Rebuttal To New Scientist Article On Impossibility of Star Trek Warp Travel | TrekMovie.com
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Rebuttal To New Scientist Article On Impossibility of Star Trek Warp Travel February 17, 2010

by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Editorial,Science/Technology,Trek Franchise , trackback

Yesterday New Scientist posted an article titled "Starship pilots: Speed kills: especially warp speed." This article is getting a lot of play across the web on other sci-fi sites. Debating the science of science fiction may be dubious, but TrekMovie would at least like to point out how Star Trek has already addressed the issues presented by New Scientist, and that there is some back-up from real science. 

 

Star Trek fans prepare to be disappointed?

The New Scientist article starts off with the following statement:

Star Trek fans, prepare to be disappointed. Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew would die within a second of the USS Enterprise approaching the speed of light.

Really? Oh no! What is the problem? Well the conclusion from William Edelstein of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is that space will kill you. Specifically:

Special relativity describes how space and time are distorted for observers travelling at different speeds. For the crew of a spacecraft ramping up to light speed, interstellar space would appear highly compressed, thereby increasing the number of hydrogen atoms hitting the craft.

Worse is that the atoms’ kinetic energy also increases. For a crew to make the 50,000-light-year journey to the centre of the Milky Way within 10 years, they would have to travel at 99.999998 per cent the speed of light. At these speeds, hydrogen atoms would seem to reach a staggering 7 teraelectron volts – the same energy that protons will eventually reach in the Large Hadron Collider when it runs at full throttle. "For the crew, it would be like standing in front of the LHC beam," says Edelstein. [more at New Scientist]

The argument is sound, in that it is true that space is chock full of hydrogen and it would be nasty to be running into all of that while approaching (and exceeding) the speed of light. However, throughout its history Star Trek writers have worked hard to develop solutions to the scientific challenges of warp travel (and more). The hydrogen issue is only one of many things that makes routine faster than light travel on Star Trek an issue. Another is the relativistic effects of time and space. However, Star Trek does provide answers and even though they were created by TV and movie writers, many physicists agree that there may be loopholes to some of the apparent barriers to faster than light travel.


Montage of Trek ships going to warp — is this lethal?

Science to the rescue?

The best place to learn about this is in the book "The Physics of Star Trek" by Professor Lawrence Krauss, which includes a forward by Stephen Hawking. Below are some excerpts from the book that talk about three specific plausible ‘Treknologies’ that solve the issues brought up in the New Scientist article .

Warp Drive

The article in New Scientist seems predicated on the notion that a Starship would be using conventional means to propel itself to light-speed and beyond. However, in the world of Star Trek, impulse drives only move the ship at sub-light speeds, and it is the warp drive that breaks you through the light barrier. And warp drive may not be such a crazy idea. Here is what Steven Hawking says about Star Trek’s warp drive:

Einstein’s general theory of relativity allows the possibility for a way around this difficulty: one might be able to warp spacetime and create a shortcut between the places one wanted to visit. Although there are problems of negative energy, it seems that such warping might be within our capabilities in the future. There has not been much serious scientific research along these lines, however, partly, I think, because it sounds too much like science fiction.

- Stephen Hawking, forward to "The Physics of Star Trek"

Part of the solution to the lethal hydrogen atom problem lies in the term ‘warp’ itself, as explained by Krauss:

If spacetime can locally be warped so that it expands behind a starship and contracts in front of it, then the craft will be propelled along with the space it is in, like a surfboard on a wave. The craft will never travel locally faster than the speed of light, because the light, too, will be carried along with the expanding wave of space

- Lawrence Krauss, "The Physics of Star Trek"


Two NX class ships inside their safe ‘warp field’…as space moves around them

Deflector Shields

And so if space is moving around the ship, then the problem of all those hydrogen atoms goes away. And again it is a piece of treknology that helps, again as noted by Krauss:

Warping space has other advantages as well. Clearly, if spacetime becomes strongly curved in front of the Enterprise, then any light ray—or phaser beam, for that matter—will be deflected away from the ship. This is doubtless the principle behind deflector shields. Indeed, we are told that the deflector shields operate by "coherent graviton emission." Since gravitons are by definition particles that transmit the force of gravity, then "coherent graviton emission" is nothing other than the creation of a coherent gravitational field. A coherent gravitational field is, in modern parlance, precisely what curves space! So once again the Star Trek writers have at least settled upon the right language.

- Lawrence Krauss, "The Physics of Star Trek"

And the deflector would be protecting your ship both at warp speed, and even at high sub-light speeds while on impulse drive. No wonder Star Trek ships usually keep real clean.


The Deflector Dish on the USS Enterprise D – every Enterprise in Star Trek has had one since the show began in the 60s

Bussard Collectors

There is also another key piece of treknology that comes into place, and that is the Bussard Collectors which are the glowy things on the front of the nacelles on the Enterprise and other standard Starfleet ship designs. These collectors are specifically made to scoop up all that hydrogen to use as fuel.  Hydrogen deuterium is the matter used in combination with anti-matter to create the matter-antimatter reaction that provides Starships with their warp power. In fact, the problem may not be that there is too much of this hydrogen out there, but too little.

…hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. Can you not sweep it up as you move through the galaxy? Well, the average density of matter in our galaxy is about one hydrogen atom per cubic centimeter. To sweep up just one gram of hydrogen per second, even moving at a good fraction of the speed of light, would require you to deploy collection panels with a diameter of over 25 miles. And even turning all this matter into energy for propulsion would provide only about a hundred-millionth of the needed propulsion power!

- Lawrence Krauss, "The Physics of Star Trek"

And then of course there is the issue of Starships being able to store enough matter and antimatter to fuel the ship for the astounding amount of energy a real warp drive would require. This may or may not be plausible, but running into hydrogen atoms appears to be the least of Starfleet’s worries.


The Bussard Collectors on the USS Enterprise E scooping up fuel in a nebula

So should Trek fans be "disappointed." Um, well first of all, it is just a TV show. We know (or most of us at least know) that Star Trek is not a documentary, and as Scotty liked to say, he "canna change the laws of physics". However, Star Trek can come up with the technology to make the dream of light-speed travel possible. And many physicists today think that this technology is at least possible. And isn’t that what Star Trek is all about? Inspiring people by showing them a future full of possibilities?

What do you think?

So do you buy into the Treknobabble, or do you say that it is all just sci-fi and that mankind is never going to break that light-speed barrier? Vote in the latest poll

Does Star Trek: DS9 fit with Roddenberry's vision of Star Trek future?

View Results

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Further reading

If you enjoy this kind of thing, then you should probably pick up a copy of Krauss’ "The Physics of Star Trek" (which has recently been revised and updated). Krauss also wrote a follow-up book "Beyond Star Trek: From Alien Invasions to the End of Time." Many of the issues of Star Trek physics (including warp) are also discussed in Michio Kaku’s "Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel."

All of these are available at Amazon.

 

 

Comments

1. ximpa - February 17, 2010

Being a physicst myself, I personally say, TV show aside, that a lot of things ST does for now are mainly discussed via theoretical models, so it’s hard to predict what exactly could happen. I guess instead of “impossible” one would say, better, “implausible for now”.

2. Anthony C - February 17, 2010

Reading this makes me wish I could see into the future and find out just who is right and who is wrong

3. Losira - February 17, 2010

Well the light bulb is impossible? The telephone, oh let us not forget TV..color yet was considered near implausa le. How bout nuclear reactor controlled fission or is it easier to build bombs! The horseless carriage? No way! As long as we believe and work hard at any goal invention. Or Zephram Cochran . And his invention hey we can work out kinks all invonations have glitches problems that must be worked out time patience,perseverene

4. Scott - February 17, 2010

re: ” For a crew to make the 50,000-light-year journey to the centre of the Milky Way within 10 years, they would have to travel at 99.999998 per cent the speed of light”

Okay, maybe I’m completely misunderstanding. But wouldn’t a journey of 50,000 light years AT the speed of light take, well, 50,000 years? If that’s the case, then how can traveling just slightly slower than the speed of light reduce that journey to just 10 years?

5. rogue_alice - February 17, 2010

Well, it is sci-fi afterall. Me think the Mr. Edelstein is taking it all a wee bit to seriously. jk.

My opinion, we will begin to discovery many things we had never even dreamed up before. I like to say, never say never.

6. Skeptic - February 17, 2010

Boy there are a lot of typos in this article. I definitely don’t think we’ll “Definately” have warp drive.

7. Jeyl - February 17, 2010

Be careful. If you let JJ or any of those two writers know about this so-called “Warp Field”, they’ll say that the hull is doing all the protective work because they don’t think protective space bubbles are realistic. Cause if slow moving debris can dent a ship with it’s shields up, god only knows what anything else would do if it were to hit the ship moving faster than the speed of light.

