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It's in the news again as the experiments have finally begun.

I'm obviously not a physicist. I'm just a science fiction fan. But honestly? I don't see this coming to anything even though I hope, really hope, that it does.

The speed of light in vacuum is a constant. One cannot exceed it. As one approaches it, all sorts of weird and funny things happen. Your mass increases. Time dialation occurs. Light becomes red and blue shifted. And heaven help you if you hit something. I certainly hope there's no one out there using relativistic weapons, and if they are, they aren't pointed at us. We'll never see the end coming.

Quite a bit of Science-fiction handwaves the speed of light away, and that's fine. If you want to tell a story about adventuers meeting aliens, landing on other planets orbiting other stars, and the like, you rather need that constant to have a loophole, a workaround, or to just be plumb wrong.

Luckily, relativity has such a work around.

2 Dimensional representation of a
In 1994, physicist Miguel Alcubierre wrote about a metric for a spacedrive:
"It is shown how, within the framework of general relativity and without the introduction of wormholes, it is possible to modify a spacetime in a way that allows a spaceship to travel with an arbitrarily large speed. By a purely local expansion of spacetime behind the spaceship and an opposite contraction in front of it, motion faster than the speed of light as seen by observers outside the disturbed region is possible. The resulting distortion is reminiscent of the `warp drive' of science fiction. However, just as happens with wormholes, exotic matter will be needed in order to generate a distortion of spacetime like the one discussed here.”
But not so luckily, said workaround requires massive amounts of energy. Negative energy. Which does not exist.

Dr. Harold White of the very small NASA Theoretical Propulsion Unit thinks it may be possible to create a very tiny warp field, but it's worth noting that the creator of the metric itself doesn't think so.

Still, one of the most dubious is Dr. Alcubierre himself. He listed a number of concerns, starting with the vast amounts of exotic matter that would be needed.

“The warp drive on this ground alone is impossible,” he said.

And he posed a more fundamental question: How would you turn it on?

“At speeds larger than the speed of light, the front of the warp bubble cannot be reached by any signal from within the ship,” he said. “This does not just mean we can’t turn it off; it is much worse. It means we can’t even turn it on in the first place.”

It's important to note that Dr. White is far more cautious than the press coverage, which has been ridiculous. It's also worth noting that the cost for the experiment is tiny: $50,000. That's it. I'm cool with that. Chump change, for a government with a several trillion dollar yearly budget.

There's still the matter of "negative energy" and other exotic matters, which for now I'll label unobtainium. And last but not least, there's the causality problem.

Looking up into the night sky is basically looking back into the past. The sun's light, when it reaches us, is already 8 minutes old. Sirius's light, when it reaches us, is almost a decade old. The light we see from Andromeda left its stars before humanity and its ancestors even evolved. The night sky is a time machine. I am still not sure how the warp bubble manages not to violate causality, even if it slips between the various folds of space time. Then you get into frames of reference and whatnot, and everyone's head starts to hurt.

I'm certainly glad they're doing this experiment, though.

However, honestly speaking, I don't think human beings will be returning to space in numbers until someone finds a way to make a profit over it. It's very expensive to leave the gravity well. It's very difficult to keep people alive in a sealed biosphere. The experiment on Earth more or less failed.  Now there are hundreds of thousands of people, if not more, who'd happily sign up for what could be the end of their life on such a mission, but governments are not going to shell out funds to send people to found colonies on Mars and the Moon and elsewhere in the solar system and beyond unless they can recoup that cost. Worth noting the colonization of the Americas were done via public-private corporations and other partnerships. Oh, and outright plunder too.

I actually do think Planetary Resources has something there, though, but they're hamstrung by the same problem. They're stuck at the bottom of the same gravity well as everyone else and as stated, it's expensive to climb out of it.

All that said, I hope Dr. White is successful. Rationally, I don't think his experiment will go anywhere.

Any physics folks out there in dkos land want to weigh in? Let's have a fun discussion about it. (We can even discuss our favorite spacedrives from sci-fi. We can even discuss UFOs.)

Dr. White's paper is here.

Originally posted to SciTech on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 09:31 AM PDT.

Also republished by Star Trek fans and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tip jar (127+ / 0-)

    I want to believe!

    tropical weather season is here black lives mean nothing in America. being white must be amazing.

    by terrypinder on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 09:27:12 AM PDT

  •  Untill FTL is worked out (24+ / 0-)

    Robert Bussard built an Eagle class starship on paper, using Lithium6 fusion to power the ship. On a 5 year mission....

    I kid you not... a 5 year mission to 550 AU from the sun, to place a grav lens telescope....  using the sun as a grav lens.

    On Paper, Bussards proton boron 11 fusion reactor (Polywell- see WB-8.1) could power a ship to Saturns Moon Titan in as little as 76 days, Mars in as little as 38 days.

    Polywell reactors on the lunar surface or lunar orbit, could utilize Lunar helium as fusion fuel.

    On the sealed biosphere experiment, well..... they tried for all the beans, so its not surprising it failed. It should be easier to build a sealed system that can supplement a space stations 0xy & Co2 scrubbing requirements.

    FTL, the good news is we know space curves. If we can figure out how to take the direct straight line path, and skip the curved part - FTL would be all set. Do gravitons travel in that straight line? gravitons from large cosmic events show up before the visible light from that same event.......I think they do.


    .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 10:10:11 AM PDT

  •  I don't want to get anyone angry but it honestly (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, Crider

    seems to me that our science has now reached a point where it is more ridiculous than religion.

    Just like it did 2000 years ago or so with epicycles.

    There is something fundamentally wrong with Quantum Physics.

    •  this isn't quantum physics though. (8+ / 0-)

      tropical weather season is here black lives mean nothing in America. being white must be amazing.

      by terrypinder on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 10:19:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Phase shifted Quantum physics (0+ / 0-)

        Petr Hořava's string theory concept splitting Time off from space with a phase changed spacetime continuum to let time vary inversely as velocity even as space varies directly allows empty space to contain an intrinsic energy with the result that Hořava Gravity emerges with a well behaved graviton and no quantum infinities.

        From this perspective gravity rather than dark matter is the cause of the expansion of the universe and time is a relative absolute varying inversely as velocity.

        The phase shifted structure of this continuum allows a faster than light speed utilizing the intrinsic energy of empty space to exceed the speed of light in a vacuum.

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 12:28:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Something wrong with QM? (38+ / 0-)

      Quantum mechanics is one of the best predictive sciences we have out there. Our entire digital information age is based on technology derived from quantum mechanical effects. Computer processors, lasers, LEDs, you name it, QM is involved.

