Commentary invited by editors of Scientific American

# Warp Drive Research Key to Interstellar Travel

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

As any avid Star Trek fan can tell you, the eccentric physicist Zefram Cochrane invented the warp-drive engine in the year 2063. It wasn’t easy. Cochrane had to contend with evil time-traveling aliens who were determined to stop him from building the faster-than-light propulsion system (see the 1996 movie Star Trek: First Contact for details). But in the end he succeeded, and centuries later his warp drive powered the interstellar voyages of the starship Enterprise.

What Star Trek fans may not know is that a physicist in the real world—specifically, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston—is investigating the feasibility of building a real warp-drive engine. Harold “Sonny” White, head of the center’s advanced propulsion program, has assembled a tabletop experiment designed to create tiny distortions in spacetime, the malleable fabric of the universe. If the experiment is successful, it may eventually lead to the development of a system that could generate a bubble of warped spacetime around a spacecraft. Instead of increasing the craft’s speed, the warp drive would distort the spacetime along its path, allowing it to sidestep the laws of physics that prohibit faster-than-light travel. Such a spacecraft could cross the vast distances between stars in just a matter of weeks.

Harold "Sunny" White / Credit: Robert Markowitz, NASA

For readers and writers of science fiction, this is extraordinary news. It doesn’t really matter that other physicists scoff at White’s idea, arguing that it’s impossible to alter spacetime in this way. Nor does it matter that NASA has allocated only $50,000, a mere smidgeon of the space agency’s$18 billion budget, to the warp-drive research. What makes White’s project so exciting is the immensity of the challenge. It’s heartening to know that even in this era of fiscal belt-tightening, the federal government is willing to place a small bet on the big dream of interstellar travel.

A surprising number of scientists, engineers and amateur space enthusiasts fervently believe in this dream. They’ve shared their hopes and hypotheses at academic conferences. They’ve founded organizations—the 100 Year Starship project, the Tau Zero Foundation, Icarus Interstellar—that seek to lay the groundwork for an unmanned interstellar mission that could be launched by the end of the century. Their ardor has grown in recent years as astronomers have detected a slew of Earthlike planets orbiting stars that are relatively near our sun. A few dozen of these worlds occupy the so-called “Goldilocks zone” around their stars—they’re neither too hot nor too cold to support life. If further observations confirm the existence of a habitable, idyllic planet in our corner of the galaxy, how could we resist sending an interstellar probe to explore this strange new world?

The problem is getting the spacecraft there in a reasonable amount of time. Believe it or not, NASA already has a probe that’s crossing the space between stars: Voyager 1, the plucky 1,600-pound craft launched in 1977 to investigate Jupiter, Saturn and their moons. After completing its primary mission the probe zipped past the outer planets, and in 2012 it left the solar system and entered interstellar space. Voyager has traveled almost 12 billion miles since its launch and is now zooming away from us at 38,610 miles per hour. But even at that blistering speed it would take at least 70,000 years to reach any of the nearby stars that might harbor habitable planets. Researchers need to make some serious breakthroughs in spacecraft propulsion to get there faster.

Although White and a few other scientists are tantalized by the possibility of warp drive, most of the interstellar enthusiasts have focused their attention on technologies that are less hypothetical. Icarus Interstellar, for example, is coordinating a study of a proposed mission that would use fusion power—the energy produced by slamming atomic nuclei together—to propel the spacecraft. Nuclear fusion is what gives the hydrogen bomb its bang, and if the energy is properly controlled and harnessed it could accelerate a probe to phenomenal speeds, thousands of times faster than Voyager 1. But researchers have been trying to build a fusion power plant for the past fifty years without much success. The technology hasn’t proved itself on Earth yet, and it’s certainly not ready to be installed in a spacecraft.

Harold "Sonny" White working with the White-Juday warp-field interferometer, a device designed to detect the warping of spacetime. / Credit: NASA

Another big problem is interstellar dust. Although the dust grains in deep space are microscopic, they’ll cause plenty of damage to a probe that’s barreling into them at millions of miles per hour. The spacecraft would have to be equipped with heavy shielding, which would increase the amount of fuel needed to accelerate the craft. And then there’s the need to decelerate the probe before it reaches its destination. There’s no point in sending a spacecraft on a hundred-year journey to a nearby star if it’s going to whiz right past the star’s habitable planets. During the later stages of its voyage the probe would have to turn its engines around and fire them in the opposite direction to slow itself down. But then the spacecraft would need to carry an even heavier load of fuel.

The complications seem as endless as space itself. The tremendous difficulty of interstellar flight may help explain the famous paradox first noted by physicist Enrico Fermi in 1950: if intelligent life is common in the universe, where are all the aliens? Perhaps extraterrestrials have never visited Earth because it’s just too hard to get here.

Nevertheless, the dream of interstellar travel remains stubbornly alive. Last September the 100 Year Starship project held a symposium on the topic just a month after Icarus Interstellar hosted its own conference. At a time when NASA is struggling to fund all its priorities—building a new launch system for its astronauts, sending new probes to Mars—planning for an interstellar mission may seem absurdly premature. But advocates such as Jill Tarter, who pioneered the effort to hunt for radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations, argue that exploring other star systems is essential to humanity’s long-term survival. As long as the human race is confined to Earth we’re at high risk of extinction from a planetary catastrophe—a nuclear war, a pandemic, an asteroid impact and so on. The only other world in our solar system that comes even close to being habitable is Mars, and it would take hundreds of years of climate engineering to make the Red Planet livable for humans.

So the ultimate fate of our species may lie among the stars. Perhaps in a thousand years or so our civilization will look something like Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets. To reach that point, though, we need to adopt the motto of the starship Enterprise. We have “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

About the Author: Mark Alpert is the author of The Furies, a new science thriller from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. His earlier thrillers—Final Theory, The Omega Theory and Extinction—have been published in 23 languages. Follow on Twitter @AlpertMark.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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1. 1. Wayne Williamson 5:32 pm 04/23/2014

Mark, warp drive may or may not be possible. Just normal nuclear/ion propulsion will be fine for the solar system and probably 100s of nearby stars. Oh, and speeds should be closer to light or at least a good percentage of it than the nothing the existing craft have done. Shielding would be ice/water(also reaction mass) and an outer magnetic field as well as laser to disintegrate anything that can’t be maneuvered around. For the nuclear, I think lftr would be best(just cause I like the liquid part of it). For ion, just disassociate the water and use the +h and -o, accelerate to at least 100mm per sec(1/3 light speed).