I can just see it. The Enterprise is at warp, a rogue piece of metal hits the port warp nacelle, causing it to rip clear from the secondary hull, and some crewman reassures everyone with a “Shields are holding!”. But everything is ok! Cause as Pike says in the movie, the Enterprise has many port nacelles… somewhere… that you can’t see….

8. Commander Crooner - February 17, 2010

My first thought, when reading the original scientist’s statement was:

“Don’t the Bussard Collectors collect Hydrogen?”

Gotta love being a fan sometimes!

9. Mr Phil - February 17, 2010

“Star Trek is not a documentary”.

Wha? I’m selling all my DVD’s immediately. I feel cheated.

10. rogue_alice - February 17, 2010

“Definately”

Isn’t that the British spelling? They always throw in an extra vowel or two. ;)

11. dmduncan - February 17, 2010

How could you do a piece on warp drive and not mention Dr. Miguel Alcubierre?

HE’S BEEN SNUBBED!

Anthony, I challenge you to a duel. Phasers on stun at 10 paces.

12. RJO - February 17, 2010

I KNOW THEYWILL BREAK THE BARREER OF PYSICS! RIGHT NOW THERE IS ION PROPULSION, AND ALSO THERE IS ANTI GRAVITY PROPULSION! AS FAR AS DEFLECTORS GO YOU PUT 2 MAGNETS FACING EACH OTHER AND IT REPELS. THERE WAS AN ARTICLE ON COAST TO COAST AM THAT SHOWED THE POSSIBILITY OF FASTER THAN LIGHT SPEED! CHECK IT OUT! SO WE WILL BREAK THE BARREER OF LIGHT SPEED! LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!

13. Mr Phil - February 17, 2010

Us Brits definitely can spell definately.
Err…

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1193044/Its-definitely-wrong-Why-d-word-trickiest-spelling-remember.html

14. Gabriel Bell - February 17, 2010

“Eyes in the dark… One moon circles.”

15. I'm No Einstein - February 17, 2010

#4:

Relativistic view: for the crew of the ship, it would seems like only 10 years went by, while 50 000 would go by for the outside. Call that time travel too, if you will.

16. Will_H - February 17, 2010

Yeah I’m gonna take what Stephen Hawking has to say over who ever wrote that article against warp drive. And Star Trek has always worked around most of what he had to say, as was pointed out well in this rebuttal. They took into account things like hydrogen atoms and debris hitting the ship with the deflector and bussard collectors and the rest by the fact that a warp field…well warps space around the ship. I don’t think its 100% possible, but I think its sound for now. And anyways, I’m a strong believer in infinite possibilities. Sadly I doubt we’ll see warp in my lifetime. Even if it does happen in 2063 I’ll be old then.

17. Simon - February 17, 2010

“The Deflector Dish on the USS Enterprise D – ever ship in Star Trek has had one since the show began in the 60s”

Except the Miranda-class (Reliant) and Oberth-class (Grissom)…

Oops!

18. somethoughts - February 17, 2010

#2

“William Edelstein of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is that space will kill you.”

William Edelstein is a nub and is wrong.

Try hitting a spinning disk with water and see what happens to the water droplet, right back in your face William. Basic magnetism with positive and negative poles can easily deflect the hydrogen atom nub, some people are just born stupid and closed minded.

Memorizing text books and becoming a doctor, any chimp that can remember can do that. Creating and thinking outside the box and artistry, now that is genius.

19. CmdrR - February 17, 2010

I seriously doubt that everything we need to know to achieve warp drive/space travel is contained in the human brainium at this time. I very much like the prospect of gaining knowledge on a predictable path. One projection puts warp drive about a thousand years into our future, sted April 5, 2063. This is based on an assumption that our math continues to evolve at a predictable rate. Since NO ONE here or at New Scientist will be around to argue about it (unless they put their head in a bell jar) then there’s nothing much to sweat about.

20. John from Cincinnati - February 17, 2010

The future has…possibilities. We don’t yet know what wonderous elements we will discover in the future. Maybe they’re on the moon or Mars or even here on Earth. A new element capable of providing incalculable energy. That, and a new prodigy scientist, a la Zephram Cochrane to show us the way. New discoveries are being made every day.

21. Bill Hunt - February 17, 2010

My bet is that warp drive will never become a reality, even if it IS allowed by the laws of physics (which is itself not a sure thing), because humans in general (and Americans in particular) will NEVER be willing to spend the vast sums of taxpayer money required to make it happen. Just the sad truth.

22. Matt Etter - February 17, 2010

I guess this guy hasn’t read ” the physics of Star Trek”. warp speed is the space moving and not the starship itself so with inertial dampeners in place, there would be no danger to the crew of any federation or any other race ship. plus, since this is all theoretical, can’t they just let us dream of what could be? nothing is assured truth anyways………
“There are always possibilities” (Star Trek 2)

23. Anthony Pascale - February 17, 2010

ok so not every ship has the deflector dish, but all the ENTERPRISES do. And those other ships have some kind of deflector somewhere probably.

24. OLLEY OLLEY OLLEY - February 17, 2010

I ain’t no physicist, but I know what i like!

the Wrath of Khan and First Contact warps are the best , IMHO :-)

25. somethoughts - February 17, 2010

#21

New economic models/leaders have yet to be created/born, everything and anything is possible. Considering we have such short life spans and our human race has been alive for a fraction of time relative to the earth

If you extrapolate into the future say a 100,000 years to a million years, the technology and discoveries we would have made would be mind boggling.

Fingers crossed we don’t destroy each other or get wiped out by a natural phenomenon before then.

26. somethoughts - February 17, 2010

“hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. Can you not sweep it up as you move through the galaxy? Well, the average density of matter in our galaxy is about one hydrogen atom per cubic centimeter. To sweep up just one gram of hydrogen per second, even moving at a good fraction of the speed of light, would require you to deploy collection panels with a diameter of over 25 miles. And even turning all this matter into energy for propulsion would provide only about a hundred-millionth of the needed propulsion power!”
– Lawrence Krauss, “Physics of Star Trek”

That is correct and that is why it is important not to model a propulsion system around whales eating plankton, think of something else in nature, perhaps mimic the engine of light, faceplam.

27. somethoughts - February 17, 2010

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_aviation

This time line is so depressing, kinda wish, I was born later.

At least we have Star Trek to keep us going, are we the only race in the galaxy/universe that is not space farring? lol

28. DS9 Rocks - February 17, 2010

@15 and 4:

That just shows how off this New Scientist is. Enterprise doesn’t travel in an Einsteinian way. Otherwise, perhaps 10 years would pass for the crew, but more than 50,000 would have passed on Earth! That wouldn’t make for very good Trek episodes. So, Enterprise must be using non-relativistic propulsion that allows it to get places rapidly, but without slowing down its clocks. There is no real theory that could allow this for now, hence “science FICTION”…

29. somethoughts - February 17, 2010

#28

Vanna went out one night, she went faster than the speed of light and she came back the previous night.

30. VZX - February 17, 2010

Someone should send him a copy of The Physics of Star Trek.

As a phyicsist, I have no problem with warp drive. Just “red matter” and black holes forming inside planets. But, whatev….It’s all good in the hood…

31. Pro-Khan-Sel - February 17, 2010

I agree that humans cannot approach or travel at the speed of light, at least from zero mph. Someday we will find another way. I accept sounds in space like Star Wars, If you want realism in space, better stick to 2001.

32. Matt Wiley - February 17, 2010

You mean its not real?
Oh..

33. Major Lee "TIBERIUS" Skywalker, Battlestar Serenity - February 17, 2010

re:#4 and #15

Alright, so I’m trying to wrap my brain around this. I like to read about physics from time to time, I wouldn’t call it studying by any means but anyway….

10 years pass in the crews frame of reference as they travel 50,000 light years at 99.999998% of light speed. If they make an immediate return trip, 20 years will have passed for them and they will have traveled 100,000 light years. Does this mean that 100,000 years will have passed on Earth OR does it mean that it would take someone within Earth’s observational reference frame 100,000 years to ‘watch’ the journey?

If that much time does pass on Earth then instead of warping the ship Trek style, would creating an artificial traversable wormhole that ‘stretched’ the same distance allow you to leave Earth, make the trip there and back, and get you back in time to catch Super Bowl 64? (If you left a few weeks ago of course)

Am I way off base or what? All of this is very confusing but I love trying to understand it, even if I fail.

34. ryanhuyton - February 17, 2010

The truth is, we won’t know if warp speed is possible or not until someone comes up with a plan based on credible research and theories with sufficient technology allowing for attempts to be made. Of course, none of us know how a “test flight” could be carried out without understanding the dangers of such a trial. How a ship holds together during faster-than-light travel as well as how an astronaut would be able to survive, let alone fly the craft. As well as ensuring that the ship doesn’t hit anything. Even a tiny particle could prove catastrophic. Although space is immense, there are countless trillions of tiny debris floating through space. Also, there is the potential of flying straight into a planet or a star. It is not just a matter of finding a way to travel past the speed of light, it is also about taking into account the inherent risks of such an endeavor.

