The image above is of an actual, real world warp bubble. Image credit: Dr. Harold G. White of the Limitless Space Institute.
Warp drive, the ability to travel faster than light, is entirely a product of science fiction. Or at least it was until now.
The world’s first warp bubble emerged as a recent accidental discovery by DARPA-funded researchers, according to the latest report. The Limitless Space Institute (LS) team led by former NASA warp drive expert Dr. Harold G “Sonny” White has spotted an interesting encounter that could be used by the spacecraft for faster travels.
“To be clear, our finding is not a warp bubble analog, it is a real, albeit humble and tiny, warp bubble,” said White in a statement, quickly dispensing with the notion that this is anything other than the creation of an actual, real-world warp bubble. “Hence the significance.”
The discovery took place during a research project studying not warp drive, nor the 1994 theories of mathematician Miguel Alcubierre that first offered the potential for what warp technology might look like. Rather, this happened during a project studying Casimir cavities and their ability to produce energy. Through an incredibly serendipitous happenstance, it took an engineer conducting the research at the exact right time — one who was familiar with warp technology research and knew what he was looking at — to realize that this totally unrelated research had produced a warp bubble.
The observed effect was not an analog, not something similar to a warp bubble, but a very small, very humble, true to life structure that matched Alcubierre’s research perfectly. For the first time, we know what physical tools it’s going to take to create a real warp bubble. This means that warp field theory has made the move from outlandish science fiction into something that we can actually build in the real world, using tools and technology we already have.
The Concept Behind Warp Drive
Most people are familiar with the concept of warp drive through what they’ve seen on Star Trek.
Our spacecraft are currently limited to the laws of standard Einsteinian physics. To accellerate your ship, you have to throw something in the opposite direction to the one in which you wish to travel. Throughout the history of aviation and aeronautics, this meant burning fuel and shooting out the back of the ship in a vigorous physical reaction. The limitation of this approach is that eventually you run out of stuff to throw.
The other limitation is that your ship is still subject to Einstein’s equation describing special relativity, which states that as you approach the speed of light, more and more of the energy you expend goes into increasing your own mass, until you reach the point where no matter how much more energy you put in you can’t go any faster — and you never quite reach the speed of light. It’s impossible to accelerate faster than light using standard physics, because your ship just gets more massive the more energy you put in, and it gets so massive you can’t do anything more with it.
The concept of the Alcubierre warp bubble makes things interesting. If you surrounded the local Euclidean space your ship occupies with a warp bubble, and then push the warp bubble instead of the ship itself, Einsten’s equation is sidestepped. It’s still valid inside the warp bubble, but the bubble itself can theoretically move faster than light without breaking the laws of physics to do it.
“While conducting analysis related to a DARPA-funded project to evaluate possible structure of the energy density present in a Casimir cavity as predicted by the dynamic vacuum model,” reads the actual findings published in the peer-reviewed European Physical Journal, “a micro/nano-scale structure has been discovered that predicts negative energy density distribution that closely matches requirements for the Alcubierre metric.”
And that, in turn, opens the door to investigation of possible future investigation of warp fields, and potential applications. Scientific study of the potential of warp drive is now officially on the table.
The warp bubble observed is tiny. We’re talking nano-scale tiny, and a result of negative energy research using Casamir cavities, exploiting some of the bizarre quantum physics effects of these unusual structures. While this is very much a beginning, it opens the opportunity to do more research into the specific question of warp bubbles and Alcubierre’s equations.
Because as it happens out, Alcubierre turned out to be right.
Liz Carlie (she/her/he/him) is a regular book, TV, and film reviewer for SCIFI.radio and has previously been a guest on ‘The Event Horizon’. In addition to being an active member of the traditional fandom community, she’s also an active participant in online fan culture, pro wrestling journalism, and spreading the gospel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She resides in Southern California with her aspiring superhero dog, Junior, enjoying life one hyperfixation at a time.