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back to article Warp drives are PLANET KILLERS, Sydney Uni students find

In 1994, a physicist called Miguel Alcubierre proposed a “warp drive” solution resolving the prohibition in Einstein’s special relativity on traveling faster than light. The problem turns out to be that anybody in the path of the incoming space ship gets fried. That’s the conclusion of a group of University of Sydney physics …

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Joke

In a distant galexy...

...what we though were GRB due to massive supernova turned out to be the ill-advised warp drive designs of spaceships stopping off at intergalactic fast food place asking "where is the beef?" for the upteenth time.

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Alien

Re: In a distant galexy...

GRBs were the first thing that went through my mind (actually, they usually are) when I read the headline.

If GRBs are all pointing towards us, that means... from the edges of the Universe... THEY ARE COMING!

I for one welcome our our new gamma-ray-emitting alien overlords.

(hey, shouldn't there be an icon for that, or is it just the alien-grey one?)

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Alien

Make it so...

Funnily enough there was a Star Trek: TNG episode called Force Of Nature which was about this theory, so I wonder if rather than having "re-examined the maths of the Alcubierre drive" they really just watched a DVD box set of the show while they were stoned?

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Trollface

Re: Make it so...

" they really just watched a DVD box set of the show while they were stoned?"

They are uni students (Sinny Yooni at that), so your point being?

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Trollface

Re: Make it so...

yes, yes,yes,,, whatever.....

The point is that many of the beings on planet earth dont give a flying f**k at a rolling dohnut about the physics behind "warp" technology as proven by the lack of interest the majority of travellers are regarding the plane they are flying to their holiday destination in, or the car they drive them to work.

All people are interested in is, "ok, this new plane you build with the star trek engine, how long is it going to take me to fly between New York and Heathrow?" and, "How long are you gonna keep me in the god damned departure lounge/security?"

Just hurry it up and make it gad damn so !!

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Re: Make it so,marty??

hey if they did that, and found it killed all the people in the airport, they would stop it pretty damned quick.... :(

you dont hear much from the 1900's passengers about possible fatalities due to frost bite and oxygen deprivation...

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Alien

So...

Gene Rodenberry had it right all those years ago?

If anyone has ever noticed in StarTrek they pretty much didn't exit(or enter unless an emergency) warp drive near a inhabited planet.

Maybe they should look closer at StarTrek for how to do it too.

Icon for what Gene Rodenberry really was.

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Boffin

Re: So...

And so did David Beraben- I think you can't use warp drives until you've moved a sufficient distance away from inhibited planets as well. At least, that's the case in the OOLite clone.

Anyways, what's wrong with keeping the ship stationary and moving the space around it instead?

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Thumb Up

Re: So...

That's true in a lot of science fiction. Isaac Asimov's books usually required ships to be a fair distance from a planet before they could enter hyperspace. C.J. Cherryh's books require ships to be most of the way outside the solar system.

The common theme though tends to be not trying to leave normal space while inside a gravity well. Given the way gravity impacts light it's a reasonable restriction but it's probably more of a device for story telling. Just bouncing from one planet to another at the push of the button makes it sound too easy. Having to first spend a few hours or days travelling in normal space makes it more interesting.

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Headmaster

Re: So...

Hand in the keys to your Cobra Mk III . Elite uses hyperspace, not warp drive.

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Flame

Re: So...

The thing with warpdrives/hyperspace/whathaveyou in sci-fi is that if you allow you spaceship to 'enter warpspace' (or whatever) close to a planet, then nothing is ruling out being able to do it from the surface of a planet, in which case, why do you need your big shiny spaceships at all? You could just have a car with an air tight seal, or a shipping container with the warpdrive bolted in the middle.*

Hence most Scifi doesn't allow warping near planets, so they get to keep their big shiny (not compensating for anything at all honest) starships.

*(Ken MacLeod did this in Dark Light, strapping a warp drive to a spacestation, to create a slightly unwieldy, but relatively spacious spacecraft)

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Thumb Up

Re: So...

Well, he did postulate the forward deflector as well, a solution to preventing time-locked matter build up at the front of the 'warp field'...

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Boffin

Re: So...

Hyperspace (H key) for inter-system travel, warp (J key) for FTL travel within systems.

