MadandGloating

"Warp Speed"

33 posts in this topic

I am sitting here depressed that the universe is so amazing and vast yet virtually un-touchable without light speed capabilities. I am questioning whether "Warp Speed" is a possibility, or simply science fiction babble? I am assuming they (star trek) are somehow warping space to travel great distances in short amounts of time. Essentially wouldn’t this be equivalent to light speed? It also appears that warp speeds are far greater than light speed.

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I am sitting here depressed that the universe is so amazing and vast yet virtually un-touchable without light speed capabilities.

Depressed? Why? Although I would love to browse the universe, the fact that I am mostly limited to Earth and the nearby planets does not bother me. The Earth is beautiful enough. Besides, even with light speed, we wont be able to explore everything. The most fascinating parts will still be hidden.

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I am sitting here depressed that the universe is so amazing and vast yet virtually un-touchable without light speed capabilities. I am questioning whether "Warp Speed" is a possibility, or simply science fiction babble? I am assuming they (star trek) are somehow warping space to travel great distances in short amounts of time. Essentially wouldn’t this be equivalent to light speed? It also appears that warp speeds are far greater than light speed.

With the current known laws of physics, achieving or exceeding light speed is not possible for objects possessing mass. However, there is still a possibility. A spacecraft starting from earth and accelerating close to light speed, travelling to a distant star, and decelerating in time to stop there, would have experienced less travel time than an observer's measurement of the time interval on earth, due to relativity. The closer to light speed the ship can reach, the less time will be accumulated and the further it can go in the lifespan of its inhabitants.

Also, as I noted recently, extending human lifespan would add to the possibility of interstellar travel. Decades of experienced travel time wouldn't permit many excursions in a normal human lifespan. If people can live a thousand years, the possibilities are greatly expanded, in a way completely impossible with the current limitations of our bodies.

The main downside, and not a small one, is that anybody you leave behind when you're off on the travels, will have aged far more. In a social sense it's pretty much a one-way trip, you and whoever else you're with.

I'm still kind of hoping that further knowledge will show a way to bypass the speed of light limitation. Current physics certainly doesn't fully explain the observed universe, and I think it would be a bit arrogant to claim that humanity has omniscience regarding the laws of nature in 2006.

Also: the Earth is a big world. Do some international travelling. I've been to a number of different countries and each trip was a fascinating experience. It's a more mundane thought than seeing what's happening in the rest of the universe, but there's still enough to do and see to last a lifetime right here on this planet.

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I work for an airline; I travel plenty. I agree with Rand in that I am filled with awe just looking at skyscrapers. I also want to understand more about the universe. I want to be alive when they discover life somewhere else. I guess I get frustrated with how primitive we actually are. To try and paraphrase something Stephen Hawking said "if we do find intelligent life I think we should stay quiet and keep our heads low. In almost any historical case where an advanced culture locates a primitive one bad things happen". So much more seems possible if we were able to travel at high speeds. I guess I am just tired of waiting.

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I guess I get frustrated with how primitive we actually are.

Primitive compared to what/whom?

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The Milky Way is over 100,000 light years in diameter. (Milky Way) So even if we lived 1000 years, we're not going very far in one lifetime. Let alone going to another distant galaxy. So even if a group of homo sapiens were able to travel some of these large distances, we'd most likely have evolved into a different species by the time "we" got there.

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The Milky Way is over 100,000 light years in diameter. (Milky Way) So even if we lived 1000 years, we're not going very far in one lifetime. Let alone going to another distant galaxy. So even if a group of homo sapiens were able to travel some of these large distances, we'd most likely have evolved into a different species by the time "we" got there.

Not necessarily Paul. If the spaceship were traveling close enough to c then time dilation would be so great for them that they might have only aged a few years even though from Earth's frame of reference they travelled for thousands of years.

There are some particles that are so short lived (they decay so swiftly), that even when traveling the speed of light they should not be able to make it further than a meter, yet they can travel great distances. The passage of time is dependent on your frame of reference, and when your frame of reference is moving at relativistic speeds, your passage of time is going to be dilated and slower when viewed by a stationary observer.

