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Warp Drive: A Cottage Industry Emerges

Mention the term ‘warp drive’ and the name Miguel Alcubierre immediately comes to mind. But it was only recently that the Mexican physicist’s connection to the idea arose. His 1994 paper, written while he was at the University of Wales, took what had been a science fiction concept (most famously, I suppose, in Star Trek) and extended it into the realm of serious science. Not that Alcubierre put forth a realistic proposal for building a starship that could travel faster than light. What he was doing was the essential first step in such study, trying to demonstrate that FTL travel times could be achieved within the context of General Relativity.

You would think that flying to Alpha Centauri in, say, a few days would be a gross violation of Einstein’s laws, but this may not be the case. What Alcubierre proposed was that warp drive could function not by acceleration through space, but by the acceleration of space itself. Interestingly, while there is a seemingly iron-clad prohibition against superluminal movement through space, the movement of spacetime itself is not restricted. A warp drive could theoretically expand spacetime behind the ship while contracting it in front, allowing the vehicle to reach its destination far faster than the speed of light limitation would otherwise allow. Space itself moves around the craft while vehicle and crew remain motionless within a bubble of transient spacetime.

Warp drive diagram

Kelvin Long, an organizer of the British Interplanetary Society’s mid-November symposium on warp drive, presented a background paper on Alcubierre at the session. He’s been kind enough to pass along a synopsis of the meeting along with an article of his that just ran in the BIS publication Spaceflight. It’s helpful to see exotic concepts like these related to more ‘conventional’ cosmology, and there is in fact a link. The accelerated expansion of the early universe — inflation — would have vastly exceeded the speed of light, and inflation, while still under active study, does offer a powerful explanation of the universe’s evolution.

Image: An Alcubierre warp drive would use negative energy to expand spacetime behind the starship while contracting it in front. Credit: David Darling/Internet Encyclopedia of Science.

The problem with warp drive in the Alcubierre manner, as Long notes, is that it seems to demand negative energy, something we know all too little about harnessing. The Casimir effect is is under scrutiny, apparently the manifestation of negative energy between two neutral, parallel conducting plates — the force attracts the plates to each other. But the effect is tiny, and the amounts we are talking about defy the imagination. Early studies of Alcubierre’s concept indicated that forming the necessary warp bubble would demand more mass/energy than was available in the visible universe, although lately things have gotten a bit more optimistic.

Long looks at calculations showing that a 100-meter warp bubble of the sort that might hold a reasonably sized starship could be achieved with a negative mass equivalent of 1065 grams. Much recent work on warp drive theory has explored how to reduce that requirement further, with an interesting 1999 paper by Van Den Broeck suggesting a way of keeping the surface area of the warp bubble microscopically small, while expanding the volume of the space inside. As the theorizing continues, Long ponders how the warp effect would be created:

If warp drive was ever possible, how one would actually create the space-time warping effect is an open issue at this time. Several ideas exist such as ‘mining’ the Zero Point Energy field or manipulating the hypothetical extra dimensions [an article in the same issue by Richard Obousy based on his own presentation at the symposium discusses this possibility]. In the end, if warp drive is ever possible, it would likely rely upon the use of massive external static structures in space to generate and shape the required negative and positive energy pulses to form the disturbed geometry. The ship would then somehow have to maintain and control this geometry whilst giving rise to the expansion and contraction effects.

All this is a tall order, but the exciting thing is that in the fourteen years since Alcubierre’s paper, work on reducing the energy requirements has continued. In fact, a robust cottage industry is beginning to spring up around warp drive study as we attempt to define what mechanism might be used for generating such a drive. These studies may well take us into the realm of as yet unknown physics — and here Long cites the elusive coupling of gravity and electromagnetism as one possibility — to show us how negative energy could be synthesized and controlled.

The papers from the warp drive symposium are slated for publication in a special edition of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, and I want to discuss several of them here when they run later this year, especially Richard Obousy’s attempt to link quantum vacuum energy with the cosmological constant in the context of supersymmetry. Obousy’s overview of that concept, “Creating the Warp in ‘Warp Drives,'” appears in the same April, 2008 issue of Spaceflight as Long’s article “A Theoretical Proposal for Interstellar Travel.” Those who aren’t BIS members can find Spaceflight at a good library, but here’s hoping the BIS investigates a much broader online presence for its papers!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Darnell Clayton May 19, 2008, 10:45

    Sounds very interesting, although I hope someone else is working on an inexpensive way of turning regular energy into negative energy, as they are probably going to require a lot of it even if the demand drops down to reasonable levels.

