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NASA scientist says 'Trek' style warp drive actually feasible

10:35 AM, Sep 19, 2012   |    comments
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The USS Enterprise going to warp in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"

(WXIA) -- The geeks among us are rejoicing this week, with word from a NASA scientist that faster-than-light space travel -- or for the uninitiated, a version of Star Trek's warp drive -- is actually feasible.

But wait -- didn't we all learn in grade school physics that nothing can travel faster than light?

Apparently, that hasn't stopped scientists from developing a plausible theory that works within the bounds of physics and doesn't violate Albert Einstein's pesky theory of relativity.

The concept, published in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity in 1994 by physicist Miguel Alcubierre, suggests bending -- or warping -- space-time in front of and behind a ship, transporting it through space without actually forcing the ship to try to travel faster than the speed of light.

According to Alcubierre, the one catch is that the power necessary to create the "warp" effect is thousands of times the amount of power that exists on Earth.

Fast-forward to 2012 -- NASA physicist Harold White says that by tweaking the drive used, the amount of energy may be able to be compressed from something the size of 300 Earths into something that weighs only 1,600 pounds.

How soon could NASA come up with a feasible drive like this? Let's put it this way -- White shared his findings at NASA's 100 Year Starship Symposium last week in Houston, which has a stated goal of building a faster than light spacecraft within the next 100 years.

Science fiction meets science fact, indeed. Or, as our inner Captain Picards are smiling and saying, "Engage!"

 

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