Because of this, I think time-dilation grants humanity enormous possibilities when it comes to interstellar travel.

If you were traveling at .99c for example, an interstellar journey measured by clocks on Earth to be 100 years, would only register as a flight time of 14.1 years for the astronauts on board. If we could go .99999c then a 1000 year journey from Earth would only be a 4.47 year journey for the people on board the ship! Assuming man's technology could have no limit: imagine a space-ship so large that it could house a self-sustaining bio-dome, and a small-town's population. Assuming you had the energy source to slowly accelerate it over a period of several years to reach these .99999....c speeds, you could enable man to reach the far corners of the Universe. Sure, by the time they arrived at their destination, Earth might be long and gone, but the inhabitants of the ship (or their grandchildren) would still exist.

I know this is "out there," but if you look at the last 200 years of technological advancement, then imagine that continued for the next two thousand years--I don't see why it would have to remain in the realm of fancy or science-fiction.

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Or to go further: could man not build huge cylindrical space-stations, that rotated about their axis to generate false-gravity and Earth-like conditions, then live in these for thousands of years on cosmic voyages?

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....

If you were traveling at .99c for example, an interstellar journey measured by clocks on Earth to be 100 years, would only register as a flight time of 14.1 years for the astronauts on board. If we could go .99999c then a 1000 year journey from Earth would only be a 4.47 year journey for the people on board the ship!

....

Here are some problems we'd have to solve:

1. Accelerating a spaceship to .99999c would require a huge amount of energy.

2. Humans can only take just so much acceleration, and to reach such high speeds in a reasonable time would require high acceleration. For a sustained period of time, I'd bet that 2g - meaning that a 200 pound man would weigh 400 pounds - would be about all a person could tolerate. (For example, at 2g, your blood is twice as heavy, and your heart needs to still be able to pump all of that blood to your whole body.) So, either man has to be modified so that he can survive high accelerations for long periods of time, or else we'd need to accept and provide for the fact that there is going to have to be a long period of acceleration to get "up to speed".

3. There are particles out there in outer space. Maybe not very many, but if they're going almost c relative to the spaceship, they're going to pack a lot of energy when they come crashing in (and the ship would be covering so much distance that, even at low particle densities, it would encounter many particles), so there would need to be considerable shielding or the astronauts will be killed. With today's technology, perhaps several feet of iron-rich concrete, of the type they use to shield nuclear reactors, would be needed?? And see point 1): accelerating all this mass will take lots of energy.

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Here are some problems we'd have to solve:

1. Accelerating a spaceship to .99999c would require a huge amount of energy.

2. Humans can only take just so much acceleration, and to reach such high speeds in a reasonable time would require high acceleration. For a sustained period of time, I'd bet that 2g - meaning that a 200 pound man would weigh 400 pounds - would be about all a person could tolerate. (For example, at 2g, your blood is twice as heavy, and your heart needs to still be able to pump all of that blood to your whole body.) So, either man has to be modified so that he can survive high accelerations for long periods of time, or else we'd need to accept and provide for the fact that there is going to have to be a long period of acceleration to get "up to speed".

3. There are particles out there in outer space. Maybe not very many, but if they're going almost c relative to the spaceship, they're going to pack a lot of energy when they come crashing in (and the ship would be covering so much distance that, even at low particle densities, it would encounter many particles), so there would need to be considerable shielding or the astronauts will be killed. With today's technology, perhaps several feet of iron-rich concrete, of the type they use to shield nuclear reactors, would be needed?? And see point 1): accelerating all this mass will take lots of energy.

In regards to 1) and 3), that's why I said some civilization 2000 years from now: so nitpicking technological problems like this is a moot point. And further, how many people anticipated the extreme amounts of energy made possible by nuclear-power 100 years ago?

In regards to 2), that's why I said

Assuming you had the energy source to slowly accelerate it over a period of several years to reach these .99999....c speeds

If you accelerated at just 1m/s^2 constantly for 10 years that would put you at the speed of light. Accelerate at 10m/s^2 you could be up to speed in 1 year.