2. 2. tuned 6:16 pm 04/23/2014

Hmm. What’s that he’s holding?
Who woulda thunk a hare dryer was a warp drive engine?
X>

3. 3. rbrtwjohnson 8:13 pm 04/23/2014

With phase-displaced EM waves, warp-drive engine can become a reality soon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zh9abFF3ZE

4. 4. UltraLightCasual 8:34 pm 04/23/2014

$50,000? This guy should go on Kickstarter. He’d have$1 million within a month from every disillusioned adult who grew up in the 60s and 70s expecting “Star Trek” to be reality by now.

Seriously. Crowdsource this.

5. 5. metamorphmuses 8:57 pm 04/23/2014

I’m heartily in favor of any research that advances research into “warp drive”. However, I think that the budget into fusion research needs to quadruple or more. All feasible avenues should be internationally funded and staffed well beyond current levels, in an Apollo-like push. The reason I bring fusion into the discussion is that it must be seen as the first step towards powering everything from our homes on Earth to the spacecraft we send to other planets in our solar system, let alone further out.

6. 6. Lacota 9:57 pm 04/23/2014

The US government once invested $800k to check the feasibility of stopping the Earth’s rotation. The purpose was to make it easier to aim ICBMs. Sometimes the US isn’t looking to answer the question, “is this stupid,” they are often asking, “how stupid is this?” 7. 7. Roger846 11:14 pm 04/23/2014 Whether or not warp drive is ultimately possible, if humans always listened to the conventional wisdom, go-nowhere, naysayers, we’d be back in the stone age. No one remembers the naysayers. We remember and live by those who proved them wrong. Use this as your inspiration: “It doesn’t really matter that other physicists scoff at White’s idea, arguing that it’s impossible to alter spacetime in this way.” Good luck, Dr. White! 8. 8. Lacota 12:20 am 04/24/2014 @Roger846, please see the Monty Python skit about flying sheep. There are many problems with this idea and the laws of physics are just a few. First off, we are not currently butting up against the limits caused by the speed of light. We don’t have vehicles or spacecraft that could only go faster if we managed to beat that speed of light problem. But let’s say we did have spaceships capable of light speed, we would still have many other problems associated with travelling even close to the speed of light, such as collisions with dust, to worry about going even faster. Trying to solve this problem is a bit like spending money to figure out what would happen if humans were to live to be a million. Surely this is research that we can put off until the problem is more pressing. Why not spend the time and money on projects that can be useful today? Or is NASA rolling in so much dough that they can throw it away on a whim? 9. 9. Roger846 12:47 am 04/24/2014 Lacota, Those are good points, and I agree that it’s a long shot and that there would be many other problems to overcome if we ever got there or even got close. But, letting potential problems keep us from trying to reach goals is not a good way of ever reaching goals. Even most possible long-shot goals can face seemingly impossible problems. Also, if we were a desperately poor country just struggling to survive, I’d agree that we should put all this money into short term survival things, but because we’re not yet total paupers, I’m a believer in being able to do more than one thing at a time. That is, let’s put most of our money in shorter to medium term payoff projects but still put a little bit of money ($50,000 is very little) in planning for the longer term and working on a few crazy dreams. I think NASA and our society are capable of doing both these things at once. Finally, places like DARPA invest in many crazy ideas in the hopes that one of them may pay off. And, we’re communicating on one of them that paid off!

10. 10. Jerzy v. 3.0. 4:29 am 04/24/2014

The most habitable place in the Solar System other than Earth is the upper atmosphere of Venus. Living there would require aerostats (but Earthen air is a lifting gas on Venus) and a method of lifting raw materials from the planet’s super-hot surface. The problem seems to be that current technologies are not prepared to cope with high temperature and corrosion – not that developing them is objectively difficult, just has little use on Earth.

The real reason behind Fermi Paradox slowly transpires to be the economy. It seems that evil Aliens have their own version of populist government and don’t spend money on projects lacking immediate benefits.

11. 11. Cramer 5:02 am 04/24/2014

Lacota,

I don’t believe it is relevant whether or not we have spacecraft that can “[but] up against the limits caused by the speed of light” before investing in warp drive. The technologies are completely unrelated. It only matters if a warp drive is feasible — theoretically, technologically, and financially (i.e. energy and capital requirements). And spending only $50k per year at the chance of determining the feasibility is no problem with me (although$50k kinda seems like shooting a BB gun at the Moon vs launching an Apollo rocket).

I don’t believe dust would be an issue with a warp drive as it would with a more conventional high-velocity spacecraft. The warp bubble would be the shield. However, planetesimals in the spherical Oort cloud might be a problem. There are thought to be several trillion objects greater than 1 km in diameter. The chance of hitting one would still be rather low. And maybe at lower speeds any chance planetesimal in the spacecraft’s path could be detected and maneuvered around.

12. 12. kenkendall56@gmail.com 7:59 am 04/24/2014

In the historical words of Jean-Luc Picard “Make it so.”

13. 13. JacksonAyres 10:58 am 04/24/2014

@Lacota,
The ship inside the area of warped space-time isn’t moving; at all. You wouldn’t have to worry about relativity, and since you’re not moving dust impacts would cause negligible damage.

The warp drive, more properly the Alcubierre drive, would work by causing space-time ahead of it to contract, and causing space-time behind it to expand. This would result in the bubble moving through space at velocities faster than that of light. General relativity places a limit of the speed of light on matter, not space itself.

The warp drive may seem crazy and may seem like it’ll take a long time to develop, but such things were though of many previous technological innovations as well.

14. 14. PapaFoote 2:43 pm 04/24/2014

Well, “The Old Mountain Goat” has been dreaming about the “…stars in the night sky…” for as long as he has been living on our Earth Planet – just because…?

15. 15. Sannerwind@gmail.com 2:58 pm 04/24/2014

Consider what happens when the time capsule hits a photon or other radiation, or a particle with mass, or inflections in space time due to gravity waves? Or virtual particles? What happens when it slows, and thus releases gobs of radiation, or its “wake”, swamps where its going. Lets conquer energy with the epitome of scientific thought and reasoning … Cant do that, go for something you know you cant solve. sannerwind@gmail.com

16. 16. RobFromLoveland 3:21 pm 04/24/2014

Interstellar travel is quite feasible. A self-sustaining vehicle would need to be designed, and a reasonably sized crew recruited, and they would need to commit to life in space for many lifetimes, but mankind could accomplish something like this within a century. On the other hand, there is currently no proposed method to propel any object, however small, at speeds greater than light. We all know spacetime can be distorted, but that, unfortunately, does not allow greater than light speed.

