In case you missed it, in November, io9 reported that physicist Harold White was working on the concept for an engine that could transport a ship through space at warp speeds without violating Einstein’s law of relativity.
The idea is based on a hypothetical concept known as the Alcubierre Drive, which holds that if an engine could cause the space in front of a ship to contract while the space behind it expands—effectively moving the ship by moving space itself—then it could traverse distances at a speed in excess of the speed of light.
“White speculates that such a drive could result in ‘speeds’ that could take a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in a mere two weeks,” io9 reports, “even though the system is 4.3 light-years away.”
“Remember, nothing locally exceeds the speed of light, but space can expand and contract at any speed,” White told io9. “However, space-time is really stiff, so to create the expansion and contraction effect in a useful manner in order for us to reach interstellar destinations in reasonable time periods would require a lot of energy.”
And indeed, early assessments published in the ensuing scientific literature suggested horrific amounts of energy — basically equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter (what is 1.9 × 1027 kilograms or 317 Earth masses). As a result, the idea was brushed aside as being far too impractical. Even though nature allowed for a warp drive, it looked like we would never be able to build one ourselves.
“However,” said White, “based on the analysis I did the last 18 months, there may be hope.” The key, says White, may be in altering the geometry of the warp drive itself.