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Obousy’s ‘Interstellar Journey’ Site Debuts

Point a Voyager-speed spacecraft at Alpha Centauri and the travel time would be on the order of 73,000 years. Those of us obsessed with the idea of interstellar journeys are forced to hope for profound breakthroughs in physics and engineering. The word ‘breakthrough’ is, if anything, an understatement. An Alcubierre-style ‘warp drive’ would, so far as we know, require energies that would tax even a Kardashev Type III civilization, as physicist Richard Obousy points out. Hence the acknowledged ‘giggle factor’ that plagues serious discussion of these matters. Writes Obousy:

The giggle-factor is a consequence of using a name for a cutting edge propulsion concept that is taken straight from science fiction. In reality the name is a double-edged sword. When one mentions a ‘warp drive’ it should be immediately obvious (one would hope) that what is being dicussed is a hypothetical propulsion mechanism that utilizes an asymmetric manipulation of the fabric of spacetime to generate an exotic curvature which allows one to circumvent the traditional limitations of Special Relativity and travel at superluminal velocities.

Is a warp drive remotely possible? The answer may well be no, but scientists continue to look at the concept even if the pace of their study is slow. I’ve drawn the quotation above from Obousy’s new Interstellar Journey Web site, which includes not only the beginnings of a regular blog but also a short video introduction in ten sections (of which six are now online) to the issues involved. One emerging fact about warp drive is that it is the poor cousin of interstellar research when compared to the work that has been done on Einstein-Rosen bridges and forms of traversable wormholes.

Like the warp drive, a wormhole calls for negative energy and demands vast amounts of energy to remain functional. Oddly, wormhole papers greatly outnumber those on warp drive even though both ideas are almost absurdly speculative. Obousy runs a quick search and comes up with 1248 wormhole papers (ten released to arXiv in August alone), whereas the numbers for warp drive are miniscule: 33 papers, with no more than one or two being released per year.

We’re dealing with a fascinating idea, yet warp drive lacks the big-name backing (John Wheeler, Herman Weyl, Matt Visser) that wormhole physics enjoys. Consider Obousy’s new site an attempt to balance the books. The short background videos are well produced and visually effective, ranging from motivations for interstellar flight to proposed mission designs like Daedalus and on to the potential of dark energy to enable FTL concepts, an Obousy specialty.

Centauri Dreams readers will recall that Obousy’s work has appeared here on several occasions, in particular re his article in the British Interplanetary Society’s magazine Spaceflight that mines, among other ideas, the potential of higher dimensions of the sort emerging first from the work of Theodor Kaluza and, more recently, string theory. A new Obousy paper (with Aram Saharian) is “Casimir energy and the possibility of higher dimensional manipulation” (abstract), which relates the Casimir effect to dark energy. For this and other warp drive papers, see the archive at Interstellar Journey, which becomes a welcome addition to the online study of exotic concepts.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • george scaglione September 9, 2009, 18:08

    hello all,you mean warp drive is not a real thing as of now? ridiculous.i’ve seen it used on star trek hundreds of times! just a joke my friends and now i will get on with what i’d really like to say : i have never made a secret of the fact that i am very glad that so many fine minds are paying so much attention to wormholes and warp drive! i think it will get us somewhere.someday something someone says will inspire an “ah-ha moment”! then we will be off to the races. in the meantime i will be watching with great interest. thank you very much,your friend george

  • James M. Essig September 9, 2009, 18:29

    Hi Folks;

    There is a concept that I first heard mentioned by my high school biology teacher who was a far out science enthusiast referred to as negative drive. Such a concept might somehow be related to the Alcubierre-style ‘warp drive’ and migth in some sense out do the warp drive concept, even for inertial travel type velocites through space.

    Now as far as Newtonian Expressions for acceleration are concerned, we can state the following very basic equations: dx/dt = V; dv/dt = a; da/dt = jerk = J1; dJl/dt = J2; dJ2/dt = J3; dJ3/dt = J4; …; dJn/dt = J(n+1), and so on.