17. 17. Mr. Mxyzptlk III 5:29 pm 04/24/2014

The aliens haven’t visited us because it’s too much trouble and it’s not worth the trip.

18. 18. American Muse 6:08 pm 04/24/2014

We have “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

GOOD – NO WOMEN!

19. 19. manny64 8:42 pm 04/24/2014

Charles Holland Duell was appointed as the United States Commissioner of Patents,in 1898 and held that post until 1901. In that role, he is famous for purportedly saying “Everything that can be invented has been invented.
You will never what can be done unless you try. I believe that the speed of light is not constant in every place of the Universe. We know that the speed of light in water is less than in vacuum.
Who knows what the speed of light maybe when traveling near a large mass. When passing by a black hole the speed of light is slow down enough to be absorb by the it.

20. 20. Edgod1 8:44 pm 04/24/2014

I think there will be a few higgs-ups on the way. But if there is such a thing as quantum entanglement (spookiness at a distance) this might be the answer. It might involve making clone craft and crews in different parts of space, and these duplicated could be repeated indefinitely, but these clones are a safeguard if one of the others gets wiped out by micrometeorites etc. Each clone could go off on different adventures similar to if they were in parallel universes. This might upset some people’s ideas on identity and morality.

21. 21. dubina 9:43 pm 04/24/2014

I hope Harold White’s experiment is conclusive one way or another. I am not sanguine, but should his experiment fail, would that prove beyond a doubt that a warp-drive engine can never be made? (Sadly) I think it would not; we do not know what we do not know. At any rate, I doubt White’s eventual success and his practical ability to know and show that he tried every possibility to succeed or fail.

It would be great if White could prove without a doubt that a warp drive is pie in the sky…because if that is the case, and proved to be so, a lot of precocious interstellar travel myths / scams will soon go up in smoke. If we cannot get “there” from “here” as fast or much faster than the speed of light, we have no business, practically speaking, trying to reach that end. In that case, Fermi’s Paradox would be no paradox at all. Probably the strangest thing would our continuing investment in outlandish missions and ideas.

22. 22. thomsonr 9:54 pm 04/24/2014

All this talk is great but we can hardly voyage to the Moon. These technologies might not be available for centuries, actually on the timeline the Star Trek presents.

Due to the immense energy requirements I’m not sure if they will ever be available. An energy source many magnitudes beyond what we have is needed. Actually in Star Trek the Romulan starships were propelled by a harnessed singularity or black hole. That might be the way to go but I don’t know how you would draw energy from it. I guess 23-24th century physics.

23. 23. rowlandw 9:58 pm 04/24/2014

Warp drive or not, the laws of physics still require sufficient energy to accelerate and then decelerate for the destination, and then repeat to get back home. Suppose the space craft is 10,000 tons of mass and needs to attain near light-speed. Newtonian physics would put the kinetic energy of the craft at about 1/2 mv^2 or half of 10^24 joules. By comparison the USA has about 10^12 watts of electrical generating capacity or 10^12 joules per second. This means that it would take a trillion seconds or 30,000 years for the US power grid to generate the energy represented by the craft. Since relativistic speed is involved the energy cost is even greater because mass increases as light speed is approached.

This immense cost may be at least part of why, if intelligent life exists off Earth, we haven’t been visited.

If we want to avoid keeping all our eggs in one basket there is the Moon. We’ve proven we can get there; Mars is scarsely more habitable than the Moon, and no warp drive is needed.

24. 24. mostlynew 11:01 pm 04/24/2014

It all sounds so Russian.

25. 25. Dr. Strangelove 3:49 am 04/25/2014

Alpert

Warp drive is so hard to achieve technologically. You might as well replace humans with intelligent robots the size of ants and build a spaceship the size of tennis ball. If that sounds like science fiction, warp drive is more science fiction.

26. 26. Luckylife 7:27 am 04/25/2014

This is fringe research and NASA knows it but Nuclear methods show great promise. Fission-Fragment rocket, the Nuclear Lightbulb (Gas Core) rocket and Dusty Plasma Bed Reactor can achieve high specific impulse and the technology is within reach. Pandemics, Asteroid impacts or War seems worrying enough but Volcanism is still one of the major threats to life on Earth. Another sustained eruption the magnitude of the Siberian Trappes and that’s it for us. Fortunately the catastrophe took many thousands of years to manifest itself but the lack of Interstellar flight remains an emergency situation. The short-term futures bright, the short-term future’s Nuclear.

27. 27. chandan 8:19 am 04/25/2014

dear mr. alpert,
excellent article – thanks. i am a strong believer that creating a warpage in space-time fabric is possible. it may take thousands of years for the mankind to build a prototype of that machine(if at all we call it a machine)which can transport load from earth to outer space, say andromeda galaxy, in surprisingly less time, by distorting the space-time tissue but one day it will be possible. but will we humans live for another thousand years by NOT CAUSING SELF DESTRUCTION?

goodluck to mr. harold sunny white.

dev dutta roy, greater noida(national capital region), india

28. 28. Jack611277 6:54 pm 04/25/2014

In time there will be no need to move these distances in material form. More study of quantum science, religion and consciousness will allow us to transport our minds and energy ….. Entangled with those minds at our point of destination.

29. 29. top_quarck 7:44 pm 04/25/2014

With the physics we know is extremely difficult and prohibitory expensive to reach even the nearest stars.
Fortunately (perhaps) there is good evidence that we don’t know all the physics.
The Fermi paradox seems to indicate that there is no easy shortcut or our alien friends did not find it.
With lots of well founded research we still may be the first in this part of the Galaxy

30. 30. bongobimbo 9:06 pm 04/25/2014

Interesting that Dr Neil DeGrasse Tyson, in his terrific 6-lesson Great Courses exposition on everything from particle physics to cosmology, speculates that a warp drive may be the only possibility to skirt around the speed of light problem. You can see the course in entirety on Netflix streaming video. I believe it’s the only Great Courses program they are carrying, but just in case they’ve added more, it’s called “Unexplained Mysteries of the Universe” or something similar. Dr Tyson is an accomplished and enthusiastic teacher, and knows his stuff.

31. 31. metamorphmuses 9:28 pm 04/25/2014

@rowlandw, like JacksonAyres mentioned above, the concept of warp drive implies that technically, the craft is not moving. So the question really is, if it were possible to warp spacetime itself, how much energy would it take? Would that solution involve manipulating the Higgs field or otherwise “tricking” the effect mass has on spacetime? Would it be akin to creating artificial singularities? It’s all pretty far out, considering we barely know anything about anything, but what I find most disheartening is the attitude expressed among certain members of the community that it’s not even worth thinking about. Nobody here believes in magic, I don’t think, but some of us are willing to acknowledge that what we don’t currently know might hide certain possibilities that could eventually open up to us, if we look for them.