      Just because science has become harder for the layman to understand, doesn't mean it's 'ridiculous', it just means that it's complicated. I'm disappointed that people seem to confuse the two far too often.

      •  Epiycles were very predictive too. But very, very (0+ / 0-)


        •  what precisely is wrong with QM? (9+ / 0-)

          I'm genuinely curious.

          tropical weather season is here black lives mean nothing in America. being white must be amazing.

          by terrypinder on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 11:21:29 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  It depends on what you mean by 'wrong' (9+ / 0-)

          They certainly weren't as accurate as the true elliptical calculations, but they were 'good enough' to predict much of the observed planetary orbits.

          But QM doesn't even suffer from that type of approximation.

          I'm curious, what failure of QM leads you to believe that it is 'very very wrong'? Do you have similar skepticism for other well tested theories, such as evolution, general relativity, and so on?

        •  epicycles were less predictive as you got precise (5+ / 0-)

          a circle looked good if you had some crude stone marks
          on stonehenge or other neolithic observatories.

          a epicycle looked good if you had wood instruments,
          but once precise measurements were available
          at the time of tycho, the predictions kept getting screwed up.
          so people started adding more layers of epicycles trying to adjust for the visible error.

          Copernicus cut through that with greek era math.

          QM seems to work pretty darned good, even as we run
          energy levels up into the TeV, as we push down to single
          electrons and we run temperatures down to absolute zero.

          we see a few funny things but i haven't heard of any
          problems even as we make Bose-Einstein condensates,
          or setup massive interferometers or study the long baselines of the interplanetary spacecraft or chase gravity waves
          and the higgs boson.

          Qm makes my head hurt, but it seems to work.

          now the ideas of negative energy, virtual energy, imaginary energy and the equivalents in mass seem more likely to be
          artifacts of the math, but, if we can fold spacetime and get
          to use them, perhaps we need to have a problem where we need them

          but as for folding spacetime, well, that' may be a century or more away

        •  Um, no they weren't (0+ / 0-)

          That was part of the problem with the model.  Nobody could make actual predictions that were even close to accurate.  If they had been, nobody would have questioned the model.

          •  Not true (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Epicycles had reasonably accurate predictions, otherwise they wouldn't have lasted as long as they did.

            For example, from the wiki:

            Owen Gingerich[2] describes a planetary conjunction that occurred in 1504 that was apparently observed by Copernicus. In notes bound with his copy of the Alfonsine Tables, Copernicus commented that "Mars surpasses the numbers by more than two degrees. Saturn is surpassed by the numbers by one and a half degrees." Using modern computer programs, Gingerich discovered that, at the time of the conjunction, Saturn indeed lagged behind the tables by a degree and a half and Mars led the predictions by nearly two degrees. Moreover, he found that Ptolemy's predictions for Jupiter at the same time were quite accurate. Copernicus and his contemporaries were therefore using Ptolemy's methods and finding them trustworthy well over a thousand years after Ptolemy's original work was published.
        •  QM Is As Right As Evolution (6+ / 0-)

          There are buildings-full of data confirming the theory of Quantum Mechanics.  And there is precisely zero data conflicting with the theory of Quantum Mechanics.  The only possible problem with QM is reconciling it with GR, but that is not a way that QM is "wrong".  That is a mystery of physics we have yet to solve.

      •  Thank you! (6+ / 0-)

        I wanted to say the same thing. Yes, it is a bear to even begin to understand, but that says nothing about the validity of Quantum Mechanical Theory!

      •  There are two meanings to "QM." (6+ / 0-)

        The first is the equations, which can give very accurate results.

        The second is the interpretations. There are different interpretations, each of which is consistent with the equations. They give very different pictures of reality. The last I saw was in SciAm. I would call it a "psychological" interpretation, and I'll admit that I didn't read the entirer article.

        •  One school of Quantum Mechanics... (5+ / 0-)

          that was semi-jokingly mentioned in my graduate QM classes many years ago was the "Shut Up and Calculate" School. No one may completely understand QM (as per Feynman), but QM does give amazingly accurate results if you know its rules and how to calculate with it. So just "shut up and calculate" is actually not such bad advice when working on a quantum mechanical problem.

          But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, ... there are few die well that die in a battle; ... Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; — Shakespeare, ‘Henry V’

          by dewtx on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 07:37:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Not possible to be more ridiculous than religion. (9+ / 0-)

      They own that copyright.
      God magics the universe into existence, but nothing is needed to magic her into existence.
      And don't even get me started on magic arks, virgin births, flying horses, and Nirvana.
      Religion wins the nonsense war, hands down.

      Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

      by tekno2600 on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 11:18:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I actually find God far LESS mystifying than (0+ / 0-)

        quantum mechanics.  God makes sense.  God is easy.

        QM is completely insane.

        Why can't we just call the sciences God and be done with it?

        •  Some people do pretty much that. (7+ / 0-)

          Or they see God in the science.

          Science, especially advanced physics, is hard. If you don't understand the language (which is pretty much advanced math), it's practically incomprehensible.

          God doesn't make sense, but I'll grant you God is easy. Because God doesn't have rules, anything you don't understand can be attributed to God, and it doesn't have any restrictions. Rain? God caused it. Disease? God caused it. Eclipse? God caused it. Birth, death, tides, sunrise, etc., etc., etc.? God caused it.

          But because there's no rationale, no explanation, no rules, God might STOP all of it tomorrow.

          Science gives us the tools to create some security that if the sun came up today, it's going to come up tomorrow. That if the same conditions that brought us rain today happen again, we'll get rain again. If we can find a way to destroy the bacteria that made us sick, we'll likely get better, or not get sick in the first place.

          God gave us the curiosity to want to find things out. Science gives us the tools to do so.

        •  God is magical nonsense. Science is not. Even (7+ / 0-)

          the strangest concepts in quantum mechanics or the fringes of theoretical physics do not remotely approach the illogical hand waving necessary for religion. So, to your points:
          1. God does not make sense. There nothing logically consistent or even objectively definable about her.
          2. Comparing God to Science calls into serious question a person's understanding of either of those subjects.

          Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

          by tekno2600 on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:36:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  science is, in sense, repeatable magic. (0+ / 0-)

            Particularly the origins of it.

            You are quite angry.  I find that curious.

            I"m a scientist and quite comfortable with what God and 'science' mean, thanks.

            •  Define your terms, please. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              especially "magic".