    We , we take the equation f(t) = mt + b and let m equal say 1,000,000 and b = 1,000,000. At t = one second, the acceleration equals 2,000,000 meter/(second EXP 2), thus the realm of special relativity is approached very rapidly.

    Now if we assume that the rate of change of acceleration of the space craft relative to the space craft reference frame is constant at da/dt = m = 1,000,000 meter/(second EXP 3), then after 1 million seconds Earth time, a will equal 1,000,001,000,000 meter/(second EXP 2) ship’s reference frame. After, one trillion seconds Earth time, a will equal 1,000,000,000,001,000,000 meter/(second EXP 2) ship’s reference frame. After 10 EXP 15 seconds Earth time, a will equal 1,000,000,000,000,001,000,000 meter/(second EXP 2).

    Now scientific theoretical exploration and science fiction are no strangers to the concept of negative drive by which a space craft would accelerate at an ever increasing rate as it traveled away from its point of origin. The highly speculative mechanisms of how such drives could or might work are probably numerous, however, we can see, that for linear time dependence of Jerk = da/dt on time and the slope of the line of the plot of such linearly dependent Jerk verses time, i.e.,for linearly dependant Jerk vs time, the slope can be made arbitrarily great, for lexicographical consideration.

    Suppose once again that t is plotted along the x axis in units or ticks equal to one second whereas acceleration is defined by some upward increasing curve in the right half or the positive x axis half of the bi-axial coordinate plane curve and is defined as a(t) = b(t EXP 3) and a is plotted in units or ticks of 1 meter/(second EXP 2). In t = 1 second, the value of a = 1 meter/(second EXP 2), at t = 10 seconds, a = 1,000 meter/(second EXP 2), at t = 1,000 seconds, a = 1,000,000,000 meter/(second EXP 2), at t = 1,000,000,000 seconds, a = (10 EXP 27) meter/(second EXP 2) and so on.

    Time dependent acceleration profiles of an arbitrarilly high order of exponentiation are lexocographically possible to discuss, some of the caveats being the ability to find a mechanism to produce such negative drive and to protect the ship and crew from being crushed into oblivion.

    In looking for exotic space propulsion techniques, it is my strong feeling that we should seriously look into negative drive type concepts and manners in which they might be permitted. What night be possible is to induce a runaway acceleration of a space craft as its gamma factor became sufficiently great for reasons that are too involved to discuss here.

  • tacitus September 9, 2009, 19:15

    I’m not proud. I favor the ultimate shortcut to interstellar travel… have someone else show us how it’s done. :-)

    While I say that mostly in jest since I know it’s the ultimate in long shots, I also know that it’s likely the only possibility that we could make such an advance within our lifetimes. So, if there are any aliens out there quietly reading and enjoying this blog… come on, guys! What are you waiting for? We haven’t got all day!

    :D

  • David Wade September 9, 2009, 21:38

    I was at a presenatation by Visser -Iasked him sveral questions
    First He said cureent major interstellar efforts should be on laser sail dvelopments maybe fusion
    He didnt know much about warp drives or FTLs -he really seemed more interested in time traveland really was overwhlemed it is possibel when it shouldnt be and he did wonder why we have not seen the future arrive because while you cant arrive before the wormhol is buit he stated that the wormhole will be most likly and expansion of a quantum wormhole so indeed ALL of time would be available!
    His researc program didnt involve space per se -except for building giant accelerators to hunt for quantum wormholes

    I would add Tipler thinks we will fighure out baryonic annhilation for sublight realtivistic travel

  • Mike Prather September 9, 2009, 22:37

    I personally favor (as long as we’re on the subject of fantasticals) research into creating super atoms – stable atoms with atomic weights in the 200 and above range. Who knows what properties these might have? Just think – a simple ccm pellet of Jumbonium might be able to directly tap vacuum energy and turn it into GigaWatts of electricity! Energy problem solved.

