is not possible under G Relativity & Quantum theory- the Grandfather Paradox is one idea (if you go back in time, meet your grandpa, and kill him, then you wouldn’t have been born, so could NOT have travelled back etc etc) cause and effect, causality… you fry an egg, it turns out crap, you can’t go back in time and unfry it! Or… maybe time travel is possible, but ONLY to an alternative reality. There may be millions of universes out there, of which we are but one. Go back to Dallas, 1963, and push Lee Harvey Oswald outta the window. Save JFK. But it’s not THIS JFK, it’s the Prez on Earth Version 37045. Go back in time a week, buy a Powerball ticket using the numbers that you KNOW were drawn last night…then sit down in front of the TV with a large bottle of Veuve Cliquot, and watch another set of numbers get drawn. Missed out on the money! Why? because you’ve upset the timeline by going back. Werner Heisenberg, and Schrodinger, wrote a lot about this type of thing. I’m punching way above my weight here, though.

      • Emkay

        Schrodinger’s cat is dead…not really..

        • gendotte

          Not if you don’t open the box.

    • Emkay

      sober up and try again…..

  • Viseslav Rak Rakocevic

    When all people unite into one nation we will achieve it. But that probably requires a world war.

    • JAC

      Jeez, you eastern European types are depressing.

      • Jeff Jernigan

        Your comment seems to be the biggest obstacle in our way. I have never heard of negative criticism `giving rise` to any positive destination. In fact, history says over and over…positive energy will propel…negative energy will back peddle. Until we understand this within society, we are all stuck here with death as our destination. Thank you JAC for affirming this for us all.

        • Emkay

          while you’re talking, make poverty, hunger, and racism go away too… and don’t forget about the peaceful religious types in the world that would be happy to contribute to space travel and discovery..

  • CAN

    what if you knew how to, but no one knew you…?

  • pis on it sam

    yeah right! like the atom bomb, and gun powder some scientist will figure away to use it as a weapon, to wipe out civilians

  • William Tindall

    You want warp speed,sublight speed?, start looking into the rail propulsion system,it is clean,with zero to minute eco footprint,and it will get you in the right direction,one problem is the environment ,ship,capsule etc,will need special protection to move so rapidly with out killing all occupants

    • Rick

      The ship would need an inertia brake. I learned about these in ’02.

  • tim Arwood

    Erin Shear, if you only knew how right you are.

  • Jack Riley

    Even if they could attain the speed of light ( something like 7,000,000 MPH I think) how will they avoid all of the objects in their path?? At that speed a BB will destroy a spacecraft.

    • Elizabeth Jane

      The spacecraft is standing still and the space before and behind it is warped, so there is no impact with anything. Because the space ship itself stands still there is also no problem with inertia. If a normal space craft were to be suddenly moved across vast distances the acceleration would flatten and pulverize any occupants, but with the warp drive, as in Star Trek, there is no sense of acceleration.

      • David Warmflash

        Exactly…anything inside the warp bubble would not experience any inertial effects. This is one of the things that the Alcubierre metric demonstrated, and it appears to hold no matter how you tweak the numbers in terms of bubble geometry.

    • Emkay

      shields up Mr. Riley..

  • Alberto Contador

    It was written by some researchers, that a warp-driven ship will gather, along its journey, an immense amount of gamma rays, neutrinos, and other exotic particles. These are captured from the space ahead of our brave ship, compressed and stored in the warp bubble. When our intrepid astronauts “hit the brakes” before reaching the destination, the warp bubble collapses, and the mass of high energy particles will be released in a tight grouping towards the star system. Like shotgun pellets. Wiping out the entire system, possibly.

    • Elizabeth Jane

      That is an interesting criticism. However, could not the warp drive be pulsed so that it takes place over smaller segments of space-time, and so be releasing radiation harmlessly in small quantities at shorter intervals? Or, alternatively, couldn’t the warp drive journeys be stepped, transporting ships to the edge of a star system and then making a second much shorter journey to a planet within a star system from its periphery? Either of those alternatives would avoid the build up and release of large quantities of interstellar radiation.

      • Alberto Contador

        Liz, you’re absolutely correct :-) Very logical thinking!

