back to article NASA working on faster-than-light drive capable of WARP TEN

A top NASA boffin has outlined ongoing lab experiments at the space agency aimed at first steps towards the building of a warp-drive spacecraft theoretically capable of travelling at 10 times the speed of light. The latest developments at the "Eagleworks" super-advanced space drive lab at NASA's Johnson Space Center were …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Warp Ten is not 10x SOL

    As its from the Star Trek Universe... I think you should re-research that bit.... cause according to the Enterprise Technical manual... its alot faster.....

    1. Psyx
      Thumb Up

      Re: Warp Ten is not 10x SOL

      How did I just know that the first comment was going to be "That's not what warp 10 is, as any fule noe"?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Warp Ten is not 10x SOL

      OK, so just how fast is is compared to - say - greased weasel shit off a very shiny stick?

      1. Baudwalk

        Re: Warp Ten is not 10x SOL

        An African or European weasel?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Warp Ten is not 10x SOL

      AFAIK Warp was always meant to be an exponentially increasing scale, with 10 being "infinity" (or at least that's what they called it in the series "everywhere in the universe at the same time").

      It was far from 10 times the speed of light. But that's by far the least of the problems with this article, and presumably NASA's research. If anyone comprehends a speed faster than light in the real world, the Universe may wish to ask them a few questions...

    4. henrydddd
      Happy

      Re: Warp Ten is not 10x SOL

      With all of the crap that is going on in the planet earth today, all i got to say is "beam me up Scotty".

    5. mlapolla

      Re: Warp Ten is not 10x SOL

      That is correct. It changes also with the show. http://www.star-fleet.com/ed/warp-chart.html

    6. Pet Peeve
      Boffin

      Re: Warp Ten is not 10x SOL

      Classical trek, warp speed was the cube of the warp factor, which would make 10c about warp 2.15.

      Next generation, they changed that into a log scale, where warp 10 is infinity, if I remember right.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 10 = infinity?

        I'm sure I remember them talking about Warp factors of 13 and 14 in the later ones, possibly Voyager.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: 10 = infinity?

          I'm sure I read somewhere that sub-space communications took place at the equivalent of Warp 13.

          Anyway, that's not what bothers me. What bothers me is when they use the slingshot effect to time travel. What numbers to they read out there?

  2. JeeBee

    Warp is not a linear scale

    I thought the Warp speeds were logarithmic - Warp 1 being lightspeed, Warp 2 being 10x lightspeed?

    Ah, no, it's cubic. 10x light speed is therefore more like Warp 2.15 ...

    Aaaaand, that's for the original series. The later ones do it differently with no apparent formula and a false upper limit of Warp 10 for plot-line reasons.

    1. g e

      Re: Warp is not a linear scale

      I thought Warp10 was transwarp or is that when you turn it up to 11 ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Warp is not a linear scale

        They rewrote the warp speed tables after the 3rd movie I believe

      2. David Webb
        Pint

        Re: Warp is not a linear scale

        Transwarp is different to warp, the Borg use Transwarp conduits (as seen in the final episode of Voyager). Warp 10 apparently should be impossible as if you hit Warp 10 you would be everywhere at once, though, again in Voyager, Tom Paris did actually get to Warp 10 and somehow turned into a lizard due to evolving the human species several billion years.

        Beer, because at Warp 10 you're inside every beer at the same time.... nice.

        1. Psyx
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Warp is not a linear scale

          "Beer, because at Warp 10 you're inside every beer at the same time.... nice."

          Paris, because at Warp 10 every crew member's member would be in Paris at the same time.

          (And because he was on Voyager, of course.)

          1. Volker Hett
            Pint

            Re: Warp is not a linear scale

            That Paris? Hm, no, better the Paris with the beer commercial in brazil!

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Repeat after me:

              Star Trek is not real.

              Fictitious scales made up within something that isn;t real, are also not real. Particulalrly when they are changed at the writers' whim.

              Sheesh.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                FAIL

                Re: Repeat after me:

                No shit.

                But when you're writing about fiction, it generally makes sense to utilize the fiction itself for your reference. Presumably by your definition it would be just fine to describe The Lord Of The Rings as being about a super-sentient planet of five-story-tall baboons who face famine when their butter factory breaks down, thus paralyzing trade with the Biloxi, a race of butter ants from the Mississippi system.

                I mean, after all, it's not *real*, is it? So why bother with defining anything at ALL - after all, it's just defined "at the writer's whim", and who are we to let THAT define our conversations about that very topic?

                Hell, as far as I'm concerned, your post is about the Samsung lawsuit. It's not REAL, after all; just a bunch of words! They might as well say anything!

                1. Lord Byron

                  Re: Repeat after me:

                  I'd read that book!

        2. Kane Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Warp is not a linear scale

          "Warp 10 apparently should be impossible as if you hit Warp 10 you would be everywhere at once"

          Much like the Infinite Improbability Drive then, yes?

          Sorry, sorry, shouldn't mix up my scientifiction.

          Mine's the one with the thermos of strong brownian motion producer in the pocket, thanks.

        3. Michael Dunn
          Happy

          Re: Warp is not a linear scale

          "Beer, because at Warp 10 you're inside every beer at the same time.... nice" Better if every beer is inside you at the same time, you probably would then be everywhere in the universe at once.

      3. dlc.usa

        Re: Warp is not a linear scale

        "I thought Warp10 was transwarp or is that when you turn it up to 11 ?"

        Only if you have a Marshal warp drive. ;-)

    2. Joe Cooper
      Boffin

      Re: Warp is not a linear scale

      FWIW, the writers declared that the "warp 10 is infinity" episode was non-canon because they and most everyone hated the hell out of it. Other episodes have referred to warp figures over 10.

      So I think we can safely say that the warp scale is based on "like, whatever or something".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Warp is not a linear scale

        Thanks for the clearing up of that. I'd probably right off most episodes as "non-cannon". Especially the new movie!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cannon

          We're not talking about explosively-propelled projectile weapons.

          How can you read a word on one line and then spell it wrong immediately on the next line when you can still see the correct spelling right next to what you're writing? And you even use quote marks as well!

          To even write the word "write" incorrectly requires a special level of ineptitude.

          So not only can you not do it, you can't even spell the action in the first place. There's some recursive idiocy in there, for sure.

          I despair. They shouldn't let low-level life forms near computers.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Warp is not a linear scale

          I'd probably right off most episodes as "non-cannon".

          Agreed. Few episodes feature cannons, and the ones that do are right off.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: Warp is not a linear scale

      It's Treknology. Meaning, it's whatever scale the writers need for the plot point this week. So I won't fault the author for making it mean what he needs it to mean in this article.

      I love Star Trek as much as the next geek, but I do recognize it's limitations. I mean, do you REALLY think humans would ever encounter what is effectively a dead world with far more advanced technology that is easily readable (For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, Spock's Brain) and not make a copy before running off? Or fail to record all of Earth's History (City on the Edge of Forever)? Or, given a transporter accident that regresses your physical age to 12-14 (Next Gen, don't recall title), not work with that accident to come up with a way to regress your physical age to 21-25? And let's not even get started on how badly they mangled the timeline with Enterprise.

  3. JDX Gold badge

    It doesn't take take thousands of years

    If you're the one doing the travelling it doesn't take long, only if if you want to remain in contact with Earth is it an issue.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: It doesn't take take thousands of years

      I wonder how many times your post will 'whoosh' past the eyes of readers. But never a truer word said.