  • george scaglione September 10, 2009, 10:08

    tacitus, lol you bet hahahaha well said!!! i’m afraid it will take awhile though. after all how many years in the future was star trek supposed to be!? even the one closest in time to us was i believe the enterprise series with scott bakula playing the captain.and THAT was i believe still 150 years out there. – but i know we have some fine minds here and that across the face of the earth alot of fine minds are thinking about these problems! so,yes, there IS a chance. thank you my friend! george

  • Bill Parkyn September 10, 2009, 12:35

    Attainment of practical FTL would be 100% proof that there is no other intelligent life in the entire universe, and never has been.

  • ljk September 10, 2009, 13:00

    Alter-ego of the Morris-Thorne wormhole

    Authors: Francisco S. N. Lobo, José P. Mimoso

    (Submitted on 22 Jul 2009)

    Abstract: Traversable wormhole are primarily useful as “gedanken-experiments” and as a theoretician’s probe of the foundations of general relativity. In this work, we construct exact solutions of static and pseudo-spherically symmetric wormholes by adding exotic matter to a vacuum solution referred to as a degenerate solution of class A.

    The usual 2-d spheres are replaced by pseudo-spheres, which are still surfaces of revolution around an axis, but now consist of a negative and constant curvature. The physical properties and characteristics of these intriguing solutions are explored, and through the mathematics of embedding it is shown that particular constraints are placed on the shape function, that differ significantly from the Morris-Thorne wormhole.

    In particular, it is shown that the energy density is always negative and the radial pressure is positive, at the throat, contrary to the Morris-Thorne counterpart. Specific solutions are also presented by considering interesting equations of state, and by imposing restricted choices for the shape function or the redshift function. These new wormhole geometries are denoted as the alter ego of the Morris-Thorne wormhole.

    Comments: 7 pages, 1 figure

    Subjects: General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology (gr-qc); Cosmology and Extragalactic Astrophysics (astro-ph.CO); High Energy Physics – Theory (hep-th)

    Cite as: arXiv:0907.3811v1 [gr-qc]

    Submission history

    From: Francisco Lobo [view email]

    [v1] Wed, 22 Jul 2009 10:39:45 GMT (18kb)

    http://arxiv.org/abs/0907.3811

  • Adam September 10, 2009, 16:03

    Bill

    Who’s to say They’re not here? I doubt we’d know.

  • ljk September 10, 2009, 16:06

    Bill Parkyn said:

    “Attainment of practical FTL would be 100% proof that there is no other intelligent life in the entire universe, and never has been.”

    But why do you assume that beings who could travel through space at FTL
    speeds, which means they could go to lots of places in the Universe, would
    want to visit Earth or even let us know they exist given all those choices?

  • James M. Essig September 10, 2009, 17:36

    Hi Folks;

    A very interesting discussion indeed.

    My gut feeling is that the cosmos is teaming with ETI civilizations on other planets.

    For the record and with no intention of trying to promote spiritualism here nor any form of religious doctrine, from a purely sociological standpoint, I consider my self to be a Conservative Catholic, and my views of the potential of innumerable ETI civilizations and my focus on such matters has put me at odds with many of my fellow Catholics.

    The Church has no definative statements on the matter of ETI and so it is definately open to the possibility of ETI persons on other planets.

  • Mike Prather September 11, 2009, 1:59

    It’s always been my understanding that given the discovery of extraterrestrials, the Church will just convene to determine whether they have souls or not and if that determination is “yea” (presumably based on ability to reason and being open to any spiritual views), they’ll start a mission to convert ’em.
    James Blish’s excellent “A Case of Conscience” is a great exploration of the subject.

    BTW, Prime Directive or no, it’s also just as likely that an FTL-capable species is not likely to encourage competition for galactic resources and therefore will likely have rules in place to steer way clear of us primitive types until we figure it out for ourselves. The sentinel buried on the moon obviously doesn’t care about our discovery of atomics or chemical propulsion – it’s probably waiting to detect a flood of exotic particles from the first warp drive, artificial wormhole, or whatever we manage to come up with :)

  • Tulse September 11, 2009, 9:51

    “James Blish’s excellent “A Case of Conscience” is a great exploration of the subject.”