35. Eli - February 17, 2010

Actually, some theorize that the Miranda class starships did have deflector dishes, they were the pods on each side of the top of the saucer at the end of the ship’s registry decals.

As for the Oberth class, the deflector dish could easily be housed at the front of the secondary hull, it may simply not need to be exposed like dishes on other ship designs.

36. MagicDan - February 17, 2010

@17 – Deflector dish

Both ships have a deflector dish. Reliant’s isn’t as apparent as regular starfleet vessels. It’s listed on blueprints for the Miranda class and on earlier versions it’s more prominent. Grissom’s is on the bottom hull.

But the Star Trek has been know to wander away from future technology guidelines before. Just not in this instance.

37. ryanhuyton - February 17, 2010

Also, in regards to alien ships, there is no descernible deflector on many of them. The Klingon ships don’t have dishes. Neither to the Romulan ships or the Borg vessels.

#35 Some have theorized that the blue circular thing behind the weapons “bar” on the Reliant might have been a deflector dish.
Though I think that may actually be a part of the impulse engine.

38. mdjackson - February 17, 2010

“At these speeds, hydrogen atoms would seem to reach a staggering 7 teraelectron volts – the same energy that protons will eventually reach in the Large Hadron Collider when it runs at full throttle. “For the crew, it would be like standing in front of the LHC beam,” says Edelstein.”

to (mis)quote Butch Cassidy:

“Hell, the inertia will probably killya!”

39. justcorbly - February 17, 2010

We know much less about the universe than we think we do. So, we ought not to worry too much about what we think we can or cannot do.

40. Hat Rick - February 17, 2010

How DO the Miranda and Oberth classes get by without a deflector dish, anyway? And no saying a wizard does it.

41. ryanhuyton - February 17, 2010

#40 Because they’re special :-)

42. I'm Dead Jim - February 17, 2010

Speaking of deflector dishes, it’s always bugged me that the USS Reliant didn’t appear to have one, as much as I like that design.

Speaking of starships, I was just watching the TNG episode Data’s Day and began to wonder what class of starship appears alongside the Enterprise in the first scene after opening credits. The view is from the rear but it looks like the Enterprise C. Thoughts?

Sorry for going a little off topic.

43. Simon - February 17, 2010

The front of the Oberth class is a shuttle-bay door.

44. jas_montreal - February 17, 2010

I don’t see the need to debate FICTIONAL tech.

45. Simon - February 17, 2010

#42 – It’s an Ambassador-class. It’s the Enterprise-C model slightly modified/modernized.

46. philpot - February 17, 2010

hey i just had a thought in light of the Hadron Collider being mentioned there, – the Enterprise engine room dosnt look a million miles away from that thing with all the pipes etc

47. I am not Herbert - February 17, 2010

Well, the poll is not working for me for some reason, but I vote “Definitely”.

I believe that we will be able to jump / skip / surf through space /time by manipulating gravity to fold / warp it similar to what Hawking describes.

I think the ability to manipulate gravity / time will come from Einsteinian thinking though.

We will NOT be “flying” at FTL speed though, it will be a “skipping” through space / time.

48. Richard Daystrom - February 17, 2010

What !! Star Trek isn’t real !! Come on ! It isn’t a real timeline of the future sent back to us to let us know we will survive. I am calling my Dr. now !

49. I am not Herbert - February 17, 2010

Depending on how you look at it though, my answer to the poll could easily be “No”.

My theory kinda supports both POV’s

50. I am not Herbert - February 17, 2010

BTW: Anthony, EXCELLENT article! =D

51. Greg2600 - February 17, 2010

You know I’d hate to quote Lawrence Luckinbill’s Sybok………..

52. Christine - February 17, 2010

I loved reading “The Physics of Star Trek” and “Beyond Star Trek”. I actually just sat down at the University/Nebraska @ Omaha library and read them both. Both excellent, thought-provoking books that make you go, “hm!”. I reccommend them to anyone into sci-fi, or not, just someone who wants to learn.

That was a really good article. Nice job, very informative. ^__^

53. CarlG - February 17, 2010

Pheh. Next thing you know they’ll be telling us that there aren’t any green chicks out there waiting to be taught about this strange Earth thing called “kissing”.

What do they know anyways! They think they’re some kind of rocket scientists or something? ;)

(LOVED that “Warp Speed!” montage, by the way. Seriously, isn’t the sound of the Enterprise jumping to warp one of the coolest noises ever?)

54. Spockette - February 17, 2010

Star Trek like warp will be a reality, but not yet. Right now, the “in thing” in the political arena is appeasement among an environment with increased hostility toward individualism and the idea of one country acheiving too much over another which somehow seems to give an impression of a superpower and thereby a threat to others. Until we can get past that and people learn to respect eachother, to respect life and liberty, and respect the value of equal education, I can promise that even if the technology were to be developed in our lifetime, we will never see it used in this generation.

55. Dennis Bailey - February 17, 2010

“The article in New Scientist seems predicated on the notion that a Starship would be using conventional means to propel itself to light-speed and beyond.”

Whereas “Star Trek” travel is predicated on magic words. Nothing in all of this discussion about “warp” – a word that can pretty much mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean – addresses the issues associated with high sub-light velocities, and waving around the term “deflectors” to explain away the dangers of collisions is equally meaningless.

It’s like TNG creating the “heisenberg compensator” to acknowledge the quantum difficulties with the Transporter – ie, hanging a lantern on a problem to let the viewer know you’re aware of it has nothing to do with proposing a workable, if speculative, solution to the problem.

56. Dennis Bailey - February 17, 2010

Spockette, your political posturing there is as nonsensical as Trek technobabble.

57. Simon - February 17, 2010

Anyone else notice that Digital Domain’s warp effect was incredibly lame? Smoke trails…sheesh.

The less said about Associate & Ferren’s Star Trek V work the better…their Enterprise actually fishtails because of the awful motion-control work. TNG on TV at the time was 1000% better (motion control by Image G), even at TV resolution upconverted to film.

58. Hat Rick - February 17, 2010

Star Trek gives people of different political persuasions a number of options that basically permit interpretations consistent with their own preferences. By the same token, various scientistic-seeming explanations serve that function.

Besides, if nothing else, it gives fans something to talk about and associate around.

Star Trek: The Social Frontier.

:-)

59. Spockette - February 17, 2010

56: That’s what I get for listening to Rush for so many years. I got smarter.

60. Anthony Pascale - February 17, 2010

Spockette

do not hijack this or any thread with partisan politics, that is not how we roll around here

61. Robert H. - February 17, 2010

Oh the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, not quantum and relative physics. Of course, the type of school that Dr. McCoy becoming the doctor he is is far more qualified than the school that taught Scotty how to make a ship travel faster than light.

62. Christine - February 17, 2010

#59 :: Mr. Pascale’s comment aside, I do have one thing to say:
Rush is the most amazing band ever.
Neil Peart is worthy of worship for his talent on the drums. ;)

63. Hat Rick - February 17, 2010

I have faith that all in the universe will unfold as it should — if not in this lifetime, then in the next. This is based firmly in Trekkian philosophy, which is at least as important as Trekkian scientistic speculation.

64. Chris Fawkes - February 17, 2010

I know that warped minds are onto it.

65. Pyork (JE) Productions - February 17, 2010

I going to point out a historical pass time. Pretty much since people started writing things down, the fictional writers and visionaries have dreamed the impossible and many “intellectuals” have always come out with the “proof” that “disproves” the visionaries and yet later on in time such technology that was predicted then, exists now. For crying out loud, we already have phasers! So to conclude, warp speed may not end up looking like it does in the show and neither will the Enterprise, but that doesn’t mean it’s “impossible”

66. dmduncan - February 17, 2010

55: “Whereas “Star Trek” travel is predicated on magic words. Nothing in all of this discussion about “warp” – a word that can pretty much mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean – addresses the issues associated with high sub-light velocities,”

Not true. See the work of Dr. Miguel Alcubierre. Warp doesn’t mean “whatever the speaker wants it to mean,” it means a specific way of traveling that doesn’t require FTL speeds to get a starship from A to B faster than light would get there.

http://members.shaw.ca/mike.anderton/WarpDrive.pdf

It is not without problems, but it is also not whatever the speaker wants it to mean.

67. ryanhuyton - February 17, 2010

#65 “For crying out loud, we already have phasers!”

Really? Since when? I think you are thinking of LASERS not phasers. They’re two different things. Or is your real name Berlinghoff Rasmusssen and you are a “time traveller” who “brought” back technology from the 24th century?

68. Adrian Patrick - February 18, 2010

New Scientist is more concerned with tabloid style journalism than actual science these days – I wouldn’t get upset about it. They’re nothing.