  • Rock May 19, 2008, 10:52

    While not aimed at spaceflight, Dr. Mallett’s work at Connecticut is not unrelated. His less ambitious goal is to warp space enough to propel particles faster than the sopeed of light, i.e., back in time.

    http://www.phys.uconn.edu/~mallett/main/main.htm

  • kurt9 May 19, 2008, 13:40

    The guys at Earthtech have considered “warp drives” and wormholes summarized in the following paper and powerpoint:

    http://www.earthtech.org/publications/AIAA-2006-4908-747.pdf

    http://www.earthtech.org/reports/slides%20AIAA-2006-4908.pdf

    The “warp drive” concept is technologically impractical, due to the vast amounts of “negative” energy required. Wormholes, however, are more feasible because they require less “negative” energy than a “warp drive”.

    They have also consider all of the various ideas for FTL that have been suggested.

    http://www.earthtech.org/publications/Robertson-Murad-Davis_ECM_49_3.pdf

    They conclude that the only plausible ones are FTL based on Extended Heim Theory and artificially created wormholes (presumably made in a laboratory). All of the rest are considered to be implausible.

  • justcorbly May 19, 2008, 14:21

    The notion of a warp bubble propelling a chunk of spacetime is, interestingly, rather similar to Star Trek’s notion of FTL speed achieved by generating a bubble around a ship that distorts spacetime. Trek postulates warp engines powered by controlled matter-antimatter reactions.

  • david lewis May 19, 2008, 21:21

    One can hope.

    Maybe spacetime is like a vast ocean, with currents just as the earth’s oceans has. If so then maybe we can sail to the stars with something not too different from the gravity waves utilized by some sci-fi writers. Or maybe such currents can be created similar to the way we can build dams and divert rivers. In diverting a river there is great cost, but once it is done travel via that river is cheap.

    Or maybe we won’t be able to harness enough energy to create such bubbles but will be able to create spacetime shock waves that a vessel could ride. Not too dissimilar from exploding a nuclear device and riding its shock wave. One can’t control or harness the full energy of the explosion, but one could make use of it.

    Even if large scale bubbles for vessels capable of carrying humans is impossible we might still be able to make use of it for ftl communications. Maybe that is why we have yet to see any ET signals. Maybe they are all sent line of sight via such methods. How much energy would it take to send a single molecule via such a method, and how much information could such a molecule encode.

    Or imagine sending nanomachines in such a fashion. If we could do that then we might have human colonies in andromeda within a century.

  • Rayzon Detra May 20, 2008, 1:01

    Even beyond opening up the stars to mankind, there’s something truly special about potentially realizing FTL: It means the universal event horizon created by accelerated expansion *might* be overcome, opening up what could be an infinite universe to human investigation.

  • James M. Essig May 20, 2008, 2:09

    Hi Folks;

    If we can learn how to breach the 4-D space-time of our Universe and enter hyperspace, perhaps somehow using force fields with force vectors pulling the spacecraft in one or more orthogonal directions relative to any of the 3 spatial dimensions of our universe but pointing into hyperspace, then we might use beamed energy to accelerate the space craft within so-called hyperspace in a reactionary manner.

    Beams that might be used are photon beams, charged particle beams, beams providing fuel for the space craft to travel using reactionary thrust such as nuclear reaction fuel or matter/antimatter fuel, and perhaps even tachyon beams. Perhaps tachyon beams traveling through hyper space would not experience backward time travel and thus perhaps they could be easily aimed or directed to the craft for energy supply or momentum transfer. The topology of hyperspace just might permit such superluminal beams from traveling time backwards via physics based on the number of dimensions of hyperspace, the zero point vacuum field structure and patterns in hyperspace and the like.

    If hyper space is truly such a great short cut for interstellar and intergalactic distances, perhaps even over cosmic distances in 4-D ordinary space-time, then perhaps space craft breaching the barrier into hyperspace might literally be simply chemically rocket powered or mass driver launched with an apparent velocity through hyperspace of only on the order of 10 kilometers/second. The caveat here is how to breach the barrier between dimensions.