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FAIL

Gene was a hack

Yeah too bad he made every named crew member a super hero at everything (the cameo Yeoman Johnsons of course were there to die for dramatic affect). That's right the ship's doctor unarmed can take down the biggest best Klingon warrior with ease with his WWE double hands clapped like an axe move. Why don't they use that in MMA you ask? Because in MMA they need to actually knock out there opponent instead of break their fingers/hands.

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Black Helicopters

Much simpler explanation

Spacecraft in SF travel 'at the speed of plot'. If travel happened instantaneously from point 'A' on earth to point 'B' on some far-off planet, the travel and the destination wouldn't be all that interesting. (from the perspective of fiction...)

Like they always say, 'truth is stranger than fiction', and that's because fiction has to follow rules we know -- truth doesn't.

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Re: So...

I think you need to check your startrek schematics for the warp drive size...

Have you tried fixing a porche engine onto your pushbike????

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Alien

Re: So...

But in Babylon 5, Sheridan opens a hyperspace jump point in the atmosphere of Mars during the attack on EarthGov there, near the end of the Human civil war, and neither was Mars consumed nor the population fried!

So there!

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Bronze badge

Re: Much simpler explanation

Well Hamiltons trains through wormholes in the commonwealth books was instant from one planet to another. Made a nice change for the few spaceships to be a novelty because they were mostly redundant, shame he de-emphasised the trains in favour of more standard SF hyperdrives in the second set of books.

The Silfen paths though, they definately went at the speed of plot.

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Re: So...

Well, Jump drive seems to just compress time, to make it seem like it takes less time to reach your destination; that is why you cannot use it when other ships are around (they could blow you out of the sky before you can react). Frontier did away with it altogether, replacing it with various fast forward options (which could be used when other ships were around, though they then tended to blow you out of the sky before you could react).

Hyperspace drive cannot be used near a planet or star because of their gravity wells, according to the Frontier manual.

I feel I am revealing the extent of my misspent youth...

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Alien

Klingons

No wonder the Klingons were upset if every time the Enterprise turn up it fried half their planets.

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Ban Military Drives!

Looks like Frontier: Elite II wasn't too far off the mark either.

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Holmes

Use the energy to produce the bubble

Start small cycle the bubble on and off use the energy to create a larger bubble etc untill you enclose the ship. There problem solved.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Use the energy to produce the bubble

That is sort of what I was thinking.... Gamma radiation= energy, since we need alot of it, it makes sense to harness this radiation... maybe in the form of a 'catchers mitt' for space craft that converts the gamma radiation into useable energy at the destination... hmmm think about it cannons between stars...

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Go

There's a former company called GDW...

in the USA, who made the old paper and dice role-playing games; they've folded now, but one such game was called 2300:AD, and used a stutter warp concept - a fast-cycling on/off warp drive that had to be discharged in the gravity well of a star system. Methinks this might have been a tad prophetic - if you cycle it fast enough, you'll get your FTL drive; if it's cycling rapidly enough, there won't be that many particles caught up to produce the harmful radiation and energy at the end of each cycle, thus the frying tonight effect could be minimised. Like I just said: A tad prophetic :-)

Go, 'cause I wanna walk on Mars before I pop my clogs ;-)

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Angel

Re: There's a former company called GDW...

The stutter drive of 2300AD used the quantum tunnelling effect to move the vessel forwards by small amounts; each quantum leap taking zero time.

As an Astrophyics undergrad at the time (mid 80s), it made me curious as to what the effective speed was of a particle when it moved by this method. However, I suspect that the answer would be let down by the lack of a definitive concept of position...

2300AD (aka Traveller 2300) is still available through other publishers (Mongoose?). I liked its "hard SF" design and setting. (much abuse of the player's characters by corporate police state in the shadow of the Braziville elevator...)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There's a former company called GDW...

Sci-Fi fiction and games normally places the reasoning that you can't just pop up next to a planet from warp-drive in the hands of gravity wells. Battletech, Renegade Legion, Traveller, 40k and I believe even Star Wars used the caveat and it's pretty much become a paradigm.

I guess it also gives a reason for space ships to have conventional engines and to look slightly ship-like, rather than simply big sphere-things that just pop between orbits (although that's exactly how fold-space ships in Dune functioned).

The only mention of FTL radiation woes that I can recall in sci-fi/sci-fi gaming is in Renegade Legion, where ships in T-Space build up radiation, which takes an equal time in normal space0time to dissipate, and will kill the crew if it exceeds a month, rather than killing nearby planets.