69. 4 8 15 16 23 42 - February 18, 2010

Personally, I just don’t think the concept of a spacetime warp bubble is plausible. If we ever figure out how to violate Relativity, my money is on wormholes that make the “distance” between any two points in the universe essentially zero, thus obviating the need for any kind of appreciable speed (more than .5c or so). For me, the best representation so far of this is Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined).

70. somethoughts - February 18, 2010

Would be so awesome to turn external matter into energy, so in effect you have a spaceship sized light particle/wave photon being navigated by a crew. The inside of the craft would remain in it’s material form and you can do your experiments and catalog etc.

William Edelstein is just setting himself up to be known as the most stupid person in history if we humans ever figure it out. LOL at you William for being closed minded.

If this guy was born in the age of carriages driven by horses, he would say it is impossible to have a horseless carriage (car) because going so fast would kill you. As technology unfolds so does complimentary technology such as brakes, seat belts and windshield wipers or in the case of warp drive/near light speed crafts, deflectors/navi systems in place to prevent collisions or even the ability to absorb the hydrogen and convert it to energy/water for the crew.

William if you are reading this do us all a favor and smack yourself and give yourself a shake LOL

71. Bernd Schneider - February 18, 2010

This New Scientist article is just another case of snobbish nerdery of pointing out alleged mistakes in science fiction to the unknowing fans as if they had never cared about it. While Star Trek is definitely full of mistakes, the issue of overcoming the limitation of relativistic motion and deflecting particles has been addressed very early in the history of the series. Most likely it wouldn’t work in practice the way it is shown, but it has been taken care of, unlike the article insinuates.

The warp drive is not supposed to propel the ship in normal space at any time, and it would have sufficed to watch almost any single episode or simply looking it up at MA to find out. Well, Lawrence Krauss says it warps space while the screen evidence plus manuals rather indicates that it separates the ship from normal space through a medium called subspace (that Krauss never once mentions IIRC, making a similar mistake as the New Scientist author). But irrespective of the exact working principle, relativistic effects are not an issue, and the deflector does its job, even though its physics may be flawed.

And in response to Scott #4, I didn’t bother to do the math but I suppose the time of ten years is shipboard time (note that the author assumes the ship is subjected to time dilation as it does not happen with warp drive).
Another example:
http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/treknology/warp1.htm#17

Overall, this whole discussion is pointless anyway, as it mixes up real-world and fictional issues. As someone commented on it at New Scientist: “It’s like them saying ‘performing magic the way Harry Potter does will likely give you cancer!'”

72. Bachumpbachuiechamp - February 18, 2010

First off, the deflector dish inst part of the shield array on-board star ships. They have a shield array grid built into the hull that when energised creates the shield bubble. The deflector array is simply to deflect harmful particles from the ships path (amongst other uses like giant lightning rod wtf).

Secondly, no the Miranda class does not have a deflector dish, it uses a combination of the shield array, tractor beams and the ships warp field to push the harmful particles from the path of the ship. Its that simple.

Come on Trek Movie, if you’re gonna be a trek site, at least get your trek tech right!

Finally, at last reading, it would take more energy than the whole of mankind creates in one day now, to power a starship for warp speed. Until we find the magic energy source forget it.

73. fansince66 - February 18, 2010

I would love to see Trek interview Bob Lazar about how element 115 is used in “some technologies” to warp space.

74. Bennie - February 18, 2010

ps: the ship is not actualy traveling at light speed. The warp engines “warp’s” space around the ship. LOL

75. Bennie - February 18, 2010

So space around the ship is traveling at faster then light speeds. So all the negative effects mentioned are not applicable.

76. Hat Rick - February 18, 2010

Bob Lazar, Bob Lazar, Bob Lazar … I think that this is one of the few times I’ve seen him mentioned here. I think I mentioned him recently, somewhere… in time.

In any event, if what he says is fake, then it’s a bunch of silliness. But on the chance that what he says is real, then mom’s apple pie don’t taste too good no more, if you know what I mean, and all bets are off.

Reptilians? Pleaideans? A War Above Us?

Kinda makes Star Trek look tame.

Or prescient.

May the Great Bird… save us.

77. nuSpock - February 18, 2010

regarding the deflector dishes: ok…so wheres the deflector dish on the Olympic-class ships (aka the class of ship the USS Pasteur was of in the TNG series finale ‘All Good Things…’?

78. Jeyl - February 18, 2010

@77: “regarding the deflector dishes: ok…so wheres the deflector dish on the Olympic-class ships?”

Its deflector dish was incorporated into the lower forward quarter of the primary hull. See that glowing blue line?

http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/File:USS_Pasteur.jpg

79. David P - February 18, 2010

Hey JJ, send a limo at Warp speed to “Casa de Shatner” to pick him up for his appearance in the sequel (if you are smart)

khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!

80. Rogersen - February 18, 2010

From someone who voted ‘unlikely’ – some more suggested reading:
Why Does E=mc2?: (And Why Should We Care?)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0306817586/ref=nosim/httpstrateama-20

It’s not just a good idea… it’s the law.

81. Author of "The Vulcan Neck Pinch for Fathers" - February 18, 2010

David Gerrold, in the World of Star Trek, held (as I paraphrase) that the more you explain Trek with technobabble, the *less* credible it becomes. If you want to make the world credible, you simply offer a fact, and it works, and you don’t explain it. His analogy, which I thought was apt, was that in a crime drama you never hear a cop explain the physics of how a bullet gets fired from a gun, so why should a futuristic show wherein something like a “warp drive” exists, works, and is a “real” phenomenon in that world get explained? It works, its a fact, its part of the story, move on.

That’s always been the difference between TOS and TNG. TOS only had the barest framework of details. TNG couldn’t go five minutes without Geordi or Crusher explaining the hyperbolic treknobabble crap out of the “field inverting plasma inducer coils.”

Will effective faster-than-light or warp-style travel ever happen? I don’t know, but my guess is not for a very long time. But that doesn’t keep me from enjoying the *notion* that it might be possible someday…

82. Daoud - February 18, 2010

Ach, #1. As a fellow physicist, look at all the work we have to do.

I want to point out as someone who teaches college physics, that going to a medical doctor, like Edelstein, even though he’s at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (a name-dropping if I ever heard one)… is like going to a carpet cleaning company to have your house painted.

Physicians take one year of college physics, usually with algebra (they can’t handle the calculus!?!?), and they fuss and fume why they have to learn all that useless stuff–after waiting until their senior year of undergraduate school to take a freshman year course on the underlying physical science of everything….

Anyone ever get an X-ray? Photons flying at the speed of light, that is where it all began. (Neutrinos flying to the underground? Seems like a song.)

Of course hydrogen in space if you’re travelling near c would become proton bullets… but it wouldn’t be a proton beam.

I like the poster who mentioned Harry Potter. I was going to suggest Lord of the Rings, as another internally-consistent fiction. With all fiction, especially science fiction… internal consistency is what matters. Science fiction projects a scientific theory whether possible or even clearly impossible, keeps it internally consistent within the fiction, and thus it proceeds scientifically. Doesn’t ever mean it will exist.

So, please, someone take that killjoy physician who had one lousy year of algebra-based physics and nothing else… and ask him where he got his training in special relativity…

Anyone who has (like #1 ximpa and I), knows that of course, we’re not going to accelerate a ship to near c in normal space. Anything with matter where m > 0, takes infinite energy (all the energy of the universe) to actually REACH c. That’s why Spaceballs “ludricous speed” and “going to plaid” are so delicious. They parody the idea of travelling at light speed.

Only photons travel at light speed. Everything else is either bradyons (us) or tachyons (which mightn’t exist.)

83. Daoud - February 18, 2010

I just used too much jargon: “c” of course is the usual letter chosen to represent the speed of light in vacuum, exactly 299,792,458 meters per second. (Or about one foot per nanonsecond in traditional units!)

84. CarlG - February 18, 2010

@83: This is going to sound like a really stupid question, but do you by any chance know when they started using the letter c to represent the speed of light?

I know it must have been way before a certain Mr. Cochrane came on the scene, but the coincidence is rather charming!

85. Spike - February 18, 2010

They said the earth was flat, and that the sound barrier could never be broken, the air pressure would be like hitting a brick wall in the sky…the sound barrier was broken…the world is not round..

86. Jim Williams - February 18, 2010

What discussions of this sort usually leave out is that any form of FTL is, by special relativity, also a time machine. The details are too complex to go into here, but if you have a faster than light drive, or even just a faster than light radio (sometimes called an ansible), then you can send information into the past. You can violate causality. For this reason, I had to vote no, we we never have any form of FTL.

Of course, if you believe that time travel is, in fact, possible then this objection is irrelevant. I’m fairly confident, however, that causality is fundamental and inviolate, but I admit i can’t prove it.