    Thanks;

    Jim

  • dad2059 May 20, 2008, 6:50

    Actually the matter-antimatter reactions in a Star Trek starship’s Warp drive is sent through a ‘di-lithium crystal’, that is what forms the warp bubble.

    The crystal is what forms the negative energy necessary for the bubble’s creation.

    That is why in the Trek Universe it doesn’t require infinite energy to form an Einstein General Relativity gravity spatial distortion.

  • Geb May 20, 2008, 7:16

    I’ve never been sure whether to believe that the casimir effect is a real way to generate repulsive gravity. It has always seemed too much like mathematical optimism, wanting to see negative energy and so finding it, much like the way quantum field equations can be manipulated to show tachyons when nothing in them moves superluminally.

    I want to believe that negative mass is possible, but general relativity doesn’t provide any way to prevent the paradoxes that it would cause.

    FTL, time travel and negative energy seem to be an all or nothing group, along with one or wo other related concepts such as transmission of gravity outside local spacetime, such as in the hidden bubble form of the warp engine.

  • Ron S May 20, 2008, 10:04

    I strongly suspect that FTL is a red herring. You don’t need new physics to travel any distance in an arbitrarily short time. There do, however, exist the important issues of economics and safety. For example, respectively, the energy budget and biological cargo (e.g. us). The utility of, among other possibilities, an Alcubierre Drive is a way to escape the costs and technical infeasibility of conventional propulsion for interstellar travel, including those methods being considered that are currently beyond our means. Achieving a non-simple connection between points in spacetime may be another, but a highly speculative one (e.g. constructed wormhole).

    I think that rather than FTL itself, is a desire by many to violate causality so that a traveller can make a return trip without the necessity of experiencing a large time lag at the origination point (relativistic twin effect), or to converse in real-time with astronomically distant point.

    Impossibility of FTL may however be a blessing. If causality violation is permitted there are potentially disastrous physical feedback effects that would be allowed. Like cosmic censorship of singularities by event horizons, this can be seen as a safety mechanism. Our safety.

  • James M. Essig May 20, 2008, 17:27

    Hi Ron S;

    Interesting comments by the way!

    If the present existentially depends on the integrity of the past in such a way that changing the past would alter the present, time travel into the past to change the past or even effect the past would be very dangerous indeed.

    Perhaps theories that involve the existence of many parallel histories wherein time travel into the past would simply cause the time traveler to jump into a parallel history would be at play here. Alternately, perhaps quantum indeterminacy in the present acts as a break on changes in the past that would otherwise effect the present. In other words, perhaps any casual determinacy of the past in terms of its ability to re-effect the present upon deliberate changes in the past is erased by quantum indeterminacy effects in the present. The idea is that the past might be analogous to a geological formation or mapped out terrain which could be altered in such a way that it would change the past structure but without changing the present.

    If time travel into the past can effect the present or would effect the present and such time travel is not possible, that is good news. Otherwise, I think we could trash the present including ourselves.

    The good news is that traveling into the future is possible to any arbitrary extent for which we can reach correspondingly high gamma factors in relativistic manned space craft. The late great Carl Sagan gave a scenario of an interstellar ramjet accelerating at a constant one Earth G and circumnavigating the entire known observable universe of circumference of about 76 billion light-years in 56 years ship time. Ironically, a warp drive ship capable of 10 million C would take 7,600 years ship time to make the same trip. It is anyone’s guess as to whether such an interstellar ramjet could actually be built to make such a trip, especially in light of new developments in the science of IRJs, but I remain intrigued that the mathematics of good old fashioned special relativity allows us, at least in toy model theory, to cover infinite distances in one Planck time unit ship time and infinite amounts of time into the future during one Planck unit ship time as an ultimate bounding limit.

    Thanks;

    Jim

  • Christopher L. Bennett May 21, 2008, 12:29

    “justcorbly Says:
    May 19th, 2008 at 14:21

    The notion of a warp bubble propelling a chunk of spacetime is, interestingly, rather similar to Star Trek’s notion of FTL speed achieved by generating a bubble around a ship that distorts spacetime. Trek postulates warp engines powered by controlled matter-antimatter reactions.”

