You'll recall that one of the stories we've been following here is NASA's and DARPA's research into "warp drive," i.e.,the idea that by creating areas of compression and rarefaction in the fabric of space time, "travel" would be possible beyond the velocity of light. The idea is possible, and was published in the 1990s in a paper by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre. The problem is, however, (or rather, it may be the problem was), that to create such areas of compression and rarefaction, one would need an energy supply roughly on the size of the mass-energy conversion of the planet Jupiter, clearly beyond current possibilities. Then along came NASA's Dr. Harold "Sonny" White, who revised some of Alcubierre's equations with the net effect that the amount of energy required to affect such a warping was greatly reduced, placing it just possibly within the realm of human capabilities provided it could be researched and made to be practical.
After these developments, you'll recall that DARPA (The Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, or as we like to call it here, following the suggesting of one of our readers, Mr. J.B., the Diabolically Apocalyptic Research Projects Agency) made the announcement of a goal for the United States within the next 100 years, namely, that it wanted the USA to become "Warp capable" in the next 100 years.
Think of that for a moment: your grandchildren, in such a culture, might think of a two week vacation to the Alpha Centauri system (our nearest neighbor, and about 4.3 light years away) to be as normal as a family vacation to Europe. In other words, the 20th century was the century when, due to air travel, the globe shrank dramatically. and the 21st and 22nd centuries might be the centuries when our local celestial space - our "quadrant of the galaxy" to use the Star Trek terminology - shrinks dramatically. Rockets will be as obsolete for travel and "space commerce" then as a medieval caravel is for oceanic travel and commerce now.
Well, there's been some developments in this story, and as the New Year approaches, it's worth highlighting them. Please note that the real meat of this article is in the video of Dr. White's presentation to NASA Ames, the first part of which I shall try to summarize my commentary following the video:
Dr. White begins his talk by noting the following things(I have attempted to indicate the approximate time stamp of his remarks in my summary):
- He notes that NASA is cooperating with DARPA in some of this research (5:25);
- At the current rate of progress of the Voyager I probe(launched in 1977), traveling at 3AU/year (1 AU= approximately 93,000,000 miles), it would take Voyager I approximately 75,000 years to reach our nearest stellar neighbor, the star Alpha Centauri (6:40);
- In the 1960s the British Interplanetary Society's Project Daedelus calculated that a fusion-powered spaceship, journeying to Barnard's star (about 6 light years away), would require a craft weighing 54,000 metric tons, 92% of the weight being taken up by fuel, required for such an enormous craft (8:00), the implied point here being that fusion power is still impractical for any feasible and fast interstellar flight;
- There are thus, within the constraints implied by General Relativity, two methods for interstellar travel, (a) wormholes and (b) "Inflation", or the warping of the fabric of space-time(9;20);
- From this point Dr. White reviews the equations of Miguel Alcubierre, pointing out at 9:50 that nature already gives us an example of the warping of space-time via the red shift/Doppler effect, and then at 12:45 pointing out that within the parameters of Alcubierre's metric, the mass-energy requirements to create a practical spacewarp would require something the size of the planet Jupiter, making space warp, at first, apparently impractical and beyond the reach of foreseeable human capabilities;.... but,
- At 13:35 he points out that by changing the parameters of those equations, i.e., in effect, by changing the geometrical shape of that which is causing the warp (notably two rings) from a relatively thin ring on our imaginary spacecraft, to a relatively thick one, the energy density requirements drop several orders of magnitude, reducing it to the approximate mass of the voyager I craft itself (18:07)
At this juncture, so much is review of what we have blogged about before on this site, regarding Dr. White's research. So what's so new and exciting here?
The excitement - though please note Dr. White is very careful and cautious to point out that the results are not yet definitive, for reasons we'll get into in a moment - begins at 20:10, where Dr. White outlines the use of a Fabry-Perot interferometry experiment designed to test and measure the amount of warp being generated by a very small energy field by noting the frequency shifts in light through a certain region affected by the energy field. Moving to 21:15 he points out a graph showing a very clear warping effect being measured, albeit at a very small scale, by such a field. At this point he is very careful to point out that the results of these experiments are not definitive, as there are numerous ways a false positive can be registered in the measuring equipment, and he points out that the scientists are taking steps to check through their data and experiments to eliminate the possible sources of such false positives.
What is interesting here is that in spite of his explicit caution, he decided to share the results at all with the NASA Ames audience. In other words, the typical caution of a scientist was overcome by results promising enough at least to share with other scientists. Or to put it differently, if one assumes that there are no false positives in the experiment, then NASA has successfully created a very space space warp locally, on the laboratory bench via tecnological means.
So...2015 might be an exciting year, space-technology-wise,and we'll certainly watch for more confirmation (or denial) of the results of these experiments.
But... if you've been following this website, or my books, or the research of others, questions will inevitably occur, for example: Alcubierre's equations might have been derived much earlier, and within the black projects world... and if so, could not Dr. White's modifications of the geometrical parameters of those equations also have been previously though covertly derived? We are not trying to denigrate Dr. White's research, experiments, and thinking, but rather, place it into the wider context of statements of others involved in similar areas of research, such as Ben Rich's famous statements to the effect that the scientists at Lockheed-Martin "found an error in the equations" and that now "we (humans) could take ET home." In short, what Dr. White's latest experiments are perhaps really telling us - provided those possibilities of false positives are demonstrably eliminated - is that the late Mr. Rich's statements are beginning to find some public corroboration. And that should give everyone plenty of pause and food for thought.
See you on the flip side...
(My thanks to all of you who shared differing versions of this story with us!!)