87. Rikarus - February 18, 2010

I heard in physics class that Lens Flare actually propels a starship past the speed of light……. :-P

88. Dennis Bailey - February 18, 2010

#66: “Not true. See the work of Dr. Miguel Alcubierre. Warp doesn’t mean “whatever the speaker wants it to mean,” it means a specific way of traveling that doesn’t require FTL speeds to get a starship from A to B faster than light would get there.”

Albucierre’s work is less than twenty years old; Trek’s been throwing this lifted-from-the-pulps terminlogy around for over forty years.

“Warp drive” *does* mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean, and simply because you favor a definition set forth by a physicist in one instance doesn’t demonstrate otherwise.

Magic words. “There are problems” means “this is one of many contradictory hypotheses and no one has a clue how to make it work.”

89. skyjedi - February 18, 2010

To argue the realities of a fake fictional show is kind of silly right?

Warp Speed is no more real than lightsabers.

90. P Technobabble - February 18, 2010

I don’t mind whether or not warp speed is scientifically possible, I merely accept it as a convention of the Star Trek Universe. I believe even Gene Roddenberry acknowledged the fact that traveling at the speed of light created a problem because of time dilation, but that problem would simply be “overlooked” for the sake of being able to tell stories. Warp speed is science fiction, and that’s completely okay. If it one day becomes science fact, I’ve no doubt I won’t be around to enjoy it anyway…

91. guest - February 18, 2010

I’ve mentioned this before -long time ago- but I’ve seen a clip of a Jane’s magazine (Aerospace and related) editor quoting a now deceased VP of the famous skunkworks. I can’t remember the details but the basic summary was that technologically, we (“they, them, top secret”) are 50 years beyond our (my, the public) imagination and that anything we’ve seen in sci-fi has been done. Anyone else see the clip/read the article and remember more? If it’s true, I’d suspect that maybe some of the treknologies work but just don’t lead to the practical applications we hope for, or just can’t be usefull at this point in time…By the way, I don’t believe this would come from reverse engineering alien saucers.

92. John from Cincinnati - February 18, 2010

In 100 years we went from rural farming with horses as our main mode of transportation to cars, airplanes, computers, landing on the Moon and space shuttles.

Anyone who says something is impossible in the future is just ignorant.

93. Spirit Bucko - February 18, 2010

How do you think all the UFO people got here? They didn’t paddle a log across space.

94. G - February 18, 2010

You never know what we’re capable of. Astronauts were driving cars on the Moon, only 70 years after the Wright brothers first flight. Is Warp improbable? Yes. But, only based on ‘what we know’ right now. There’s a LOT we still don’t know about the universe, other dimensions, dark energy and dark matter, etc. Who knows what our future knowledge of how things work will lead to.

95. G - February 18, 2010

@93. Spirit Bucko – February 18, 2010

How do you think all the UFO people got here? They didn’t paddle a log across space.
————————————————————————————————-
I actually have started leaning toward another theory for that. I’m starting to think that it’s more likely/plausible (if any of the UFO’s are real, that they’re beings (or, us) from other dimensions, occupying the same space as us (thereby, eliminating the problem of traveling great ‘distances’). They theorize that there are ‘probably’ at least several other dimensions that we just can’t perceive (like, fish under water, can’t perceive our world up here). I think it’s more likely for civilizations to figure out how to slip in and out of these dimensions, rather than travel light years between stars. Just another theory.

96. Jim Williams - February 18, 2010

While it’s true that we don’t know everything, it’s not true that future discoveries will surely make some arbitrary thing we long for possible. Unless you believe in outright magic, you have to believe that nature imposes some constraints on the possible. I happen to believe that one such constraint is that no information or matter may travel faster than light. This belief is not based in ignorance, as #92 suggests, but in a fairly thorough understanding of physics, especially relativity. Of course, relativity is just a model of reality and better models will be found, BUT, and this is significant, those better models will likely contain relativity as a special case, just as Newtonian physics can be viewed as a special case of relativity (one in which velocities are slow compared to c). The prohibition against FTL in relativity is so strong, that any improved theory will certainly contain the same constraint.

I grew up with the original Star Trek, Lost in Space, the Outer Limits, and spent many nights staring at the sky, wondering what was out there. Much as I would dearly love to live in a universe with FTL, I am actually comforted by the idea that some things are genuinely impossible. A universe where anything can happen would contain many unpleasant things that I need not worry about here in this universe.

97. G - February 18, 2010

@ 96. Jim Williams – February 18, 2010

While it’s true that we don’t know everything, it’s not true that future discoveries will surely make some arbitrary thing we long for possible. Unless you believe in outright magic, you have to believe that nature imposes some constraints on the possible. I happen to believe that one such constraint is that no information or matter may travel faster than light..
—————————————————————————————————
I think a lot of people mistake “Warp” speed for “light” speed. That’s really not correct. True, nothing can travel faster than light. But, Warp speed is not light speed. It’s the warping/bending of spacetime, around the ship, allowing it to travel ‘the equivalent’ of light speed (without actually traveling faster than light). In other words, it warps/shortens the distance between 2 points, allowing the ship to travel the equivalent distance (which is why, when the Enterprise returns to Earth from it’s 5 year mission, only 5 years have passed on Earth, as well.) The Enterprise was never actually traveling faster than light when warping. If it was, then thousands of years, or perhaps millions, would have passed for everyone on Earth.

As far as “magic”, we take plenty of things for granted today, that would have seemed like “magic” to people only 100 years ago. Am I saying that WARP speed is possible? No, I’m not saying that. But, I’m saying that you’re incorrect to say that it’s impossible because of Relativity. Warp speed is not the same as moving a ship at the speed of light (Warp speed is “simulated light speed”) The POWER it would take to achieve Warp speed is what makes it unlikely.

98. Jim Williams - February 18, 2010

@97 G – February 18, 2010

I understand the idea that the Trek style warp drive effectively shortens the space between two points, for the traveler, so that, for them, no FTL motion happens. My point is that none of that matters! The causality violations can occur regardless of the method of travel! You can use hyperspace, subspace, warped space, wormholes, Galactica Jump drives or magic carpets, it just doesn’t matter. If one goes from Earth to Vulcan is less time, as seen from Earth or Vulcan, than light would take to travel there through normal space, then you have gone faster than light as observed by someone who stayed behind. And *any* such mechanism can be used to violate causality. That’s what makes it so difficult. This is NOT an engineering problem, it’s the basic nature of the universe we’re fighting. I have yet to hear of any proposed FTL system that directly addresses this issue and explains why it can’t be used to create a causality violation.

99. I am not Herbert - February 18, 2010

97. G EXCELLENT! Very nice clarification! =)

Re: The POWER it would take to achieve Warp:

Just as “warping space” negates the need for “FTL propulsion” or “light speed”, it also negates the “power” needed.

I think that we will be able to manipulate gravity / time as the “force” used to “warp” space / time.

100. P Technobabble - February 18, 2010

I have to agree with those who have said something like “our current knowledge is based on what we are currently capable of knowing.”
Science, itself, is an invention of man. Science observes things, builds tools to observe more, then builds tools that observe even more, as our understanding of what we are observing increases. And, it seems, the more we observe and understand, the less we really know… quite a paradox.
Imagine Galileo looking through his first primitive telescope, then coming to certain conclusions about space, based upon what that telescope would allow him to see. Flash forward to scientists getting images from Hubble, so far beyond whatever Galileo could have dreamed of. The tools of science are both the means to discover, and the limit to what we can discover at a given point in time.
As for FTL, there are scientists who believe there are particles which travel faster than light, even particles that appear to be in two different locations at the same time. It’s all theory, but it’s on the edge of understanding, and being able to be considered “fact.” Facts change over time, again because of our expanding knowledge and more elaborate technology.
As for warp speed, I always thought it had to do more with the bending (or “warping”) of space-time than with the actual speed of the ship. But I know this is all gray area, completely theoretical, and quite speculative. We know that black holes are real, for example, but we don’t know if wormholes are real. If “shortcuts” through space-time are available, who knows what we would find on the “other side,” who knows where they would take us. And even Arthur C Clarke said in 1961: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I think it would be very cool to live in an unbelievably advanced technological world, but I don’t know if humanity will get that far… without some help (any Vulcans listening???)

101. I am not Herbert - February 18, 2010

98. Jim Williams:

You avoid causality because this method works “in the blink of an eye”.

There is no “light speed” travel to be “observed”.

It is a “jump” or “skip”, if you will.

102. somethoughts - February 18, 2010

#98

Just because there are causality violations does not mean worms holes, FTL mechanisms, are not mathematically possible. Einstiens biggest mistake was not accepting quantum mechanics which came out of his special relativity. God not only plays dice, he throws them in places you cannot see.

There is a difference between observation and being able to interact with the events. Let’s say FTL is possible, you have a crew leaving earth in year 3000 and they go on a 1 earth year journey to the other side of the milky way. When they come back to earth, it would be year 3000 and would have arrived home just about the time they had left, perhaps a few seconds after. There is no causality violation here, just a compression of space and time for the observer and the crew.