      IFIAK it's around 30 years to reach any point in the universe. Yep, only 30 years. Providing you have 1g acceleration constantly. Just remember at half way to turn around and start slowing down. Oh, add an infinite supply of energy too.

      1. Leun

        Re: It doesn't take take thousands of years

        2 years

    2. Graham Bartlett

      Re: It doesn't take take thousands of years

      Yeah, but that's still kind of inconvenient in many ways. There's a Heinlein (IIRC) book about a generation-ship where they finally get to their destination planet and find that a few centuries of research has resulted in a way of getting there in a half-dozen years. Or if we turn out not to be the only ones out there, the "Forever War" scenario of trying to strategise over centuries.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: It doesn't take take thousands of years

        Forget Heinlein, Douglas Adams made the point better :)

        1. dlc.usa
          Boffin

          Bring Back V'ger

          (before the Borg get it) and put it on display at Udvar-Hazy.

      2. Gazareth

        Re: It doesn't take take thousands of years

        The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks had some similar issues in the semi-background.

        People on the slow ships being overtaken by the quicker method.

        And then the quicker method gets broken.

  4. Nigel Brown
    Alien

    Ye cannae change the laws o' physics, laws o' physics, laws o' physics...................

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If my calculations are correct...

    We would need 151,239.5349 Norris's to get to 10,000 % of the maximum velocity of a sheep in a vacuum.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fool

      Norris's what?

  6. g e
    WTF?

    And the gamma ray mega radiation kill thing?

    When it decelerates? Or was that a different FTL mechanism that caused that?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And the gamma ray mega radiation kill thing?

      Wasn't that the buzzard drives? (Or ram drives? or some such)

      1. Christoph Silver badge

        Re: And the gamma ray mega radiation kill thing?

        A Bussard Ramjet isn't particularly more dangerous than a standard fusion drive,

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: And the gamma ray mega radiation kill thing?

          Any useful space drive is a useful weapon.

          (Niven) ish

      2. Grikath

        Re: And the gamma ray mega radiation kill thing?

        a) Space is big, incredibly big, no really really humongously big. And therefore mostly harml...errrrmmm empty.

        b) See that big light in the sky? That's a really, really big thermonuclear device, which does not pump out gamma radiation at all. Really.

        Alternatively, I believe NASA.gov and other boffinry centers dealing with astronomy have some nice footage of the sky when the big light isn't around in the gamma spectrum.

        All the If-but's aside concerning a wholly theoretical mode of propulsion, a potential gamma wake, or deceleration pulse would be like a drop in the ocean compared to what a planet is bathed in on a daily basis.

        It would put a crimp on close formation flying though.

    2. AdamT

      Re: And the gamma ray mega radiation kill thing?

      I think you're referring to this: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/03/04/killer_warp_drive/ Roughly the idea that any particles picked up at the front of the bubble get released on deceleration and anyone standing in the way is going to need SPF 1e10 to survive it ...

      1. Fibbles

        Re: And the gamma ray mega radiation kill thing?

        New rule: No warping within inhabited planetary systems.

        Problem solved.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: And the gamma ray mega radiation kill thing?

          > No warping within inhabited planetary systems.

          I foresee customers rioting due to boredom while waiting for the ship to get down from the Kuiper belt.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: And the gamma ray mega radiation kill thing?

        Roughly the idea that any particles picked up at the front of the bubble get released on deceleration and anyone standing in the way is going to need SPF 1e10 to survive it ...

        While we're idly speculating on almost-certainly-completely-impractical ideas, I'll mention another of Niven's: you move the whole solar system. Build a whacking great ring of magnets around the sun (I think he said roughly around the diameter of Mercury's orbit). Squeeze that bugger a bit, so it jets out roughly normal to the plane of the ecliptic. That pushes the system out of its normal position in the galactic arm. By the time you start running out of sun, you're going fast enough to turn the apparatus into a big Bussard ramjet.

        The advantage is that the Earth makes as good a "living quarters" for a "generation ship" as we're likely to get: it's big, comfortable, pretty well shielded (we'd have trouble building better shielding, particularly in the hemisphere away from the direction of travel).

        Niven said the only reason to do this was to flee a galactic-core explosion, but you could use it to get closer to other systems of interest - probably within a couple lightyears. Then you could use smaller craft to commute between Earth and plants-of-choice.

        Of course the whole thing is predicated on a ridiculous engineering feat (similar in scale to his other mega-engineering concepts, like ringworlds); Niven himself mentions a couple of snags, like needing to be able to transmute Jupiter's mass into something useful for building magnets from.

        But it beats puttering about the galaxy in a tin can.

    3. ~mico
      Coat

      Re: And the gamma ray mega radiation kill thing?

      Apparently, the scientists will inadvertently explain the Gamma Ray Bursts enigma while developing the drive.

      I'll get my hazmat vest.

  7. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Boffin

    http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Warp_factor

    1. Jared Hunt
      WTF?

      Interesting article

      I'm a big fan of Star Trek and sci-fi in general but it never ceases to amaze me the lengths some people are prepared to go to explain away discrepancies between episodes / series / films rather than just accept that it's ultimately all made up and subject to human error.

      1. P_0

        Re: Interesting article

        Started with Sherlock Holmes. In the early 20th century there was a great amount written to try to paper over the gaping discrepancies between Conan Doyle's stories. Essentially, ACD was a very talented story teller, but was hopeless at keeping character continuity, or keeping a timeline of events. In fact, Sherlock Holmes isn't really a "character", but more a device hoisted out by ACD to take the reader through a mystery. He didn't care for the timeline of Watson's marriage, or at which point recurring characters first appeared etc.

        Holmes fans were the first uber-nerds who tied themselves in knots trying to reconcile al the problems between the Holmes stories.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Interesting article

          And the new Star Trek movie, the 'reboot', elegantly dealt with the inevitable comparisons to Shatner's StarTrek by setting it in a parallel - though linked- universe.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Interesting article

          Holmes fans were the first uber-nerds who tied themselves in knots trying to reconcile al the problems between the Holmes stories.

          For popular fiction, perhaps - I don't have an earlier example to hand - but they were part of a broad hermeneutic tradition in Europe (consider the Jewish kabbalists, the Gnostics, etc) incorporating various schools that emphasized some form of close reading. There are parallels in other cultures as well.

          Of course ACD was one of the first, if not the first, to popularize the form of a long series of short stories or novellas with continuity of characters and events. Others (eg Poe) had done it on a smaller scale, but Doyle really refined the idea. It was that sort of innovation which made him such a commercial success, I think; it rewards close reading ("uber-nerd" behavior) with psychological incentives and, as the work gains popularity, with social capital.

      2. Psyx
        Pint

        Re: Interesting article

        "it never ceases to amaze me the lengths some people are prepared to go to explain away discrepancies between episodes / series / films rather than just accept that it's ultimately all made up and subject to human error."

        Internal consistency is important in Sci-Fi: If you write 'rules', you have to stick to them. Sci-Fi is rather crucially about such things by definition.

        Although of course Star Trek isn't Sci-Fi. Try telling nit-picky fans that, though.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Interesting article

          You've never seen the classic sci-fi film 'Primer', where internal consistency disappears about 10 minutes in, and you either come out of the theatre thinking "wow, what an amazing film" or drooling and gurgling while your brain rearranges itself.

          Actually there's a 3rd option, where I watched it, lots of people left after half an hour, they just couldn't (or wouldn't) keep up!

          There's an obligatory xkcd that explains plot time lines of various movies, "Primer" is the punchline.

