They have given humanity the key to interstellar travel

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With the convenience of starting a car, each episode of Star Trek sees the crew of the USS Enterprise embark on a new adventure, somehow traveling at several times the speed of light. First seen by television audiences in 1966, this science fiction practical interstellar journey inspired Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre Moya to explore the possibilities of a real method of light-speed propulsion. Decades later, he published his cutting-edge research to an astonished community of theoretical physicists. Alcubierre Warp Drive hypothetically contracts space-time in front of a spacecraft and expands space-time behind it, causing the spacecraft to move from point A to point B at an “arbitrarily fast” speed. By distorting spacetime—the continuum around the three dimensions of space and time—an observer located outside the ship's arcing bubble would see it move at speeds greater than light, although observers inside the ship would not. Any acceleration forces.

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If a superluminal (i.e. faster than the speed of light) machine like the one in Alcubierre were to work, it would revolutionize humanity's endeavors in the universe, perhaps reaching our closest star system, Alpha Centauri, within days or weeks. It is four light years away.

However, the Alcubierre machine has an obvious problem: the force that drives it, called “negative energy,” involves exotic particles, which, as far as we know, do not exist in our universe. Described only in mathematical terms, exotic particles have unexpected mass and behave in unexpected ways, such as acting against gravity (in fact, they are “anti-gravity”). For the past 30 years, scientists have been publishing research that removes the inherent barriers to the speed of light revealed in Alcubierre's seminal 1994 paper in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity.

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Now, researchers at the New York-based think tank Applied Physics believe they have discovered a creative new approach to solving the fundamental obstacle of the arc motor. Together with colleagues from other institutions, the team developed a “positive energy” system that does not violate the known laws of physics. That's a radical change, according to two of the study's authors: Gianni Martire, CEO of Applied Physics, and Jared Fuchs, a physician and senior scientist at the same institution. Their work, published in Classical and Quantum Gravity at the end of April, could be the first chapter in the handbook of interstellar spaceflight.

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Misty Tate

"Freelance twitter advocate. Hardcore food nerd. Avid writer. Infuriatingly humble problem solver."

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