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New Physics will pave the Road to the Stars


In this publicity image released by Julien's Auctions, a film clip from the opening of the original "Star Trek" , is shown. The item, part of a film clip archive, will be auctioned by Julien's Auctions along with other "Star Trek" memorabilia on June 27, 2010 at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julien's Auctions, Shaan Kokin)

The same way the jet engine re-shaped the way we travel a new technology is needed if we desire to colonize our solar system and reach other starts. Similar to the sail boats, our space ships are slow and widely unsafe. Astronauts embarking to Mars will be years from home and be subject to constant peril (please see my previous examiner article on the difficulties of traveling from one planet to another). Mars is right next door if compared to the closest star system. Alpha Centauri is a whopping 165’000 years distant.   

The difficulties of interstellar travel are being carefully studied by scientists and engineers around the globe. Many are starting to catch up with concepts that were exclusively property of science fiction writers.

Scientist and Science fiction writer Carl Sagan in his novel Contact used a theoretical construct called wormhole to send Dr. Ellie Arroway to far corners of space. Similarly, Stephen Baxter in his ‘‘Manifold’‘ trilogy and other novels picked wormholes as way of transport. 

The term was created by american theoretical physicist John Wheeler. It is based on an analogy of how a worm could chew in one side of an apple and cut right through it exiting on the other side. This worm would create a shortcut from one distant point of an apple to another. 

Similar to that, any sufficiently advanced civilization would be able to artificially create a network of wormholes that permits traveling to the most distant places in the universe.  In Contact, an advanced alien race utilizes the wormholes to travel among starts even tough they do not know who constructed the network. This construct, while theoretically possible, has major engineering obstacles. For instance, the amount of energy required to create and sustain open a wormhole is enormous. Currently, these levels of energy are beyond our reach.       

On the popular TV show Star Trek, the Enterprise used the warp drive to generate a intense energy field that warped the space around. A warp bubble shrunk space ahead and stretched the space behind. Instead of dislocating an object at high velocity, the space around it moves permitting a faster than light travel without violating the principals of the Theory of Relativity (No object can move faster than the speed of light). Modern science offers us hope. In 1994, mexican scientist Miguel Alcubierre developed a mathematical model that would make a future warp drive possible. 

The hyperdrive is a popular concept when it comes to Science Fiction imagination. Seen in Star Wars movies or novels by Asimov, Heinlein, Baxter, McDevitt, Simons and many other authors a space ship is able to almost instantly travel from one point of the universe to another. 

The hyperdrive generates a field or ‘‘opening’ in which a ship would jump into the hyperspace where dimensions are insignificant but still a mirror for our own space. The ship would move into the hyperspace and leap out of it, therefore, reaching its destination. Some theorize that a vehicle that can travel into hyperspace might be possible by using some of the most recent developments of String Theory.

With the gigantic leaps that science quite often takes, it is possible that other unimaginable methods for faster-than-light propulsion are theorized and become reality. We can only be certain that once the road to the stars is fully paved, mankind will expand even further its knowledge of the Universe. We should envy the future Magellan and Columbus because they will, like in Star Trek, boldly go where no one has gone before.  

TO KNOW MORE...

- Faster than light travel at BBC (YouTube)

- Warp Drive Concept at FOX

- Hyperdrive at Star Wars  

- Trip to Alpha Centauri

- Fastest space craft built to date

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