Designations in outer space can be separated by nearly unimaginable distances. In the realm of science fiction, when our intrepid space heroes need to get from one star system to another, they activity their handy-dandy hyperspace motor, and with a few button pushes, the good ship and crew are traveling beyond the speed of light...life is good and the beer is cold. But, could it be that easy? Could future space explorers engage some advance propulsion system, and cross light-years, like we drive to the Starbuck's? Is that type of propulsion system possible, according to science? What is science saying about the possibility of superluminal travel for our future astronauts? Will travel between stars ever be like the fictional reality found in sci-fi via some sort of near-magically FTL drive system? Recently FWS discussed sub-light propulsion, and now, we are going to cover the scientific POV on FTL, as well as how sci-fi portrayal of superluminal velocities. BTW...I listened to a lot of Royksopp and Daft Punk while writing this.
The Speed of Light by the Numbers
- AUs per day at the Speed of Light? 173
- KPS? 300,000
- Miles Per Second? 186,282.4
- Meters Per Second? 299,792,458
- KPH? 1,080 Million
- MPH? 671 Million
- From Terra to Luna? 1.3 seconds
- From Terra to Sol? 8.3 minutes
- From Terra to Mars? 12.5 minutes
- From the Sol System to Alpha Centauri? 4.3 years
- Cross the Milky Way Galaxy? 100,000 years
- From the Milky Way to Andromeda? 2.5 million years (bring a book)
Superluminal Velocity In Context
Why is Faster-Than-Light Travel Considered Impossible?
Another element in the case against FTL is that there no real examples of it in observable phenomenon, light speed seems to be the speed limit in the known universe. Also complicating matters is the power requirements for FTL. At the moment, NASA is working Alcubierre Drive, which could require massive amount of power...like more than the current power output of our entire planet and several others. Speaking of power requirements, we need to talk about mass. Einstein stated that an object gains mass as it accelerates. The more speed equals greater mass, and this issue becomes worse as you achieve the speed of light. According to Einstein, an object that could achieve the speed of light, mass would be infinite. There is no force in the known universe that can allow our starship achieve the thrust needed for light speed while at infinite mass.
Mainstream physics still says no, but that has not stopped these FTL particles for being used as the basis for fictional FTL system, as seen in Space Cruiser Yamato or even time travel, as seen in NBC time traveling show Journeyman. Are these particles a sign of possible FTL? Some believe that Tachyons are real and originate from various wormholes that are present in our galaxy, spilling out from dimensional neverland that wormholes open up to...that's the theory anyway.
What Would Happen if you Actually Achieved Superluminal Speeds?
What COULD Happen After You "Break" the "Light Barrier"
What Would Happen if you Fired Your Phasers at Warp Speed?
For all of its boasting about being hard science fiction, I can remember watching Star Trek and seeing a number of times starships engaging in space combat while at warp speeds. Not only were they fired their directed energy beams at one another, but also torpedoes. Never fucking mind that completely bullshit combat sequence in Star Trek: Into Dogshit, where the USS Vengeance pounds the Enterprise like a porn star. There is just no way to use DE weapons while at FTL, not to mention some sort of missile-based weapon. These missiles would have to have their own FTL drive, similar to what is on the launching starship. The cost of an missile system fitted with an microized FTL system would beyond insane. You better really, really want to kill the other ship.
here is a link:
Why is FTL Important to Sci-Fi?
Faster-Than-Light and Science Fiction
Guide to Sci-Fi FTL Propulsion Terms
Jump Drive/Space Fold
Wormhole Jump Gates
The Possibility of FTL Will Determine Our Future Reality
Is There Any Hope of an Sci-Fi Star-Drive?
Designing Your Own FTL Propulsion System
Star Trek: Enterprise clearly set up that Starfleet at disadvantage over the rest of the alien races in the Alpha Quadrant with only being able to reach Warp-5. In ROBOTECH, the SDF-1 had to make a long journey across the solar system due to the disappearance of their fold system. And just look at The Empire Strikes Back and The Phantom Plot, the failure of the hyperdrive is key to overall story. At the end of the day, when you sit down to craft your story, that is your universe, and how your characters zip around is your business, it just has to be convincing in your fictional setting to other readers. Sorry to get all Bob Ross on you, but it is important to remember that we are crafting science fiction, and not a term paper on physics. Just design our own FTL with care and consideration, and not treating it like a one-night stand.
Proposed FTL Propulsion Systems
The Alcubierre Warp Drive
What is it?
Why This Could Work:
Why This Could Not Work:
The Krasnikov Tube
In 1995, Serguei Krasnikov proposed another FTL system that attempts to conform to known physics. The system is different that others seen in science fiction and the Alcubierre Warp Drive. There is the example I've seen online. Our good starship Enterprise travels to Epsilon Eridani at near light-speed, once arrive there, the trip back is shortened by the Enterprise traveling back on its own path. This short-cut corridor was created by the Enterprise by warping space behind it. This system would allow for a more rapid return trip...like driving to LA from Dallas, and taking plane back to Dallas once you're in LA, and not driving back. It sucks the way there, but nice the way back. It is believed that the trip back would not have time dilation issues, due to the tunneling through time. However, our starships would have to be careful, two tubes going in opposite directions could create issues with Causality due to a loop in space-time. One of the other major issues is that tube would have to be forged by negative energy, and which could be more theory than fact. There some theories I've read that say that aliens have developed tubes going through the galaxy...so, where is my subway pass card?
Could Wormholes Be Used For FTL Travel?
Another major issue for future use of wormholes was best demonstrated in the Season 3 episode of ST:TNG "the price". It was believed by an alien race, the Barzan, that they had the first stable wormhole in the Alpha Quadrant. When this theory was tested, it was learned that entrance wormhole was stable, however, the exit wormhole migrated locations in the Delta Quadrant. This could be the reality for wormholes, stable on one end, and destable on another. Which is very bad for interstellar trade and travel. However, the greater question is if wormholes could be used for travel at all. There is no evidence to support their exists, let alone that they exit into somewhere you want to go, and if these wormholes are navigable by a starship.
"If the Universe is so Big..." Question
Atomic Rockets FTL entry
University of California at Riverside
Negative Energy and FTL Travel
The 2012 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate: Faster-Than-Light
Will We Ever Visit Other Stars?
Dr. Michio Kaku on Warp Drive