Ask Ethan: What kind of impossible physics would be possible with a warp engine?

Star Ship Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation

When the debut of the Star Trek show 50 years ago first introduced the warp drive into the public consciousness, our understanding of the Universe was different from today. Firstly, the warp engine was simply an auxiliary device for the plot, which allowed reaching remote stars without aging the characters and the Universe. It was believed that it is physically impossible, because it violates the laws of relativity of Einstein. Secondly, it was believed that gravity works to attract distant galaxies to each other, and that if you travel at a speed close to the speed of light, you end up flying anywhere; we didn't know about dark energy. The study of the accelerating Universe from 1998 told us that only 3% of galaxies in the observable Universe are reachable for the speed of light. But in 1994, Miguel Alcubierre discovered a solution for GR, which suddenly transferred the warp engine to the region of the physically possible. Can the warp drive help us reach these galaxies? The reader is interested in precisely this:
Will it be possible, using the engine of Alcubierre , to reach galaxies that today are considered unattainable?

A positive answer to the question only opens the veil over what will be possible in this case.

What a warp engine might look like

In our universe, possible and impossible things are separated by the theory of relativity. Concerning any other particle of matter or radiation, be it massive or massless, nothing can move faster than the speed of light. It is physically impossible to accelerate a massive object to the speed of light, for this would require an infinite amount of energy. We can only hope to get close to her, which will allow us to travel very quickly, but not arbitrarily fast. Since the fabric of the universe, space-time itself expands at a certain speed, galaxies distant from us will move away from us at a speed greater than the speed of light. They, of course, do not move directly, but the expansion of the Universe ensures that everything that is 15 billion light-years away from us will be inaccessible to us because of the rapidly expanding space between us.

Yellow - observable Universe, violet - achievable

No matter how much energy we pump into the spacecraft, no matter how close we get to the speed of light, galaxies outside the reachable zone will move away from us at a speed exceeding Einstein's limitations of relativity due to expansion. Over time, they will be further and further away from us, even if we flew to them at the speed of light. This is how the Universe dominates, where dark matter dominates: even the fabric of space plays against you. But the decision of Alcubierre for GR does not only change these restrictions, but also completely eliminates them. An object still cannot move faster than light through space, but suddenly the space surrounding your object can do something that had never happened before.

Although the Alcubierre decision requires a new type of matter or energy - a substance with negative mass / rest energy - it allows you to significantly deform (compress) the space in front of you in the direction of your movement, and at the same time reverse the deformation (expansion) of the space behind you. In practical terms, this allows you to reduce the distance that lies before you in the tens, hundreds or thousands of times: it is the equivalent of moving at a speed greater than Warp 9 in the Star Trek universe. And if you can shrink the distance to the point of destination, you can overcome any expansion of space in the expanding universe.

The consequences of what suddenly becomes physically possible, stagger the imagination.

Remote cluster of galaxies, unattainable without a warp engine

See the invisible galaxies. Not only can you “catch” everything that moves in space from you, even if space expands faster than the speed of light — it allows you to “catch” galaxies outside the observed Universe! Now we can only see the distance the light traveled through the expanding universe for 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang. But if you can deform space and transcend the restriction, overtaking photons in your journey, you can fly through the Universe and see stars, galaxies and parts of the Universe whose light will never reach the Earth. This is truly a trip to places where no one has ever been before!

To see a future that the earth will never see. Everything in the Universe sees the same Universe as we: the Universe, existing for 13.8 billion years. But when we look at the stars and galaxies that are thousands of millions of billions of light-years from us, you see what they were thousands of millions of billions of years ago! For all galaxies that are not in our local group, there is a restriction on the age at which we can see them, since only the “young light” can reach us. The light emitted by most of the galaxies will never reach us due to the expansion of the Universe. But having a warp engine, we can visit them and see today. This would allow us to observe the stages of cosmic evolution directly - for what we can only guess.

A very young dusty star, what could be our Sun in youth

See us in the past. A warp engine cannot travel in time, but if you can outrun the light that has long been emitted by the Earth, the Sun, or the Milky Way, you can also catch it with the help of suitable tools. You can fly off at 65 million light years, and with the help of a fairly powerful telescope you can see the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs. Fly off to 12,000 light-years and see the end of the last ice age. Fly off to 53 light years and see for yourself who killed John F. Kennedy. Fly off 4.5 billion light years and watch the birth of the solar system. Warp engine, coupled with a powerful telescope can be an ideal judicial tool.

A ship with conventional weapons, such as lasers, limited by the speed of light, can be easily outwitted and destroyed with the help of a warp engine

Overtake any weapon, attack completely suddenly. Any battle is limited by the speed of movement of objects: the speed of light. But if you can move faster, then attacks that are limited by the speed of light cannot hurt you. And if you, as an attacker, approach the target at a speed exceeding the speed of light, it will not be able to establish your approach with any sensors. In fact, if you manage to hit your opponent at a speed greater than the speed of light, he will first feel the blow, then he will see your fist on his face, and then he will see your fist move away from his face at an arbitrarily high speed.

In the same way, you can create an illusion or effect that at first glance exceeds the speed of light, although only the fabric of space changes.

In reality, the warp engine will not violate any laws of physics. The controlled distortion of space will bypass only one limitation of the possible - that nothing possessing mass can move in space relative to another object faster than the speed of light. If the Alcubierre engine were real, we could not only reach any star or galaxy in the Universe, but also achieve what is considered impossible today. We could know things that we could not find out in another way - to check our conviction that the Universe is isotropic, homogeneous, and that the properties of the CMB are the same for all points in space. The introduction of fantastic technology in life would be the most incredible benefit to science of all that you can imagine.


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