        2. TechnicalBen Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Interesting article

          I agree with Psyx. Basically, I prefer logic and reason in my stories. At least a bit of consistency. Else it becomes rather fascicle.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            The Plinkett Equation

            http://redlettermedia.com/plinkett/star-trek/star-trek-09/

            at 25:25 explains it all

            1. illiad

              Re: The Plinkett Equation

              yeah Maybe, but the real culprit is a bad script, a producer desperately trying to make a 'bam boom' movie, while totally ripping up the science manual in the process, and mixing in a few other bits to make the old trekkers happy... ending in a utter mess, that does not seem to have any proper relation to the original!!

              BUT the teenagers loved it, good hi-tech stuff, intrigue, explosions, villains, etc... yes, take out a few ST references, call it some other space name, I bet most would not know the difference!!!! :)

              Trekkers.. you have to realise, most of you are nearly dead, and the teenagers want something a lot more dynamic and quick..

              check the box office.. it made more than twice the takings of 'Voyage Home'...

              http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/series/StarTrek.php

            2. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: The Plinkett Equation

              at 25:25 explains it all

              if man is still alive ...

        3. illiad

          Re: Interesting article

          "Star Trek isn't Sci-Fi" ?? DO check the definition of 'Sci-Fi' please..

          "Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible (or at least non-supernatural) content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, parallel universes, aliens, and paranormal abilities. Exploring the consequences of scientific innovations is one purpose of science fiction, making it a 'literature of ideas' "

          Please explain why this description does not apply to Star Trek... :)

          Or are you one of those strange people that think that some 'four wheeled engine powered' things on the road are not real automobiles???

      3. Michael Dunn
        Happy

        Re: Interesting article @ Jared

        Quite right, Jared, it's _entertainment_! We read Dickens, not as a chore of social history, but to enjoy the story.

  8. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Oh noes!

    "At [10 times lightspeed] a ship would still take several months to reach nearby systems like Alpha Centauri or Barnard's Star, and years for anything further off."

    Given that it currently takes years to get around our own solar system, I reckon I could live with a mission to Alpha Centauri that took "several months".

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Oh noes!

      Not to mention that "proper time" on an object going faster than light sure will be something of highly mathematical interest. Proper time for photons stands still, btw.

      All this FTL and quantum blah is just schoolyard fantasy stuff. If all your experiments and all your math tells you that you are on a hiding to nowhere, what you gonna do? Invent zero-point energy?

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: Oh noes!

        I've always wondered how it is that proper time for photons stands still but proper time for the oscillating EM fields 'inside' photons doesn't.

        Or maybe it doesn't work like that, and the phase payload is only delivered during a quantum interaction. (Or something.)

        I've also always wondered how it's possible to justify the speed of light limit for philosophical reasons (i.e. FTL is equivalent to time travel is equivalent to causality paradoxes) when simultaneity and causality aren't well-defined concepts anyway.

        Aaaand - I want to know how much tickets on this thing are going to cost.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Oh noes!

          There are no oscillating EM fields "inside" photons.

          The EM field is the classical approximation of the "photon field", which is a quantum field which you query for its properties and you get a photon in response. Getting from that to the EM fields demands some major linear algebraic trickery and operator algebra that I'm not ready to perform.

          And while "simultaneity" depends on the observer, "causality" does not. If A is in B's future lightcone, B can causally influence A.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Oh noes!

            @Destroy All Monsters

            The EM field is the classical approximation of the "photon field", which is a quantum field which you query for its properties and you get a photon in response.

            Ah, so it's sort of like the sound of one hand clapping. There's no light until you look! :-)

            Warm beer. For the brownian motion of course.

        2. Mallorn
          Boffin

          Re: Oh noes!

          "when simultaneity and causality aren't well-defined concepts anyway."

          Depends which universe you are living in. In mine they are very well defined: simultaneous events are ones which occur at the same time according to an observer and causality requires that if event A causes event B event A had better have occurred before event B for all observers.

          1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

            Re: Oh noes!

            simultaneous events are ones which occur at the same time according to an observer

            Hmm.. I was going to pounce on this and ask "yes, but relative to what observer?" My point being that simultaneity is a relative concept. Then I reread what you'd written and realised that you hadn't made the mistake I thought you had (when working in a relativistic framework).

            Still, at least I get to post a link that explains it a little bit better

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladder_paradox

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: proper time on an object going faster than light

        As I understand it, with the warp drive idea the object is still travelling slower than the light speed in its local space-time, but that space time has been bent in some way that means it simply isn't as far to Alpha Centauri as you might have expected. Therefore, we never have to reach the verboten speed and never have to consider the proper time on a particle going faster than it.

        I imagine this is impossible in a space with a strictly positive definite distance metric, but becomes possible (if incomprehensible to anyone with a normal brain) in a space-time with an indefinite metric. But I'm just really just playing buzzword bingo here.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: proper time on an object going faster than light

          As I understand it, with the warp drive idea the object is still travelling slower than the light speed in its local space-time, but that space time has been bent in some way that means it simply isn't as far to Alpha Centauri as you might have expected. Therefore, we never have to reach the verboten speed and never have to consider the proper time on a particle going faster than it.

          That helps with the problem of relativistic mass (ie, you can't accelerate something with mass to c, because you'd need infinite energy). It doesn't help with causality. Anything that transmits a signal from A to B, outside A's light cone, results in potential causality paradoxes. Milton Rothman's classic essay "On Faster-than-Light Paradoxes" has a nice, accessible explanation of the problem. (I've heard that there are conditions under which his explanation is not relevant, but they're exotic - special frames of reference and the like.)

        2. Antoine Dubuc
          Headmaster

          Re: proper time on an object going faster than light

          It's the not the spaceship that goes faster than light.

          Its the spacetime bubble that contains it.

          Space vs Space has no speed limit.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just to shut down the trekkers...

    I defy anybody to show any reference to how fast any warp factor is from any of the shows or movies. No, "Mr. Scott's Guide", "The Star Fleet Academy Handbook", or any other printed matter does not count.

    Folks, I love Star Trek as much as any other rational person, but: it isn't real. Stop trying to say how many megatons a photon torpedo is, or how fast warp factor foo is, or how much thrust the impulse drives of a shuttlecraft are - it was never spelled out, and for good reason: it would only cause more ire when it was later contradicted. The writers of Trek (***especially*** the Bergman era!) were NOT scientists, and were not trying to be scientifically accurate.

    Now, as for the real science: Yes, this is interesting, but it doesn't mean we are any closer to an FTL drive. There are still those minor niggles of finding the needed "exotic" matter for the ring (something that exhibits negative stress-energy pressure - something we've never seen before), and the issue that while the math works for a steady-state, it falls apart for creating and destroying the bubble, so you cannot enter it nor leave it, and the issue that it looks like such a bubble would create a "light-boom" (somewhat similar to a sonic boom) that would incinerate anybody it passed. Oh, and you cannot see where you are going. And you need to manipulate energies a couple of orders of magnitude larger than the largest fusion bomb we've ever detonated, in a very precisely controlled fashion (UNLIKE detonating a bomb!).

    But other than that, yeah, book you tickets to Alpha C now - it will only take 3 months to get there....

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: Star Trek isn't real.

      You'll be telling us that the White Walkers in Game of Thrones aren't real either next!

    2. Swarthy Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Just to shut down the trekkers...

      Actually, it does mean that we are closer to an FTL drive. They have taken us from "Theoretically possible, but likely impossible in a practical sense" to "impractical" to "well, maybe..." That is prgress.