    • David Warmflash

      Alberto, you’ve raised a good point that’s actually a major topic in warp research, although it would have been out of scope with the level of this piece, which I wrote only as an overview to stimulate discussion. To be precise, dropping out of faster-than-light warp would generate intense Hawking radiation that would shoot out in the direction of travel fry life forms on a planet, moon, or vessel lying directly ahead. As Elizabeth suggests, pulsed warp (the most feasible kind anyway in terms of the energy needed) could dilute the radiation over light years. Moreover, you would not plot a course into the destination star system so as to point at an inhabited world on your way in. If you were on your way to Earth, for instance, you’d drop out of faster-than-light warp in the outer Solar System on a fly-by trajectory toward interstellar space, then change course and proceed to Earth either at sublight warp or using another type of propulsion. Sublight warp and faster-than-light warp also would produce radiation that would move from the bubble toward the ship, so major advances in radiation shielding would also be needed.

  • Alberto Contador

    Imagine how many exotic particles will be collected by a high energy warp bubble, on a 100 light-year trip. The mass of partcles will be released in the direction of travel. Its all theory, of course, but wow.

    • Jack

      Can we use it to power the ship?

  • Mark Evans

    We will live in space one day, Earth colony ‘ s will exist and to us will be every day life like now on earth.Space will need to be managed by women I feel because every world super power is going to want to claim this and that and instead of comparing their penis’s women cut thru all the political mumbo jumbo and get down to business and they have more compassion and humans need to be reminded to be compassionate .The world needs to work together as one, We as humans can do anything we put are heart and soul into …..I believe we can do this. ….
    Mark A.Evans, a student of life

  • Roger Trefren

    Gyro propeller.

  • Guest

    Gyro Propeller

  • Roger Trefren

    Gyrowarping Propeller

  • ohioborn30

    We probably have it and are currently unaware that we possess it.
    building the engine would be reasonably Easy. its the exotic fuels that seem to be the problem. The dylithium crystals and the anti hydrogen are the hard things to come up with. Heavy water we have. making Impulse engines a little easier. And according to star trek the warp engine is essentially an oversized impulse engine with field generators and devices to keep you in “Normal” space while traveling at such speeds. don’t for get the navigational deflection devices that keep small debris from penetrating the hull of the ship. so we may need to work on a few other things along with the warp engine

  • Elizabeth Jane

    It is interesting that both of these technologies, the reactionless drive or “EmDrive”, which was being investigated by NASA in July, and the warp drive involve changes in how we see the laws of physics. Both drives were thought impossible by scientists because they violated the laws of physics. A reactionless drive should not exist. Somehow it works, although the explanation that an electromagnetic field is pushing against virtual particles is only a theory as to how it works, not a proven fact. Whatever new physics this drive is operating on is only beginning to be studied, let alone exploited. Who knows what new doors this advanced technology will open?

    The EmDrive looks like an “antigravity” drive seen in science fiction movies and television shows, where vehicles appear to float in the air without any propellant being used to keep them up. Also, the warp engine was postulated purely as science fiction in the 1960’s – no scientists believed that faster-than-light travel was really possible. Both drives are examples of the laws of physics apparently conforming to our expectations and desires.

    But how could it be that the laws of physics are seemingly conforming to our collective imaginations, as portrayed in science fiction? Is it possible that we can shape the laws of the universe? Sounds crazy, perhaps, but this suggestion conforms to a theory proposed by scientist Dr. Robert Lanza. His theory is that the reason why all of the hundreds of constants that define how physics exists in the universe are all within a few percent of the parameters needed for life to exist is that life, or consciousness, precedes the universe, and that the universe is created by life as a kind of “tortoise shell” to contain it. The universe does not come first, biology does, and biological consciousness created the universe. He calls this theory “biocentrism” and it is an alternative to both the theory of an infinite number of universes and of a God of religious belief.

  • jesse

    what would speeds of this kind do to the space ship itself?

    • Emkay

      nothing!…space is vacuum.. no resistance to stress.

      • Small_Businessman

        No, space is not a vacuum. Matter is extremely thin (maybe as little as 1 atom per cubic meter), but not entirely absent. And at high speeds, even matter that thin is dangerous to unprotected people. It’s a good question.

