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#1 Asrokhel

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 18:19

The dream of faster-than-light travel has been on the mind of humanity for generations. Until recently, though, it was restricted to the realm of pure science fiction. Theoretical mechanisms for warp drives have been posited by science, some of which actually jive quite nicely with what we know of physics. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re actually going to work, though.

NASA researchers recently revisited the Alcubierre warp drive and concluded that its power requirements were not as impossible as once thought. However, a new analysis from the University of Sydney claims that using a warp drive of this design comes with a drawback. Specifically, it could cause cataclysmic explosions at your destination.

To see how the Alcubierre drive could devastate an entire star system, you have to know a little about how it would work. The ship would consist of a central pod, and a large flattened ring around it (pictured below). The ring would have to be made of an as-yet unidentified kind of dense exotic matter capable of bending space-time.

Supply the craft with enough energy, and the very fabric of the universe can be warped. NASA now believes this would require orders of magnitude less energy than Alcubierre originally thought. When activated, space behind an Alcubierre drive expands while contracting in front. The ship itself hums along in a stable pocket, or bubble in space. It turns out the bubble is the problem.

As your faster-than-light ship sails through the cosmos, it’s not alone. Although we often think of space as empty, there are loads of high-energy particles shooting through the void. The University of Sydney research [PDF] indicates that these particles are liable to get swept up in the craft’s warp field and remain trapped in the stable bubble.

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The longer the journey lasts, the more of these dangerous particles build up. This doesn’t affect the ability of the warp drive to keep bending the laws of the universe — it’s the stopping that’s going to ruin your day.

The instant the Alcubierre drive is disengaged, the space-time gradient that allows it to effectively move faster than light goes away. All the energetic particles trapped during the journey have to go somewhere, and the researchers believe they would be blasted outward in a cone directly in front of the ship. Anyone or anything waiting for you at the other end of your trip would be destroyed.

Because of a funny little quirk of relativity, there is no upper limit to the amount of energy a Alcubierre drive could pick up. A long trip could vaporize entire planets upon your arrival. The researchers are beginning a new round of number crunching to see how bad the problem is. It’s possible the deadly particle beam could be projected in all directions, making Alcubierre drives unworkable. That spiffy warp ship might make a better weapon than method of transportation.

The Alcubierre drive is, of course, still highly speculative. NASA scientists are working with small-scale models in an effort to produce localized distortions in space, but this new Aussie research could give NASA something to think about. Even with future advances in technology, this method of space flight might prove to be impossible. At least then we wouldn’t have to worry about annihilating everyplace we try to explore.













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#2 TheLegendOfMart

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 18:23

Pff, invent the Deflector Array as well then?

Pretty sure if someone manages to bend space to achieve warp they could invent something to deflect the particles away in their sleep.

#3 threetonesun

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 18:29

Easy solution, just back in to the parking spot when you get there.

#4 AR556

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 18:33

Wonder if it would be possible to collect these particles as they built up to use as energy? If nothing else, you have a pretty nice weapon to play interstellar bumper cars with :)

#5 +Obi-Wan Kenobi

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 18:36

Pfft...I tried to tell ol' Hans, but NOOOooo... :p

#6 +devHead

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 18:37

If the problem is the build-up of particles over the distance of the trip, it would likely be necessary to make shorter 'burst-trips' if you will, going in and out of warp space so that when the particles are released, it wouldn't be so catastrophic. Of course, you first have to know how much travel would be necessary to build up so many particles that stopping would cause a cataclysmic explosion ahead of you. Then you adjust accordingly.

#7 Shane Nokes

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 19:00

The funny thing is that (as mentioned above) Star Trek already addressed this idea with the Deflector Array, the shape of the ships, and the configuration of the 'Warp Bubble'.

Does anyone else find it funny that the ship above looks a lot like the early Vulcan ships in Star Trek? (Other than the obvious football in the earlier pic)

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#8 +TCLN Ryster

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 19:10

Navigational deflectors, or bussard ramscoops. Or both. Solved :-)

Also the Starfleet rule that you shouldn't enter or exit warp while inside a solar system exists for a reason ;-)

And good call with the vulcan ship there Shane hehe

#9 +devHead

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 19:18

Navigational deflectors, or bussard ramscoops. Or both. Solved :-)

Also the Starfleet rule that you shouldn't enter or exit warp while inside a solar system exists for a reason ;-)

And good call with the vulcan ship there Shane hehe


Two good, viable options also.