This last rate of acceleration would be particularly convenient because it would be a perfect source of false-gravity to recreate Earth-like conditions for the colony of people living on the space-station. Yes these are long acceleration times, but does it really matter when your net trip time could be 15-200 years?

Couldn't something like this be done by means of a giant solar sail? That would truly be a romantic image of space-exploration, carrying the ocean-exploration of the past millennium into a whole new realm.

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Here are some problems we'd have to solve:

1. Accelerating a spaceship to .99999c would require a huge amount of energy.

Yes it would. One of the more interesting proposals to supply it is the Bussard Ramjet. The basic concept (which doubtlessly will require an enormous amount of additional science and engineering to make actually feasible) is using interstellar hydrogen gas, ionized by lasers and then swept in by an enormous magnetic field scoop, then channeled into the fusion drive. Fuel as you go. Note that the rate of fuel intake goes up as your speed increases. This way, you don't need to carry anything except "bootstrapping" fuel.

2. Humans can only take just so much acceleration, and to reach such high speeds in a reasonable time would require high acceleration.

Not really. I don't have the formula readily at hand (to do this right, you have to take relativity into account), but from memory, 1g (starship-frame perceived) acceleration for a year (earth-frame perceived) gets you to over 0.99c, which is a time dilation factor of about 7. That means that it would be significantly less than a year onboard the ship to achieve that speed.

3. There are particles out there in outer space. Maybe not very many, but if they're going almost c relative to the spaceship, they're going to pack a lot of energy when they come crashing in (and the ship would be covering so much distance that, even at low particle densities, it would encounter many particles), so there would need to be considerable shielding or the astronauts will be killed. With today's technology, perhaps several feet of iron-rich concrete, of the type they use to shield nuclear reactors, would be needed?? And see point 1): accelerating all this mass will take lots of energy.

The Bussard Ramjet idea has the additional virtue of assisting with that problem. You would still need some kind of thick material shield up front. Also, there's the interesting problem that relativistic doppler shifting of light coming from the forward direction of travel (blueshifting) would create higher and higher energy photons, the faster you went, another reason for the shield.

If anybody is really interested in this stuff, the Journals of the British Interplanetary Society have had some intriguing articles over the years, serious ones written by physicists and engineers, regarding various aspects of starship technology. (http://www.bis-spaceflight.com/sitesia.asp...ode/108/l/en-us)

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Stephen tell me that faster than light travel is not possible, so visiting distant galaxies is not on my itinerary.

It doesn't bother me because, no matter what, I have to set my priorities and I haven't even visited Chicago, Alaska, Italy, and Japan yet.

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I think everyone has strayed from my original question.

Often a question leads to another question, sometimes of more interest to some than the original. But, to answer your original questions:

I am questioning whether "Warp Speed" is a possibility, or simply science fiction babble?

Occasionally papers on warp engines and the like make their way into the physics journals, but these are really mathematical solutions of no physical significance. Your "warp speed" is science fiction, not science fact.

I am assuming they (star trek) are somehow warping space to travel great distances in short amounts of time.

Whatever does "warping space" mean? Star Trek was a fun group of TV shows and movies, but they were science fiction, not science fact.

Essentially wouldn't this be equivalent to light speed?

Got me. I know what "light speed" is, but I do not know what "this" is, at least not in any meaningful sense of "know" in the real world.

It also appears that warp speeds are far greater than light speed.

Apparently, at least according to Star Trek.

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Stephen tell me that faster than light travel is not possible, so visiting distant galaxies is not on my itinerary.

It doesn't bother me because, no matter what, I have to set my priorities and I haven't even visited Chicago, Alaska, Italy, and Japan yet.

I haven't been to those places either, but if I had a choice, this is where I'd rather go. ;)

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Stephen tell me that faster than light travel is not possible, so visiting distant galaxies is not on my itinerary.

It doesn't bother me because, no matter what, I have to set my priorities and I haven't even visited Chicago, Alaska, Italy, and Japan yet.

