Inching Closer to the Light Barrier

Picture:By AllenMcC. (CC)

The speed of light has often been called the universal speed limit, but scientists believe that breaking it may be possible. Physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a real-life warp drive in 1994, but the drive’s power requirements were so enormous that it was relegated to merely theory. is reporting that scientists at the 100 Year Starship Symposium have made adjustments to Alcubierre’s calculations, which lowered the power requirements significantly.

“Everything within space is restricted by the speed of light,” explained Richard Obousy, president of Icarus Interstellar, a non-profit group of scientists and engineers devoted to pursuing interstellar spaceflight. “But the really cool thing is space-time, the fabric of space, is not limited by the speed of light.”

With this concept, the spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of about 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit.

The only problem is, previous studies estimated the warp drive would require a minimum amount of energy about equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter.

But recently White calculated what would happen if the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft was adjusted into more of a rounded donut, as opposed to a flat ring. He found in that case, the warp drive could be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977.

Furthermore, if the intensity of the space warps can be oscillated over time, the energy required is reduced even more, White found.

“The findings I presented today change it from impractical to plausible and worth further investigation,” White told “The additional energy reduction realized by oscillating the bubble intensity is an interesting conjecture that we will enjoy looking at in the lab.”

11 Comments on "Inching Closer to the Light Barrier"

  1. This reduces the energy requirement, but still requires some kind of hypothetical “negative mass” particle to exist, so I’m not all that excited about it. 

    “Your car would get really great mileage, if it ran on magical fairy dust that has never been observed to exist anywhere in the universe.” 

    • bobbiethejean | Oct 1, 2012 at 8:50 am |

      Lots of things had never been observed to exist anywhere of the universe before now. In fact…. you can say that about everything we know all the way back down to when we were just self-replicating molecules at the beginning stages of life.

    • Mark Mayo | Oct 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |

      Dark matter has negative mass.

      Dark matter’s technical name is “negative mass-energy electrons”. Which, if the proper scientific rigor was applied, could power your car. 

    • they should make you the link master
      obviously links are not Disinfoes forte

      • Calypso_1 | Sep 30, 2012 at 10:55 pm |

        it’s more of a problem of posting links into a wordpress editor.  I believe it tends to truncate and transcript sections of the http header for some reason.  You’ve got to look at the actual link it generates if you copy something in and edit it yourself.

  2. there no getting off this rock till your clean up your mess

  3. Even a lab-scale trial of this currently hypothetical tech would be fascinating. Hope somebody funds research. 

  4. Longboarder23 | Oct 7, 2012 at 9:53 pm |

    Heim hyperdrive anyone?  This was postulated in 1957, glad to see that it is now being considered.

  5. Longboarder23 | Oct 7, 2012 at 9:53 pm |

    Heim hyperdrive anyone?  This was postulated in 1957, glad to see that it is now being considered.

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