      We still aren't close, but we are closer.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Just to shut down the trekkers...

        Yep, the man said "from impractical to plausible" and I read it as "from impossible to impractical". Still, I'm sure he's smarter than me, and with such a potential reward on offer it would be daft not to investigate further.

    3. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit
      Thumb Up

      Re: Just to shut down the trekkers...

      I'm sure you are correct but be that as it may I applaud the intellectual effort now being applied to the problem. For decades it seemed that nobody dared think beyond Einstein, you'd get laughed out of the scientific community if you questioned his limit. Now across the gulf of conference theatres, minds immeasurably superior to ours are daring to ask. I applaud the 100 year spaceship project, Planetary Resources and other similar efforts. I just wish I could be here to see the fruit of their labour.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Just to shut down the trekkers...

        "For decades it seemed that nobody dared think beyond Einstein, you'd get laughed out of the scientific community if you questioned his limit."

        Two points:

        1) The word tachyon was coined in a respectable physics paper in 1967.

        2) Current warp drive proposals don't actually cause an object exceed the (local) speed of light.

        So Einstein's theory is still unchallenged but challenging the idea that it implies an absolute speed limit was respectable in scientific circles before I was born.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just to shut down the trekkers...

      In Voyager "The 37's" Tom Paris states that warp 9.9 is "about 2 billion miles/second."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just to shut down the trekkers...

        "In Voyager "The 37's" Tom Paris states that warp 9.9 is "about 2 billion miles/second.""

        Proves it's nothing but fiction. Four hundred years in the future and Star Fleet still use imperial measurements?

        "Mr Spock, that thing must be 5,000 Fahrenheit, and a chain and three feat in diameter"?

        I think not.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just to shut down the trekkers...

          IIRC:

          1: it was Janeway who made the comment.

          2: it was just that the fastest they could go was a billion miles/sec - not giving any specific warp factor

          3: It was being said to Amelia Earhart, who would have been more comfortable with old units.

          4: Given that speed, and the oft-quoted statement in Voyager of a distance of 70000 light-years to home gives 13 years to get home, not the 70+ years they kept quoting - which just goes to show why the writers tried to avoid giving any such information.

          (yes, that speed may have been an unsustainable peak speed vs. sustained speed, etc.)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just to shut down the trekkers...

      "I defy anybody to show any reference to how fast any warp factor is from any of the shows or movies. "

      Actually, you can calculate how fast the ship is moving because, to maintain the effect that the ship is moving, objects have to be shown to streak by. Using various numbers as the average distance between stars, you can generate some figures on just how fast the Enterprise has to be moving to have stars streaking by.

    6. Fibbles

      Re: Just to shut down the trekkers...

      Why can't we refer to written materials? Roddenberry from the outset had a formula for working out Warp factors relative to c (it's published all over the net, I'm not typing it out here). Not all of the writers for TOS followed it though leading to inconsistencies. It was changed after the third film and all subsequent series* to stop writers using ever increasing warp speeds as plot devices to create tension (one ship reached warp 36 in TOS). Using the new formula Warp 1 remained equivalent to c but warp 10 became infinite velocity.

      A nice graphic on wikipedia illustrates the change; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Warptable.gif

      *Explained in the universe as the warp scale being readjusted in the early 2300's after a greater understanding of warp theory was achieved and to accommodate ever faster ships.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Holmes

        "warp 10 became infinite velocity"

        But back in the real world, the "infinite velocity" is still c. The world isn't euclidean, deal with it.

        The showers are on the left.

        1. Fibbles
          Facepalm

          Re: "warp 10 became infinite velocity"

          First, c is a measure of speed not velocity. Second, c is a finite measurement, not infinite.

          Deal with it.

  10. Turtle

    "Scientifiction"?

    ?

    Does not appear to me to be a useful neologism. Did you make it up yourself?

    1. Ralph B
      Headmaster

      Re: "Scientifiction"?

      The usage dates from 1926 according to:

      - http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/scientifiction

      but is long since superseded by "science fiction". I'm not sure for what purpose the author exhumes it here, unless to mark himself as some sort of retro geek. Are we impressed yet?

    2. Dave Bell

      Re: "Scientifiction"?

      It's a quite old term, "early 20th Century", and there are cites of Issue 1 of Amazing Stories, dated April 1926.

    3. Somerset John

      Re: "Scientifiction"?

      First used by Hugo Guernsback, after whome the Hugo award is named.

      No guarantee on the spelling though.

    4. Fibbles

      Re: "Scientifiction"?

      It's an old term that does not roll off the tongue easily, I do wish the author would stop trying to resurrect it.

  11. Dave 126 Silver badge

    If it works it could save our species over the very long term. But a Plan B From

    To Outer Space might be a good idea.

    Is anyone working on what would be required to sustain a self-contained ecosystem on a journey between the stars?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Pot Noodle

    2. Def Silver badge
      Joke

      A couple of pot plants, a crate of pot noodles, a thermos of tea, and a young Erin Gray should suffice.

    3. Annihilator

      A hologram of your former crewmate, a creature who evolved from the ship's cat, some Scutters and a talking toaster.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        And Kochanski.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Thanks guys...

          for the Red Dwarf references... Okay, it did support a breeding population of human-like bipeds, and used a Hydrogen Scoop to replenish fuel. Don't forget - Thursday 4th October at 9pm on Dave. "It can't be worse than the back to Earth specials"

          I was thinking more of a habitat and power source big enough to support a healthy breeding population of humans, though you cut down on the number of people with a sperm bank... designed to last centuries or millennia. I was just wondering if someone had done some rough sums on how big it would have to be, and how much energy it would take to support everyone. Would it be sufficient to grab an iceberg from the rings of Saturn as you pass by?

          Though a massive feat of engineering, it wouldn't require any exotic materials...

          1. Fibbles

            Re: Thanks guys...

            At least they've brought back the live audience for the new series. The Back To Earth specials felt horribly sterile without a laugh track.

  12. Purlieu

    Make two

    meanwhile, on Hokkaido island ....

    1. P_0

      Re: Make two

      Yeah. Here's one we made earlier, by our team of secret scientists who have been living underground for five years.

      Nobody questioned why Hokkaido was importing so much concrete and steel.

      That pointless subplot completely ruined an otherwise mediocre movie.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Make two

        Shows how writers can miss the mark sometimes. Could have easily have been "oh, this is the prototype/one that did not work, oh look we fixed it" instead.

      2. Sparky_Boy
        Meh

        Re: Make two

        I'm now very curious - what mediocre film is this referencing?!?

    2. dlc.usa
      Boffin

      Re: Make two

      Or in a universe once contemporaneously shared by Chiang and Jonathan Livingston Seagull ("IT WORKS!" "Well, of course it works, Jon. It always works when you know what you're doing. Now about your control...")

  13. Baudwalk

    >>>it would require a minimum amount of energy equivalent to completely annihilating the mass of the planet Jupiter<<<

    Halliburton are said to be looking into it.

    >>>if it were mishandled - would explode with a force of some 17,000 megatons, equivalent to several global nuclear wars all in one<<<

    With Enron as equal partner.

  14. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Joke

    Mmmmm

    [voice=Homer]exoto-doughnut [/voice]

  15. Ragarath Silver badge
    Alien

    Warping and Relativity

    "Though some scientifiction makes use of the fact that a starship crew going at close to lightspeed would personally experience a much shorter journey time than the decades or centuries that would pass in the universe outside the ship."

    As this is using "warp drive" would this rule not be applied? Your not in the conventional physics model, as pointed out in your article. Therefore relativity would/should not apply or is changed to something completely different. Making the journey time the real time?

