Metamaterials are substances in which their ability to support electric and magnetic fields can be changed. Fiddle with these properties in just the right way and you can steer electromagnetic waves in all kinds of strange and exotic ways. So this means that it will soon be possible to build a warp drive engine. So what’s the new concept here? The idea of a warp drive engine has been around for decades; but it’s what the warp drive is MADE of where things get interesting.
Physicist, Michael Alcubierre, realised that while relativity prevents faster-than-light travel relative to the fabric of spacetime, it places no restriction on the speed at which regions of spacetime can move relative to each other. That suggests a way of building a warp drive. It turns out there is a formal mathematical analogy between the way metamaterials bend light and the way gravity does it. Inside metamaterials, electromagnetic space becomes distorted in exactly the same way as spacetime in general relatively. Alcubierre imagined a small volume of flat spacetime in which a spacecraft sits, surrounded by a bubble of spacetime that shrinks in the direction of travel, bringing your destination nearer, and stretches behind you. He showed that this shrinking and stretching could enable the bubble–and the spaceship it contained–to move at superluminal speeds.
Strap on your seatbelts boys, MIT is taking us into hyperspace. Read the full article at PSFK about MIT’s theories on moving at 1/4 the speed of light, and The University of Maryland‘s work on travelling faster than the speed of light.
The speed of light is 300 kilometers per second. This would mean you could travel from New York to Los Angeles in 13.2 seconds.
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