              I have yet to fins a branch of science that fits the definition of magic I am familiar with.

              I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

              by trumpeter on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:47:59 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  it's a manner of thinking. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                There is also no branch of science that is going to get you to the origins of science.

                Face it--we're stuck.  Where do you think metaphysics comes from?

              •  Well, some variations of the copenhagen (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                terrypinder, bevenro

                interpretation fall under that category, specifically the "consciousness causes collapse" variant.  Just grab a copy of Greg Egan's Quarantine if you want to see just how wacky it can get (that's assuming that it is actually a physical process in the human brain that is responsible for collapsing quantum wavefunctions, of course).

                You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

                by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 03:32:13 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I know Greg. (0+ / 0-)

                  And Dave Brin and Greg bear and ...

                  But I still haven't heard a definition of "magic".

                  I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

                  by trumpeter on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 04:46:54 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  The definition of magic is easy (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    dewtx, ColoTim

                    It's anything you don't understand.

                    For many people, cars are 'magic'. Planes are 'magic'. Tv, computers, phones, pretty much any technology, is 'magic'.

                    •  Not really. (0+ / 0-)

                      There are many things i do not understand, but I attribute none of them to magic.  Just to 'insufficient data'.

                      For ignorant people magic is an answer, but for those willing and able to understand the universe, it's a con job.  "Don't look at the man behind the curtain".  It's an easy answer, but not a valid one.

                      I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

                      by trumpeter on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 02:07:36 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  here: (0+ / 0-)

                    The power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces

                    while our scientific observations and experiments may be repeatable, questions as to origin, etc. etc. are not definable, repeatable or accessible.  We can't use the laws of physics to explain why the laws of physics exist, can we?

                    As far as we know, the existence of the universe, and reality, etc.  is something that simply happened--with zero explanation that we can get at.  So--we are here as a result of mysterious circumstances that aren't capable of being duplicated.

                    EVEN if we were to advance to the point of being able to create little universes--and EVEN if those universes were able to develop the complexity we see in ours--nothing accounts for the whole system in the first place.

                    So while I'm being a bit facetious with the idea of 'magic'--are we really THAT far removed?

                    •  What does that have to do with QM? n/t (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      This question of ultimate 'origin' you refer to isn't within the purview of QM, or really any branch of science.

                      So yes, your reference to the 'magic' of science is quite far removed.

                      •  wait...what? I'm not talking about QM. (0+ / 0-)

                        I mentioned it at the top of the thread to say that it's wild (which it is).

                        The God/magic nonsense is just a tangential thought experiment I'm stringing you guys along with.

                        But you're right-- it's got nothing to do with QM.

                      •  However, that variation on the Copenhagen (0+ / 0-)

                        interpretation could very well allow for magical results (think God like reality warping) if it turns out to be true that it is actually the human mind/brain that causes wavefunction collapse and we can learn to control it.

                        You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

                        by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 06:41:08 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  yup. you see where I'm coming from. As I said, (0+ / 0-)

                          it's a thought experiment.

                          •  If, like Plato, (0+ / 0-)

                            you are willing to ignore experimental data and functional proofs, that's enough.  But if you are limited to doing that, you are just wasting time, and playing word games.

                            The real world is not ruled by word games.  That's one reason I dislike string theory and M theory and the like - they are cute toys and fun arguments, but (so far) nothing more.  Until they can be experimentally proven and used to predict (accurately) the real world well enough to base solid science on, they are just thought experiments and word games.

                            I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

                            by trumpeter on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 02:11:40 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  thought experiments--while they may not (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            follow the scientific method--are some of the most fundamental, ingenious, and---face it--enjoyable ways to move science along.

                            These are the core of creativity and inspiration.  Not hypothesis and experimentation.  

                            Thought experiments are the ingenuity--methodology is the hard science.

                            Einstein was, as I'm sure you know, one of the most prolific and ingenious thought-experimenters who ever lived.  It's what allowed him to become the scientist he evolved into.  Who else was imagining the launching of clocks into space in 1930?

                            There seems to be a pervasive disdain for imagination and sometimes irrational thinking on this site because it is not 'testable' and 'rational' like real science--I think this is tragic, to be honest.

                          •  And yet, (0+ / 0-)

                            without experimental data and real connections, it's just ... nothing.

                            "Thought experiments" like Einstein did have value, because he connected them to the real world.  He looked at clocks in space because he saw a connection to real phenomena, and imagined a way to test those ideas that was unforeseen.

                            "Thought Experiments" like Plato and Pat Buchanan did/do are a net negative, as they lead off into nowhere and waste time and resources.  They might as well start talking about Unicorns.

                            I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

                            by trumpeter on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 07:59:01 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                        •  The mind doesn't cause waveform collapse or (0+ / 0-)

                          "God like reality warping." There are definitely quantum mystics masquerading as scientists, making unintentionally ironic films like What the Bleep do We Know? That's not science. That's a steaming pile quantum bull.

                          Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

                          by tekno2600 on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 08:50:56 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                    •  That (0+ / 0-)

                      sidesteps the question instead of answering it.  because now you have to define 'mysterious or supernatural forces'.

                      I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

                      by trumpeter on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 02:03:48 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  'or'. (0+ / 0-)

                        I would say the origin of the universe is mysterious.

                        As for 'supernatural', well--if anything supernatural were shown to be verifiably true, it would simply become natural, wouldn't it?

                        •  Once again avoiding the question. (0+ / 0-)

                          And isn't answering questions accurately the whole point?  

                          If you just make shit up, like by saying "it's mysterious", you're just jerking off.  It's a waste of time.

                          I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

                          by trumpeter on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 07:55:50 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  unexplained or unexplainable. I would say (0+ / 0-)

                            the origin of the sciences is both.  You're in Godel territory if you try to explain science with science.

                            You need metaphysics/philosophy--even theology in a sense--to help think about these things--which are really these masturbatory thought games that you seem so averse to.

                            no one is 'avoiding' anything, or 'making shit up'.

                            If mystery angers you, well, that's your thing.  A bit odd, but to each his own I suppose.  Don't be a mystery writer then.

                          •  No angered, just... (0+ / 0-)

                            annoyed at the depths some will go to to fit theology into their world.

                            Science is a methodology whereby anyone can repeat an experiment and get the same results (or pretty close, depending on tech and training).

                            Theology and the supernatural is where you make bullshit up to fleece the masses.

                            I and while my primary sales so far have been SF and Fantasy, I have written mysteries.

                            You need imagination to come up with original perspectives and ideas, and philosophy is useful there.  But theology is a con game.

