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Sunday, April 26, 2015

NASA May Have Accidentally Created a Warp Field

As reported by Mysterious Universe: “Star Trek” introduced the world outside of rocket science circles to the concept of warp drive – the propulsion system that allowed the starship Enterprise to travel faster than the speed of light. Warp speed is the holy grail that would let us explore the universe safely surrounded and protected by a space-distorting warp field. After watching the SpaceX rocket recently just try to land on a platform, you’d think this ability is years if not decades away. Yet the buzz on space websites is that NASA may have accidentally discovered a way to create a warp field. Wait, what?

To get around the theory of relativity, physicist Miguel Alcubierre came up with the concept of a bubble of spacetime which travels faster than the speed of light while the ship inside of it is stationary. The bubble contracts spacetime in front of the ship and expands it behind it. The warp drive would look like a football inside a flat ring. The tremendous amount of energy it would need made this idea prohibitive until Harold “Sonny” White of NASA’s Johnson Space Center calculated that making the ring into a donut shape would significant reduce the energy needs.

Meanwhile, in the lab, NASA and other space programs were working on prototypes of the EmDrive or RF resonant cavity thruster invented by British aerospace engineer Roger J. Shawyer. This propulsion device uses a magnetron to produce microwaves for thrust, has no moving parts and needs no reaction mass for fuel. In 2014, Johnson Space Center claimed to have developed its own low-power EmDrive.

Which brings us to today’s warp field buzz. Posts on NASASpaceFlight.com, a website devoted to the engineering side of space news, say that NASA has a tool to measure variances in the path-time of light. When lasers were fired through the EmDrive’s resonance chamber, it measured significant variances and, more importantly, found that some of the beams appeared to travel faster than the speed of light. If that’s true, it would mean that the EmDrive is producing a warp field or bubble. Here’s a comment from a space forum following the tests.

"That’s the big surprise. This signature (the interference pattern) on the EmDrive looks just like what a warp bubble looks like. And the math behind the warp bubble apparently matches the interference pattern found in the EmDrive."

Another surprise is that the discovery was accidental, as this comment attests:

"Seems to have been an accidental connection. They were wondering where this “thrust” might be coming from. One scientists proposed that maybe it’s a warp of the spacetime foam, which is causing the thrust."

What happens next? To prove that the warp effect was not caused by atmospheric heating, the test will be replicated in a vacuum. If the same results are achieved, it seems to mean that the EmDrive is producing a warp field, which could ultimately lead to the development of a warp drive.

What does that mean? I’ll let the physicists, propulsion experts and space scientists answer that. All I know is, it will cause a lot of wet seats at the next Star Trek convention.