@Dr. Strangelove, I think you were being ironic, but the notion of creating artificial intelligences that can be miniaturized and sent out looking on our behalf – while also outside of our current capabilities – is no more a pursuit that merits ridicule than that of warp drive. So, I guess I agree with you, non-ironically…?

32. 32. johnog 1:24 am 04/26/2014

I am only commenting on the problem of Cosmic “Dust” raised by some as a paean to Arthur C. Clarke, in “Songs of Distant Earth”, described one of, apparently many, “VERY BIG MASS & VOLUME” spaceships that could travel with a self-perpetuating human population, (good old hetero sex of course) over many generations. This kind of ship, however had to stop at “water-stations (already occupied)”, on its way out to replenish the huge ICE-SHIELD needed to protect it from cosmic dust. If ever we are going to find away to move a “warp/bubble” of space-time at “warp speed” we are going to need an amalgam of Newton-Gauss-Riemann-Einstein-Bohr-Fermi-AND-Clarke-Asimov… just to name a few? Maybe that way we could exist as a species beyond the Red giant phase of the Sun.

33. 33. Nicholasunik 5:15 am 04/27/2014

The magnitude of the time dilation effect on a ‘door-to-door’ trip depends on the accelerations or decelerations during the trip. Accelerating and decelerating at one-g, it would theoretically be possible the reach the edge of the visible universe in a lifetime of the traveler, but on their return their colleagues at home would have aged 27.6 billion years. That is a consequence of lack of an absolute space-time background in general relativity. To enable warp travel, I believe, there would have to be an absolute time where two events separated by a spacelike (greater than speed of light) interval are objectively simultaneous. Regardless of any technology, this would mean a revolution in physics, where the speed of light is no longer the limit at which information can be transmitted.

34. 34. Cramer 6:39 pm 04/27/2014

Nicholasunik,

I have seen plenty of examples of time dilation affects on space travel. Most only use special relativity and not general relativity.

Time dilation does NOT require acceleration. The acceleration is only a practical matter in most examples similar to yours (providing artificial gravity, not killing someone with greater acceleration, technology issues, etc).

Are you accounting for the expansion of space.

Could you please provide the calculations or give a reference or where your numbers came from. I am not saying you are wrong. I just would like to see your calculations.

Your second statement about the transmission of information being revolution in physics is not true. A warp drive does not violate theory. Faster-than-c travel or the transmission of info faster-than-c only applies locally. An Einstein–Rosen bridge also brings up the same issue. We have never found a natural warp drive or a wormhole in nature. Some might think quantum entanglement is similar, but it is not. It is not possible to use entanglement to transfer info faster than c.

35. 35. bill186283 11:28 pm 04/27/2014

1.Yes, Over the last several years, the Press/Media has been VERY favorable towards NASA’s Dr.Harold White his minor research towards a Star Trek like Warp Drive. Some people think warp drive is “just around the corner” I am sorry that it is NOT. The good thing is the REAL reason NASA is funding (at tiny levels). Dr. Whites rudimentary so called “warp experiments” is for NASA PR…Marketing…to get people interested and fired up about the “possibilities”…. which is a good thing ! I applaud NASA for “finally” doing a good job in PR and marketing.
2. Layman or the average person out there has no idea how complex and daunting a real warp drive is. To the dismay of many Star Trek Fans (even me) it will NOT be created by Zeff Cochran in 2063 in a two bit peace-time operation at a Montana missile silo. We will be lucky to have a prototype working positive gain Fusion Generator generating electricity by 2063, which is still far, far, far behind warp drive technologies. In scale to the time periods, Warp drive for us in 2013, is more daunting than Ben Franklin going for a manned flight to Mars because while we have Alcubierre’s and Nataro’s warp equations, most of the calculative math to make the whole thing work, we DO NOT HAVE…there are many more complete unknowns for us than for Ben Franklin circa 1790 in reaching Mars. For instance:
-”One, is the reliance on “negative energy” in order to inflate space-time. While this theory has gained some popularity recently in the scientific community, there is still little, if any, evidence of its existence”. If it is “proven” it will take us a long time to have any real uses for it. This would NOT advance like Smart Phones and computers have.

-”Two, is the capacity to convert energy into space-time manipulations. This requires a greater understanding of particle physics than we currently possess, however the discovery of the Higgs Boson is a tiny, but positive step forward on that front”.

-”Third, once we figure out how to use energy to manipulate the fabric of space in this manner, it will require immense amounts of energy to do so”. For example, even using Dr. White’s (of NASA) ” much reduced” energy requirements an SUV sized Shuttlecraft at Warp 2.15 (10 x light speed) would expend more energy for EVERY SECOND of operation at warp speed than the current Worlds’ TOTAL energy production for a YEAR !!! We don’t have anything close to technology needed to manipulate and control those huge energies..

For the time being these obstacles are ENTIRELY prohibitive.
3.NOW. For those who will yell: But look at computers ! 1965 versus now ! Look how we far we have advanced !!!!! I-Phones ! Androids ! Tablets….LAPTOPS with terabytes !!! Too Bad, SO Sad, MOORE’s Law does NOT apply… ). Moore’s law is the quadrupling of computer power/memory every 20 months or so… MOORE’s Law applies to computers, telecommunications… smart phones, the internet… NOT…NOT Warp drive… (UNFORTUANATELY). Transportation, power generation, and ultra-exotic materials technology all needed for Warp drive and advance Much, Much, Much slower than does micro-electronics via Moore’s law. Example, a 707 Jet liner in 1958 is JUST AS FAST as a Boeing 777 Jet liner is now… Cars are only marginally faster. Actually, commute times today are slower than 50 years ago over the same distances.
5. Warp drive is far, far, far beyond anything we can hope to do for many, many centuries until we advance using “stepping stone” technologies. We cannot just jump to warp drive, we are FAR to primitive (as a KARDACHEV TYPE 0 Civilization… (0.81), and Moore’s Law does NOT apply here. Specifically, those stepping stone technologies are: refining current ion, solar sails and VASIMIR (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket )drives…good for the next 100 years, but interplanetary, not interstellar, then Nuclear fission (an “Orion or Deadulus” style star ship) then in about 200 to 250 years, nuclear fusion. A few hundred years after fusion, gravity ships and more antimatter access. Then after that (another century or two) , warp drive development and related issues (problems), managing the power flow, the radiation, communications, controlling the warp bubble, exotic energy-dark mater, singularities, all far, far, beyond us for a long time to come. However, the aforementioned stepping stone technologies will address many of these issues. How far off in time… 650 years on the inside, about 1000 years more realistically… this is a short time..
6. Hope I have not depressed you, as I am an optimist… I think we will achieve warp drive… in about 650 to 1000 years. In the grand scheme of things, that really is not a long time. Gene Rodenberry was a bit optimistic on time lines. Too bad Moore’s Law does not apply… There is only one thing that could significantly speed up the time line… and that would be…… (…….)

