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Category Archives: Warp Drive

From my project, will take much more editing:

The only true source of power awesome enough to create the energy required for this new technology is antimatter. By the time faster than light concepts were truly starting to be realized, antimatter had been a common concept, starting as early as the 1880s. In this time, scientists believed that no space could be completely devoid of matter, even sub-atomically, and so all space was filled with a medium called aether (also known as æther or ether). Eventually, the properties and effects of aether were used to explain many problems in physics, many of which were more correctly described by Einstein’s theories of Relativity.

            In the late 1880s, Karl Pearson developed a theory in which aether would flow in and out of normal space into and out of a fourth dimension. In this theory, the flow into normal space was essentially normal matter, however the flow out of normal space was called negative matter. Pearson is credited with coining the term, and the concept of antimatter becomes common among theorists thereafter.

            The term “antimatter” came later, first used by Arthur Schuster in 1898. Schuster believed that there was an entire anti-universe complete with anti-solar systems as well as anti-particles. Schuster also hit on an important truth; he believed that matter and antimatter would annihilate each other. The problem with these ideas at this time was that they were only ideas; Schuster never made a serious hypothetical proposal to the scientific community, nor did he present any real evidence to support his speculation.

            The first modern proposal of antimatter came in 1928 by Paul Dirac. Dirac realized that his version of the Schrödinger Wave Equation was predicting the possibility of anti-electrons. Though Dirac did not actually use the term antimatter, his predictions of anti-electrons were proven in 1932 by Carl Anderson. Anderson called these anti-electrons “positrons,” meaning positive electron, since a anti-electron is essentially an electron with a positive charge.

            Although antimatter was believed to exist by this time, humanity could not seem to find it anywhere in the universe. This concept of a higher propagation of matter over antimatter is known as baryon asymmetry, and it is still not known why this imbalance exists. It is believed that there would have to be only one more matter particle per billion matter/antimatter particle pairs to create an imbalance in the universe, and it is difficult to determine if antimatter might exist in large quantities outside of the galaxy. Although many antiparticles are created inside the galaxy, they are quickly annihilated when they come into contact with matter. The exact natural existence of antimatter as a whole still remains a mystery.

            Since its discovery, antimatter has been studied in as much detail as possible. It was discovered that the main requirement to naturally create antimatter was a significantly high temperature, and in 1995 CERN announced that it had successfully created nine antihydrogen atoms using an early particle collider. These particles were highly energetic from the collisions that created them, and analysts were not able to adequately study them before they annihilated. However, in 2002, the ATHENA project announced that they were able to successfully create “cold” antihydrogen (antihydrogen that was less energetic). ATHENA was able to slow the particles down in a particle decelerator, then passed them through foil, and then captured them in a penning trap. Although this process was effective in slowing down the particles enough to study, the process was highly inefficient. During the process of “cooling,” most of the particles are lost, only approximately .04% of the particles make it to the penning trap.

In 2004, ATHENA released a new method of cooling the antihydrogen more efficiently. The process was similar only cooled electrons were injected into the penning trap, this time filled with only antiprotons. Since antiprotons and electrons both have a negative charge they do not react with each other to annihilate, they do however create Coulomb collisions, which describes the interaction of the negative electric charge of both particles to reverse the excitement of the particles. The Coulomb reactions that occur as a result of the mix essentially cool the antiprotons while simultaneously warming the electrons, creating equilibrium. While the temperature in the first trap is being adjusted a second trap is prepared by first collecting positrons from radioactive sodium and then injecting them into the trap. Once the temperatures of the two traps are at their desired range, the antiprotons are mixed into the second trap with the positrons; the Coulomb reaction in this case is the attraction of the opposing charges together to form antihydrogen.

Though this process was far more effective it was also extremely expensive, estimated at 25 billion dollars in United States money per gram of positrons, and 62.5 trillion United States dollars per gram of antihydrogen. 

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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).

Back to warp drive! And again, as I have not really explained what warp drive actually is, here is my continuation explanation.

As I said before, space is like a fabric that gravity sort of tugs on to make objects with mass come together (if you would like more information on that post, click here). The concept of warp drive can be looked at in a similar way. Although Albert Einstein never actually came up with the warp drive theory itself, his papers on the subject did lead to the concept of warp drive. When refering to the possibility of traveling faster than lightspeed, Einstein commented that it would be possible to move faster than the speed of light if spacetime were curved. Meaning that if you could curve the space fabric, much like gravity does, then you might be able to manipulate it in such a way that you may be able to travel faster than light.

Again this did not correlate to an official theory of “warp drive,” however as far as I can tell Gene Roddenberry used this information to create his own basic concept of warp drive that was used on Star Trek. This may have been generalized theories by actual scientists or something that Roddenberry came up with himself. It is also not quite known if Roddenberry coined the term “warp drive” or if it came from another soarce.