    True. Indeed, NASA propulsion engineer Dr. Jesco von Puttkamer, in his notes as technical consultant for STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE in 1978, described a theoretical model for warp drive that’s based on the same principle Alcubierre used 16 years later, that of moving a pocket of spacetime forward with the ship carried along inside. The actual memo can be found on pp. 153-4 of THE MAKING OF STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE by Susan Sackett and Gene Roddenberry (Wallaby, 1980).

    “dad2059 Says:
    May 20th, 2008 at 6:50

    Actually the matter-antimatter reactions in a Star Trek starship’s Warp drive is sent through a ‘di-lithium crystal’, that is what forms the warp bubble.

    The crystal is what forms the negative energy necessary for the bubble’s creation.”

    Whatever source you’re using for that information is in error. Dilithium crystals are merely a means of focusing the matter-antimatter reaction and channeling the released energy. The warp field is created by the “warp coils,” black-box technology based on “unobtainium” elements called verterium and cortenum. (See Sternbach & Okuda, THE STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION TECHNICAL MANUAL, Pocket Books, 1991, pp. 60-65.)

    Getting back to Alcubierre drives, though, what I’m wondering is: what happens to spacetime after a warp ship goes through it and does the whole stretching-compressing thing? Does it “snap back” to being normal spacetime, or does the warp ship blaze a trail that’s permanently an effective superluminal shortcut, like a Krasnikov tube?

  • Bob Shaw May 21, 2008, 16:12

    This is all too close to Harry Harrison’s delicious ‘Bloater Drive’, imagined in his ‘Bill, the Galactic Hero’ satire on militarism, imperialism, and Mom’s Apple Pie.

    Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

    The standard ways of circumventing relativity in 1950s and 1960s science fiction were hyperspace, subspace and spacewarp. Harrison’s contribution was the Bloater Drive. This enlarges the gaps between the atoms of the ship until it spans the distance to the destination, whereupon the atoms are moved back together again, reconstituting the ship at its previous size but in the new location. An occasional side-effect is that the occupants see a planet drifting, in miniature, through the hull. (“No-no! Don’t touch it!”)

    Bob Shaw

  • Administrator May 21, 2008, 18:03

    Can’t believe I missed out on the Bloater Drive, but I never got around to Bill, the Galactic Hero. I plan to remedy that soon after reading your post, Bob!

  • kurt9 May 22, 2008, 13:05

    As you may or may not know, a group of researchers are attempting to develop Robert Bussard’s polywell fusion technology. They have a Navy grant to complete and review the experiements on their WB-7 test reactor that they built earlier this year.

    Concurrent to this effort is an effort on the part of the Earthtech guys to replicate the Tajmar experiments on gravity modification. This replication effort is on-going this year as well. They are in contact with Droescher and Hauser, who are working on a paper for peer review of a modified version of Heim Theory that MAY make for the possibility of FTL travel.

    If these efforts are successful, we could develop FTL spacecraft that would be powered by polywell fusion reactors burning Boron and Hydrogen as fuel.

    2008 could be a pivotal year for these kinds of developments.

  • Administrator May 22, 2008, 14:08

    kurt9, while I certainly don’t want to throw cold water on any interesting research (and I’m quite an admirer of Martin Tajmar’s work), I think the Heim Theory work is way, way too theoretical to pin hopes on 2008 as a breakthrough year. Frankly, I think the chances of String Theory being proved are about as likely as Heim Theory in the short term (if not more so — in fact, both require extra dimensions), but Eric Davis knows what he’s up to and Tajmar’s work to this point has been encouraging. I have to add that what Tajmar is doing and what Droescher/Hauser are doing are separate efforts that have much less overlap than has been reported elsewhere.

    We’ve discussed Bussard’s fusion ideas here before, and let’s hope EMC2 comes up with something truly substantial. This one I have high hopes for.

  • kurt9 May 22, 2008, 17:27

    There has been some contact between Droescher/Hauser and Tajmar. But yes, you are correct that there is no collaboration between the two groups. Yes, Heim Theory is highly speculative at this time. However, Droescher and Hauser have proposed an experiment that could demonstrate the “gravito-photonic” force if Heim Theory is for real. It is my understanding that this experiment could be done today if funding was available. I do not know how much it would cost to do this experiment.

    Like anyone else, I have no idea if Heim theory is real or not (the relevant experiment has to be performed). However, there is the possibility that it is real. Also, consider that Heim theory is testable and that String theory is not. This makes me believe that String theory cannot be considered to be science, as science is supposed to be based on testability.