36. 36. Cramer 3:05 am 04/28/2014

bill186283,

Please tell us who seriously believes warp drive is “just around the corner” or by 2063. I can’t find even one comment from an anonymous person that appears to have this level of delusion. Headlines I find that say “just around the corner” are simply tongue-in-cheek attention grabbers.

bill186283 has built a delusional straw man. He is much more optimistic on the possibility of a warp drive than most lay people or physicists. His estimate of 650 to 1000 years shows his complete overconfidence and is as ridiculous as estimating the odds of life beginning on Earth. I.e. the information simply does not exist to make such a prediction.

The only person I can find that is really taking this too serious is some guy named William N. Thornton who keeps posting his overly confident predictions all over the internet. This William Thornton guy has been replying to people who are making jokes. For example, a commenter named Nelson Hyde Chick said, “Soon mankind will be able to go to other worlds and destroy them too.” Although this commenter was obviously joking, a guy name Bill Thornton warned him that it would not occur in his 8g-grandkids lifetime.

37. 37. bill186283 8:23 pm 04/28/2014

Ok Cramer,
You got me. Your right, on a Scientific American blog, people will be more informed, your right, no one here would seriously believe warp drive was even remotely close to reality… I should have considered the audience here more accurately. However, you can find “those optimistic reports” I spoke about. More general public “Lay person” reports that do signify an overly optimistic time line for attaining warp drive. There are many lay persons who get excited and believe it not far off. On the positive side, it does get people “dreaming about it”. Which is good.
On reports from “Tau Zero Foundation” I wouldn’t have to even try and prove the point… “Stepping Stone” technologies are logically espoused, as they should be. I do remember the comment from Nelson Hyde, I know he was joking a bit, but not entirely. Even if there is some small fraction of truth in what he said, I would hope for a more positive outcome.
Speaking of those stepping stone technologies, at least ion and VASMIR drives are underway, and it is possible, that in the later part of this century, the first positive gain nuclear fusion prototype generator may reach fruition. I would have to be very old by today’s age standards to see it, but I am hopeful that I might, if I can reach into three digits on bithdays.

38. 38. bill186283 11:07 pm 04/28/2014

Nicholasunik,
Referencing your relativistic virtually almost light speed star ship (no warp speed though)…
Special Relativity and specifically, time dilation really comes into play exponentially at just barely under light speed and would allow for your famed trip. Carl Sagan and others have postulated being able to apparently travel billions of light years this way, via ludicrus time dialation. Negating the ludicrous energy required, and just accelerating at one G, you would reach about 75 % of light speed in a little over one year accelerating constantly at 1 G. Seventy-Five percent is NOT enough. Over the second, third year, and forth year constantly accelerating at 1 G, you would reach 99.999…+ % and mass, and time dilation via the relativistic factor would go up exponentially as you approached C’ along with length contraction. For instance, at 99.99999 % of C, time dilation would be 1:2,236… The time dilation would grow far greater than that as you continued to accelerate closer and close to C, via 1 over the square root of 1 minus ship velocity squared over light speed squared. However, Cramer is right, this doesn’t directly relate to warp drive, because a warp ship isn’t moving at significant relativistic speeds in local space; (space is contracting and expanding around it) thus, time dilation WOULD NOT BE a factor for a warp capable star ship.

Not sure if you were trying to indicate something beyond the expansion limit of the observable universe, where the edge is essentially expanding away from us at light speed… or for linking two separate points simultaneously…???

As far as transmitting information faster than light, other than warping the space time fabric, worm holes even at the sub atomic quantum scale have not yet been verified. Two Photons separated can be linked, and their quantum state observed instantly (apparently faster than light), but no real “useful” information is actually sent… (also known as Quantum entanglement).

39. 39. Cramer 3:31 am 04/29/2014

bill186283,

I was not referring to SciAm. I have look through many articles and the comments on those articles from different sources across the internet. I have not found anyone who believes that warp drives are “just around the corner.” Maybe it’s possible to find one or two nuts out of every 100 lay commenters. I haven’t seen any articles claiming it to be just around the corner.

I see an article, “Sci-Fi Warp Drives: A Very Real Possibility,” that states, “We may well have our interstellar spaceship within 100 years.” The article first mentions the “100 Year Star-ship Symposium” before mentioning warp drive. I am not sure they mean warp drive within a 100 years. The article is simply stating warp drive is possible. You also appear to believe it is possible. Many people don’t.

Mr. Hyde’s comment was a flippant and cynical remark about the human society, not warp drives. The word “soon” was a joke. I would not take his timeframe as serious statement of what he actually believes about warp drive.

I see another guy (Mikey P Mitchell Âû) at space.com that you responded to that predicted 200 years. I do not see much difference in a 200 yr or 650 yr prediction. They are both purely conjecture.

Could you provide some links to “those optimistic reports?”

——————-

Regarding Nicholasunik time dilation example, I did not say anything about warp drive not experiencing time dilation. What specifically am I right about? My comment was about general relativity and acceleration. I have not researched it, but my best guess at this time is that time dilation would occur with a warp drive. The spaceship and warp bubble would still be moving through space.

40. 40. bongobimbo 12:26 pm 04/29/2014

To Mr. Mxyzptlk III and American Muse: If Mr. Mxyzptlk III is (like me) an old-time Wonder Woman fan, which I assume, then I think s/he was saying “ALL WOMEN”, not “NO WOMEN”. That sounds like a better crew to me.

41. 41. MisterEddie 4:37 pm 04/29/2014

From what little I know, a “warp drive” is theoretically possible just like creating wormholes is. The problem with wormholes is the energy needed to create one is about equal to all the energy in the universe. If a warp drive requires reasonable energy than the other factor is time. Here is where science fiction comes in. Travelling back in time is probably impossible but if staying in stasis with time is possible than a warp drive ship could travel anywhere in no time at all.