I believe the problem here is you are thinking classical relativity and using near light speed or light speed models. The universe has a built in security code that does not allow causality violations, that is why by the time the crew comes back even traveling at FTL means they will never come back before they left and if they do somehow, they will only be able to observe and not interact, sort of like watching a VHS or Blu Ray movie.

The reason we cannot observe anything faster than light is because they are outside our observation view/dimension.

103. somethoughts - February 18, 2010

*It is like viewing the light from the stars in the night sky, although that is where the position of the stars appear as we observe them (their millions and billions of years to reach our eyes in the night sky) their real position is far from what we observe and/or have burnt out many years ago.

104. Dennis Bailey - February 18, 2010

#96: “While it’s true that we don’t know everything, it’s not true that future discoveries will surely make some arbitrary thing we long for possible. Unless you believe in outright magic, you have to believe that nature imposes some constraints on the possible.”

Exactly so.

People believe in stuff like FTL for no better reason than that they want to. End of story.

105. I am not Herbert - February 18, 2010

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Open your mind to the possibilities!

106. somethoughts - February 18, 2010

#104

“People believe in stuff like FTL for no better reason than that they want to. End of story.”

You really think God would design a universe so that it would be impossible to visit every star within a fair amount of time?

Everything we view in nature can be duplicated, you just have to get creative and keep at it. Ever wonder what the constant shape or pattern is in the universe? Why do tornadoes, hurricanes, galaxies appear to have similar pin wheel shapes? How big or small are we actually relative to the universe, in the micro and macro sense? Our IQ is still too low to even tap the wonders this universe possesses, if only we were designed with IQ’s of 1000, this wouldn’t even be a discussion.

107. YARN - February 18, 2010

#106

I don’t know what is more preposterous – invoking God as a solution to a science problem or your implied claim that God wants us to be able to tour the universe “in a fair amount of time.” I think God cares as much as putting us on a tour bus to the stars about as much as God care about who wins a football game.

I agree entirely, however, that we are in no place to make final pronouncements about future technologies.

108. somethoughts - February 18, 2010

#108

That is no different than a programmer designing a mmo for players to enjoy.

109. somethoughts - February 18, 2010

*the programmer doesn’t care who wins the football game but the mmo is a great place to have fun.

110. I am not Herbert - February 18, 2010

96. Jim Williams: “Unless you believe in outright magic, you have to believe that nature imposes some constraints on the possible.”

Said the Catholic church to Copernicus & Galileo.

111. SM - February 18, 2010

Foreword. Not Forward!!!!!

112. Cpt.Rogers - February 18, 2010

And another thing, ships use subspace to travel at warp. Maybe that’s the writers way of saying that even if warp isn’t possible in our universe, maybe it is possible in a “subspace”

113. somethoughts - February 18, 2010

#112

Correct, it is very difficult to travel at great velocities while surrounded by water, so much drag.

114. YARN - February 18, 2010

“Jim Williams: “Unless you believe in outright magic, you have to believe that nature imposes some constraints on the possible.”

Said the Catholic church to Copernicus & Galileo.”

And there is nothing that Copernicus or Galileo did or said which would contradict that statement.

115. I am not Herbert - February 18, 2010

114. YARN

Your belief in “what nature imposes” is very similar to the view that the church imposed.

Copernicus & Galileo were open-minded to say the least. You are not.

Your statement attempts to impose that close-mindedness on us, much as the church did to Copernicus & Galileo.

116. dmduncan - February 18, 2010

82: “I want to point out as someone who teaches college physics, that going to a medical doctor, like Edelstein, even though he’s at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (a name-dropping if I ever heard one)… is like going to a carpet cleaning company to have your house painted.”

lol. That’s the first thing I thought as well.

88: “Albucierre’s work is less than twenty years old;”

Means nothing.

“Warp drive” *does* mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean, and simply because you favor a definition set forth by a physicist in one instance doesn’t demonstrate otherwise.”

lol. Alcubierre is not responsible for CREATING the definition; he’s responsible for explicating the physics of how a previously and well accepted definition of “warp drive” might work as the engine of FTL travel between the stars without time dilation.

“Magic words. ‘There are problems’ means ‘this is one of many contradictory hypotheses and no one has a clue how to make it work.'”

OH LORD. THAT is your complaint? Then what the hell are you doing in here? You might as well throw ALL science fiction into the bonfire, if that’s your complaint, because the same applies to all of it. Without fiction it’s just science.

You might as well complain that there’s gambling in Vegas.

117. Astrophysicophile - February 18, 2010

82. I did a little digging on Edelstein’s background. According to his curriculum vitae, http://www.mri.jhu.edu/~edelstei/edelstein.cv, he IS a physicist, a Harvard University-educated one as well as a fellow of the American Physical Society, even though he is a professor of radiology at JHU School of Medicine. Furthermore, the New Scientist article was not written by Edelstein, but by Valerie Jamieson. What Edelstein wrote was an abstract submitted for the April 2010 Meeting of the APS. In his abstract, he merely argues that highly relativistic spaceflight is fatal to people and instruments. He does not at all use Star Trek’s warp drive as an example of a special relativisitic, Newtonian propulsion system (we, of course, know it is a general relativistic, quantum mechanical one.) Rather, Jamieson is the one who does this in HER article.

118. Astrophysicophile - February 18, 2010

117. The link to Edelstein’s abstract is absimage.aps.org/image/MWS_APR10-2009-000227.pdf.

119. Astrophysicophile - February 18, 2010

117. Oops, at one point, I mispelled relativistic as “relativisitic”. Sorry about that.

120. Anthony Pascale - February 18, 2010

Just to be clear, I didn’t write this article to say Star Trek science is ‘right’ or certain, it was just that there was something about that new scientist article that bugged me. Starting with the ‘prepare to be dissapointed opening’ and how it seemed to based on the notion that this guy was the first person to notice the hydrogen issue and Trekkies around the world would go ‘why didn’t they think of that!?!’ when clearly they did. Also some other sites like SciFiWire ran articles about this without comment about how Kirk and Spock are doomed.

121. Astrophysicophile - February 18, 2010

118. Even though Edelstein submitted the abstract for the April 2010 APS meeting, Jamieson’s article says he presented his results last Saturday. The APS April Meeting webpage, http://www.aps.org/meetings/april, reflects this.

122. I am not Herbert - February 18, 2010

114. YARN

My apologies, Sir. That was not “your” statement!

I should have said “the statement you are defending” (Jim Williams)

123. G - February 18, 2010

@ 98. Jim Williams – February 18, 2010

@97 G – February 18, 2010

I understand the idea that the Trek style warp drive effectively shortens the space between two points, for the traveler, so that, for them, no FTL motion happens. My point is that none of that matters! The causality violations can occur regardless of the method of travel! You can use hyperspace, subspace, warped space, wormholes, Galactica Jump drives or magic carpets, it just doesn’t matter. If one goes from Earth to Vulcan is less time, as seen from Earth or Vulcan, than light would take to travel there through normal space, then you have gone faster than light as observed by someone who stayed behind. And *any* such mechanism can be used to violate causality. That’s what makes it so difficult. This is NOT an engineering problem, it’s the basic nature of the universe we’re fighting. I have yet to hear of any proposed FTL system that directly addresses this issue and explains why it can’t be used to create a causality violation.
——————————————————————————————–

Jim,Jim,Jim (sigh).. You obviously haven’t heard for the Flux Capacitor, then. LOL :)

124. George - February 18, 2010

Hey, did anyone tell Chuck Yeager that breaking the sound barrier was impossible to break…. Oh yea they did tell him that but he broke it anyway…

Man will find a way as long as he has the drive and determination to discover what’s out there and the human spirt for exploration compells him to reach for impossible.

125. Jim Williams - February 19, 2010

@ 104. Dennis Bailey

Thank you for being the one person here who got my point. Also, I was totally unaware of your Starship Polaris project, even though I live in Maryland. I wish I had been to Farpoint and seen your presentation. I hope you put on a presentation at Shore Leave.

What I find most striking in the comments here is how some people seem to think that believing that something is impossible is close minded. I prefer to think that my mind is open to the possibility of impossibility.

@120. Anthony Pascale

I agree with you that the news articles that started this discussion were terrible. I work in a group that has ties to NASA public affairs and we see all kinds of poor science reporting all the time. It can be frustrating. Thank you for putting up the poll on Warp drive, I’m fascinated by the results and I hope you don’t mind that, as one of the few “no” voters, I decided to speak up for my side. I’ve read this site for years, but never really participated until now.

126. YARN - February 19, 2010

#115 WROTE: “Your belief in “what nature imposes” is very similar to the view that the church imposed.

Copernicus & Galileo were open-minded to say the least. You are not.
Your statement attempts to impose that close-mindedness on us, much as the church did to Copernicus & Galileo.”

Huh, accepting the premise that nature involves limits, that it is arranged with a particular structure and governing dynamics, is closed-minded?