  • Administrator May 22, 2008, 18:04

    Where I tend to disagree with you here, kurt9, is on the testability of Heim Theory. A test is indeed proposed for it, as you point out, but given the uncertainty of working out the mathematics of the higher dimensions postulated by this theory (here again, String Theory comes to mind), I’m not at all convinced that it could be conclusive. However, there is much we don’t know about Heim Theory because we’re at the earliest stages of inquiry. I’d love to see a breakthrough but am not remotely convinced this is it, whereas I find Tajmar’s work extremely interesting. More on Tajmar here in the near future.

  • kurt9 May 22, 2008, 22:04

    The proposed test does not confirm (or disprove) the existence of the higher dimensions of the Heim Theory. It would demonstrate or refute the existance of gravito-photonic force. If this force is confirmed to exist, it would lend support to (but not prove) the validity of the rest of the theory. If the gravito-photonic force is disproven, then it is likely that the whole theory is not valid. At least it would not be useful for what we want out of it. In either case, part of Heim Theory is testable, whereas no part of String theory is testable at all, at least not with current technology.

    Confirmation of the gravito-photonic force would create enormous interest in researching the rest of theory.

    Personally, I take no position on Heim Theory. I’m not even a physicist. I do believe that it represents the ONLY foreseeable method of spacecraft FTL. None of the other concepts of FTL have validity except for transversable wormholes, of which Eric David has written extensively about on the EarthTech website.

  • Administrator May 23, 2008, 13:48

    Hey kurt9, I’m hardly an expert on Heim Theory either. Like you, I’m a believer in testability, always a problem as we look at String Theory despite its beauty. I suspect that if an FTL solution does exist (I admit to being quite dubious!), it’s probably going to be in something we haven’t considered yet, but I would love to be proven wrong.

  • Daniel May 23, 2008, 14:29

    i think that one step at time! first they need to prove the tajmar experiments for independent groups, to generate a artificial gravity field . its go to be a great step! (because in this step we can create artificial 1G gravity in other planets for colonization) and after formulate a theory to explain the experiments, and from this experiments may be come FTL the great tecnological breakthrough!

  • Cupid May 23, 2008, 18:50

    As I understand it, you still have the problem of reaching your destination faster than an ordinary beam of light would do, therefore traveling backwards in time in relation to your destination. Put your foot on the gas on the return trip and you might get home before you left!

  • James M. Essig June 3, 2008, 10:50

    Hi Folks;

    The following concept for space propulsion occurred to me for the first time although I make no claim to be its originator. Its a rather simple concept to describe which any interstellar travel enthusiast could well have come up with on their own.

    Basically, the concept involves somehow using fields contained in any higher dimensional space or parallel dimensional space to power a space craft that remains completely confined to the 4-D Einsteinian space-time as we know it.

    Perhaps fields could be set up around the space craft which extend into higher dimensional space or parallel dimensional space which would react with fields, whether real energy fields or zero-point fields, in the higher or parallel dimensional space. Since a differential volume element of parallel dimensional space or higher dimensional space with a given linear dimensional extent might have far more volume that a differential volume element within our ordinary 3-D space of the same linear dimensional extent, perhaps such fields emanating from the space craft into this other dimensional space would have a much greater volume and therefore a much higher volumetric latent interaction energy to draw from.

    The other idea involves capturing any gravatic field potential energy emanating from any portions of gravity fields associated with space ship sized craft that leak into higher dimensional space such as that which may occur according to the newer versions of string theory and the theory of branes. The reader may recall that measurable deviations from Newtonian gravitational mechanics below the level of a fraction of a millimeter with near microscopic masses was and/.or still is the subject of ongoing investigation. One such experiment is a miniature version of the Cavendish Experiment..

    Thanks;

    Jim

  • george scaglione June 3, 2008, 15:14

    jim thanks for your opinions…some pretty far out and advanced ideas for propulsion! hope alot of the members will comment and do these subjects justice! i’ll have an eye out for their takes on these subjects.but i have to say my friend that as as advanced as these ideas seem i do not yet quite understand them.but lol,really what of it!? what we actually do here is pretty much the kicking around of advanced ideas hoping to help each other to better develop them.you my friend have always been aces in that category! all the very best to all,respectfully george

  • James M. Essig June 6, 2008, 23:20

    Hi George;

    Thanks for the above kind words.