    I in general have a very limited grasp on relativity so more knowledgeable people please comment to save my sanity. Of course this is still all theoretical.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Warping and Relativity

      Could be extremely painful. As your "relativity" is no longer connected to the rest of the universe, who is to say what will happen? Perhaps your entire ship ages at a billion times faster? Or perhaps all the atoms cease to move and you freeze to death? The fiction of the theory is too great for this one.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Warping and Relativity

      Read "Tau Zero" by Poul Anderson

  16. MJI Silver badge

    Warp 2.15 thankyou

    I see someone posted while I was calculating it

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd still like to see us capable of the speed of light or greater during my lifetime. It would make getting around our solar system so much quicker. Besides, we need to get going on colonising Mars... I just kind of hope we're on the cusp of it all.

    1. Grikath

      Travel within the solar system would probably still be limited to relativistic speeds.. Besides being relatively crowded , there's plenty of reasons why you most definitely do not want to activate an artificial gravity well within close proximity to the sun's gravity well.

    2. fridaynightsmoke
      Coat

      But-

      Some sod will no doubt erect a speed camera just past Jupiter, enforcing a 0.40C speed limit to protect the unique patterns present in the asteroid belt....

      1. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: But-

        So, just outside the Cardynge Limit then?

        (Mine's the one with a pair of DeLameters in the pockets)

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: But-

          Only for taking the Tube...

    3. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Headmaster

      You have seen the speed of light (close to) already. But we can only send small particles in a giant accelerator ring. Or radio waves. As to greater than light, it's totally not possible (it means "to go past my future" so is self contradictory). :P

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Read the story and the comments

    concluded I or the world had gone totally mad.

    Taking rest of day off, intend to end up dead drunk

    BCNU

  19. ISYS
    Alert

    Careful

    No matter how long it takes to get to the destination planet make sure you are NOT in the advance party to be beamed down there - it will end badly for you!

    1. Pooka

      Re: Careful

      I'll make sure I only take yellow or blue t-shirts... if i leave the red ones in the washing, I'll be fine, right?

      1. The Nameless Mist
        Stop

        Re: Careful

        Red Shirts only applies to ENT & TOS

        Security Dead-men-walking wear Yellow/Gold in NXT / DS9 / VOY

        1. The Original Cactus
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Careful

          The latest research indicates that the safest attire for exploring alien worlds is some combination of cricket whites, a long scarf, leather jacket, bow tie and curly wig. If that's all too much effort, dressing gown and slippers have also performed well.

          1. Ken 16 Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Surely a Pith Helmet

            an Inter-Solar Topee in this case

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Careful

          "Red Shirts only applies to ENT & TOS"

          But seriously, only the original series counts.

  20. Joel 1

    Weighty matters

    Einstein showed that the issue was around particles with mass having difficulty accelerating to the speed of light.

    Slipstick Libby developed the inertialess drive, which turned the ship inertialess, thereby instantaneously travelling away at the speed of light. Acceleration becomes much easier without mass...

    Heinlein had it right - don't try to accelerate to light speed, look at removing the effect of mass....

    Mind you, the Long Earth suggests that all you need is a do-it-yourself box powered by a potato to reach the next planet....

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Weighty matters

      > thereby instantaneously travelling away at the speed of light

      Unfortunately in all directions at once.

      Yes, there will be a ceremony at Arlington later today, brought to you by CNN/Interplan.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Destroy All Monsters

        Brings a new meaning to 'Brownian motion in the pants' when it FTL at the same time.

  21. VED

    Using the Software route

    It may seem silly now. However, within the next few decades mankind would be contemplating on the idea that this material universe is designed and maintained by something akin to a super software. Physical distances would just be a matter of numerical value in the Code View.

    As to there being live elsewhere, I was once told by a person who seemed to be connecting to some supernatural intelligence that currently there are 35 planets in this universe, with MANKIND living there, not just life. He did also mention that within 300 years man will be travelling to the distant stars, within seconds, so to say.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Using the Software route

      While I don't subscribe to it being software, it would appear that locality could be virtual or at least an illusion. It's less that somewhere is far away physically, but that it is a certain amount of effort or time away. Perhaps it could be said that all points are very close, they just take longer to communicate.

  22. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Fly in the ointment

    If you put a magic warp field generator on your spaceship, the warp field has to move faster than the speed of light through unwarped space or your spaceship will overtake it. To use a magical warp field generator to get to Alpha Centauri at ten times the speed of light, you switch on you field generator and project a beam of warped space towards Alpha Centauri for 3.93 years. You then jump into the beam and switch it off. You ride the beam for 159 days (Earth time) and arrive at Alpha Centauri at the same time as the leading edge of the beam. Calculating the size of the lens needed to keep a beam of gravitation waves focussed to the size of a space ship 4.37 light years away is left as an exercise for the reader.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thanks For The Update Lewis !

    Now back to my copy of Greg Bear's Eon, which would make a great movie.

  24. Andy Farley

    I don’t think we need FtL to colonise the galaxy, considering there’s no rush.

    Start mining the asteroids, shipping the proceeds to Earth.

    Start trading amongst the miners – no gravity well so it’s cheaper.

    Asteroids declare independence.

    Mining happens further and further out.

    Eventually realise all you need is mass, and not that dot of a Sun.

    Start to leave the solar system.

    Hundreds of years later hit the Alpha Century system.

    Thousands of years after that hit other solar systems.

    Colonise them.

    Do the same again.

    At that point humanity is probably several dozen clades and might bump into FtL Earth ships near habitable planets – but they would never bother living in a gravity well anyway.

  25. Crisp Silver badge

    Where can you get Exotic Matter from?

    I hear that it's very hard stuff to come by.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Coat

      Re: Where can you get Exotic Matter from?

      It's called Unobtainium :-)

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Where can you get Exotic Matter from?

      Go to tesco. Look for the meat counter.

  26. Graham Marsden
    Happy

    In the year of thirty-nine...

    Assembled here the volunteers

    In the days when lands were few

    Here the ship sailed out into the blue and sunny morn

    The sweetest sight ever seen

    And the night followed day

    And the story tellers say

    That the score brave souls inside

    For many a lonely day

    Sailed across the milky seas

    Ne'er looked back never feared never cried

    Don't you hear my call

    Though you're many years away

    Don't you hear me calling you

    Write your letters in the sand

    For the day I'll take your hand

    In the land that our grand-children knew

    - Queen

  27. nuked
    Boffin

    errm...

    ...surely just finding a stable worm-hole would be easier?

  28. Blue eyed boy
    Black Helicopters

    Now we know

    why the observed FTL neutrinos were ascribed to a timing bug or other mundane cause. THEY wanted this discovery for themselves, THEY couldn't hush it up any longer so THEY played it down.

  29. tony2heads
    Alien

    antimatter

    There is a small amount in earth orbit (antiprotons held there by our magnetic field) as seen by the PAMELA satellite.

    If we are lucky there might be more in Jupiter's orbit (large magnetic field there too).

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: antimatter

      There is really nothing special about antimatter. It's as amazing as a clock ticking backwards... it just has the battery in the wrong way!

  30. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Happy

    I'd really like to see what the job descriptions and recruitment ads for the Eagleworks super-advanced space drive lab look like.

    I imagine that the applicants consist of 1% brilliant, highly-qualified scientists and 99% raving lunatics.

