Time travel has always fascinated humanity, but technologies like the legendary space warp that we see in science-fiction movies like “Star Trek” are still far from being built.
Scientists have long debated the possibility of performing such a space warp, which consists of the ability to travel in space at a faster rate than light.
While some believe that the idea of spacefolding as a whole defies the laws of physics, others remain confident that it will come true and that we will one day be able to travel through space.
The idea of space warp
Spatial folding consists of a form of propulsion faster than the speed of light. The spacecraft would be able to contract space at the front of the spacecraft and expand it at the rear, creating the necessary propulsion for space travel.
In the “Star Trek” movies, spatial fold motion is achieved when matter and antimatter collide similarly to fusion, which is mediated by dilithium crystals.
Warp Drive pic.twitter.com/R5OmtTniu6
— Luke Morem (@MoremLuke) October 10, 2019
Unfortunately such “dilithium crystals” do not exist in real life, but the rest of the ingredients for realizing the bending mechanism do exist.
We are referring to deuterium, which is a hydrogen gas that could perhaps replace the fantastic “dilithium crystal.”
Antimatter also exists. While matter is composed of particles, antimatter is composed of antiparticles. Antimatter has the same mass and rotation as its equivalent, but with electric charge and opposite properties.
When matter and antimatter collide, they both destroy each other, and the energy released by the collision is able to propel a ship at speeds faster than light.
An irrelevant obstacle
The biggest challenge in achieving space-fold technology is overcoming Einstein’s theory of relativity.
A Teoria da Relatividade em uma foto pic.twitter.com/LVZNsuvONC
— Tawan Murphy ❁ (@secanagem) October 6, 2019
University of Melbourne physicist Roger Rassool summarized the theory by explaining that as an object travels at increasing speed, it gets heavier and heavier. The heavier the harder it is to reach acceleration. Therefore, we will not be able to reach the speed of light.
Not all scientists are totally convinced however. While demanding an absurd amount of energy and going against Einstein’s theory of relativity, they are determined to hit the long-awaited space-folding technology.
First try: the Alcubierre wave
To circumvent the theory of relativity, Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre formulated in the 1990s a theory that a ship could travel at the speed of light without actually traveling at the speed of light. According to him, the ship could travel within a “wave” formed by stretching the fabric of spacetime.
But Alcubierre’s ploy would also require a massive amount of energy. Moreover, it is a completely theoretical approach without practical demonstrations.
Alcubierre’s thesis has a significant number of enthusiasts. NASA coordinated successful experiments based on the study of physics, albeit again only on a theoretical basis.
Second try: the new frontier
Studies on space warp continue to progress. In August, a University of Alabama engineering student, Joseph Agnew, began a new line of research in this area. According to the student, the “Star Trek” films (both old and current) were able to predict various technological innovations.
He explained that when we talk about space warp, people are already laughing because the subject is so theoretical and straight from science fiction stories.
Over the past decade, progress in the area has continued, revealing the small-big challenges ahead.
Energy is the ‘X’ of the question
The amount of positive and negative energy needed to create the “wave” proposed by Alcubierre would be massive or even impractical. There is a consensus among scientists that such an amount of energy would have to come from some exotic matter capable of generating energy equivalent to the mass of planet Jupiter.
To put the idea of special folding into practice, there are still other obstacles, such as funding, the necessary progress in the fields of quantum physics and alternative energy generation to be able to propel a spacecraft through the Solar System.