    I am encouraged by the fact that there are several particle accelerators in the works or in planning stages.

    1) Obviously, the LHC which is due to start up this summer.

    2) A planned 1 1/2 to 2 TeV linac able to accelerate electrons to as much as 2 TeV. Note that using different particle species for collisions opens up new windows for particle creation and respective decay modes. It may even be possible that the linac might uncover a composite structure to electrons.

    3) A planned rare isotope accelerator or RIA to accelerate rare, radioactive, and high atomic mass nuclei in an attempt to produce new elements and isotopes with potentially exotic properties.

    4) A planned luminosity upgrade to the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider or RHIC so that more particles can be accelerated per bundle of particles thus increasing the number of events of interest dramatically.

    5) And the National Ignition Test Facility which will use ultra short laser pulses in the Mega Joule range to blast tiny spheres containing fusionable gas and/or liquid in an attempt to refine our study of nuclear fusion processes.

    Although most, but not all of the above machines are planned within the U.S., I make no claim to have produced an exhaustive list of machines for nuclear physics. I welcome any of the readership from any other countries to comment on any machines being proposed, developed, or constructed within their home countries to contribute. The Europeans have done a fabulous job with the LHC of CERN and I can hardly wait until it comes on line this summer.

    Thanks;

    Your Friend Jim

  • Krista June 8, 2008, 2:37

    This is fascinating. Futurama used this concept for the Professor’s spaceship. Apparently, dark matter was their fuel. :) This is why I love Sci-fi.

  • george scaglione June 8, 2008, 12:32

    jim,krista,first of all, yes it is very very good to have all of these accelerators either so close or planned! and krista what you said about science fiction reminded me of something…once in college i wrote a serious essay on some aspect of space travel in which i mentioned star trek or something. the professor told me that it was not correct to bring in sf in a serious paper. well lol i guess i was ahead of my time because of late i have seen people of the caliber of michio kaku almost constantly bring in star trek one way or another!! thank you both and i hope i will hear from everybody soon! your friend george

  • James M. Essig June 23, 2008, 16:24

    Hi George;

    A rather strange idea has re-occurred to me after a long time of not being aware of this particular idea for space time teleportation.

    The concept was first introduced to me in some sort of TV cartoon show, I can not remember whether or not it was Buggs Bunny, Elmore Fudd, Daffy Duck or whatever. Basically, the cartoon depicted some small genius character doing some brief pen and paper calculations and the showing of certain relativistic equations including at least the mass energy equivalence relation whereupon the genius dug a hole in the ground and his cartoon character antagonists appeared to disappear from his location from which he was standing on the ground and simultaneously reappeared within or through the hole dug in the ground.

    Thus, it occurs to me whether or not ordinary everyday scales of mass energy arrangements could be used to produce teleportation effects, doors in space and/or time, or multiple connectivity in space time such that the effects would not be based on system quantum wave function evolution and tunneling nor on black hole scale levels of space time curvature or space time strain. Perhaps such effects can be brought about without the use of novel electromagnetic field arrangements involving super high strength magnetic or electric fields as is a common theme of teleportation Sci-Fi, but rather by simple mechanical manipulation of the materials arrangements at ordinary human technological scales in just the right manners, perhaps by some space time mass-energy equivalence principle.

    Just a thought inspired by a cartoon meant for young children and perhaps also by middle aged individuals like myself that still find enjoyment in occasional cartoon viewing.

    Thanks;

    Your Friend Jim

  • James M. Essig July 3, 2008, 20:16

    Hi George;

    It occurred to me that physics in accelerated reference frames, which is physics under the Theory of General Relativity, even though its many tests show its accuracy and hopefully still other tests will confirm its validity, perhaps it is not the final story in the theory of relativity.

    We are familiar with acceleration through space-time as the second derivative of position with respect to time, or the first derivative of velocity with respect to time. We are also aware of the Newtonian physics relation Force = Mass x Acceleration (F = MA) where F equals the first derivative of momentum with respect to time (F = dP/dt). We are also familiar with the concept that accelerated reference frames are indistinguishable from gravitational kinematics effects. We can even imagine the first derivative of acceleration with respect to time which mechanical engineers like to refer to as jerk because of the sudden increase or decrease in velocity as a result.