    1. Palf

      Nah - regular blokes

      I've known them for almost 15 years. We're all part of the "alternate propulsion" crowd who go to conferences like STAIF and propose out-of-the-box physics. The difference is that Sonny White gets paid to do it. Now *that* is smart.

      An aside about trip times. Given sufficient energy, you could e.g. cross the entire 100,000 light year extent of our galaxy in mere seconds of ship time without breaking light speed. That's standard 1905 Einstein special relativity. The problem is that kajillions of generations would have passed back on Earth by the time you returned. An Alcubierre-style drive like the one described here doesn't suffer from this drawback.

      We have a little time. Our demise will come either from the collision of Andromeda with our Milky Way, or from our sun ballooning into a red giant and BBQ'ing Earth. We have at least a couple of billion years to figure this stuff out.

  31. Christian Berger Silver badge

    So NASA is catching up?

    I mean the Austrians have been there in 1992.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55_E_QiNcQg

    But be careful weird things happen there.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Biological effects

    L. Krauss wrote an interesting book covering some problems that would need to be worked out before we could use warp drives for human travel.

    Personally, I'd like to see someone go 'plaid'.

  33. Jeff Cook
    Coat

    Warp 10 TOS and NG

    In TOS, the warp scale was the warp number cubed equaled the number of times the speed of light so warp ten would be 1000 times the speed of light. (I think, it's been a while since I cracked open the technical reference). In Next Generation the warp scale was recalibrated to where warp 10 was how long it would take to cross the galaxy edge to edge in 1 year. Obviously Scriptwriters are notorious for playing fast and loose with the rules if the rules get in the way of a story. (i.e Paris' warp 10 journey through every point of the quadrant)

    I'm sure there's a table out there somewhere in the internets that someone has put on a webpage.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Mars archive?

    It's like I keep saying; just get to Mars find the archive (and a certain element) and the Galaxy is open to us...

    As an incentive: first group to the bar on Omega get free beer ;)

  35. brudinie

    Personal time experience wont slow down as expected

    If you are warping space to achieve FTL then the personal experience of time wont slow down as expected.

    Personal time only slows down significantly if the people in the craft were approaching light speed in the traditional sense of acceleration.

    However, warping space time means that the time around the craft is modified so the craft is not really travelling anywhere near light speed at all.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ummm...traveling at the speed of light and taking several lifetimes to get to another planet outside our solar system. How many lifetimes to reach our nearest star. Let's see....our closest star is 1000 years divided by the average lifespan of 70 years..but wait, only about 45-50 workable years? That's aproximately 20 workable lifetimes! Add to that the fact radio transmissions travel a little slower than the speed of light, it could take 1000 years just for the transmissions to reach earth or 2000 years to send one and get a response back . What good is that? With 1000 years before they may even reach any place coupled with 2000 years, or a total of 3000 years to even learn anything about the place when they get there this looks like another useless program. I like the space program as much as anyone and loved growing up with it but why are we wasting tax payers money on this impracticle useless program???

    1. Trygve Henriksen
      Thumb Down

      This may come as a surprise to you, but...

      The nearest planets are a bit closer than that...

      (Not a clue as to where the closest habitable planet is, though)

      And the nearest other star is 4 lightyears away, not 1000.

      The 20 workable lifetimes doesn't work out, either.

      (This assumes that the next generation is just ready to take over when the previous is dead or too decrepit to work any longer)

      You need to calculate in generations, which used to be anything from 15 to 20 years but are now probably closer to 25 in European countries.

    2. Palf

      Bzzt! It doesn't work like that (see my other post). As for The Interstellar Postal Service, it might be back to a souped-up version of those hydraulic tubes we used to have (I'm old enough to remember them vaguely). Substitute warp pipe for air pipe and you're in biz.

      Or use quantum teleportation plus 3D printing over a warp pipe. Instant solid instagram! How was the trip, Granny?

    3. Chemist

      "Add to that the fact radio transmissions travel a little slower than the speed of light"

      I think I'd alert a physicist about that !

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps....

    currently the theory states that the closer you get the speed of light, the greater your mass increases, and the more power you need to keep moving until you reach a point where you need infinite power to move infinite mass.

    However, what if this is actually incorrect, and at a certain point there is actually a loss of mass, so after a certain point you actually require less power to increse to even faster speeds?

    Perhaps after a certain point, if you can change your mass in relation to the rest of the universe, this is the breakthrough we need?

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Perhaps....

      There is a loss of amass past a certain point. It's called "annihilation through impact of galactic matter". IE you hit something and explode!

      Mines the one with 1000km of Lead plating...

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Perhaps....

      "what if this is actually incorrect"

      There is the problem. You can't start by postulating magic stuff.

      The quantum thingamabob drive presentation is of the same caliber: "Here is what I would do if a had a magic space drive not needing any reaction mass!". Unfortunately it doesn't explain the magic space drive not needing any reaction mass.

  38. NozeDive
    Unhappy

    WARP 10?!

    It needs to be repeated.

    WARP 10 IS NOT TEN TIMES THE SPEED OF LIGHT!

    FIX IT! FIX IT! FIX IT! FIX IT! FIX IT! FIX IT!

    FIX IT! FIX IT! FIX IT!

    http://youtu.be/1Isjgc0oX0s

  39. This post has been deleted by its author

  40. Daniel Hall
    Alien

    You lot have just blown my mind.

    Would love to be alive when all of this becomes a reality :-/

  41. Daniel Hall
    Alien

    And what if...

    Also,

    What happens if, on our way to these far away places, we smash into an asteroid or something?

    Spaceship = obliterated..?

    Or will it 'flow' around the ship?

    1. Anthony Hulse

      Re: And what if...

      Flow around I suppose. The ship inside the bubble is outside of normal spacetime.

      I wouldn't want to be on the asteroid when they test that theory though.

  42. mickey mouse the fith

    The Orion starship could reach Alpha Centuri in a human lifetime, and could be built right now if someone stumped up the cash an ripped up all the nuclear treatys.

    It uses 15kt bombs ejected out the back of the ship, providing propulsion via the thermal pulse interacting with a copper pusher plate. A velocity 0f 5%c for fission bombs or 8%c for fusion bombs is possible.

    Of course, stopping the thing at its destination could be interesting, as would hitting anything.

    Aim it back at the earth and you have a devestating, weapon as well.

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      The Orion could do way more

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGcIy76N9sY

      But those were the 1960s and they are long gone.

  43. Zmodem

    fusion runs on hydrogen, refeuling comes from atom vacuums on the outside of the hull and so on

  44. Fat Bob

    Just invent the infinite improbability drive. It avoids all this tedious mucking around in hyperspace and just needs a really hot cup of tea to power it.

  45. CaptSmeg
    Facepalm

    You are doing it all wrong

    Hey, I thought this was all sorted out already, with no real need for fantasy physics. In just a few decades from now we will be able to travel pretty much anywhere we at the (perceptual) blink of an eye. Basically, you serialise anyone who wants to travel. Store them in a massively redundant form in a dense, robust and stable substrate, I dunno say a chunk of quartz or something. At which point you have you perfect solid state astronaut. You can shoot him around the universe will little fuss. No need to waste energy accelerating a live support system, shielding, food, toilets etc. and he can take silly-g without becoming pâté.

    Ok great, now duplicate him/everyone and fire them off in all directions. You can spend a little energy every now and then and boot up a virtual image to take a look around and make a course correction etc. Once you see a place of interest you spend the other half of your budget on stopping near a good energy source, build a big array of radio telescopes as a relay station, duplicate and send off another burst of seed ships. We can exchange diffs via the relay network to keep the whole lot coherent. Pretty soon the whole of humanity is a RAIDed cloud spread across a massive volume of space that is expanding at close to c.