It’s not like new generations of scientists free us of the limits of nature. On the contrary, they attempt to do a better job of describing how the universe is determined!

It is important to make a distinction between the fundamental scientific assumption that nature is knowable and governed and thus limiting (but which paradoxically gives us the traction we need to gain an advantage in playing the percentages as close to the limit as we can, which is more advantageous that being a stupified Cro-Magnon) and the belief that any particular scientific theory is now and forever correct.

I am defending the former and not the latter. You seem to think the two are one and the same. This is a romantic conflation which is anti-scientific.

Moreover, I am happy to be lumped with Jim Williams, because (from what I have read) he is on the money. In particular, this line,

“While it’s true that we don’t know everything, it’s not true that future discoveries will surely make some arbitrary thing we long for possible.”

is golden.

127. Jim Nightshade - February 19, 2010

to quote commander Churrog on the last day of star trek the experience-
“Its all fake” and a quote from April Hebert when she heard him-“its all fake? Im so depressed now”
hehhe

128. Chris M - February 19, 2010

Great article, loved the quote from Stephen Hawking and considering he is pretty much the smartest person on the planet i think i’ll take his word over that of New Scientist, also loved your point Anthony about Star Trek being an inspiration and showing people future possibilities! :)

129. dmduncan - February 19, 2010

Damn!!! Anyone see the video of this COOL Atlas V launch where you can SEE the sonic boom? It’s awesome. Happens near the end of the video. Be patient.

http://dvice.com/archives/2010/02/atlas-v-launch.php

130. Astrophysicophile - February 19, 2010

121. I also neglected to mention that Edelstein co-authored the article with Arthur Edelstein of University of California, San Francisco.

131. Astrophysicophile - February 19, 2010

129. Correction: Edelstein and Edelstein co-authored an abstract, not an article.

132. I am not Herbert - February 19, 2010

125. YARN

“Huh, accepting the premise that nature involves limits, that it is arranged with a particular structure and governing dynamics, is closed-minded?”

“It is important to make a distinction between the fundamental scientific assumption that nature is knowable and governed and thus limiting…
…and the belief that any particular scientific theory is now and forever correct.”

Yes, to believe that we know and understand all of nature, let alone it’s limitations, is naive, assuming and close-minded.

Just as the assumption that we are knowing of our existence, and knowing of the divine godly existence, is conceited delusion.

133. I am not Herbert - February 19, 2010

125. YARN

“Moreover, I am happy to be lumped with Jim Williams, because (from what I have read) he is on the money. In particular, this line,”

“While it’s true that we don’t know everything, it’s not true that future discoveries will surely make some arbitrary thing we long for possible.”

Here is better, much less cynical, less close-minded statement:

History shows that future discoveries will very likely make what we long for possible!

134. YARN - February 19, 2010

#125

So, even assuming we know of our own existence is a “conceited delusion”?

Is this something that you know?

#126

Let’s unpack your sentence a bit.

“History shows that future discoveries will very likely make what we long for possible!”

History also shows that while the metaphysics and background assumptions of scientific theories change, our physical theories are becoming ever more precise (and thus limiting with the passage of time). Newtonian mechanics was good enough to get us to the moon and back – it has been obliterated, so much as replaced with an even more accurate theory.

History also shows that science will reveal that much of what we desire will be even further out of reach.

We know that the nearest star is 4 light years away.

We now know that space travel is dangerous (cosmic background radiation). And this makes planets dangerous too–Mars sounds great until you reflect that it does not have Earths electromagnetic shield.

We know that exceeding the speed of light (in a manner that involves the exchange of useful information) involves causal contradictions (See Jim’s post on this topic).

We also know that new technologies often involve unwanted (and unpredicted) side-effects like radiation. In the 1950’s we were patting ourselves on the back for having developed nuclear power. Now were are trying to figure out where to dump the waste.

You accuse me of cynicism. One might accuse you of hubris.

135. somethoughts - February 19, 2010

Never say never :)

History has shown not only is it possible it is very probable.

With the advancement of genetic engineering, who is to say one day humans are not able to unlock the remaining 90% of our brain and our future children have IQs in the thousands. These simple galactic jig saw puzzles are so simple they would look back and laugh at us and the people who say nay.

It is all around you, the phones you use, the computers you use, the cars you drive, the food you eat, the televisions you watch. Don’t be a fool and limit mankind’s potential and lump yourself as someone who thinks we are the only ones in this great universe or will never achieve near light speed or warp drive.

The ocean was not made for one fish.

136. I am not Herbert - February 19, 2010

134. YARN

“…our physical theories are becoming ever more precise (and thus limiting with the passage of time).”

In YOUR OPINION. What we are talking about goes way beyond what you term “physical theory” and YOUR perception of it’s limits.

“History also shows that science will reveal that much of what we desire will be even further out of reach. ”

Invalid cynical assumption, at least as phrased.

“We know that exceeding the speed of light (in a manner that involves the exchange of useful information) involves causal contradictions (See Jim’s post on this topic).”

non sequitur: see my previous posts re: FTL speed.

Most of your statements start with “We know”, but contain (or should contain) conditional qualifiers.

It is this kind of assuming, projected CERTAINTY that is indicative of hubris.

137. DAG - February 19, 2010

Well, if travel to other planets is too dangerous…and staying on our own is also to invite our extinction…

I’d rather die making an attempt to avoid extinction rather than sitting around going…”We’re all gonna die…it’s inevitable.”

I find when I do B…I tend to bury my head in a bottle…when I do A, I may get hurt, but sometimes I just do managed to pull off that backflip off the wall.

138. YARN - February 19, 2010

#136.

“In YOUR OPINION. What we are talking about goes way beyond what you term “physical theory” and YOUR perception of it’s limits.”

Our entry point into our discussion was science – Galileo and Copernicus being the freedom fighters and the Catholic Church being the evil “limitologists.”

My point is that science is all about finding the limits of the known and the knowable. Scientific theories have indeed become more precise with the passage of time. This is NOT “my opinion” but an empirically quantifiable FACT. Einstein’s relativity theory, for example, is one of the most accurate physical theories ever produced. With greater accuracy and precision comes less wiggle-room – less chance that “things might be otherwise.”
We don’t wonder where planets will wander because their orbits are now well defined – we know how they are limited.

“Invalid cynical assumption, at least as phrased.”

This is not a cynical assumption but an empirically borne out fact.

As science expands, the the gaps shrink. We don’t need, for example, to invoke a supreme being in our modern age to account for origin and variation of species. We’ve got a theory, a well-established one, which accounts for this process.

“non sequitur: see my previous posts re: FTL speed.”

LOL – I am not getting into a crank physics debate with you. Jim has the bit covered – argue with him about it. Minimally, you need to explain why what I wrote is a non-sequitur. This is the vaguest fallacy charge you can make – So my conclusion allegedly does not follow from my premises – OK, do you care to provide any analysis here?

“Most of your statements start with ‘We know’, but contain (or should contain) conditional qualifiers.”

Why do we need qualifiers here?

Are you saying that we do not now know that space contains dangerous levels of cosmic radiation? Are you a “radiation skeptic”? Perhaps also a holocaust denier? Perhaps 9-11 was a hoax too? Maybe we didn’t land on the moon? If you claim to know that we landed on the moon (without undo qualification, then you need to show why our knowledge of cosmic radiation (about which we learned in part from the Apollo missions) is so suspect as to need pious qualification.

Do I really need to qualify the claim that Alpha Centauri is 4 light years away? At most, we might demand more precision and say 4.36 light years. But what is there to suggest that this bit of common knowledge is so suspect that we need conditional qualification?

How much empirical data do you need for the claim that new technologies often have undesired side-effects? I refer you , Sir, to the 20th century.

“It is this kind of assuming, projected CERTAINTY that is indicative of hubris.”

And by your lights we don’t know ANYTHING which is skepticism run amok. Worse yet, you claim to KNOW that we don’t know anything, which is a broad, global claim. Socrates can pull a statement like this off – you – not so much.

Look, I can appreciate your romantic spirit. Great. I hope we get warp drive someday too. As of now, however, it is not in our forseeable future. We might as well talk about unicorns for the time being.

What I find troubling is your mischaracterization of arguments. You are either a nefarious sophist or have very little idea of how science fundamentally works.

The notion that science presents us with more and more limits as it becomes more accurate should not prevent you from enjoying fictonal stories about people who whisk around in space ships and meet humanoid aliens who all conveniently speak English. I like it. Or does that actual universe have to admit of Canon (i.e., physics of Star Trek) for you?

139. I am not Herbert - February 19, 2010

137. DAG: Good on ya!

I use Star Trek and all it embodies to “keep hope alive” on a daily basis. ;-)

140. Tiberius - February 19, 2010

Sigh! You guys need to watch the Science Channel more often!

http://science.discovery.com/videos/sci-fi-science-traveling-at-warp-speed.html

This Dr. Michio Kaku so it’s not just fan stuff. This was a good show but the book that goes along with it is even better! ” Physics of The Impossible ” Take that ” New Scientist “!