I haven't been to those places either, but if I had a choice, this is where I'd rather go. ;)

I hear the pizza there is not nearly as good as in Chicago and Italy. And if you're into sushi, forget it! :)

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I haven't been to those places either, but if I had a choice, this is where I'd rather go. ;)

I hear the pizza there is not nearly as good as in Chicago and Italy. And if you're into sushi, forget it! ;)

Don't like sushi. I'm sure they have great coffee, undoubtedly served in flying saucers. :)

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Don't like sushi. I'm sure they have great coffee, undoubtedly served in flying saucers. ;)

Undoubtedly Starbucks has countless cafes already operating there, so the experience of alien coffee won't be any different. :)

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Also, as I noted recently, extending human lifespan would add to the possibility of interstellar travel. Decades of experienced travel time wouldn't permit many excursions in a normal human lifespan. If people can live a thousand years, the possibilities are greatly expanded, in a way completely impossible with the current limitations of our bodies.

The main downside, and not a small one, is that anybody you leave behind when you're off on the travels, will have aged far more. In a social sense it's pretty much a one-way trip, you and whoever else you're with.

The only folk qualified to be Star Travelers are those who can say "Goodbye Forever" and not be bent out of shape by the Parting. Maybe these people would have to have little or no intimate connection to those who stay behind. The might include people with no wives and children and no family connections to break. Perhaps Star Travel is for orphans and bachelors.

But there are even more questions. Let us say life spans can be extended to a thousand years (subjective time) or ten thousand years. Can humans as we know them stay sane while cooped up an a sealed environment with only the relatively few people aboard as company? Even allowing for mating in transit, could relationships last? Even with mate swapping making a relationship last and stay cordial for a thousand years sounds like a daunting task. Perhaps the only solution consistent with sanity is some form of hibernation. To sleep, perhaps to dream.....

Bob Kolker

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I am sitting here depressed that the universe is so amazing and vast yet virtually un-touchable without light speed capabilities. I am questioning whether "Warp Speed" is a possibility, or simply science fiction babble? I am assuming they (star trek) are somehow warping space to travel great distances in short amounts of time. Essentially wouldn’t this be equivalent to light speed? It also appears that warp speeds are far greater than light speed.

Here is a theoretical speculation on a possible "Warp Drive".

See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcubierre_drive

Bob Kolker

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One of the more interesting proposals to supply it is the Bussard Ramjet.

In both cases the wikipedia articles themselves provide convincing arguments against the possibility of these technologies. Given our current knowledge of physics and the limitations of human physiology, I think the inevitable conclusion is that it is simply impossible for human beings in their current form to travel to other stars - or even the outer reaches of our solar system.

The more interesting possibility to me is that human beings will transform not only our environment, but our physiology, and shape ourselves into beings capable of thriving in deep space. I find that possibility not only more likely, but more appealing than the prospect of short, fragile lives trying to cope with an alien, timeless environment.

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The more interesting possibility to me is that human beings will transform not only our environment, but our physiology, and shape ourselves into beings capable of thriving in deep space. I find that possibility not only more likely, but more appealing than the prospect of short, fragile lives trying to cope with an alien, timeless environment.

I agree. The way to go is to extend our sane, productive lifetime. Either that or find out how to do reversible suspended animation.

Absent a long life, we are not going to visit other stars (in person) any time soon.

Bob Kolker

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Couldn't something like this be done by means of a giant solar sail? That would truly be a romantic image of space-exploration, carrying the ocean-exploration of the past millennium into a whole new realm.

One would have to take into consideration relativistic mass increase. We could not maintain that rate of acceleration with current energy sources.

Bob Kolker

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Couldn't something like this be done by means of a giant solar sail? That would truly be a romantic image of space-exploration, carrying the ocean-exploration of the past millennium into a whole new realm.

One would have to take into consideration relativistic mass increase. We could not maintain that rate of acceleration with current energy sources.

Bob Kolker

I know, that's why I framed everything in the context of the future.

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