    Just try and wipe us out then you bastards!

    The really cool thing is that we can play with our own clock speed at will, to fast forward through all that crawling about at c and then speed up to enjoy the good bits. Like downloading into a new body to enjoy some snu snu on Amazonia.

    Serialisation gives you all this plus a whole lot more without the need for Trek style make believe. No new physics needed just a few decades of technology and neuroscience and we're off! I'd strongly suggest checking out some of the novels by Charles Stross to get all the details.

    BTW if I kick the bucket before this all happens, I am going to have an extremely rude message to future humanity carved on my gravestone. That'll show them.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: You are doing it all wrong

      Greg Egan, is that you?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You are doing it all wrong

      Initially read the middle paragraph as:

      The really cool thing is that we can play with our own cock...',

      and your whole post started to make much more sense.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Relativistic Space Drive

    With phased standing waves, it can be possible with small amounts of energy to expand spacetime behind of spacecraft enough to enable subluminal speeds. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgAwyr5Udzw

  47. Jtom

    How many of you realize that the US gov. is paying a group of people six-figure salaries to sit around and shoot the shiest like you blokes are doing? My tax dollars at work, sigh.

    All I want to know is, if someone used this "plausible" drive to go a little more than 50 light-years away, and the optics were available, could we look at earth as it was fifty years in the past and finally determine if Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone Kennedy assassin?

  48. xyz
    Unhappy

    A scotsman writes....

    Doesn't matter (no pun) what you use to create the bubble and forgetting about that Einstein bloke and his shenanigans for a mo...the problem is the ship and the crew and the matter that makes them up, which has to follow the rules of a universe that has more than 3 dimensions. That means in FTL terms that your expansion vector would get ripped away from historic reality, the result of which would be that the reality that made up you getting on the ship in the first place would no longer exist. For a start, no one would remember building the ship or that you were on it, then after about 10 light years travel (tops), you'd vanish because the parts that make up your body (for example the steak you ate 5 years ago) went into someone else beacuse you weren't about to eat it in the first place. Oh...I'm not talking about time here, but universal expansion. Teleportation at a planetary level would be a shite sight easier and "c" legal. Pisses me off no end.

  49. Chris Coles

    My problem is the funding for this 100 year space ship is provided by the utter idiots that are also developing a device to deliver a bomb to any point on the surface of this planet within an hour. People with that mindset should not be anywhere near ANY form of long term peaceful development of space technology.

    And I do indeed mean it when I say; Utter Idiots.

    For that reason, I will not associate myself in any way with the 100 year space ship program.

    We need to find a way forward with long term space ship development that has, right at the heart of the operation; the peaceful development of space travel.

  50. Shortini
    Thumb Down

    How can non-scientists take these kinds of articles seriously? They talk about theories that they have no way of proving with ingredients that aren't even invented yet. Proving something mathematically is like drawing something that doesn't exist and saying that its' so because it's on canvas.

    Hog wash...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Even scientists don't take this seriously. These seem to be some people being payed to day dream about the latest movie on the big screen. :/

  51. JonAtSea

    Ah, Special Relativity...

    "The big snag with worlds orbiting other suns is of course that they are utterly, ridiculously far away and according to the laws of physics nothing can travel faster than the speed of light: meaning that journeys even to a few of the nearest stars would take years at the absolute minimum, and in general interstellar voyages would simply not be on human timescales."

    Erm, I don't think that's quite right. Timescales are only a problem for those left behind. Although under Special Relativity it is not possible to exceed the speed of light, those approaching it experience time dilation under the Lorenz Transformation relative to those stationary. So at relativisitic sublight speeds, journeys to other stars don't take millennia *for those on the journey*, although a "mission control" back on Earth would experience those timescales.

    Sure, there are still issues with the time it takes to accelerate to relativistic sublight speeds at a rate that doesn't squash crew to a pulp (and turn around for deceleration so as not to go shooting past your destination). But even with very modest accelerations, the relativisitic savings can be huge: for example, a journey from the Sun to the galactic core using just 1G could take just ~340 years for those aboard, compared with ~30 000 years passing back on Earth. And at 10G, it would be ~110 years.

    So if you want to get to the stars, it's perhaps not quite as difficult at the text of this article suggests If you want to do so while keeping a culture intact across the stars - well ok, that's much more tricky unless you can get round Special Relativity.

    The notion that "it takes X years for light to travel X light years" is erroneous; in a frame of reference at the speed of light, time dilation is infinite, i.e. there is no time in a photon's frame of reference (and there's no distance either, thanks to infinite length contraction, i.e. photons don't actually "travel" anywhere in their own frame of reference). Didn't you watch Carl Sagan's Cosmos as a kid, Lewis?

  52. Andy 70
    Thumb Up

    and what happens if your bubble bursts half way?

    oh sorry, erm, your warp space containment field destablizes...

    you can't exactly phone the AA to tow you home, and unless you're carrying enough exotic material on the outward trip to build another stargate doughnut the other end, it sounds pretty one way to me. As i guess there isn't a local tesco's in the alpha centari system to visit the meat counter?

    also, how do you "arrive" at your destination? calculated bubble bursting?

    "nav" computer to take into account destination system's velocity and direction, given that when we look at where it is from earth, the time taken for the light to reach us is where it was eleventy billion years ago, not where it is now?

    calculated course will have to be re-evaluated and adjusted continuously over the course duration, getting more accurate as you go (the closer you get the more recent your visual positional data is). or do you just take a massive calculated punt that the block of nothing you're aiming at is where the system is at your arrival time, and not empty space.

    over all, if there is a call up for pensioners to do test trips that may or may not get home, sign me up when i'm old enough!

    spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!

  53. M7S

    What is this warp 10 of which you speak?

    Could we have that translated into UK sci-fi units please? For those of us brought up on the first couple of series of Blake's 7 it would probably need to be "standard by [integer]"

    Confirm.

  54. Dave Cheetham

    Let's do that again?

    The interesting fact about Warp speed is that it is just a jump to the left... then a jump to the right! Usually to evade the space police and their speed radar gun!

    1. Vic

      Re: Let's do that again?

      > then a jump to the right!

      Surely "a step to the right" ?

      Vic.

  55. Ember

    Star Trek Warp Scale

    According to the (allegedly) official Star Trek Roleplaying Game, warp in the old series was

    lightspeed x (Warpfactor ^ 2)

    In the next gen and after the warp speed calculation was

    Lightspeed x (Warpfactor ^ 6)

    Warp 10 is Transwarp, an impossible speed that would be equivalent to instant transition, teleportation faster than what the transporter can do with no limit to distance. In the Borg Transwarp scenes it is displayed almost like the creating of a wormhole of the "FoldedSpace" type, unlike the the "Safe passage through subspace" version of the regular DS9 wormholes (which is merely a shortcut, not faster travel and no folded space).

  56. Valerion
    Alien

    Spaceballs

    Ludicrous Speed.

    That is all.

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: Spaceballs

      Yep.

      Who cares if you can get to lightspeed.

      Unless it goes all the way to Plaid, it's nothing!

      May the Schwartz be with you!

  57. Baldy

    Threading?

    The pulsed technique, especially, sounds like "threading", described by Jeffrey A, Carver in "Neptune Crossing" nearly 20 years ago. Have the SF writers beaten the real world to the punch again?

  58. Joeman
    Facepalm

    Better hope there are no space flys out there - wouldnt want one hitting my windscreen at 10c!!