    So is Mary Doria Russell’s “The Sparrow”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sparrow_(novel)

  • James M. Essig September 11, 2009, 11:58

    Hi Mike;

    Regarding your comment above as follows:

    “The sentinel buried on the moon obviously doesn’t care about our discovery of atomics or chemical propulsion – it’s probably waiting to detect a flood of exotic particles from the first warp drive, artificial wormhole, or whatever we manage to come up with :)”

    My feeing is that perhaps the reason why ETI have not announced their presence is because of our development of nuclear energy for war-like purposes.

    For instance, it might be possible that a shaped charge explosive energy flux density concentrating nuclear device could be able to set off a fusion reaction that would propagate throughout the oceans on a planet. Some folks have speculated that a shaped charge nuclear device detonated deep underwater might produce the critical temperatures and pressures needed to initiate a self propagation fusion wave that would spread throughout the entire hydrosphere in as little as 1/2 second. The reason why typical nukes detonated under water such as for U.S. test shots have not caused such a reaction to occur is accordingly due to the much too limited flux concentration of these crude, relatively low mass specific yield devices.

    Not to sound scary here, but if such could happen on Earth, it could happen anywhere in the universe. The SCI-FI book, “The Dark Star” featured nuclear bomb based elimenation of planets that were calculated to have the potential to develope threatening ETI species. The relativistic space craft flew a hundreds of years Earth time mission to eliminate such planets.

    Other more extreme effects might be produced by some proposed or unspecified exotic types of nuclear weapons, but so as not to sound like a Cold War Dinosuar here, I will not discuss these.

    The point is the nuclear physics and QCD physics applied for war-like purposes should be enough to scare ETI away.

    My hope is that our civilization can turn the tide and use nuclear, sub-nuclear QCD physics, and any physics below the level of QCD for benificial interstellar space travel that respects the integrity of all ETI peoples.

    Not to try to convert any one here nor advocate spiritualism, but I have to say that my opinion of what it means to be Pro-Life also means reverential respect for all ETI peoples and ETI persons. I could not and never would attempt to force conversion of any such ETI peoples. The Crusades and the Inquisition were ugly realities within our past and should under no circumstance be permitted to be waged against any ETI peoples or ETI persons.

  • ljk September 11, 2009, 14:29

    According to my Roman Catholic catechism book from 1969, it is okay
    to accept the idea of extraterrestrial life, because God can do anything,
    including fill up a 13.7 billion year-old Universe with different creatures
    on different worlds.

    While there hasn’t been any truly official word from the Vatican (read
    the Pope) on the subject of alien life, a number of lower officers of the
    Church have given their implicit approval of the concept and were not
    taken to task for their statements, at least not publicly.

    One Jesuit astronomer working in the USA even said part of the mission of
    encountering an ETI is to convert and baptize the alien intelligences – which
    should make for a very interesting reaction on the part of the aliens, especially
    if they have their own missionary plans for humanity.

    One of my favorite SF authors who wrote about humans encountering alien
    life is the latest Stanislaw Lem from Poland. His stories were definitely NOT
    set in the Star Trek universe. Start with Solaris and then His Master’s Voice.
    Lem’s aliens are truly alien and they are not terribly interested in joining any
    kind of humanoid-run Federation of Planets.

  • Ronald September 11, 2009, 15:25

    As I have stated before, if there exists any ETI in our own galaxy or even a neighboring galaxy (such as Andromeda), and this ETI is even slightly more advanced than we are, then they will certainly know about our presence, at least as a living planet, possibly also as an intelligence and civilization. This because telescopic capabilities develop so rapidly and easily.

    It is still very questionable whether an ETI would be able to bridge the immense gap between the stars. Enough has been said on this site about that challenge.