Of course, it's not really a Starfleet rule; rather a United Federation of Planets rule. Starfleet is an Academy for training officers to pilot Federation ships or other work about Federation vessels. It's the Federation that makes such laws and regulations (such as the Prime Directive). This was a mistake I noticed was repeated in J. J. Abram's Star Trek movie. Federation and Starfleet were used interchangeably as though they were one and the same. But they really aren't.

#10 OP Asrokhel

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 19:26

Navigational deflectors, or bussard ramscoops. Or both. Solved :-)

Also the Starfleet rule that you shouldn't enter or exit warp while inside a solar system exists for a reason ;-)

And good call with the vulcan ship there Shane hehe


But I've seen them enter & exit solar systems using warp.

But, supposedly, you're not supposed to use warp while orbiting a planet, something to do with a gravity well and warp not interacting together would destroy the planet or something along those lines.

#11 Shane Nokes

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 19:36

Two good, viable options also.

Of course, it's not really a Starfleet rule; rather a United Federation of Planets rule. Starfleet is an Academy for training officers to pilot Federation ships or other work about Federation vessels. It's the Federation that makes such laws and regulations (such as the Prime Directive). This was a mistake I noticed was repeated in J. J. Abram's Star Trek movie. Federation and Starfleet were used interchangeably as though they were one and the same. But they really aren't.


No, Starfleet Academy is where students train in order to enter Starfleet.

Starfleet itself is the name of their combined military and exploration fleet.

The UFP (United Federation of Planets) is a coalition of many worlds that work together. Some members of those worlds choose to enlist in Starfleet, and some of them choose to stay with their own local military and/or exploration fleets.

The wording used in the newest Star Trek film is correct in the usage cases present. Watch it again more closely using the context I've provided above. You will find that every example is correct.


But I've seen them enter & exit solar systems using warp.

But, supposedly, you're not supposed to use warp while orbiting a planet, something to do with a gravity well and warp not interacting together would destroy the planet or something along those lines.


BTW, there is a bit of fuzz surrounding this as it is handled somewhat inconsistently at times. I've viewed it along the lines of there are certain systems in which it is safe to enter/exit warp speed, and certain systems where it is not safe. This is mostly due to the inconsistencies shown...but heck they've even shown warp in atmo before in Star Trek IV on Earth of all places...

#12 +devHead

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 20:36

No, Starfleet Academy is where students train in order to enter Starfleet.

Starfleet itself is the name of their combined military and exploration fleet.

The UFP (United Federation of Planets) is a coalition of many worlds that work together. Some members of those worlds choose to enlist in Starfleet, and some of them choose to stay with their own local military and/or exploration fleets.

The wording used in the newest Star Trek film is correct in the usage cases present. Watch it again more closely using the context I've provided above. You will find that every example is correct.

BTW, there is a bit of fuzz surrounding this as it is handled somewhat inconsistently at times. I've viewed it along the lines of there are certain systems in which it is safe to enter/exit warp speed, and certain systems where it is not safe. This is mostly due to the inconsistencies shown...but heck they've even shown warp in atmo before in Star Trek IV on Earth of all places...


Ah, man, you're right. My bad.

#13 Shane Nokes

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 20:55

Ah, man, you're right. My bad.


No worries. I just happen to be way too much of a trivia nerd. :(

#14 Growled

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 04:54

I remember reading science fiction books where they couldn't operate warp engines in a solar system, but only outside the solar system.

#15 tuckeratlarge

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 12:49

Hyperdrives is where it's at baby, none of this messing about with warp drive. Check out Stargates speeds compared to Star Treks.

Asgard hyperdrives can hop between galaxies in minutes. It was supposed to take Voyager, what? 75 years to get a mere 70,000 lightyears? (3/4 of the width of our galaxy)



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