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Silver badge

"every GPS enabled mobile phone contains a relativity corrector"

Which is only partially correct as while it can pretty much do the lat/long stuff, heights are wildly inaccurate. Walking across a flat field gives me a trace as if I'd hiked across someplace with largish hills. Hell, even standing still has me moving up.

That said, reality around here is fairly relative anyway...

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Silver badge

Re: "every GPS enabled mobile phone contains a relativity corrector"

If it didn't correct for relativity the lat/long would be way out

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Boffin

Re: "every GPS enabled mobile phone contains a relativity corrector"

"If it didn't correct for relativity the lat/long would be way out"

Yeah, by all of 10m. (It's that order, anyway.)

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Sweet

Just fly in zigzags stopping every now and then to drop off the beams of energy

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Coat

Re: Sweet

Is there any other way? This is why Star Wars needed the computer to calculate the hyperspace path.

The only other option is to finally start looking into infinite improbability. Just sayin'.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sweet

It is? I thought it was to do with avoiding gravity wells. That's why interdiction ships can pulls ships out of hyperspace: By projecting an artificial gravity well in their path, which the computers will detect and drop the ship out of hyperspace to avoid.

I'm not a massive SW fan, so I dare say that I'm about to be corrected...

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Re: Sweet

No bouncing too close to a supernova...

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Unhappy

Looks like the funding is about to go balistic for this tech.

Now there is a military application :-(

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Happy

Heh Heh. She said 'balistic'

I see what I did there (though only after clicking 'post').

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Pint

Obvious solution

Don't aim for the place you're going, just nearby, then use boring old Impulse engines for the last leg. Even better, build a great big array to collect all the waste energy from incoming ships, like an orbital power station, and no, 'that's unpossible" isn't a reasonable response to that given we're talking about warp drive.

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Boffin

We Come In Peace!

Hey! Where did everyone go?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We Come In Peace!

The only survivor would be Newt Gingrich in his moon base.

That'll learn 'em.

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Alien

re: obvious solution

Or you could build huge "collectors" in space for all that energy. Every ship would know the co-ordinates to these "collectors" or we could call them gates, or jump gates. The energy collected could be saved and used to return the craft. Some energy could be bleed of to power space stations, we could call the first one B1, etc. Stay clear of any called B5, as strange stuff could go on there.

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Headmaster

Re: re: obvious solution

B1 blue up due to sabotage.

B2 blue up due to sabotage.

B3 blue up due to sabotage.

B4 disappeared into a time warp, and became Valon's base of operations during the previous Shadow war

B5 got attacked, knocked out of alignment, became a rebel base and the operations centre during the current Shadow war.

Unless you are called Thomas Jordan, I'd stay clear of the lot of them.

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Headmaster

Re: re: obvious solution

Actually B3 wasn't sabotaged, it simply blew up. B5 would be fine. You'd just have to make sure that any Security Officers of Italian heritage are kept away - they seem to provoke a lot of fights and trouble just seems to flare up when they are around!

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Unhappy

Re: re: obvious solution

BLEW-UP.

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Go

Re: re: obvious solution

"Blue up"? We're dealing with a whole new kind of spectral shift you're saying?

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Coat

Re: re: obvious solution

It's a Farscape thing...

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Since you'd be going from one solar system to another with this kind of drive, just fly towards their sun - no need to worry about frying inhabitants in it, and another burst of radiation chucked into a colossal fusion explosion is hardly going to matter. Then use plain old impulse drive or whatever to 'taxi' the last few light-minutes to the planet you were aiming for.

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Anonymous Coward

...and just remember to look out for pirates and make sure you have your fuel scoops and a docking computer ready.

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Bronze badge

Docking computer?

Pah.

If you haven't mastered docking by the time you can afford to buy a docking computer you've been wasting your time.

Fly past, flip and spin was my preferred method - didn't scrape the sides any more often than a docking computer would've.

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Thumb Up

A couple of other problems

As I recall the Alcubierre warp drive had a couple of other technical problems, those being that the access point had a radius smaller than an atom and it required more energy that that contained within the universe, though to be fair the paper i read didn't mention which atom or if it was the whole universe or just the visible universe.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A couple of other problems

A quick skim of the wikipedia article suggests that you need somewhere in the order of 3 solar masses of energy (via E=mc2) to transport "small atoms".

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Joke

Re: A couple of other problems

So what I'm hearing there is that it's something else that wind turbines can't provide power for.

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