                            I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

                            by trumpeter on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 09:23:03 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  theology isn't a part of my world at all. (0+ / 0-)

                            Well it is in a sense, insofar as I'm an archaeologist.

                            HOWEVER--the fact that you immediately felt that theology-- was what was driving my initial (or any subsequent) posts is curious.

                          •  one of my degrees (0+ / 0-)

                            in in anthropology, so I can see where understanding a culture's mythology is a science, and is very important in understanding that culture, I just get tired of people mistaking their mythology for facts.

                            I never said that theology was driving your claims.  I simply questioned precisely what you meant by "magic", and wondered what magic had to do with science.  So many people I talk to who consider magic and science as equivalent (mostly the same as the ones who can't tell the difference between astronomy and astrology) understand neither.

                            I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

                            by trumpeter on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 10:55:04 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I know there are people out there who (0+ / 0-)

                            mistake mythology for fact, but to be honest the number of people like this whom I have met are incredibly few.  I suppose if I lived in Kentucky it might be different.

                            Do you know very many of these religious literalists?

                          •  Too many. (0+ / 0-)

                            And I live in San Diego.  But the 'rural' parts of the county (the parts that keep re-electing Darrel Issa and Duncan Hunter and that mob) are rife with them.  And I run across them on the bus from time to time.

                            I have also run across more than a few who practice law.  Pretty scary to have to deal with an attorney who puts 'gods law' ahead of law.  They are usually clever enough to keep it under wraps in court and avoid disbarment, but ... magical thinking is proof that we are not finished evolving into a sapient species.

                            I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

                            by trumpeter on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 12:05:14 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                  •  Oh really, then what would you call this? You get (0+ / 0-)

                    up in the morning and decide to steal the most top secret information there is.  So you go downstairs and miraculously everyone is looking away from you (as it doesn't work if anyone else is able to observe you) as if in some kind of daze as you hop in your car.  As you drive to the military base every light is green yet all the cars are stopped on the side of the road with everyone's eyes averted and all cameras, traffic or otherwise on the way there mysteriously malfunction just as you are going by.  As you approach the gate it malfunctions in just the right way to let you in without tripping any kind of alarm.  As you enter the building the door locks, normally protected by a palm and iris scanner malfunctions and the door opens for you.  Finally, after reaching the vault (and for some odd reason every person you come across, including every guard, has their eyes averted) the time lock door malfunctions in such a way that it lets you in and you grab the portable hard drive with the top secret info on it.  Similar almost miraculous occurances happen on the way out so that you are never caught or even noticed.

                    Sound kind of magical to you?  Well assuming that variation of the Copenhagen interpretation turns out to be true that could actually end up happening if we can find a way to switch off the part of the brain that causes wavefunction collapse.

                    You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

                    by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 06:39:57 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  Maybe "magic" as used in Clarke's 3rd Law below: (6+ / 0-)
                Clarke's Three Laws:
                1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
                2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
                3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

                Arthur C. Clarke

                I am frequently helping my stepson over the telephone with his computer problems (he's very non-technically oriented). When I've finally figured out and fixed his problem without even seeing his computer, he says about my help: "It's like magic!"

                But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, ... there are few die well that die in a battle; ... Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; — Shakespeare, ‘Henry V’

                by dewtx on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 07:23:41 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  any sufficiently advanced technology is (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              GreyHawk, dewtx

              indistinguishable from magic. Can't remember where I stole that. What I do know is, the "Chariots of the Gods" guy was completely out to lunch.

              LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

              by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 08:54:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  maybe from the above comment? :) nt (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                some other george, dewtx
                •  which appeared *after* I started writing? Yep (0+ / 0-)

                  but I was thinking more along the lines of a movie or TV show. Maybe even Eureka.

                  Here's the thing. What a cell phone can do now, would've looked like magic to the guys who built the Mercury spacecraft and ran the missions from Houston, back in the day. Am I glad I've lived this long? You bet.

                  Do I anticipate this kind of automagical development to go on?
                  I dunno. I'm pretty sure I won't be able to afford to stay on the bleeding edge of it, though.

                  If somebody'd come to you in the first five years after the AT&T breakup and suggested you could carry a phone -- your choice of many, actually, that could also function as notepads, compasses, alarm clocks, pocket-size radios / tvs -- with AT&T or if you got a better deal with some other phone company, would you have believed them????

                  LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

                  by BlackSheep1 on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 01:56:24 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'm not so sure that people living, say, 50 (0+ / 0-)

                    years ago would have regarded these kinds of tech. developments as practically magical--they follow a somewhat reasonable trajectory.  We can probably even model it using some sort of exponential function.

                    For something to approach 'magic'-- or at least to be conceptualized in that way, it needs to be off the charts--not along any developmental trajectory.  Even interstellar travel--hell even Faster Than Light travel can still be seen as occurring along a similar trajectory--just further down the road.  Even if it is, in fact, impossible--it follows a scientific pathway.

                    I think that 'magic' has to not be on that pathway at all.

                    •  sure, FTL will happen someday (0+ / 0-)

                      but take your average, oh, Ford Focus dash and introduce it to somebody whose last new car was, say, a Ford Falcon, and see if you don't get some disconnect.

                      Satellite radio you have to pay to hear is just one feature nobody saw coming in the 1960s.

                      LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

                      by BlackSheep1 on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 12:28:18 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

            •  You are familiar with the history of science (0+ / 0-)

              I wish I could distribute Feyerabend's "Against Method" or Rorty's "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature" to every New Athiest, as a JW distributes the Watchtower.  Dawkins, et al are junk.

        •  The device that you typed that comment on... (8+ / 0-)

          relies completely on an intimate understanding  of quantum mechanics.  Computers are built from many individual transistors, whose operation is defined by the  quantum mechanical  properties of the materials used to build them.

          The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

          by richardak on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 04:38:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Just because you don't understand it (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Doesn't mean it can't be understood.

        •  Depends on how you define 'God' (0+ / 0-)

          Scientific inquiry is a human activity, subject to error and cultural prejudice, and what we call 'knowledge' is fallible.  By definition, God is beyond that, infallible.  You can believe in such an infallible being/concept or not (I don't, for reasons unrelated to science), but to just call the sciences 'God' is a projection of your own subjectivity.  Sucks, I know.

          •  i think when it comes down to it (0+ / 0-)

            God is a completely individual definition, even within the scope of organized religions.

            I don't believe or not believe--I just ignore the whole thing since I never felt that 'God' had any relevance to me.