141. I am not Herbert - February 19, 2010

138. YARN

“My point is that science is all about finding the limits of the known and the knowable. ”

It seems unfathomable to me that SCIENCE would lead anyone to believe that there is any limit to what can or cannot be known (unknown)!

“You are either a nefarious sophist or have very little idea of how science fundamentally works.”

I DO like discussing philosophy, theology, metaphysics, the sciences…

“The notion that science presents us with more and more limits as it becomes more accurate…”

I REJECT this notion, and I begin to take insult, for the sake of SCIENCE!

To believe that we could know and understand all of nature, let alone it’s limitations, is naive, assuming and close-minded.

142. I am not Herbert - February 19, 2010

Michio Kaku is great! =D

I concur with a lot of his theory! He’s really good at explaining it too! Great teacher, highly recommended here, too!

143. I am not Herbert - February 19, 2010

134. YARN

“We know that exceeding the speed of light (in a manner that involves the exchange of useful information) involves causal contradictions (See Jim’s post on this topic).”

non sequitur: (faulty premise: FTL speed) (see my previous posts re: FTL speed.)

144. The TOS Purist aka The Purolator - February 19, 2010

“The Deflector Dish [...] – every Enterprise in Star Trek has had one since the show began in the 60s.”

Not true. The dish on the front of the TOS Enterprise was the MAIN SENSOR (as noted in Matt Jefferies’ original design blueprints), not the “warp deflector.”

145. ryanhuyton - February 19, 2010

I believe it was the writing staff of TNG or Rick Sternbach who came up the deflector dish/arrray term. I could be wrong of course, but I don’t recall it being mentioned on-screen prior to TNG. If Rick is reading, maybe he can clarify this. TOS never made mention of a deflector dish and neither did the first six movies. So, what kind of dish is on the refit Enterprise?Logically, it should be a deflector, but if it isn’t mentioned on screen, then it isn’t canon. Ahh, the nitpicking.

146. Rick Sternbach - February 19, 2010

#145 – I think we who worked on Trek (for me, beginning with ST:TMP in 1978), and those who followed the tech from 1966-on, probably figured the dish could be a deflector, maybe from looking at the Franz Joseph plans and TOS tech manual or just digging up things we imagined about relativistic or FTL spaceflight. By TNG, we finally agreed on what the thing really did and got it talked about in dialogue, like we did with the Bussard collectors. I don’t know the exact intent of the folks who worked on the 1701 Refit, like Andy Probert et al, but I suspect that the dish was given some deflector function. Canon doesn’t matter. :)

147. ryanhuyton - February 19, 2010

Rick, the answer you just gave might as well be canon. :-)

I had no idea your work on “Star Trek” began with “The Motion Picture”.
You might want to think about writing a book. I know you said before that you don’t have much to say, but I and a lot of your other fans disagree.
At least do an interview with Anthony. :-)

148. Rick Sternbach - February 20, 2010

#147 – Well, thanks for that. There’s definitely not enough material for a book, but the occasional web post gets the stories out.

149. "Check the Circuit!" - February 20, 2010

300 years ago people couldn’t dream that we’d have combustion engines, flight, assembly lines, computers, telephones or landings on the moon. Who’s to say what we’ll achieve in the next 300 years. Faster than light travel….why not? If you can dream it, you can achieve it.

That’s if the Hadron Super-Collider does blow up the world in 2012…but hopefully not before the new Star Trek movie has been released. :D

150. Jim Williams - February 20, 2010

I watched the science channel video and it’s just like most popular discussions of the Alcubierre Drive in that it totally ignores the causality issue for the sake of entertainment. Yes, a ship using such a drive would not, itself, ever move faster than light. But, such a ship could still be used to violate causality. As I stated before, the causality problem is totally independent of the method used to achieve FTL.

This causality problem is not something I just made up, it’s well known to all physicists who study relativity. i found a pretty good explanation on the Web:

http://www.theculture.org/rich/sharpblue/archives/000089.html

I’m quite sure that Dr. Kaku is fully aware of it also and just didn’t want to ruin the show.

I’ll share a few final thoughts and then I think I’ve beat this horse enough. Most of the postings here that say, “What about X! They said X was impossible!”, refer to things like computers, supersonic flight, and television. Most of these were basically engineering problems. They did not and do no require wholesale revisions to the laws of physics. The FTL problem is fundamentally different, in that we have a theory, relativity, and several metric tonnes of supporting evidence, ALL of which support the conclusion that FTL violates causality. What I’m claiming here is not in any way close minded or radical. It’s simply the way the universe is. I don’t much like it, but the ‘verse isn’t here to please me.

As for those people who say that nothing is truly impossible, that anything we can imagine can be achieved, all I can say is that I choose not to believe in magic. The universe operates by laws, and, as a consequence, has limits. Since we are part of the universe, our actions, our accomplishments, but not our imaginations, are bound by those laws. So i enjoy the fruits of our unlimited imaginations and eagerly read and watch stories with FTL, time travel, transporters, aliens, robot and all of the other favorites of SF and don’t let the impossibility of some of it diminish my enjoyment of a tale well told.

Jim

151. Astrophysicophile - February 20, 2010

144-148. I googled for the term “deflector dish” at websites with TOS transcripts, but I did not get any hits. So TOS probably never used the term. However, In TOS: “The Paradise Syndrome”, during the attempt to deflect the asteroid on a collision course with the Amerind planet, Spock did refer to the dish as “deflectors” (the dish is apparently an array of deflectors).

152. YARN - February 22, 2010

For the TMP blue prints I am pretty sure they were calling it a navigational deflector.

We should take a hint from this sort of retroactive determination.

That major exterior features of the ship, like the dish, would only develop a defined purpose ten years after the original series was canceled should caution, I think, against taking the idea of “physics of Star Trek” too seriously.

The reasons things work the way they do in the Trek verse are literary and practical. So the universe is too for realistic human space exploration? Have them travel at unrealistic speeds. The explanation only needs to sound plausible for us to suspend disbelief. Can’t afford SFX for a shuttle craft in your TV show? Just give ‘em a transporter beam so they can simply “appear” there.

Trek is not nor has it ever been “hard” science fiction. So there is no need to be upset when someone uses the name “Trek” in a science article. Indeed, instead of posting rebuttals, we should be happy that the brand is still part of pop culture.

153. Cpt.Rogers - March 2, 2010

So causality issues…when light enters a Bose-Einstein Condensate, the speed of light is effectively reduced inside of that area. So if it were possible to observe the universe from indside of that area, wouldn’t all the exterior universe violate causality by moving faster than the speed of light?

154. Hamar - March 27, 2010

Didn’t the New Scientist report a successful teleportation experiment several months ago. moving matter a few meters across a lab? It may have only been one atom but it’s a start.

155. ian - April 29, 2010

pass the bloodwine and beam me out out of here

156. JVM222 - May 21, 2010

YARN,Cpt. Rodgers and all…… its show, a TV show, a little model with glue but you do hope its becoming a reality, really you just want to blow a geeky warp load, don’t you?

157. Anonymous coward - June 2, 2010

It will become possible, you see the scientist who explained the hydrogen problem is the kind of scientist who although they struggle to forsee how these kinds of technologies would work, always fail to take into consideration current technologies and what Hawking said. There would be a bubble around the craft itself which would behave like a soap bubble does in water. Your craft wouldnt be going toe to toe with bare space against its outer skin, trying to cut through all that hydrogen like a blunt blade. The technology that powers the stealth creates a bubble around the airframe of the craft, this hasnt been acknowledged officially, nevertheless it is true. We already have the technology that would help the craft to behave according to Hawkings theory. Yes, we already have that, and thats no secret, so its quite extraordinary that Edelstein never factored that into his theory. If you want to find out about it, just read up on the townsend Brown connection to the B2 bomber.

158. Stephen - June 3, 2010

All we heard or almost a century after Albert Einstein was that ANY type of faster than light travel is impossible. No if’s, and, or buts. Einstein was the genius of genius’s (which of course he was) and because of that anyone who thought that faster than light travel was possible was a fool. Then in 1994 it was proven that wasn’t totally correct that it was theoretically possible after all. Now we are being told again almost twenty years later by this guy and others that it’s impossible after all. Probably after going another hundred years of being told it’s impossible another genius will come along and claim again that it really actually IS possible after all. The bottom line: WHO KNOWS!! I just think it’s sad that the idea of warp drive is not even in the engineering stage yet and some people want to already pronounce the idea as dead and buried.

159. Roger - June 26, 2010

The only thing that stops something travelling faster than the speed of light is mathematics!

160. stevo - November 18, 2010

mankind is going absolutely nowhere. Earth is it.

The limiting factor?

You can only carry so much toilet paper on a spaceship.

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