    However, I do not agree with Bill, that FTL would disprove such an ETI existence, first of all because even FTL does not necessarily imply unlimited capabilities, secondly, because, as Adam suggests, even their presence would not automatically imply revelation.

    Also, I do not entirely agree with ljk, who states “But why do you assume that beings who could travel through space at FTL speeds, (…), would want to visit Earth or even let us know they exist given all those choices?”

    That is to say, I do agree with the latter reason, but not with the former:
    In any case, ETI and technological civilization must be quite rare, therefore always worthy of observation and study. If an ETI indeed exists in our galaxy that is able to travel to other stars, I am absolutely convinced that they would be highly interested in us and our planet, even if it were only to keep a wary eye on our technological progress.

  • Mike Prather September 11, 2009, 16:23

    Hi James,
    I didn’t actually mean I thought the Church would implement a campaign of forced conversion but they’ve always sent Jesuits and missionaries to preach and gather converts – that’s been a pretty fundamental aspect of almost all Christian sects for the last 2000 years. And I have a fuzzy memory of some public discussion which set forth that it was likely that the Church would consider any intelligent beings in the universe as children of God and therefore imbued with original sin and thus, capable of being saved. Most likely in any contact with a species even remotely similar to ours, mentally, there would be cross-converts of philosophies, religions and mythoi.

    As far as the sentinel issue goes, I simply meant that to an FTL species, atomics and chemical rockets will be baby toys and as long as we’re only in danger of blowing ourselves up, they probably could care less. At least, that’s what Klaatu said :)

  • Adam September 11, 2009, 21:26

    Hi All

    Interesting tangent is that “A Case of Conscience” isn’t about the Church’s reaction to ETIs, but to living proof of evolution, since the Lithians recapitulate their entire phylogeny through their development. Blish’s fictional Church of 2050 had decided in a Church Council of 1995 that the official doctrine on matters of origin would be “mature creation with an appearance of age”. Fortunately the real Church wasn’t so idiotic as to back such a ‘saving of appearances’ approach to the doctrine of Creation.

    But can you imagine the impact of ETIs, arriving via FTL, with indisputable proof of the antiquity of creation? How would all the “6,000 year” Creationists react? I’ve read some pretty extreme mental gymnastics by Young Creationists to accomodate certain lines of physical evidence, particularly the cosmological antiquity that the sky is a witness to.

  • Ronald September 12, 2009, 6:00

    A bit further to my previous post and Mike’s response to James; regardless of any collective ‘Prime Directive’ among higher civilizations (as I said, these must be quite rare anyway, and what would determine whether a civ is ‘high enough’ to be part of a common understanding?), it is not illogical that a higher developed civ would adhere to the principle of non-intervention for an entire planet, out of a universal respect for life and possibly also based on prior negative experiences with the opposite. At the same time it would also be quite logical to keep a budding civ like us under observation, not just for study purposes (also that of course), but also because one day that rather aggressive, expansionist infant civ may discover what they have already discovered, the means to travel to the stars. If truly universally altruistic and civilized, they may even be prepared to prevent the very worst, complete self-destruction, from happening to us.

    I am definitely not saying that I believe in alien visitors (actually have my very strong doubts about that and consider myself a skeptic), but just that, IF an alien civ with FTL capabilities exists anywhere in our (part of the galaxy) it would be perfectly logical for them to visit and study us, and to do so in secrecy, we would most likely do the same.

  • James M. Essig September 12, 2009, 15:04

    Hi Mike, Adam, and Ronald;

    A highly interesting set of comments you made above.

    I would love to find some shread of real, undeniable, evidence for ETI right here in our own solar system.

    I like to joke with my mother and my brother John who are both very open to the possibility of existent ETI, that I hope we find an underground bunker on Mars, even if completely and long since abandoned a few billion year ago. My mother likes to say, “I hope they find a bone up there.”