  59. mfritz0
    Mushroom

    Warp speed

    This is good news. It's about time the physicists started looking at the feasibility of FTL travel. Hopefully they will develop the technique and come up with a plan. I'm so looking forward to the Vulcans paying us a visit and inviting us into the "Federation". Wasn't it one of the Federations prerequisites that a society had to have developed warp travel before they were allowed into it?.

    The atomic explosion, because this is what would happen if the energies involved got mishandled.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Any technology sufficiently advanced will be indistinguishable from Star Trek.

  61. mfritz0
    Happy

    Light speed is not the limit

    Just to point out, the speed of light is only theoretically the ultimate speed for any object that has rest mass. If you can switch off the mass field of an object it could theoretically travel at any velocity, using only light beams to propel it. Of course since light only has the speed of light, I'm assuming you would need to use some other form of propulsion that would bring you past the speed of light. Perhaps this is where the warp field would come into play, after you eliminate your mass field and have attained light speed, you would have compressed space in front of your ship and it would be more concentrated with matter, which could be converted to fuel to propel your ship. Of course there are a lot of things to work out before this is possible, but given enough time I think man will eventually succeed at it.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Light speed is not the limit

      This is so wrong I don't even know where to start.

      Well, yes. " If you can switch off the mass field of an object..." BZZZTTT. The candidate FAILED.

      Just no.

      1. Zmodem

        Re: Light speed is not the limit

        you have a fusion powered electro magnetic forcefeild and travel in a pocket of neutral space, which also protects against solar storms

        1. Zmodem

          Re: Light speed is not the limit

          there is nothing else is space to warp except for magnetic fields. the earths magnetic field is a little under 2 gauss and protects against solor storms well, electro magnets can have a poewr of 100,000+ gauss, destiny in SGU powers up by taking in hydrogen from stars, its the only convient power source for interstella travel unless you are actually gods

    2. Michael Dunn

      Re: Light speed is not the limit

      "If you can switch off the mass field of an object it could theoretically travel at any velocity," Ah hah! So that's why those people at CERN are so keen on finding the Higgs Boson - once they've found it they can work on how to turn it off.

    3. Palf
      Stop

      Light speed is indeed the value

      Not so fast there. Or rather, exactly as fast as c. Anything with zero rest mass travels incessantly at c. This why they don't have pubs, shops and homes.

  62. Mike Brown

    no need for ftl

    all we need is reliable stasis.

    set course for alpha centari, go to sleep. Arrive, wake up. To the traveller this journey has taken less than second.

    you can travel the stars, inthe time it takes to blink!

    id sign up for this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Re: no need for ftl

      That's a fantastic idea, if you'd like everybody you know in the world to be centuries dead when you get back... and if you'd like to return to a world that for all you know nuked itself into oblivion long ago, and which is just now getting around to inventing the wheel.

    2. illiad

      Re: no need for ftl

      the problem with that, is you may find by the time you get there, in a few centuries, that it has already been colonized by earths future generations, who have have managed to get FTL working... :)

      1. Mike Brown

        Re: no need for ftl

        Why would I go back? I can explore the universe at my leisure, one blink at a time. Breakfast at Centarui, lunch at Betelgeuse, then nip over to the Andromeda galaxy for tea!

      2. Vic

        Re: no need for ftl

        > the problem with that

        The *real* problem with stasis travel is that, when you get there, you find some bugger has shaved off one of your eyebrows and drawn a cock on your forehead. In permanent marker.

        Vic.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

  63. Richard Scratcher
    Gimp

    FTL travel must be possible...

    ...or how else was I repeatedly probed by aliens aboard their UFO?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: FTL travel must be possible...

      Where you probed AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT?

      Must have been "The Flash" of DC Comics.

    2. Zmodem

      Re: FTL travel must be possible...

      its why the green ming have the mothership hiding behind the sun, they be searching for a way back, the darkness between the stars

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sir Clive Sinclair

    Invented a variant of this in the late 1980's to power his calculators.

    Seems he discovered that turning the chip on and off really fast slowed it down a bit but also reduced the power usage by something like 95% so the display became the limiting factor.

    Interestingly, the exact same method is used to make LED bike lights last for weeks on a single charge, and was the basis for switchmode power supplies.

    AC/DC 6EQUJ5

  65. roger stillick
    Joke

    power level maybe a few watts if done right, no gamma rays...

    the actual article said 10x speed of light in vacuum... talked about Quantum entanglement= instant communication... power levels when the NASA test bed is finalized is about what voyager presently uses or less than 15 watts...No mention of killing radiation...

    What the NASA article didn't mention is the transit time of the Schottky Barrier diode goes FTL by about 10x in the junction MEDIUM ( not vacuum ), giving negative resistance and very fast switching times...

    joke alert= none of this is Star Trek, their stuff already works...

  66. Richard Ball

    idiots

    Of course you have to modulate the warp field; do they know nothing?

    1. Palf

      Re: idiots

      Not to mention that you absolutely MUST reverse the polarity!

  67. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Pint

    I hope I get to see this work in my lifetime

    Having made a lot of bad choices in my younger years, and lacking money as well, I'm sure I will never get to work on such a device, or even go back to school for the maths required. And I'm not likely to hitch a ride on it, realistically. But I hope I get to see this work and humanity at least reach Alpha Centauri with a probe in my lifetime.

  68. AndrueC Silver badge
    Boffin

    All this talk of high velocity. What about causality and time-travel? Aren't they the real stumbling block here? FTL is all very well but if it means getting back home before you've actually left it could cause confusion. Imagine riving back home, storming into the house to see who's shagging the missus and it turns out to be you.

    1. Michael Dunn
      Joke

      AndrueC - just like the young lady named Bright!

  69. kwg06516

    Barnard's Star, again?

    Can anyone explain to an American the apparent popularity of Barnard's Star in British science fiction? It appears to me to pop up about as often as Alpha Centauri does in American sci-fi. It's odd since Alpha Cent is at least a vaguely Sun like star whereas Barnard's Star is a dim red dwarf too faint to be seen by the unaided eye.

    1. illiad

      Re: Barnard's Star, again?

      try some research??? er, gimme a G, gimme an O, and another O......

      "Barnard's Star has been the subject of much study, and it has probably received more attention from astronomers than any other class M dwarf star due to its proximity and favorable location for observation near the celestial equator"

      http://www.glyphweb.com/esky/stars/barnardsstar.html

      1. kwg06516
        Facepalm

        Re: Barnard's Star, again?

        Thanks for the advice. The likely historical answer is a hypothetical mission by the British Interplanetary Society which proposed to send a very expensive rocket powered by extraordinarily rare fuel to a dangerous flare star where rocky planets and life are unlikely. Sounds like an idea for a TV series.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Daedalus

  70. Shonko Kid
    Facepalm

    Sheesh!!

    NASA: We think we've worked out a way to make 'Warp Drives'!!

    El Reg Commentards: Doesn't it suck how Star Trek was so self-inconsistent.

    1. illiad

      Re: Sheesh!!

      yeah.... simple really!! :D

      1) find some 'exotic material' (eg unobtainium ) and make a ring out of it... Hey, Alcubierre has the specs!!

      2) wait a few million years, to get enough antimatter to power it..

      3) find a way to keep it supplied with power, while not destroying all it accidentally touches...

      wot you waiting for?? get constructing!!! :) :)

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow, faster than an Android user commenting on an iPhone thread.

  72. SwedishCodeMaffia

    I want one

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