"Maximum warp." It's a command given by many a Star Trek commander, but Hollywood seemed to be as close to reality that this fictional, faster-than-light speed would ever get. That is until a NASA scientist recently said it's not as outlandish as one may think.
Space.com reports that the idea for warp drive to exist in reality was drawn up in 1994 by physicist Miguel Alcubierre, but it required so much energy that it wasn't quite within the realm of hope. Now, a NASA physicist has said that he thinks he has found a way for it to run on less energy.
Here's how Space.com describes Alcubierre's concept working:
An Alcubierre warp drive would involve a football-shape spacecraft attached to a large ring encircling it. This ring, potentially made of exotic matter, would cause space-time to warp around the starship, creating a region of contracted space in front of it and expanded space behind.
With this concept, the spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of about 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit.
This idea though would require a huge amount of energy, like that equal in mass to the solar system's largest planet, Jupiter. The fix to require less energy, as described by White, is that the shape of this outer ring would need to be rounded and not flat.
"There is hope," Harold "Sonny" White of NASA's Johnson Space Center said at the 100 Year Starship Symposium.
"The findings I presented today change it from impractical to plausible and worth further investigation," White said to Space.com. "The additional energy reduction realized by oscillating the bubble intensity is an interesting conjecture that we will enjoy looking at in the lab."
For more details on how this works, check out this video from Space.com:
Get a little glimpse of Star Trek warp speed in this short clip: