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Monthly Archives: January 2010

From my warp project:

The most difficult and confusing part about light and energy is trying to figure out what they actually are, and why they set the speed limit on the universe. Light, as far as we can discover, is a type of electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation is a type of energy emitting wave that travels by means of both an electric and a magnetic field that oscillate perpendicular to each other. Light, as it turns out, belongs to a wide range of electromagnetic wavelengths that are detectible, although only visible light can be seen with the naked human eye.
            The differences in the electromagnetic radiation are determined by their frequency and wavelength. We have discovered that we can develop technology similar to our own eyes, only they are designed to see different frequencies and wavelength, rather than just visible light. As humankind pointed these devices into space to observe the things we cannot see through conventional lenses, we discovered that the speed at which this radiation travels remained constant, although, this is nothing new.

            A man by the name of James Clerk Maxwell believed that EM radiation travelled in waves, and put forth equations to prove this. He discovered that his equations on the speed of the waves matched that of the determination of the speed of light. From this, Maxwell concluded that visible light must be a type of EM radiation. Through his calculations, scientists have over time been able to narrow the gap in understanding the fundamentals of what light is actually made of.

            Determining that is actually far more complicated. Light is believed to be made of elementary particles. The difficulty in determining the actual properties of these particles are the fact that they emit both wave properties and normal particle properties, and as such they are bound partly by both particle physics and the physics of wave models. None other than Einstein set out to solve this problem, and he soon discovered that this duality offered its own model of physics and the concept of photons was born.

            According to Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, photons have no mass, no electric charge, and they do not decay spontaneously in empty space. Photons are emitted from various sources, including charged particles (such as electrons) interacting with magnetic fields, elementary particles in many states and conditions transiting to a lower energy level, and during matter/antimatter reactions. Photons are the result of the propagation of light, and carry both energy and momentum, which is created from energy of the light source, and destroyed when the light is absorbed. In a nutshell, light is created from a source of energy. This source, such as excited atoms, emits some of this energy in the form of photons, which are tiny energetic particles that fly away from the source at tremendous speeds. When photons with a certain wavelength and frequency hit the receptors in our eyes, we see it as light.

            This is simple, right? Actually it gets far more complicated. Photons may be energy released from an energy source, but what is that source? Well, the source is actually mass. Here is where Einstein really wrote the book on energy. He understood that all mass had a potential for energy, even if the mass was motionless. Using single particles in this experiment, he called this state “rest mass” for these particles (known for other types of mass as “invariant mass”), and it basically described that even though the mass was not moving, it still had the potential to do so. The trick is understanding that it takes energy to move an object, and the faster you move an object, the more energy is required. This is known as kinetic energy, and it describes the energy exerted on the mass.

            Where it gets really strange is when Einstein realized that both mass and energy have the same potential in relation to each other, in a sense, they are the same thing. Einstein realized that mass is not converted into energy, or vice versa, but rather that they coexist in relation to the other, they are connected and you cannot have mass without energy, or energy without mass. Therefore, when mass is accelerated, its speed and momentum increase the kinetic energy. This, in turn, will raise the total energy of the object with mass, and as the speed reaches the speed of light, these numbers begin to approach infinite. This means that as the mass reaches the speed of light it contains so much energy in relation to the mass of the object that the object itself essential becomes enveloped in its own energy. Thus,  describes energy as mass that has been accelerated to a point where the energy of the mass overcomes the mass itself.

            So, light and energy cannot be accelerated past the speed of light. The problem this presents to FTL is the fact so much energy is used in bringing mass to the point of energy at that speed, how do you create the amount of energy required to produce a condition in which mass is accelerate beyond that barrier and still have the same properties of its mass? Although energy exertion on mass and energy used to bend space are not exactly the same thing, it would still take far more energy to create a warp distortion than to accelerate an object to the speed of light, neither of which could be done by humanity at the time these concepts were discovered.

From my warp project:

Publicly, the thought of traversing the stars began many years before Einstein’s theories, however before those theories it was thought to be impossible. Many ideas were created in the aftermath of Einstein’s equations, although few of them gained any popularity in the scientific community. It wasn’t until a young scientist, named G. Wesley Roddenberry, came up with the concept of “warp drive,” which he coined in his first publication of the subject in 1964.

            Warp drive, he explained, would create a sort of electromagnetic field at specific points in space that would create a distortion effect to essentially expand space around the vessel, allowing this expansion to push the vessel through space. Theoretically, the ship could travel faster than the speed of light.

            At first, these ideas were rejected, however after careful consideration, much of the mathematical information was sound, and this soon became the leading theory on FTL travel. Many other theories were developed over time, and with the thought of FTL actually being possible, many gained popularity, however none were ever able to completely debunk Roddenberry’s theory from mainstream. The problem, however, was trying to figure out how this could be applied as a viable technology. The answer, as it turned out, came in the form of energy.

From my paper on the development of warp drive:

Why is this barrier so daunting to astrophysicists? This question can best be answered by Albert Einstein. In 1905, he published the Special Relativity Theory, which describes the physical conditions of objects in motion. Einstein theorized that in a vacuum (also known as free space) where there are no particles of matter, gravity and other universal forces were constant and the speed of light would also be constant to any outside observer, regardless of the observers’ motion in relation to the light source. This provided the constant in Einstein’s famous formula for Special Relativity: , where c is the speed of light, a constant in free space.

The theory of Special Relativity goes on explain that as an object moves faster and faster, approaching the speed of light, the physical properties exerted on it change dramatically. Specifically, perception of time changes and mass begins to take on properties of energy rather than of typical massive matter. As such it was theorized that an object could not be accelerated to the speed of light without changing the nature of the object in some way. Once this happens, the object becomes the same energy as light when it travels at this speed, and thus cannot naturally travel faster.

So how then, if an object cannot even move at the speed of light in normal spacetime, does an object move faster than light? In 1915, Einstein published the General Relativity Theory, which mainly describes his concept of how gravity actually works in relation to Special Relativity. In this theory, Einstein explained that gravity is one of many dominant forces playing on the universe. These forces affect both space and time as a single dimension that exists around us, known as spacetime. In this model, spacetime is altered by gravitational pull, as well as the pull of the other forces expelled on the universe. These forces play dramatic roles on our understanding of physics and the how the universe works. It alters our perception of time, space geometry, dimensional space, light, and many other oddities that exist in our universe.

Spacetime, Einstein believed, could be viewed as a sort of fabric that stretches across the universe. Gravity, created by a mass, would be like placing a weight on the fabric, which would sink where the weight had been placed. If you were to put a ball bearing on the cloth and let it roll freely, it would become attracted to the weight’s impression on the material. This is how gravity is believed to work, and subsequently, gives light to the nature of normal spacetime; it provides the idea that spacetime can be and is curved.

This concept allows for the possibility of an object travelling faster than the speed of light if spacetime is curved around the object. Einstein himself offered his thoughts on the subject with the equation =   , where  is the Einstein Curvature Tensor (which describes the curvature of space), and G is the gravitational constant. In this model, the object is not technically exceeding the speed of light, it simply appears that way to an outside observer. The question then becomes how to create a curvature of space and how can that curvature be used to accelerate an object past the speed of light (and what would happen to that object when it reaches those speeds).