  • Peter Lewicke

    The sooner we can ship several billion off Earth, the better, and warp drive might make that feasible. Let’s mess up more planets.

    I’ll have to read some of the original material, because the writer of this an other articles I’ve seen about warp drives didn’t know anything except the generalities.

  • TeeGeeRoo

    I find it disturbing that people are seriously concerned with space travel when we cannot feed everyone on the planet, despite apparently adequate resources. Water and energy (our most fundamental resources) are limited in the sense that the market grows in direct proportion to availability; further, communities outside the first world truly do not have enough water or energy to consistently serve their most basic needs.

    Traveling to other planets has no practical ability to solve these problems. In fact, devoting energy and resources to pie in the sky hopes actually would make the situation worse.

    • Emkay

      Solar! .. invest in Solar!…solar will save humanity and the earth, when we discover the cheap way (and we will) to make solar cells..

      During full direct sunlight, you can safely assume about 100 watts of solar energy per square foot. If you assume 12 hours of sun per day, this equates to 438,000 watt-hours per square foot per year. Based on 27,878,400 square feet per square mile, sunlight bestows a whopping 12.2 trillion watt-hours per square mile per year. Put another way, the solar energy hitting the earth (in one year) exceeds the total energy consumed by all of humanity by a factor of over 20,000 times.

      Energy use in terawatt-hours[2]

      Fossil Nuclear Renewable Total

      1990 83,374 6,113 13,082 102,569

      2000 94,493 7,857 15,337 117,687

      2008 117,076 8,283 18,492 143,851

      Change 2000-2008 +23.9% +5.4% +20.6% +22.2%

      1 terawatt-hour (TWh) = 1 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) = 1012 watt-hours

      • TeeGeeRoo

        Solar energy is what we all survive upon already. It drives the fresh water cycle. It provides all of our food through photosynthesis. Even our fossil fuels are just stored solar energy. Simply converting some of the solar energy into electricity does not come close to solving all of our problems. That being said, we need to learn to live on our solar budget. Speaking of space travel, traveling further from the Sun reduces the the irradiance by the square of the distance.

        • Emkay

          right over your head!

          • TeeGeeRoo


    • gendotte

      And now you hit on what I was talking about. The false argument that since things are not perfect then space travel shouldn’t be. TGR, it will NEVER be perfect. But we MUST go. Sooner or later the sun will nova, and this planet will be uninhabitable. By that time, mankind had *better* have had space travel for millions of years, or we are doomed as a species.

      • TeeGeeRoo

        I’m not talking about perfection, I’m talking about sustainability; something that is absolutely necessary for interstellar travel and terraforming. In fact sustainability isn’t good enough. Almost infinite growth potential would be necessary. Anytime the word infinite is involved, you should have a clue that the concept is not technically feasible and perhaps completely unrealistic.

        And speaking of fantasies, you actually seem to believe that humanity will not go the way of the dinosaurs before the sun goes red giant. You have a lot of confidence, considering the fact that the history of even the most primitive human ancestors is still less than 0.5% of the history of dinosaurs. And forget about species survival, what about society? History doesn’t show a very good record of any society lasting much more than a few hundred (maybe, at best, a couple of thousand) years.

        It’s OK, though, since I’m sure you won’t let me ruin your fantasies.

      • TeeGeeRoo

        I’m not talking about perfection, I’m talking about sustainability; something that is absolutely necessary for interstellar travel and terraforming. In fact sustainability isn’t good enough. Almost infinite growth potential would be necessary. Anytime the word infinite is involved, you should have a clue that the concept is not technically feasible and perhaps completely unrealistic.

        And speaking of fantasies, you actually seem to believe that humanity will not go the way of the dinosaurs before the sun goes red giant. You have a lot of confidence, considering the fact that the history of even the most primitive human ancestors is still less than 0.5% of the history of dinosaurs. And forget about species survival, what about society? History doesn’t show a very good record of any society lasting much more than a few hundred (maybe, at best, a couple of thousand) years.

        It’s OK, though, since I’m sure you won’t let me ruin your fantasies.

