Author Topic: How to Build a Warp Drive Using Metamaterials  (Read 4459 times)

Offline aceshigh

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How to Build a Warp Drive Using Metamaterials
« on: 10/01/2010 02:56 am »

A "warp drive" built using metamaterials could reach a quarter of light speed.

Metamaterials are substances in which their ability to support electric and magnetic fields can be changed. Fiddle with these properties in just the right way and you can steer electromagnetic waves in all kinds of strange and exotic ways.

The highest profile use of this idea is to build invisibility cloaks but there's another more fascinating application. It turns out there is a formal mathematical analogy between the way metamaterials bend light and the way gravity does it. Inside metamaterials, electromagnetic space becomes distorted in exactly the same way as spacetime in general relatively.

That means physicists can use metamaterials to simulate the universe itself and all the weird phenomenon of general relativity. We've looked at various attempts to recreate black holes, the Big Bang and even multiverses.

But there's another thing that general relativity appears to allow: faster than light travel. In 1994, the Mexican physicist, Michael Alcubierre, realised that while relativity prevents faster-than-light travel relative to the fabric of spacetime, it places no restriction on the speed at which regions of spacetime can move relative to each other.

That suggests a way of building a warp drive. Alcubierre imagined a small volume of flat spacetime in which a spacecraft sits, surrounded by a bubble of spacetime that shrinks in the direction of travel, bringing your destination nearer, and stretches behind you. He showed that this shrinking and stretching could enable the bubble--and the spaceship it contained--to move at superluminal speeds.

Today, Igor Smolyaninov at the University of Maryland, points out that if these kinds of bubbles are possible in spacetime, then it ought to be possible to simulate them inside a metamaterial.

His analysis makes for interesting reading. It turns out that faster than light travel travel is not possible inside any physically-realisable metamaterial. That agrees with various analyses of Alcubierre's ideas suggesting that his bubble would be highly unstable and that superluminal travel would be impossible. We looked at one here.

However, Smolyaninov says that subluminal travel is still possible using this method and shows how it ought to be possible to reach speeds of up to a quarter of the speed of light by distorting space in front of and behind the traveller.

That's not quite warp speed, nowhere near it actually. But it's a fair rate of knots by anybody's standards.

It only remains for somebody to actually build a metamaterial capable of this trick. And judging by the rate at which this stuff is being developed, we shouldn't have too long to wait.

Ref: Metamaterial-Based Model Of The Alcubierre Warp Drive

Offline Patchouli

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Re: How to Build a Warp Drive Using Metamaterials
« Reply #1 on: 10/01/2010 03:57 am »
I have to say Igor Smolyaninov is might be wrong on the drive as several more prominent physicists say it might be possible.

So far only three people have really attacked the Alcubierre drive theory.

Also keep in mind it's only one of several FTL theories shooting this down does not mean we'll be stuck with slow boats and never really explore the galaxy.

Heck we probably do now know everything there is to know about physics we don't know what dark matter is and we don't even know is dark energy real or is it just a distortion in our local region.
Heck apparently we found not all type 1As are the same brightness so our standard candle is not as uniform as first believed.

An interesting thought experiment about FTL is the fact any photon or even some matter entering a fast spinning black hole can cover the distance of it's orbit close to the event horizon at FTL even though it's moving though space a sub luminal velocities.
This is due to frame dragging ie the space being dragged around by the black hole. So yes FTL should be possible and in fact there may be several ways of skinning this cat.
« Last Edit: 10/01/2010 04:02 am by Patchouli »