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[Slashdot] - Is NASA Actually Working On a Warp Drive?

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"Is NASA really working on... a warp drive?" asks Popular Mechanics? Long-time Slashdot reader schwit1 shares their report: An internal feasibility report suggests the agency might be, or at least that the idea of traveling through folded space is part of the NASA interstellar spaceflight menu. In the report, advanced propulsion physicist Harold "Sonny" White explains the ideas of theoretical physicist (and peer) Miguel Alcubierre. He then describes a "paradox" in Alcubierre's work, and how that paradox might be resolved to make a working model... The colloquial term "warp drive" has come from science fiction, and it refers to the idea of sub-luminal (less than the speed of light) travel that conforms to Einstein's theory of general relativity, but still pushes speed to absolute maximum that's theoretically possible... In real life, light speed is the barrier... Alcubierre's theory dates to 1994, and physicists have used it as a jumping-off point for further discussion ever since. By creating a kind of pocket world where a spaceship can operate seemingly outside of physics [and using a huge amount of energy], the laws of physics can be sidestepped — or so the theory goes... The NASA paper suggests a rolling start in order to guarantee a travel direction... He suggests the proving ground for warp speed could be, well, closer to home. "[T]he idea of a warp drive may have some fruitful domestic applications 'subliminally,' allowing it to be matured before it is engaged as a true interstellar drive system," he explains. If scientists can make the so-called "negative mass" required for an Alcubierre drive, even a tiny example could be deployed within Earth's atmosphere.

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