HOUSTON (CBS Houston) — Good news for Star Trek fans — “maximum warp” may no longer be a quote from a TV show or movie, but a command from an actual starship captain.
In 1994, Miguel Alcubierre, a physicist from Mexico, figured out how a warp drive would work, though it would take way too much energy for it to be viable, even if Scotty was onboard.
But now, NASA scientist Harold “Sonny” White claims he has figured out how to make a warp drive work.
Alcubierre’s version of warp drive involves a football shaped space craft, which would be attached to a ring made out of what Space.com calls “exotic matter.” The ring would compress space in front of the craft and expand space behind it.
This would allow whoever is in the spaceship to travel faster than the speed of light, without actually breaking the speed of light.
The ship would remain in a bubble of unchanged space time, so a passenger would not go through all the issues someone would go through as they are exceeding the speed of light.
The problem with Alcubierre’s model is that the energy required would equal all the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter.
White’s version changes Alcubierre’s flat ring into something more donut shaped. The energy required would be much, much less. Space.com states that White’s “warp drive could be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977.”
White’s findings were presented at the “100 Year Starship Symposium” where the future of space travel was discussed.
White and NASA are experimenting with the theory in a lab and currently have a mini-version of the drive.
“We’re trying to see if we can generate a very tiny instance of this in a tabletop experiment, to try to perturb space-time by one part in 10 million,” White told Space.com.
It’s a humble experiment White admits, but it’s a first step.