            Does it have to be infallible?  Can you believe in a fallible God?  Why not?

      •  Quantum Pasta. /nt (0+ / 0-)

        Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
        I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
        —Spike Milligan

        by polecat on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 09:03:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  what's wrong with QM? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rmonroe, kyril, terrypinder, Phoenix Woman

      It's testable and repeatable--if insane.

      Unlike...say...string theory, for the most part...

    •  There's nothing whatsoever wrong with QM. (7+ / 0-)

      QM works. It's consistent. It's well-behaved. It makes excellent, testable predictions. We have a very good understanding of physics on a micro-scale, and QM is a big part of that.

      There is something wrong with our understanding of physics as a whole. Not catastrophically wrong, but (warning: massive oversimplification ahead) as I understand it there are some issues reconciling relativity with QM, which is why people are working on weird ideas like string/brane theory and loop quantum gravity.

      But just to be clear, that's not indicative of a problem with QM. If anything, it's more indicative of a problem with relativity. (Not exactly a problem with the predictions of relativity, but with our mathematical/conceptual model of space and time themselves.)

      "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

      by kyril on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:58:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Don't worry, science does a lot of good things! (0+ / 0-)

      Like producing awesome hydrocarbon-based chemicals, such as glyphosate. The scientists at our EPA said the other day that it is safe to consume double the amount of glyphosate herbicide for science's fabulous GMO food 'crops' that we used to consume! How's that for scientific advancement?

      And what about all that energy needed for warp drive? Top scientists can't even succeed in escaping the inescapable fact that we're fucking killing ourselves and destroying our biosphere by burning fossil fuels for our piddling little energy requirements. Clean coal is a GO!

      We'll get a coal-powered rocket ship to the moon someday!

      And how about those advanced zoologists working feverishly and altruistically to improve human health!

      Food scientists, though, certainly have succeeded in fattening up the herd, so to speak. We have scientists to thank for high fructose corn syrup. Thank you!

      Not to mention those computer scientists who, in their quest to protect the empire, have developed a nice little airplane that can kill dangerous brown people and their families from half way around the world -- all with the push of a button!

      Nah, we're prisoners of this planet. We really are.

      "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

      by Crider on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 03:51:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You have a point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, dewtx

      But science has ALWAYS been about matching observation with hypothesis to make a prediction.  Always.  And some observations are weird.  QM is here to stay, like rock n' roll.

  •  sorry (9+ / 0-)

    Alcubierre is not a crank, but he requires a HUGE amount of negative energy, and it is not certain that negative energy can even exist (yes, there can be a small amount of negative energy in a metallic cavity, but the cavity itself has positive energy which is much bigger).    And even if it did, he's off by more than a factor of a quadrillion for anything workable.

    White, however, does seem to be a crank....

  •  Didn't we just discuss this just a few weeks ago? (9+ / 0-)
    The speed of light in a vacuum is a constant.
    when I stuck my head in my vacuum, and there was no light  in there at all, thereby rendering the entire premise moot . . ..
  •  Screw warp drives, I'm waiting for Hyperloop! (5+ / 0-)
    Elon Musk, the visionary behind electric-car firm Tesla and the private spaceflight company SpaceX, has been teasing us for a year about something he calls the "Hyperloop." This new solar-powered travel technology, Musk says, would go twice as fast as an airplane and be completely crash-proof.
    Musk has described the Hyperloop as a "cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table," inspiring speculation about passenger-packed pods being blasted pneumatically through vacuum tubes.
    Sounds like the old bank drive-throughs, when you'd open your car window, drop your deposit into the plastic tube, place it into the box, and it would schmuuuuk and drop into a waiting teller's hand.

    See story here.

  •  In the end I suspect that interstellar travel (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, ribofunk

    will based not upon FTL of any sort but on the ability to extend the human lifespan to the point where sub-light travel becomes practical, at least as regards the closer stars. Even then, I don't see that as being practical on a mass basis; we could see individuals bred and fortified to survive for hundreds of years in order to make such trips, and perhaps others given similar lifespans so that those trips can be monitored. If you're going send someone out on a 200-year round trip, you'd want to still be around when they return so you can share in whatever benefit that trip provides. Otherwise it wouldn't make much sense to invest in it.

    •  What sublight? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, terrypinder

      The speed of light is a physical limit.

      That doesn't mean getting close (for a spaceship, not an electron) isn't beyond modern technology.

      I did a BOTE calculation for a fusion power source that fused to He and kicked the He out as the reaction mass. To get to 0.1 c, it required fusing a good percentage of the mass of the ship. And that was acceleration only. You'd get up to that speed, and you could fly by neighboring stars. You'd need enough "fuel" to stop, and then the same amounts for the return journey.

      •  L6 fusion is better than He (0+ / 0-)

        Round trip to place a grav lens telescope at 550 AU = 10 years, using L6 fusion. L6 for that kind of distance has a better ISP than He or Proton/Boron11.

        Or are you saying fused to He, as the result is He, or alphas?

        .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 06:41:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Fused to He (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Roger Fox

          I looked up "fusion" in my (ancient) Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia. They gave one form of fusion and it resulted in He.

          I used those figures to do my calculations. That was a while ago, and I post from the library. So, I didn't have my calculations with me, but I remembered the basic shape of them.

          We should ALL remember that no fusion has been produced in a smaller-than-star reactor on a continuing basis. (Where "continuing" means lasting longer than the untramelled expansion of the fusing plasma.)

          •  Many potential fusion fuels (0+ / 0-)

            Some do not result in Helium.


            We should ALL remember that no fusion has been produced in a smaller-than-star reactor on a continuing basis. (Where "continuing" means lasting longer than the untramelled expansion of the fusing plasma.)
            JETs longest run was over 6 minutes, plasma expands on the order of milliseconds, and scientists tend to consider anything over the lifetime of the particles as continuous operation.

            At the end of this dairy there is a chart that shows different fuels and their output:

            Chart is from this paper:


            .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

            by Roger Fox on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 01:27:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Last line doesn't make sense.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, terrypinder, Larsstephens

      If that were the case, no one would plant hardwood trees.

      (Well, damn few do anyway, but you get the point.)

      Another possibility is a "generation ship," a slower than light mini-society with a large population, in which the great-great-great grandchildren of the original crew finish the voyage. But isolating a group of people for that length of time would be asking for trouble, as in Christine Love's Analogue: A Hate Story, where society in the Korean-manned generation ship Mugonghwa makes an ultimately fatal regression into medieval times while the protagonist is in a stasis pod.