  • TeeGeeRoo

    If you think that colonizing other planets is possible, then explain a couple of things. First, how will this be done without depletion of our home planet’s resources? Second, do you really believe that we are doing such a great job sustaining (definitely not expanding, probably reducing) the life on this planet that we can actually go to a barren, desolate wasteland and turn it into the new Garden of Eden?

    • sleepvark

      Teegeeroo, you seem to be overlooking some rather obvious things about space travel.
      First of all, depletion of our home planet’s resources by traveling in space is a false boogy man. Stuff here is heavy and expensive to boost up into orbit. It’s much more sensible to use resources that are already out there, like the untold thousands of asteroids and comets. Mining those things will not only NOT deplete earth’s resources, it will have the potential to actually replenish that which is rare here without the displacement of any citizens, and without ruining any more ecosystems.
      In fact, it may well save us all from the kind of extinction the dinosaurs experienced. If we extract every usable ounce of stuff from a killer asteroid, It will more resemble a piffle ball than a killer rock. Worst case scenario being a bit of a meteor shower than armageddon.
      You and yours will always be welcome to stay here and be bored to death. The excitement of creating the Garden of Eden you refer to will make life worth living for those fortunate souls who get to participate.

      • TeeGeeRoo

        Sleepvark, you seem to be overlooking some rather obvious things about mining in space. How will you mine space without first boosting “heavy and expensive” stuff into orbit (or more importantly, beyond orbit)? That is called an investment. What existing (or feasible future) technologies would give a good ROI? If it was currently (or in the near future) feasible to get a good ROI, investment opportunities would already exist. There is currently investment in near earth orbit technology; which is well proven, and has been feasible for over half a century (e.g., satellites and now space vacations). However, anything beyond that is funded with public money; because, public money doesn’t require a return on investment.

        Also, you didn’t come close to answering how well you think we’re doing here; or how we will turn lifeless land into an oasis. You simply express your feeling that it will be exciting.

        • sleepvark

          TeeGeeRoo, you seem to be overlooking our current national short term goals in space exploration, namely getting to some nearby asteroids and mining them for stuff. This is already in the works using current tech. But you are correct that it does represent a bit of an investment, one guaranteed to pay off handsomely. You don’t have to believe me. I wouldn’t myself. But you can check with almost anything written by Buzz Aldrin in the last few decades. He’s pretty much been there and done that. I will humbly defer to his expertise in the matter.
          The most precious resource out there will be the simplest of stuff; water, or ice. Plenty out there, don’t need to haul it off the surface here as soon as we are operationally involved with the right bit of rock. Yeah, it’s heavy as hell too. Almost (!) like iron in mass, if you are thinking in big round numbers. Try holding a bucketful in each arm for more than a minute or so to see what I mean.
          I feel no need to explain in detail to you about how well we’re doing here and the art of turning lifeless land into oasis’. The literature on those topics is quite extensive if you ever care to peruse it. I would only add my agreement to the concept that it is in our better nature to do such things. When we stop doing that as a race, we will indeed deserve the fate of the dinosaurs.

          • TeeGeeRoo

            Buzz Aldrin is not a wealthy as Warren Buffett or Elon Musk. When major investors such as those gentlemen are buying in, I might believe you about the handsome rewards. At this point, it is still pie in the sky (quite literally). Feel free to invest your own money; please do not include my tax money in your dreams. BTW, I have no problem with mathematics.

            Of course you feel no need to explain, because you likely cannot (unless the explanation sounds a lot like popular movie plots). Biosphere was an utter success, right? (heavy sarcasm)

          • sleepvark

            teegeeroo, why do you whine like some little old lady whose afraid of her own shadow?
            Investors? Ever hear of Richard Branson?
            And yes, I’ll gladly use your tax money to do these things if I can, mostly at this point just to see the silly look on your tired old face. Unfortunately, I don’t have any more pull than the average citizen when it comes to political influence. At least my positive vote will counter balance your negative vote.
            As far as explaining about human progress to you, all I can say is, if you need an explanation, you wouldn’t understand it anyway. Go get yourself a second grade education and double your database.
            Why am I even discussing this stuff with someone like you? Mostly because I enjoy putting down retards I suppose.
            You are boring beyond belief. Get a job, any job.

