Warp drive can travel 10 times faster than the speed of light without actually breaking the barrier of light. However, most experts consider that the technology will never truly work. Regardless of this, NASA has already released designs for a faster-than-light spaceship that uses the imaginary tech.
Before we get into this, you should know that many scientists are now researching the possibility of warp drive (and EM drive and many other modes of faster than light travel); however, most scientists think that such methods of space travel basically aren't viable, cheers to the fundamental physics of our universe.
Alcubierre Warp Drive via Anderson Institute
In 1994, physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a completely new kind of technology that would let us to travel 10 times faster than the speed of light without actually breaking the barrier of light. That seems a little differing, doesn’t it? After all, we have been told again and again that light is the general speed limit – nothing in the universe can travel faster than light (much less 10 times faster).
And here lies the important Alcubierre drive: When you use it, you aren’t really moving through space.
This technology would not actually push the ship to speeds beyond light; instead, it uses the distortion of space-time allowed by General Relativity to warp the universearound the ship. Fundamentally, when the drive is started the space-time behind increases, but in the front it contracts. In this respect, the path in use becomes a time-like free-fall.
Alcubierre’s concepts have led to a number of fascinating thought experimentation's in quantum field theory; but, as mentioned above, many scientists think that the warp drive technology will never actually work. When you contemplate about it that kind of makes sense. Clearly, warping space involves a lot of mass and energy, and confirming that the space where you are situated isn’t warped is complicated business. Indeed, the proposal was mostly just a assumed experiment when it was first planned – not something Alcubierre believed was actually feasible technology.
As physicist Sean Carroll records:
In brief, it involves negative energy densities, which can’t be firmly disproven but are possibly unrealistic; the total amount of energy is possible to be equal to the mass-energy of an astrophysical object; and the gravitational fields created would possibly rip any ship to pieces. My individual estimate of the probability we will ever be able to construct a “warp drive” is much less than 1 percent. And the odds it will be constructed in the next 100 years I would put at less than 0.01%.[Reference: Jalopnik]
That said, scientists will probably be making papers speaking about these ideas for some time. We will continue to cover them as they appear and however things can look painfully dismal for this technology, who knows what the future may embrace.
But on to the design…
In 2010, NASA physicist Harold White exposed that he and a team were operational on a design for this faster-than-light spaceship, and this is the most new design of what such a ship might truly look like. As you can see in the photo, the ship rests between two huge rings, which make the warp bubble.
Image via Mark Rademaker
To give you some idea of just how breathtaking warp technology would be: A journey to the nearest star (Proxima Centauri) which rests some four light-years from Earth) would normally take over 17,000 years. But, with the Alcubierre drive, it would take less than five months. For those of us who have a perceptual breakdown on 10 hour plane air travel, 5 months might still look like quite a bit of travel time. But when speaking of about the gigantic cosmic distances between planet Earth and Proxima Centauri, a 5 month space-trip would be a great success of massive proportions (don’t forget, it took Curiosity 8 months only to reach Mars).
See more pictures of the design below.
4K Wire frame IXS E
Images via Mark Rademaker.