    But seriously, the further out we explore from Earth, the more likely we are to discover some abandoned hardware from an ETI civilization even if only some form of precursor Voyager 1 or Voyager 2 like probes that were launched millions of years ago or more by an ETI civilization.

  • ljk September 12, 2009, 21:38

    Adam said:

    “But can you imagine the impact of ETIs, arriving via FTL, with indisputable proof of the antiquity of creation? How would all the “6,000 year” Creationists react? I’ve read some pretty extreme mental gymnastics by Young Creationists to accomodate certain lines of physical evidence, particularly the cosmological antiquity that the sky is a witness to.”

    I think we know exactly what their reaction would be: That the
    aliens and any such revelations they make are human-made hoaxes
    or that they are minions of Satan or some other such nonsense.

    I have to admit I am sometimes on the fence about whether or
    not detecting ETI will be a good or bad thing for humanity as a
    whole. I know there are plenty who will embrace them, but
    plenty of others will be wary or worse and might cause a lot of
    trouble for the aliens if they visit or their own species, or both.

    Then again, is there ever such a thing as a truly bloodless
    revolution of the kind that a society needs to advance itself?

  • Ronald September 13, 2009, 17:52

    Adam: “How would all the “6,000 year” Creationists react?”

    Well, I am not too worried. Such religious extremists (Note: I do not mean extremist in any violent or political way) are probably on their way out anyway, here in Europe it is really an archaic fringe movement, also among various religious denominations.

    The human mind is amazingly adaptive, as has been demonstrated before by the discoveries of Galileo and so forth.
    Religion per se and spirituality will survive and adapt. But antiquated dogma’s will gradually vanish. Note ljk’s wise last sentence above.

  • ljk September 14, 2009, 11:19

    Hi Ronald,

    While religious issues in Europe may have indeed “toned down” at least
    as far as the various Christian groups are concerned compared to all the
    previous centuries, here in the United States religious matters still make
    quite the effect on politics and science. Just check the news on any given
    day.

    Judge for yourself by visiting The Creation Museum and see why so many
    American public school teachers are afraid to talk about evolution to their
    classes, either skipping over it or having to include so-called “Intelligent
    Design” along with the science.

    http://creationmuseum.org/

    The creationists here have also begun to attack the Big Bang and other
    scientific theories about the Universe, including and especially the idea
    that our reality is 13.7 billion years old (they are also not big fans of the
    possibility for alien intelligences, unless you mean the supernatural
    variety). If they had solid evidence foran actual creator of the Cosmos
    that would be one thing, but most all of their arguments are circular at
    best and superstitious at worst.

    This is really about socially controlling the thoughts and actions of the
    populace towards one way of being anyway. I often wish they would just
    admit as much rather than cloak themselves in the very science they are
    seeking to undermine in an ironic attempt to achieve legitimacy.

    If anyone thinks this has no direct effect on whether humanity will ever
    attain the stars one day, please think again. A populace which is not taught
    proper science and is told to keep its eyes and feet on Earth will not be
    supporting any missions to other star systems.

    Look at how a bad economy and a public that does not support funds for
    space exploration have probably derailed NASA’s plans for sending humans
    to explore and colonize the Moon and Mars, and those goals could otherwise
    be achieved in our lifetimes.

  • Ronald September 15, 2009, 16:55

    ljk September 14, 2009 at 11:19;

    Larry, I could not agree more. It is archaic and worrisome indeed, particularly the science bashing and politicizing. There has been some of that here as well, in connection with the ‘Darwin memorial year’ but not much beyond the naive and outright laughable.

    Recently two well-known christian biologists and a popular (evangelical) christian talk-show host here in The Netherlands publicly admitted (on national TV) adhering to the theory of evolution (without even losing their faith).
    It caused some stir among certain religious groups but not much, more like ah well. I think you will generally find that in (Western) Europe. There are a few dogmatic creationist fringe groups, but very marginal.

    Remarkable, those extremes in the US, on the one hand the country of freedom and scientific progress, on the other hand this ultra-conservatism.