But I digress…back to the subject. Warp drive can be looked at much in the same way that gravity is looked at. There are varrying ways of doing it, but essentially an object would have to create a pull on the spacetime fabric around the ship. This can be seen as a pull similar to gravity in front of the ship, where pushing into the fabric forces the object to move toward it. Simultaniously, if you were to create an opposite push behind the vessel, you could push it away from the disturbance in the fabric. This is refered to gravitationally as “anti-gravity,” (the opposite of gravity, pushing away instead of pulling toward), and can be thought of as pushing up from the bottom of the fabric to sort of create a ‘hill’ in it rather than a ‘dip.’ In this case, the object on the fabric, such as a ball bearing, would roll away from the hill rather than fall toward it.

Alcubbiere Drive

So then, if you were able to create a ‘dip’ in spacetime in front of the ship and a ‘hill’ in spacetime behind the ship and make both of these disturbances move in the same direction at the same time and at the same speed, you could push/pull the object without the object moving on its own. In this instance, space around the object is moving rather than the object itself. I dare you to set up a piece of cloth and put a ball bearing on it and try it for yourself.

There have been many theories on the subject since the creation of the original Star Trek. Even enough to change the way that Roddenberry’s original warp drive works on the shows and movies. The latest concept, known as the Alcubierre Drive, was created by Miguel Alcubierre in Mexico in the ’90s, and is considered to be the closest we have come to actually developing a working theory on warp propulsion.

Related External Links:
Alcubierre Drive on Wikipedia
Warp Drive on Wikipedia

Warp Drive on Memory Alpha
The General Theory of Relativity on Wikipedia

Before I start going into utter craziness about how warp drive works on star trek, first I should probebly explain what warp drive is and how it affects space.

On that note, you must first understand how SPACE works before you can understand how to warp it. Albert Einstein thought up the modern concept of space when he developed his theories on how physics worked when dealing with strange concepts like gravity or light. Einstein believed that space could be looked at like a fabric that has been pulled taught and so it was uniform in nature, a flat surface. Obviously, the universe is not flat, it is 3-dimentional, but Einstein felt that this idea was the best way to explain the dimention of space that we inhabit (in Star Trek, this is referred to as the space-time continuum). He felt that gravity could be explained by the way it affects the “fabric” of space rather than how gravity affects individual objects.

Gravity, in the idea of the fabric, would be like placing a weight on the fabric. Invariably, the weight would sink. This sinking into the fabric is how massive objects affect the spacetime continuum. If you were to roll a ball bearing across the fabric in the general direction of the weight, the sinking affect will catch the ball as it rolls, this would be like being caught in the massive objects gravity well. As the ball rolls around the weight, it is orbiting the weight. Eventually, it will stop against the object, and occupy the same relative space. This is known to scientists as “accretion,” and an example can be anything from a black hole sucking in another star to two planets crashing into each other to form a larger one or asteroids coming together to form planetoids or an asteroid striking a planets surface.

As objects become more massive (either by increasing mass and/or density), they sink deeper into the spacetime fabric, causing more gravitational pull. Einstein felt that this is how our dimention of space worked. The reason it is called “spacetime” is because it didn’t take scientists long to figure out that time is also affected by gravity when they put Einstein’s theories to the test.

Time, though it is linear and travels only in one direction (that we know of), does move in different speeds relative to gravity. For example, if you were to place a clock on a satellite, and match it with a clock on the surface of Earth, the clock orbiting would move faster than the one on Earth. Time itself does not change, for example you could not measure a space minute and call it 45 earth seconds, but simply our perception of time changing as a result of gravity when we observe it from outside. If you were on the spaceship, it would be more like the clock on earth would be moving slower, rather than yours moving faster. Either way, a minute is still a minute. 
If it confuses the hell out of you (like it does me), don’t worry, it’s not important. Scientists, with all their calculations, experiements, and theories, don’t really get it either. The question they are attempting to answer is whether it is actually gravity that causes “time-dilation” (the changes in perceptive speed), or if it is gravities affect on the spacetime fabric. And if so, how can we understand why this happens?

Very crazy stuff if you ask me!

You know, as a trekkie, that I have much love for Rodenberry, but man he was vague about treknology! Of coarse, with production ever changing, and new concepts of the science world going in and out of popularity or theoretically fizzling out, he had to be. And of coarse, it’s not his fault that there are literally thousands of nerds out there that nitpick this stuff, like why in the heck there is no consistancy between warp drive between Enterprise, The Next Generation, and The Original Series!

The answer is (of coarse) that at the time TOS was being made the theory of warp drive was only a concept that at the time wasn’t very well explained. When the franchise grew and scientists began looking at the theory more closely, some of their ideas began being included in the movies, and by the time TNG came out, Rodenberry had a whole new concept for treknology that could be applied. These concepts were forced onto the concept of TOS tech, and eventually it became widely accepted that TOS used TNG style warp drive, except of coarse by TOS fanatics. Then, with ENT, the concepts were reverse engineered for an older style, and this just complicated everything!

So why am I making a big deal out of this? Because like many trekkies, I too love Star Trek for it’s exploration of the wonders of the universe, and love to see Rodenberry’s and now other’s ideas of how man reaches the stars! I have been working on this project for some time, of creating information on technology and history in Trek to fill in the gaps, so stay tuned for updates!