      "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

      by sagesource on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:48:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Machines will go to the stars - if anyone does /nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terrypinder, Larsstephens
    •  i don't even think lifespan extension is that (0+ / 0-)

      necessary--just improved transmission of knowledge.

      I  mean--look at all we've accomplished to date with life spans of only 40-80 years.

      Think of humanity as the development vehicle--not just the human :)

    •  Well, without FTL, there is a built-in mechanism (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      For surviving long trips.  You just have to get close enough to the speed of light, and time slows down for you.

      Another drawback to FTL travel, of course, is we would lose that advantage for long trips.  Consider that if we could generate a 10xc "bubble" we would travel 300 light years, in 30 years.  3,000 light years, in 300 years.  30,000 light years, in 3,000 years.

      Really, we would only gain useful travel for about the fifty or so light years around us.  A huge area, but limited by our lifespan and patience.  "Warp 10" indeed is not all that fast after all, in comparison to some of the things we really would like to go visit.  Such as the center or edge of the Milky Way.  That would be a one-way trip, I suspect.  In any circumstance.

  •  Whatever happened to "Science Tidbits"? (8+ / 0-)

    I thought of Possum yesterday when I saw Warp Field article in the NYT yesterday. This is the kind of thing that he used to cover in those diaries.

    Does anybody know what happened to him?

    I see that he hasn't posted since April.

    The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

    by Mr Robert on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 11:10:06 AM PDT

  •  What happens when external photons... (7+ / 0-)

    are in the head-on path of this warp bubble, and in particular the effect of these photon collisions on the persons and materials being propelled inside. In particular, I'm wondering about the effect of physical Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) blackbody photons as they collide with this warp craft and its occupants. Now in our Earth's frame of reference, the number density of CMB photons is non-neglible:
    nγ = 4.11 x 108 m–3 (or about 411 CMB photons per cubic centimeter).
    However, the mean energy of these 2.7 K blackbody CMB photons is small:
    Emean = 6.34 x 10–4 eV (where of course the energies are spread over a blackbody distribution with a narrower lower-energy tail and a wider higher-energy tail).

    I don't know what the answer here is. If this was a Special Relativistic collision between a photon and an object (which this is obviously not, since it's really a collision between a photon and moving warped space), as the object approaches high speed, the CMB photons get blue-shifted up in their collision energy (more so as you approach the speed of light), possibly to X-ray or gamma ray ionizing levels for which you may then have to consider radiation protection. Of course this case is instead a soliton-like warped wave-packet of space that is flying by with material people and objects inside and colliding head-on with CMB photons, so would require a much more detailed and informed General Relativistic enquiry beyond my understanding at present. Still I wonder what the interaction would be between the ubiquitous CMB photons and a superluminal warp drive craft and whether that would produce any deleterious effects on the craft's occupants or the craft itself.

    Thank you for this thought provoking diary. I've downloaded the paper and will study it further and think about its problems and implications--like the necessary (and unobtainable) negative mass (which is likely impossible to overcome, at least in large quantities beyond that produced by quantum mechanical vacuum fluctuations like the Casimir effect), how to turn on and off the damn thing, and how quantum mechanics could complicate things (like would you need to consider particle-like quantum mechanical gravitons instead of a smooth General Relativistic gravity at these speeds; unfortunately no generally accepted or confirmed theory of quantum gravity exists at present, although Superstring Theory and Quantum Loop Gravity are two ideas being studied).

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, ... there are few die well that die in a battle; ... Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; — Shakespeare, ‘Henry V’

    by dewtx on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 11:27:01 AM PDT

  •  Great, now we can fuck up the environment in space (0+ / 0-)

    Chechnya: Russia's North Carolina.

    by NE2 on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 12:09:10 PM PDT

  •  Negative Energy Does Exist (7+ / 0-)

    I don't know if I can find the reference, but there is such a thing as negative energy.

    I don't mean antimatter, I actually mean an energy level that is less than zero. It occurs in very brief instants (think time frames for unstable particles) over a small space.

    I'll look in Scientific American and Science.

    •  The Casimir effect is an example. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terrypinder, Phoenix Woman, Roger Fox

      The Casimir effect (and the related negative Casimir pressure) is when two very flat metal plates (must be conductors with zero net electric charge on each plate) are separated by a very small distance, they will attract each other (beyond the normal gravitational attraction due to their masses and separation). This is because a negative vacuum energy and pressure is produced between the two plates--in effect the vacuum is modified between the two metal plates in a way that tries to pull them together. There is also no electric attraction (or repulsion) involved because both plates have zero net electric charge.

      This effect is caused by the metal plates affecting the quantum fluctuations of the vacuum (a consequence of the Uncertainty Principle of Quantum Mechanics) between the two plates--the metal plates will suppress some of the vacuum's quantum fluctuation modes between the plates (particularly those involving virtual photons). The space outside the two metal plates effectively extends to infinity and experiences all the possible vacuum quantum fluctuation modes. This result is that the vacuum between the two plates will have slightly less energy and pressure than the vacuum outside the plates (which are defined as zero), and the negative vacuum energy generates a negative Casimir pressure where the vacuum between the plates actually tries to pull the two plates together more than the vacuum outside the plates. In other words, the space between the two metal plates in a Casimir experiment is at a negative energy, which is what this space warp drive needs. However the Casimir effect quickly falls off the further the plates are separated (which is why they also must be very flat), so the closer the plates the larger the negative pressure (and energy density) but it's only produced within the very small space between the plates so the total negative energy there is quite small. If you pull the plates apart, the negative energy quickly returns to zero because the negative energy density falls off much faster with gap separation than the corresponding increase in gap volume.

      The Casimir effect is purely quantum mechanical; there exists no classical equivalent. This effect can be measured with very sensitive instrumentation and compared to Quantum Field Theory calculations, where both the measured and predicted values agree. The Casimir effect is a direct experimental measurement of the fact that the vacuum experiences quantum mechanical fluctuations due to the Uncertainty Principle and that these physical vacuum quantum fluctuations can be affected by the metal plates and produce measurable and reproducible effects.

      But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, ... there are few die well that die in a battle; ... Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; — Shakespeare, ‘Henry V’

      by dewtx on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 03:29:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Negative Energy (0+ / 0-)

        So "negative energy" is a matter of definition.  It you admit that the vacuum has a slightly positive energy due to quantum fluctuations (i.e. define "zero" energy as the total absence of any energy of any kind), then the space between the plates does not have "negative" energy, only slightly lower positive energy.

