People have always dreamed of traveling to other stars and planets, or wandering the universe in a spaceship. Unfortunately, such Dreams exist only in Science Fiction, because even the nearest star, Proxima, is more than four light years away. This means that even if it were possible to travel at the speed of light, it would take more than four years to reach the nearest star.
In order to reach any part of the universe quickly, science fiction works such as Star Trek introduced the concept of “warp speed,” which allows interstellar ships to travel faster than the speed of light. However, under Einstein’s general theory of relativity, there can be no such thing as faster than the speed of light.
So, can there never be FTL travel? At least in theory, scientists seem to have found a viable solution.
In a new study by physicist Erik Lentz from the University of Göttingen in Germany, he has proposed a model for faster-than-light travel, thanks to what he calls a new type of ultrafast solitons. They are waves that retain their shape and energy and can move at a constant faster-than-light speed.
According to Lenz’s model, a model of these ultrafast solitons can exist within the framework of general relativity.
With a sufficient supply of energy, these solitons can be configured as “light speed bubbles”, with a speed faster than the speed of light, so that it is theoretically possible to move objects through space-Time without being affected by extreme tidal forces.
The only problem with this solution is that it consumes more energy than we can afford today.
“It would take about hundreds of times the mass of Jupiter to get a spacecraft with a radius of a hundred meters to travel at the speed of light,” Lenz said in a statement.
“In the range of modern nuclear fission reactors, the energy reserves would need to be substantially higher, by about 30 orders of magnitude.”
Although this method is currently unavailable due to insufficient energy supplies, previous ideas for light-speed travel have relied on a number of exotic physics phenomena.
For example, artificial wormholes and the Akuberi engine involve a singular physical phenomenon called negative mass. These are exotic substances whose mass is the opposite sign of normal matter, such as minus one pound. As a result, they exhibit some strange behavior under gravity and may travel faster than the speed of light.
However, such strange phenomena exist in principle only on the quantum scale: there is no obvious way to make macroscopic objects with negative masses.
On the other hand, the new model uses features of spacetime to facilitate faster-than-light travel, and requires only ordinary positive energy to do so.
“This work takes the problem of light-speed travel one step further toward engineering compared to theoretical studies in fundamental physics. The next step is to figure out how to reduce the astronomical amount of energy required to within the range of today’s technology, such as large modern nuclear fission power plants. Then we can talk about building a prototype.” Lenz said.
Regarding the very high energy supply required for the model, Lenz explained, “Fortunately, several energy-saving mechanisms have been proposed in early studies that could reduce the energy required by nearly sixty orders of magnitude.”
Lenz is currently working to determine if these methods can be modified or if new mechanisms are needed to reduce the necessary energy supply to the current possible levels.
The new study was published in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity.