Warp speed has always been something from science fiction, seen on movies and television shows since back when “Star Trek” first introduced the concept. Warp travel is basically a fancy way of saying “faster than light travel,” that is to say traveling faster than a ray of light can. This has always been theorized as an impossibility due to the theory of relativity (light will always travel at a constant speed regardless of conditions); at least up until 1994.
Theoretical Physicist Miguel Alcubierre published a paper just one year after receiving his PhD from the University of Wales in Cardiff. Dr. Alcubierre theorized that faster than light travel would be possible IF the object in motion were to remain stationary. Doesn’t make any sense right? Here’s where it gets cool: he theorized that these conditions could all be met by the use of a bubble of spacetime. The bubble would expand the spacetime behind it while simultaneously contracting the spacetime in front; all the while any passengers would only experience a calm zero gravity with no other effects.
This theory was widely shut down; due to the sheer amount of energy it would take in order to get a machine like that operational – we just didn’t have the ability to do that. The truth is we still don’t. It wasn’t until Harold “Sonny” White of NASA’s Johnson Space Center came along that the theory was looked at for a second time.
In 2011 Dr. White published a paper entitled “Warp Field Mechanics 101” that utilized Alcubierre’s theory but changed the shape of the warp drive in the center of the spacetime bubble. He discovered that if we went away from the flat rings around a football shaped machine and instead changed the shape of the rings to a more donut shape, the amount of energy required would be vastly reduced.
Scientists have since been working on what they called an EmDrive, another form of propulsion invented and designed by British aerospace engineer Roger J. Shawyer. The EmDrive was designed as another form of propulsion using microwaves for thrust, without any reaction mass for fuel; what it’s turned out to be is something much more exciting.
On the 21st of April, 2015 scientists gathered to test out the EmDrive using lasers and a tool to measure the variances in path-time of light. After they fired the lasers however, they began noticing that some of the rays appeared to travel faster than theoretically possible – faster than the speed of light. Thinking it may have been some sort of fluke due to atmospheric heating they decided to have another go at the test, except in a vacuum this time. What they found was nothing short of extraordinary, the effect was 40x greater than they had originally produced. They have successfully, and completely by accident, created the world’s first warp field. We could be looking at the beginning to interstellar travel, or even commercialized space travel! One thing is for sure, in a few years the famous quote, “2nd star to the right, straight on till morning,” could end up as actual directions!