Like many others, I love space. The idea of literally reaching the stars has captivated me ever since I was young and I would do nigh-anything to achieve that dream. Unfortunately, there’s one little thing that stands between us and our forays into the great black void: distance. The closest star to us, Alpha Centauri is about 4.37 light years away from us. That might not sound like much, but when you do the math you’ll get a staggering 41.34 x 10^12 km. Now, science fiction constantly makes mention of Faster Than Light (FTL) travel in which, as a quick Google search will tell you due to the ambiguity of the name, spacecraft move at speeds that exceed the speed of light, thereby allowing quicker and more efficient travel between planets and space ports. There’s just one problem with that, though: moving at the speed of light, let alone surpassing it, is impossible. We can only move so close to C (that’s the S.I. unit for the speed of light in case you spent physics class snoring) but we can never actually get to it. So what’s left to do other than hang our heads and sigh? Why, leave it to our best and brightest at NASA, of course!
NASA recently confirmed reports that they were working on ways to surpass the speed of light via something they call the Alcubierre Drive, which, instead of making the spacecraft travel at the speed of light, manipulates the space around it and simplifies things. There’s two ways to illustrate this: one is the way the source article does
“It’s easier to think about if you think in terms of a flat escalator in an airport. The escalator moves faster than you are walking! In this case, the space encompassing the ship would be moving faster than the ship could fly, keeping all the matter intact of the ship intact. Therefore, we can move faster than light, in a massless cloud of space-time.”
The other way to illustrate this is that the drive works sort like a zipper being unzipped since the space in front of the craft is contracted and the space behind it expands (those of a dirty mind will have a better time understanding that now).
Now this isn’t to say that NASA has found the ultimate solution and that we should all take to the streets brandishing space shuttle-shaped balloons in excitement, as fun as that sounds, but there are three things we can take comfort in: that space exploration isn’t dead, that somebody’s finally on to something new in terms of the hotly contested subject of special relativity, and that NASA isn’t really dead. Hopefully our beloved government (this being the American government, not Lebanese) will come to their sense and pump more funds into NASA in the near future.
Y’all take care now.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Relativity For those interested