          • TeeGeeRoo

            Argumentum ad hominem? One thing you’re right about: there is no reason for us to continue this discussion. We will have to agree to disagree.

    • Emkay

      terraforming… and you can’t go!

      • TeeGeeRoo

        You seem to be confusing the existence of a word (terraforming) with an actual feasible concept.

        • Emkay

          and you can’t go either…

          • TeeGeeRoo

            If it does become possible (doubtful, considering how we are doing on a planet with lush life already), and is necessary to avoid destruction or despair, you probably can’t either, unless you happen to be among the super elite…

  • Jeff Kummers

    The whole world should be concentrating their efforts on figuring this out! Stop squabbling about who’s god is the right god, stop thinking globally and start thinking universally.

    • Emkay

      more people have been killed in the ‘name of God’ than the total killed in all wars ever fought!… is still happening..

      • Jeff Kummers

        Yes… And what happens in the end? Will there eventually be a time when everyone on this planet agrees with one another?… Maybe, but then one guy wants butter on his toast and another guy likes it dry and they start arguing and fighting and eventually they are at war again! I think that there is a Dr. Seuss book about that.

  • sleepvark

    I am trying to get a grasp on the fundamentals of magnetohydrodynamics, so I am left wondering if that branch of math/science is relevant to this stuff?

  • Emkay

    I think you might be right…

  • gendotte

    We could easily have been there. But we stopped. Very shortsighted around 1970.

  • marcosanthonytoledo

    There is a story Not Final it’s in a science fiction anthology edited by Arthur C .Clarke I don’t remember the title of the book but you can google it it was published in the mid 1960’s.

  • tikitools1

    Right now man can’t live too long in Zero gravity without rigorous exercises too combat the loss of bone density and other conditions. It will be a long time before we go into deep space.

  • Mike Shefler

    To paraphrase: There’s lies, damn lies, and nuclear physics.

  • Paul Saunders

    agreed politics screws everything but people can work together and it can be done…

  • Bob Rooney

    this is way too much nonsense to read and clearly doesnt identify were we are at and what types of engines the USS Enterprise actually used. the warp drive was mainly used for deep space travel. we cant even develop the impulse drive…yeah, something the author clearly skipped. the USSE used warp minimally. most of the time, it used its impulse drive and thrusters to navigate for sublight propulsion. lockheed says it will have its compact high beta fusion reactor ready by 2015…aka the impulse drive according to their wiki. it would be nice to use a fuel source that wont blow everything up to chit and back, aka the virgin galactic nonsense.

    • Bill Thornton


      I’m LAUGHING !!!! 2015…DON”T HOLD
      YOUR BREATH !!!! (actually 2020 according to Lockheed’s Skunk works’ latest…STILL
      a JOKE, they won’t make 2020 !!!) Actually,
      change that year to 2085 (perhaps)…. for a true POSITIVE GAIN Fusion power
      reactor, which we are NOT even close to being able to build. While Lockheed
      Martin’s cute little T4 design uses super-cooled magnets, it’s not the first to
      do so. Cute, and useless Tomahawk designs litter the internet, but all for
      video effects, because it cannot be done yet…. YES the First fusion generator
      (called the Stellarator) was built way…way back in 1951 only 12 years after
      the first Fission generator… the difference is that the dirty radioactive
      fission process actually produces MORE power OUT than what is put IN. So far,
      the BEST fusion ratio of power in to power out from the NIF, is 1 to
      0.0077. Hum. Let’s think about that…. 1,000 horse power
      in…. less than 8 horsepower out… but it’s even worse… the reaction only
      lasted a small fraction of a second…. it would not have spooled your blow
      drier…Yes, I will say The Famed Skunk works gave us stealth jets, and the SR-71
      which can really exceed mach 5, (not just 3.2) and go higher than the Red bull
      Stratos Balloon, but a positive gain fusion generator is far, far more daunting
      than is the “relatively” simple SR-71, even in proportion to the time
      periods of development….except that
      the period of development for fusion generators actually started BEFORE the primitive SR-71 was ever thought up!!!. The ITER effort in France is shooting for the
      2040’s for a 1st prototype…(they WON’T make that, trust me)… By the way, EVEN with future Terra-watt
      Fusion generators, (over 200 years from now), it will allow total colonization
      of our solar system, BUT for interstellar travel, it would STILL take hundreds
      of years to reach the nearest stars.
      Warp drive is even beyond what anti-matter – matter can do…EVEN Antimatter-matter reactions though hundreds of
      times more powerful than fusion per unit mass of measure, LACK the energy density by about a TRILLION
      times, to what is needed to warp space.
      Let me end by leaving you some other blog
      comments from Aviation Week and Space Tech SPECIFICALLY about Lockheed Martin’s
      SKUNKWORKS… Compact T4 design Fusion Reactor Project and their slick
      marketing campaign:

