## Mar 7 How Warp Drives Work

I'm currently watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Warp Drives are engines which power the starships in the series and they travel faster than the speed of light, which is a useful plot device when all of the star system that they travel between are many light years away from each other. Travelling at the speed of light (c) is referred to as Warp 1, then each higher Warp Factor is equal to its number cubed multiplied by the speed of light. So Warp 2 is 8c, Warp 3 is 27c, all the way up to Warp 9 as 729c. So far in the series they haven't got up to Warp 10, but they have got up to about Warp 9.7 which is about 913c. This is a very odd scale; I've never met one quite like it.

Now this is all Sci Fi, because it is well known that the fastest speed possible is the speed of light at about 30,000,000 m/s. However there may be a work around. In 1994 a Mexican Physicist named Miguel Alcubierre came up with a theory for a speculative Warp Drive called the Alcubierre Drive. It is still true that an object can't travel more than c locally, but if you contracted the space in front of you by sealing it in a bubble of curved space (a hyper-relativistic local-dynamic space to use its full name) then you could travel through this temporally shorter distance at a normal speed. Behind the ship you could undo the bubble and expand the space back to its regular size. To an outside observer it would appear that you violated the speed limit, but from your ship's perspective you would have been within it.

This is all just about feasible, but we think it may be a pipe-dream. It is pleasing to note that NASA does have a Warp Drive Department though.