Warp Speed, Mr. Sulu!

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warp propulsion

Scientists Announce a Physical Warp Drive Is Now Possible. Seriously.

Humans are one step closer to traveling at faster-than-light speeds.

BY CAROLINE DELBERT

MAR 4, 2021

  • new paper proposes a fully physically realized model for warp drive.
  • This builds on an existing model that requires negative energy—an impossibility.
  • The new model is exciting, but warp speed is still probably decades or centuries away.

In a surprising new paper, scientists say they’ve nailed down a physical model for a warp drive, which flies in the face of what we’ve long thought about the crazy concept of warp speed travel: that it requires exotic, negative forces.

To best understand what the breakthrough means, you’ll need a quick crash course on the far-out idea of traveling through folded space.

The colloquial term “warp drive” comes from science fiction, most famously Star Trek. The faster-​than-light warp drive of the Federation works by colliding matter and antimatter and converting the explosive energy to propulsion. Star Trek suggests that this extraordinary power alone pushes the ship at faster-than-light speeds.

Scientists have been studying and theorizing about faster-than-light space travel for decades. One major reason for our interest is pure pragmatism: without warp drive, we’re probably never making it to a neighboring star system. The closest such trip is still four years long at light speed.

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