      on Oct 15, 2014
      should I save this
      article now so that I can laugh at it several decades later, if I live that


      I’m very
      skeptical too. I wonder how many more $Billions$ they are going to get going

      Things that are likely to happen before this becomes reality:

      1. Tractor beam

      2. Moon colony

      3. Mars colony

      4. Find “the real killer” of Nicole Simpson

  • David Hurst

    I have three questions about the warp drive:
    1) If you place a ship inside a warp bubble, can the crew see what there is outside of the bubble?
    2) Can anyone outside of the bubble look into the bubble?
    3) If atrip to Alpha centauri takes two weeks, Will two weeks have passed inside th ship? Only seconds? How much?
    What if a ship passes lose to a big gravity field such as a black hole or a big star? Is it asffected? Is it protected? A nuclear explosion?

  • Dwight Huth

    You know warp drive really isn’t that far fetched. I will use this model as my theory. The anti-matter contained in bottle is converted into what I call Anti-Higgs Boson particles. Higgs-Boson’s are the particles that are thought to actuall give matter its mass. The Anti-Higgs-Boson would therefore strip any matter within the field of its mass. Once the Anti-Higgs Boson is created it is transfer through the EPS Conduits into the front part of the warp nacelle right behind the Bussard Ram Scoop where the particles are then projected away from the ship at a distance of ten kilometers all around it where the particles do not come into contact with the ship itself otherwise the ship will suffer catastrophic structural failure. The AHB receives a signal from the Engineering Computer at five seconds after it leaves the warp nacelle to activate to further keep a disaster from happening. Once the space around the ship has been cleared of all particles with mass by the AHB the plamsa engines propel the ship forward increasing its velocity to light speed and faster because there wouldn’t be any particles to create a gravitational effect between the ship and the particles around it. The Space-Matrix Restoration Coil located at the aft of the nacelle would emitt a signal to the AHB to restore mass to the particles effected by the AHB after the ship had passed through an area of space to help cover the tracks of the starship. Increasing the number of AHB to HB behind the ship would also create a gravitational drag effect on the ship itself that would reduce it’s velocity slowly or almost instaneously due to the HB adding particle mass that had been stripped by the AHB.

  • Norman Thompson

    The new engine IS a warp drive :) Accidentally invented sure but still a warp drive.

  • Smith

    It still takes us days/weeks/months to demo a bridge and rebuild our freeways. We’re so far behind with the chemical engineering, physics, astrophysics, etc, sadly.

  • Frans von Solms

    I believe that eventually the technology will be invented and then misused by the government(s) that created it. Only after they have satisfied thier insatiable hunger for power using the technology would citizens be allowed to use this technology. This is the way of the world and this will never change. Earth needs at least one giant life ending disaster for us to abandon our petty differances in religion, colour, race and non virtuous beliefs and set our gaze to the Stars. We do not have the luxury of time to do this because it just takes one $#$#%% in North Korea to to press the button and bake all of the eggs in our little basket (That means you and me).

    What I’m trying to say is that the survival of humanity has allways been expansion and colonization of new lands and this needs to endure as we strive for the stars without the impeding factors of Govenments, Religions or other Social/Political groups. An onganisation for the people by the people that governs the research and development of space based living technologies without hinderance. This will be a true start to a “Federation of Planets for the good of all living species. (except for that $%$%%^ in Korea :-)


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