42. 42. Nicholasunik 4:56 pm 04/29/2014

First, pace Cramer, bill186283 seems to be content that I am right about acceleration, so I’ll spare you calculations. Yes, time dilation is a feature of special relativity, but does not allow two observers to start together and take different paths to meet at rest at the same place and compare clocks. One or other must experience acceleration. Second, what worries me about the space-time bubble created by the warp drive is not the space inside or outside, but what happens at the interface. Furthermore, it seems it can’t just decide to go somewhere without deciding to go somewhen also, unless simultaneity between separated events has a physical reality that relativity denies. This then becomes the dual of the problem with H G Wells’ Time Machine – that it manages magically to stay in the same ‘place’ when there is no absolute rest.

43. 43. RobFromLoveland 6:31 pm 04/29/2014

Most of the discussion seems to assume that if the traveller is “in” a space-time bubble expanding at greater than c, it would somehow be accelerating toward a distant point. Problem: if your space-time bubble is expanding at, for example, 2c, any distant object is then receding from you at 2c. It would take a yet-to-be-proposed concept to actually achieve a method to propel a physical object toward a distant point at speeds greater than c.

44. 44. Cramer 6:40 pm 04/29/2014

Nicholasunik,

I doubt your calculations (if you did any) take into account general relativity. Show us your general relativity calculations. That’s not a difficult request. You are the one that claimed your result of 27.6 billion years takes into account general relativity.

Who cares if you believe bill186283 is content. This has nothing to do to your unwillingness to show a reference or provide the general relativity calculations. The only reason you will not show the calculations is because they do not include general relativity. And neither did bill186283 in his comment.

Once you provide your calculations, then we can move on to discuss your “worries” about warp drive. Until then, it appears that you are only hiding behind a pseudo-intellectual facade. What else would you have to hide? Prove that you know a little something about general relativity by showing your calculations.

45. 45. bill186283 11:07 pm 04/29/2014

Hello Cramer…I’ll address Nicholasunik’s comment soon on Einstein’s General Relativity, versus Special Relativity. First… those links… There are more links showing people who seriously think we are close or already have the tech, but this is one example:

- king1wjuju5wu (with the 1 reply from me)
- A Yahoo User (with reply from me)
- Marin John (with a ludicrous reply from me)
- Stimple (not really about warp drive, but the “incessant obsolescence postulate” I love this !

- Mission (of course I replied, she is… a “lay person”)
- AND Handsome K who IS actually correct and I applaud for knowing his stuff…2 replies… one from Jason, the other from me to Jason, supporting Handsome K….

I have to study for a test… but I will address General Relativity and Special Relativity soon, with respect Nicholasunik’s 27.6 billion year trip… Well ok, I’ll summarize.
General Relativity has less to do with this than does Special Relativity. Except… General Relativity DOES describe equivalences in acceleration and gravity wells, for instance, in terms of constantly accelerating at 1 G, versus standing on Earth. Also the curvature of space and in a strong enough gravity well, time dilation does occur. (for instance in orbit near the Schwarzschild Radius of a Black Hole. The following equation which did not paste well describes space-time in the vicinity of a non-rotating black hole. The equation is:
t_0 = t_f \sqrt{1 – \frac{2GM}{rc^2}} = t_f \sqrt{1 – \frac{r_0}{r}} What this means is at about twice the distance as the Schwartschild Radius of an 8 solar mass black hole (about 4 to 5 miles from black hole, if you were in orbit, 1 hr for you would be 2 hours on Earth. IF you got closer, the time dilation difference would dramatically increase. The only thing this “may” have equivalent bearing on in the 27.6 billion year trip is the curvature of space at such huge distances and the expansion rate of the universe at those extreme distances, I admit I do not have full understanding there. Special Relativity does have much more relevance with such a trip. Yes, it is theoretically possible (but ludicrously impractical, and warp drive is even worse). To accelerate at 1 G constantly, for many years, would require a gravity drive, (beyond anti-matter technology), but you would not accelerate at 1 g, which is pathetic,, you would accelerate at 1000′s of g’s in a self generated gravity well. This effect was shown in the movie Contact. As long as your “falling” and not resisting the gravity well, you would feel nothing. Via Special relativity, time dilation would become huge as you attained 99.999999999999+….% of light speed. One second ship time…thousands even millions of years Earth time. In this way, you could circum-navigate the known universe, and since the observable Universe is about 13.82 billion light years… a round trip would be at least 27.64 billion years… Nicholasunik is correct with that number. When you returned to where Earth would/should be… it would be 27.64 billion years later and Earth would be a burned up cinder, if it still existed, but our sun, will still be here as a brown dwarf from cooling from a white dwarf. Anyway, as I said before, a true warp starship, would NOT normally experience any significant time dilation. This is so because space-time would warp around the ship, and the ships “local” movement would be at “non-relativistic” speeds… At 50 % light speed, 1 hr ship time is only 1.15 hrs Earth time at 70 % C 1 hr ship = 1.4 hr Earth. At 10 %, its negligible… 1 hr = less than 1.01… However at 99 % its 1 to 7.9, at 99.9999999999999% of light speed, 1 day ship time is over 22,000 years Earth time… A warp ship would/could only move at 1 % to 10 % light speed locally, experiencing a negligible time dilation difference. That warp ship could, however, turn off it’s multiple concentric space warping generators (warp drive generators) and just generate a single gravity well, and fall through it for years, attaining just about the speed of light(very, very very close), and do that 27.6 billion year journey. However, that would be pointless, with warp drive available. Damn… now I have not studied for my test. Its a form of History… not near as interesting to me.

46. 46. lesizz 11:31 pm 04/29/2014

Warp drive would be nice, but a system of instant teleportation would really open up the universe to us and give us the opportunity to offload some population of the Earth to other less overpopulated planets.

47. 47. Cramer 2:17 am 04/30/2014

bill186283,

What’s your point? You failed to do the calculation.

I don’t need a lesson on general relativity, especially on such simple concepts like the equivalence principle.

I also don’t need to be told that Earth would be a cinder and the Sun would be a brown dwarf in 27.6 billion years.

Your entire lesson is nothing more than a red herring avoiding the primary issue that general relativity was NOT used to calculate the 27.6 billion years, but only special relativity.

I know the calculation and therefore I know Nicholasunik is wrong. A round trip on a relativistic 1G spaceship would require four parts: (1) accelerate away from Earth at 1g, (2) decelerate at 1g until coming to a stop, (3) accelerate back toward Earth at 1g, (4) decelerate at 1g until reaching Earth. The special relativity formula for this four-part trip is

T = 4 * (c/a) * ACOSH(0.5*d*a/c^2 + 1)

Plug in the following:
c = 1 lightyear/year
a = g = 1.03 lightyear/year^2
d = 13.8 billion light years
T = 90.7 years

d is distance to designation (round trip = 2d), so round trip would be 27.6 light years. T is time on space ship.