    The point I am trying to arrive at is whether there could be non-trivial physics based on jerk as such, or for that matter, non-zero higher order derivative acceleration terms such as the second derivative of acceleration with respect to time (dA”/dt), or even non-zero higher order, yet, derivatives such as dA”’/dt, dA””/dt, dA””’/dt and so on.

    Could there be fundamentally new physics lying just around the corner at least as significant with respect to general relativity as general relativity is with respect to the earlier developed Special Theory of Relativity? Now one can say that acceleration terms can have higher order forms and that acceleration can obviously be non-constant, to which I will say, you are absolutely right and that such is obvious, however, perhaps non-zero derivatives of acceleration have not been observed to the extent or with values great enough to discover any related novel or exotic phenomenon. Just as the Doppler shift of light could not have been observed by Newton, or the effects of special relativistic Lorenz transformations could not have been observed by Mid 19th Century physicists, perhaps there are some phenomenon related to non zero values of the quantities such as dA’/dt, dA”/dt, dA”’/dt, and so on that have yet to be observed.

    Thanks;

    Your Friend Jim

  • george scaglione July 5, 2008, 11:16

    jim could there be a fundamentally new physics waiting just around the corner!? heck yes! one of my great hopes for propulsion breakthroughs! not to repeat myself lol but i can not wait to have a crack at that book which marc mentioned! you bet. your friend george

  • Todd July 13, 2009, 22:40
  • Todd August 10, 2009, 22:45

    More videos in the series have been posted on

    http://interstellarjourney.blip.tv/

  • Bonus June 27, 2010, 13:10

    If a slow spacecraft is sent through a wormhole so slowly that it reaches the other end of the wormhole slower than a beam of light that travels the normal way, all agree that the spacecraft is not violating causality. But a beam of light that travels through the wormhole would reach its destination before a beam of light that travels the normal way. The light in the cabin of the craft is light travelling through the wormhole. If apparent FTL violated causality, the light inside the craft would appear to violate causality to an observer aboard the craft. Ergo, only local FTL violates causality.

  • Steve Stevensen February 20, 2011, 21:37

    Today’s possible is yesterday’s impossible.

    If we lay on our backs at 10,000 feet in the Upper Taylor River area of Colorado, and stare at the Universe with a pair of 10x binoculars, it is hard to imagine that vast, wondrous and complex picture would hide forever a secret that our civilization, and perhaps countless others, have long dreamed about.

    It was once thought that the immense effort involved to breathe life into a nuclear reactor was one of the most brilliant achievements of mankind. Then, while scratching around in Africa, geologists found several natural reactors that had been active over the centuries due to highly concentrated uranium ore veins located within porous ground. When it rained, they turned on. When it dried out, they turned off…no help from humankind required.

    I posit that there are infinite possibilities, and these possibilities will be unlocked by the human mind…which efficiently tosses out ideas that don’t work for those that ‘might’. We then press those ‘mights’ with our mighty imaginations…and behold…the Universe hands us another elegant answer.

    There will also be those who pick up the ‘don’t works’, examine them anew under a different set of assumptions, and we discover that there are hidden gems in the recycle bin.

    Never believe that the vastness of the Universe precludes anything from coming into being…from big bangs to life on earth, and then faster than light travel. It will happen, and some daydreamer here on earth will think it up…perhaps while staring up into that magnificent night sky.

  • rjm March 26, 2011, 1:43

    Hello,
    I have no doubt at this point that much sooner than we expect all theoretcal and practical necessites for interstellar travel will be met. The handwriting is all over the whiteboards and the experiments will speed up.
    BUT. They will be inexpensive experiments conducted by scientists who will be increasingly held back by economic, social, and political lack of will. And that, friends, will become the largest problem.
    As to possibility, I am writing to you on an e-reader. It is apparently connected to nothing. When TrekTNG went on the air in 1986 this would have not been science fiction. It would been absurd MAGIC.
    Write your congressperson. Your senators. The Prez. Do not hope for much. This ain’t the sixties when fantasy became reality because of a now “exotic energy”: social motivation on a grand scale.
    We can now only hope.
    All the best.

  • Renato Castilletti December 2, 2012, 12:48

    To harness negative energy, matter and anti-matter particles from space itself would need to collide . The collision and annihilation of each would create the propulsion or warping of space. The question is how safe would this be for the occupants of the space craft.?
    RC