  •  Not a physicist, but... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whenwego, terrypinder

    One thing that always bothers me about warp drive ideas is that they seem to violate the Newton's conservation of energy.

    What velocity is the vehicle traveling, relative to its starting point, when it leaves its warp condition?  If it's traveling faster than it was before, relative to us, then we have two possibilities: 1) We get free energy and have a potential perpetual motion machine, which would be very cool, OR 2) Our space vehicle, when reentering normal relative motion space, would still have to expend at least the same amount of energy that it would take to accelerate/decelerate without using a warp drive.  

    I think (2) is the more likely only because (1) is the least likely.  In this scenario, the space ship would travel VERY quickly and would save itself the dual expense of wasted acceleration/deceleration, only needing to expend the energy required to "catch up" with the object it's traveling towards.  That's not TOO bad.  Andromeda, for instance, is traveling towards us at 488,000 km/s.  The amount of energy required for our ship change velocity and catch up (like two drivers passing each other and trying to match speeds to wave hi) isn't totally unreasonable, but it's still very large and would take a lot of conventional fuel and time and reaction mass.  

    If you're OCD enough to calculate it out, you could try to figure out how long it would take to accelerate a spaceship of mass X at one gee (or 1.5 gee, to be generous,) to such a velocity.  Then you could calculate how much fuel it would take to get that kind of delta-v.

  •  space will be there waiting when we (5+ / 0-)

    get our act together.  No need to rush,  and we have a lot of work to do here on the ground before we rush off to infect other planets.

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 01:49:42 PM PDT

  •  I was going to post a diary on warp drive! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, terrypinder

    I'm going to piss in my pants if I see warp drive actually being implemented.

    Here's what someone at NASA said about the matter recently:

  •  It's an experiment on a photon... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trumpeter, terrypinder, Phoenix Woman

    ...a photon....a photon.

    Let that sink in for a bit.

    Can you nudge a photon to meet the specified metric?  Which has very little to do with the constant translated into English as the "speed of light".

    If they can nudge a photon with a $50,000 experiment, that will be instructive.

    The mass of a photon as measured is <1×10−18 eV/c2 or theoretically zero.

    The idea of a warp drive is to move a very large (and with the increasing velocity) even larger mass.

    I'm not sure how that is supposed to scale up from this experiment.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:09:25 PM PDT

  •  One work-around (9+ / 0-)

    Would be to send the signal to turn it on before you send the signal to turn it on.

    I admit, there are a few flaws with this plan.

    "Trust not the words of a poet, as he is born to seduce. Yet for poetry to seize the heart, it must ring with the chimes of truth."

    by kamrom on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:17:16 PM PDT

  •  Cartoon Physics (8+ / 0-)

    My first professional comics sale, back in 1990, was a script for a space opera miniseries titled CELESTIAL MECHANICS.  The big plot device of the series was something I called the Semantic Loophole Spacedrive which worked like this:

    Since nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, and a vacuum is essentially nothing, you can reach FTL speeds by accellerating the vacuum.

    Which, of course, is silly.  I justified it to myself by saying that it really "warped space" somehow.  I didn't really believe in it; I was more interested in propelling the plot than propelling a spaceship.

    But everytime I read about the Alcubierre Drive, I think of my character Widget and her Semantic Loophole.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:21:44 PM PDT

  •  Unfortunately, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whenwego, terrypinder, dewtx, ribofunk

    If any travel or communication is faster than light in one reference frame, then there is another reference frame in which it goes backwards in time.

    It is difficult to imagine some FTL transportation out in space which does not provide a backwards-in-time travel for our reference frame.

    So, if this could ever be done, then the guys who do it could go back and broadcast how to Earth now.

  •  The stars are reachable with relativistic physics (7+ / 0-)

    If we have a continuous power source, even .1 Gee, then the planetary system is our back yard and the stars are reachable in the life time of the traveller. Not, however, in the lifespan of those left on Earth.


    Hairy Larry

    Please join the Protest Music Group where we sing truth to power.

    by hairylarry on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:32:43 PM PDT

  •  Say what? (5+ / 0-)
    But not so luckily, said workaround requires massive amounts of energy. Negative energy. Which does not exist.
    Haven't you ever read RedState or watched Hannity?  There's a lot of negative energy out there!

    So why don't we take those ... people in sealed boxed, and harness them for warp drives?  It'd be a better use than what they're doing right now!

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:42:56 PM PDT

  •  tippenwrecked - virtually ! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    awesome stuff.

    Roger F, you're a thinker !  :)

    “Vote for the party closest to you, but work for the movement you love.” ~ Thom Hartmann 6/12/13

    by ozsea1 on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 03:04:42 PM PDT

  •  Dark energy is still unassessed... (6+ / 0-)

    ...perhaps that will fill the unobtainium tanks.

    I once read a science fiction story about a traveling merchant whose contract job with the interstellar government was to sell faster-than-light sender-receivers to planets that didn't yet have them. Not just FTL, but instantaneous transmissions. Step into the device on one planet, push a button and land on another planet 50,000 light-years in a second.

    He had to go into hypersleep for long periods because it was slow going getting to the rare planets with civilizations capable of psychologically and technologically handling these devices. As soon as he done all the diplomatic work and persuaded the local populace to pay for one of the devices—a project that would take a year or more—he moved on to the next planet.

    A lonely job building the network.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 04:17:55 PM PDT

  •  I don't know if some of these problems will ever (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, dewtx

    be solved or are possible (another is time travel), but there are technologies in the future that are undreamed of. The possibility of a universe of knowledge in the palm of your hand would have been science fiction indeed in 1913. (Remember Spock's sniffing at the "vacuum-tube, zinc-plate culture"?)

    So I await whole new paradigms and whole new ideas that will upend our present theories. (In our lifetimes, here? I dunno.)

    "They come, they come To build a wall between us We know they won't win."--Crowded House, "Don't Dream It's Over."

    by Wildthumb on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 05:15:00 PM PDT

  •  Mass doesn't increase with speed, and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, dewtx, Phoenix Woman

    negative energy is real.

    For an interesting introduction to such things and more, I suggest the book, "A Universe from Nothing," by Lawrence M. Krauss.

    When you write

    Your mass increases
    , it suggests that a person would feel different at higher speeds, but there is no interpretation of relativity theory or of mass for which this would be true.  At higher speeds relative to other observers it takes more energy to produce a particular acceleration than as lower speeds, and this has caused some people to write that mass increases with speed.  However, Einstein abandoned this interpretation very early in the development of the theory, and the idea of relative mass has become less acceptable in the physics community.