This does not account an expanding universe. Also, even without an expanding universe, this does not get you to edge of the observable universe which is at a comoving distance of 46 billion light years.

Do you want me to derive this formula for you?

48. 48. magneticnorth50 11:43 pm 04/30/2014

Pursuing nuclear fusion – great idea . Pursuing warp drive ? It would probably be a lot cheaper and take a lot less time to wait for extraterrestrials to get here ,and we could bargain with them for the technology with some diylithium crystals .

49. 49. Cramer 1:17 am 05/1/2014

bill186283,

I asked you to provide links to “those optimistic reports” about warp drives being “just around the corner.” You provided none.

Your entire comment at 11:28 pm 04/27/2014 was about warp drive. Your first sentence was about blaming the “press/media.” Please provide an article from the “press/media.” I couldn’t even find a blogger that thought warp drive was “just around the corner” or by 2063.

I already acknowledge that you should be able to find “one or two nuts” out of 100. From what you found, that’s still not a bad estimate. Yahoo had at least 38 different commenters. Most of the 38 commenters were posting about broad concepts, societal issues, etc. Few gave any time-frames. In many cases you would jump in and go completely off topic and post a straw man.

For the fun of it lets review the comments you selected:

1) “Handsome K” was the only commenter that even mentioned warp drive. He said nothing about how soon it could be accomplished.

2) “A Yahoo User” made general statements about SciFi writers knowing science; and imagination is a good thing for scientists. I don’t see anything to disagree with. Your reply to “A Yahoo User” was a complete STRAW MAN. “A Yahoo User” said nothing about comparing solar sails to warp drives. This commenter referred to solar sails because it was mentioned several times in the article.

3) “Stimple” said nothing about time-frame. Stimple simply made an incorrect statement about the speed of light not being constant. So what? Nicholasunik also made scientific errors that you defended.

4) “Martin John” is a conspiracy theorist that believes DARPA has a secret Orion or Daedalus-type rocket engine. In 1968 Freeman Dyson did believe an Orion rocket could be constructed with available technology. This has nothing to do with a belief that warp drive is just around the corner. And it not as outrageous as other conspiracies such as alien tech at Area 51.

5) “King1wjuju5wu” appears not to have any knowledge of special relativity. He appears to be focusing on the idea that since there is no friction in space, we can simply keep accelerating to the speed of light. He obviously has little science education. He said nothing of warp drives. He didn’t say that much different than what Les Johnson said about a solar sail with a laser, except the error that is could reach the speed of light. The time-frame he gave for launch of something like a solar sail was AFTER the time it would take to eradicate poverty.

6) “Mission” believes that the speed of light will be broken within the next fifty years. Yes, that is extremely optimistic and probably not well thought out. She also probably knows little about SR. She said nothing about the type of technology. What’s more sad is the amount of thought you put into a prediction from pure conjecture.

I don’t see “King1wjuju5wu” as being much different than yourself or Nicholasunik. You and “King1wjuju5wu” are both using pure conjecture based on a lack of knowledge (he just has less knowledge). You have no basis for a prediction of 650 to 1000 years. He actually has better grammar and less rambling thoughts. His last paragraph about sticking your hand out of a car window is very similar to your ramblings.

Only “Mission” said FTL travel within 50 years.

–> One person out of 38.

50. 50. bill186283 7:16 pm 05/1/2014

Cramer,

Very specific you are ! I did mention (from Stimple’s remarks) that not all of them were about warp drive, but they were addressing pre-warp or what I have termed “Stepping Stone Technologies”

In another post, Mikey P Mitchell Âû claimed 200 years and I went back and forth with him on justifying why I thought it would be more. My estimations are not baseless or a roll of the dice as you suggested… I will go into that with you on my next blog, I do not have much time right now.

There is another site I remember that had estimations “specific” to warp drive, I will try and find it again. Not right now though…I have to go.

Yes, special relativity does apply for the trip. Nicholasunik was incorrect on relating General Relativity to the trip. I was, still am puzzled about the possibility that while certainly, Special Relativity applies, general relativity my apply beyond the observable Universe due to recession speed, gravitational induced curvature over such vast distances, etc.
Looking forward to addressing this when I have more time… Your formula looks correct… it accounts for a round trip, accelerating, decelerating x2.

I will be back in a few more days… looking forward to it.

51. 51. bill186283 8:43 pm 05/1/2014

OK Cramer,
ONe more blurb before I have to do my history/military project work and place this aside for three or four days…

T = 4 * (c/a) * ACOSH(0.5*d*a/c^2 + 1)

Plug in the following:
c = 1 lightyear/year
a = g = 1.03 lightyear/year^2
d = 13.8 billion light years
T = 90.7 years
I follow except for this; except for a = 1.03 ly/yr^2 and where does the special relativity take Lorentz factor into account… are you using an average of about 1 to 300 million ?

An “average” time dialation of 1 to 304 million between the 4 part trip (accelerating/decal 2x) would yield about 27.6 billion years in 90.7 years…

The formula special theory of Relativity for time dialation: T=T2-t1= t2+(vx2/c^2) -t1 -(Vx1/c^2) / Sqrt (1-(v^2/c^2))

T = Time dialation
V= ships velocity (compared to light)
Plug in 99.999999999999993 % of C and you get “about 1 to 300 million, give or take… the calculation runs into decimal place rounding issues at that level with the calc I am using… This speed, very, very near light speed would be required, or more due to decelerating and accelerating 4x.

If you could, please derive and explain the time dialation in the formula you used. For C = 1 ly/yr^2 I see, but I am NOT following 1.03 ly/yr^2 for acceleration… Another issue I am struggling with, is the time it would take at 1 g acceleration to attain 99.999999999999993 % of light, since time dialation is exponential, and the vast majority of the time dialation would happen at very, very near light speed, even at 99 % C, time dialation is low for this endeavor. Thanks !

52. 52. Cramer 12:59 am 05/2/2014

bill186283,

The formula is T=(c/a)acosh(da/c^2+1).

[I originally added the 4 and 0.5 for the four part trip where d=destination distance. I probably should have used 4 and 1/4 where d = round-trip distance.]

The Lorentz factor somewhat disappears in the wash from the calculus resulting from acceleration, but you can still see that da/c^2 is equal to v^2/c^2.