    Gravitational energy is necessarily negative.  This is what makes it possible for the observable universe to apparently have a total mass-energy of zero.

    As you wrote, nothing that we know of can move faster than the speed of light in local space.  However, space itself has no such speed limit.  If we learn to manipulate space, effective speed limits might not exist.

    "Trust only those who doubt" Lu Xun

    by LookingUp on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 05:22:44 PM PDT

  •  What about gravitational radiation emitted by... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox, Larsstephens, terrypinder

    this warp bubble? Gravitational radiation should be emitted during any circumstance when space-time undergoes large and rapid distortions. The canonical examples are heavy binary systems containing at least one black hole (or neutron star). The lighter member will radiate gravitationally as it rapidly orbits its heavier partner--this gravitational radiation will change the orbital period of the lighter partner over time, and this effect has in fact been observed by astronomers in some binary pulsars thus providing indirect evidence for the existence of gravitational radiation. The most spectacular example will be two orbiting black holes rotating about each other and eventually merging into a single black hole along with a large burst of gravitational radiation. The gravitational radiation detectors that are currently in operation (like LIGO) are looking directly for gravitational radiation from just this kind of event (but so far still unseen).

    However, with the greatly contracted space in front of and the expanded space behind this rapidly moving space warp bubble, there must be some amount of gravitational radiation generated by the motion of this greatly distorted space. This question will be how much, and how much the concomitant gravitational radiation back-pressure will impede the motion of the warp bubble. I have no idea how big this gravitational radiation effect might be, but it should in principle be calculable by experts in this field (of which I am not one). However, if this warp bubble could travel at multiple times the speed of light, I would think the gravitational radiation and back-pressure that it would generate would be very useful to know. It might very well place an upper limit on the maximum speed of such a device. Again just one more thing regarding this device that should be considered, and should in principle be open to calculation.

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, ... there are few die well that die in a battle; ... Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; — Shakespeare, ‘Henry V’

    by dewtx on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 05:57:57 PM PDT

    •  One more idea about this! (0+ / 0-)

      I have been thinking a bit more about this and realized the gravitation radiation emitted by the faster-than-light warp bubble may be in the form of the gravitational radiation equivalent of Cherenkov radiation.

      Cherenkov radiation is emitted when an object travels faster than natural waves would at the same location. This kind of radiation is formed, for example, as the bow wave of a speedboat on a lake when it travels faster than the normal speed of water waves on that lake; or the shock wave and sonic boom of an aircraft in the air when it travels faster than the speed of sound; or (as originally detected experimentally by Cherenkov) when a charged particle travels through a material (like glass or water) faster than light itself can travel in the same material which causes bow-like electromagnetic Cherenkov radiation, which is light emitted at a specific angle with respect to the particle's velocity depending on the speed of the particle and the index of refraction of the material and with a particular frequency spectrum given by the Frank-Tamm formula (for Frank & Tamm who developed the theory of the electromagnetic Cherenkov effect).

      Now according to General Relativity, the speed of gravitational radiation in empty space is also the speed of light. This also reflects the fact that the quantum mechanical force-carrying particle for gravity, the graviton, should be massless, like the photon, and so travels at the speed of light in a vacuum, also like the photon (any massless particle always travels in a vacuum at the speed of light relative to any observer within the space it's in). However, the graviton is a massless particle with spin 2, reflecting its tensor nature and more complicated force structure, while the photon (which is the force-carrying particle for electromagnetism) is a massless zero-electric-charge particle with spin 1, reflecting its vector nature.

      So if a warp bubble could travel faster than light, then we could expect gravitational Cherenkov radiation to be generated from the bow of this warp bubble, with the gravitational Cherenkov radiation itself radiating out at the speed of light. Of course the details of this gravitational Cherenkov radiation, such as its angular characteristics, intensity and frequency distribution, would require a complete General Relativistic calculation which is beyond my ken at present. However I would be greatly surprised if it wasn't produced at all.

      This of course sidesteps the other bigger question of whether a faster-than-light warp bubble is even possible at all with its negative energy/negative mass requirements for propulsion and its more general causality/backward-in-time paradoxes that comes with FTL motion. Like the common limerick about this (borrowed from a Stephen Hawking lecture on Space and Time Warps):

      There was a young lady of Wight,
      Who traveled much faster than light,
      She departed one day,
      In a relative way,
      And arrived on the previous night.

      But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, ... there are few die well that die in a battle; ... Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; — Shakespeare, ‘Henry V’

      by dewtx on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 11:24:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We'll figure something out (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    laurel g 15942, Timeslayer

    provided climate change, overpopulation, or some other catastrophe doesn't consume us first.  Possibly, we might be able to allocate resources without the short-sighted market mechanisms that dominate nearly every aspect of our current lives, and some time in the distant future we will be able to focus our energies on cool things like interstellar exploration rather than, say, shooting each other, trying to be the next big-cheese billionaire, or asking Jesus for cool stuff.

    I'm not a science-y type (though I work in a scientific research institution) or even a science fiction fan in particular, but it seems to me that the theory behind superluminal travel is there--we 'just' need to overcome the monumental technical obstacles.

  •  (quasi-)Proof that 180,000mps is a hard limit: (0+ / 0-)

    1) if it could be broken, the aliens would have already come.  We're relative latecomers to the galactic scene.  We certainly wouldn't have been given a chance to evolve here.
    2) the energies involved are immense and we'd see something in the night sky
    3) If we can draw any conclusions from SETI -- nobody is out there talking.
    4) It's a dangerous universe.  While life may have evolved any number of times, having it trapped at the bottom of gravity wells pretty much prevents it from being chatty and traveling places.  Just ask the dinosaurs or anything that might have been on Mars.

    So color me a skeptic.  Even if we can justify sending machines interesting places, THEY will be fantastically expensive and SLOOOOOW.  And nobody is going to be able to cheat Einstein.

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 09:16:38 AM PDT

  •  As long as you keep trying to transport ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    matter through time, or at light speed and beyond, you're limited in what is possible.

    I shared 96% of my DNA with a chimpanzee. In return, the chimpanzee gave me a banana. There is no duty more indispensable than that of returning a kindness.

    by glb3 on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 12:13:43 PM PDT

  •  I, for one, (0+ / 0-)

    welcome our relativistic overlords.

    E Pluribus Unum does NOT mean "every man for himself"

    by Daddy Love on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 03:27:22 PM PDT

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