For a complete derivation search for Rindler transformations that describe the hyperbolic motion of a relativistic uniformily accelerating observer. Try googling uniform acceleration special relativity (or constant acceleration).

This reference might help:

http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Rindler_coordinates

Look half way down the page and see the equation:

x = (c^2/a) cosh(aT/c) – c^2/a

Solve for T and you get the equation that I used.

—–

Standard gravitational acceleration (1g) is

g = 9.80665 m/s^2

Converting the units gives

g = 1.03227 lightyear/year^2

53. 53. 1glenn 8:22 am 05/2/2014

On the one hand, I am genuinely excited about the possibility of practical, interstellar space travel. On the other hand, I do not think that our species is yet ready for responsible interstellar travel.

Less than two centuries ago we were still raiding Africa for a cheap source of human slaves, and today we think we are ready for responsible behavior midst the stars? Can a species that counts among its members Darrel Issa, Hannity, and the Koch brothers, be ready to take its place in an interstellar community?

We are on the verge of breeding ourselves into extinction on this planet, and we want to expand our breeding ground to other planets?

54. 54. 1glenn 8:31 am 05/2/2014

We are still in the infancy of space travel.

Less than two weeks ago our space agencies detected for the first time a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), over a half mile in diameter, that routinely crosses Earth’s orbit. It has been designated asteroid 2014 HQ124, and was detected for the first time last April 14. If at the time of its discovery it had been on an Earth-intercept course, we would have been powerless to stop it, and a body that large striking this planet would likely send civilization as we know it back to the stone age.

We haven’t yet identified all of the monster asteroids that routinely threaten life on this planet, and we have as yet no way of defending the planet from PHAs.

55. 55. cbsooner 6:20 pm 05/7/2014

I am somewhat upset that the editor said that other physicists said that this was impossible, and did not even mention Alcubierre or his equation/mathematics for a theoretical warp drive. It seems to be a real “slap-in-the-face” to not even mention his existence when someone like him has spent a lot of time researching and figuring to develop an equation that would allow us to traverse space-time faster than the speed of light.

56. 56. bill186283 10:51 pm 05/7/2014

cbsooner,
Where have you been ???
cbsooner,
Actually, Dr. Harold Sony White (a main focus of this article) used Jose Natario’s warp formula which was originally based on Miguel Alcubierre’s original Warp equation. Natario’s formula addresses some serious issues with actually being able to employ, navigate and control a warp drive based on the Alcubierre method. Yet both Natario’s and Alcubierre’s formula have major issues with the energy densities and quantities required which are ludicrous mass energy equivalences to the Universe itself. Dr. White is using Natario’s warp equation and making the numerical integration by the something called the “Trapezoidal Rule” using many slices … which from a layman’s point would be like oscillating the warp field to reduce the energy requirements to a claimed 500 KG-1000KG antimatter/matter per second for an SUV sized warp craft. This is still many orders of magnitude beyond our civilization’s capability. What this amounts to at this time is “mathematical conjecture” “Speculation”… using complex equations. cbsooner, be careful when you say: “develop an equation that would allow us to transverse space-time faster than the speed of light” It is a good idea… except Alcuberre’s equation would NOT allow FTL, since it would require MORE energy than converting all matter in the Universe to energy. Sorry. Warp drive is hugely beyond us for a long time to come. Many breakthroughs in physics would be required, probably more breakthroughs ahead of us than behind us since civilization began. Again, Sorry. Although “I” am positive about “eventually” attaining warp drive in the DISTANT future, we do not know if it is possible. Many Physicists and other Scientist would likely say no… They could be correct, though I do not like that possibility, I cannot argue against it.

57. 57. drafter 1:40 pm 06/11/2014

to bad space time is a figment of physicist imagination in an attempt to solve problems they couldn’t resolve.

58. 58. And Then What? 5:10 pm 06/11/2014

“warp speed” is probably useless since anyone travelling at, or near, light-speed would not experience the passage of Time so whether you are travelling at Warp or light-speed, no difference to you.

59. 59. bill186283 9:11 pm 06/30/2014

IN response to 60 “And Then What: above. … Time dialation would NOT greatly effect a warp drive star ship.

The reason is because the ship would be moving at relatively slow Newtonian speeds… Space itself would warp, compress and flow around it and expand exponentially behind it. Any time differences would be “Newtonian” in nature. The ratio of ship time to Earth time variations would be on the order of less than one half of one percent, up to several 10′s of millions of light years away. Many billions of light years away, even on another planet, Earth time and that planets’ time would not flow at the same speed, as we are both receding at a fair percentage of light velocity.

60. 60. CJster1234 1:59 am 07/6/2014

I believe this idea could work….I mean, if fusion reactors are successful in the next few years, which come close to the power needed for a warp drive, then some funding from NASA into the program could create such a device capable of sustaining travel to other star systems in a lifetime.

61. 61. bill186283 11:06 pm 07/9/2014

CJster1234:

If you mean a lifetime till we have fusion power for a ship, that is optimistic, but not impossible, especially if life-spans increase to 200 years or more. Fusion drive could get us to the closest stars in only hundreds of years travel time. As I mentioned above, fusion drive is only an early stepping stone towards much faster warp drive. The tech of Warp drive is far, far, far, far, far beyond a fusion drive star ship. Fusion drive is far, far far to anemic to achieve the energies needed for warp fields (bending/compressing-expanding space). I am very familiar with the limited success of ITF, and we are still many decades from the first prototype positive gain fusion reactor for serious power generation. I would be surprised if we have it before 2060. If your familiar with Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) Fusion is close to 3… at best. The year 2100 is a realistic guess for the first prototype positive gain fusion generator with a viable utility… and that would be at least one small step of many, needed for warp drive. The big thing long, long, long before warp drive, is that if Nuclear Fusion generation became commercially viable and widespread (TRL = 9) it would solve a large portion of the energy crises, be a form of renewable never ending energy, and take us closer, towards a Kardechev Type 1 civilization… estimated 80 years from now; or it could be 150 years. Warp dive is many, many centuries beyond that.

62. 62. bill186283 11:24 pm 07/9/2014

CJster1234:
Above, I meant NIF National Ignition Facility… not ITF (Infrastructure Task Force for Nukes)… By the way, break-even still has not been reached. The best ratio of energy in to energy out is 1 to 0.0077. This is an improvement, but we still have a ways to go. The 192 lasers input 1.8 MJ and got 14 KJ out… I would revise my near TRL of 3 to a 2.5. We still may live to see it though, just live well past 100.