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INTERSTELLAR TRAVEL

Faster-than-light communications and travel are the conjectural propagation of information or matter faster than the speed of light.

The special theory of relativity implies that only particles with zero rest mass may travel at the speed of light. Tachyons, particles whose speed exceeds that of light, have been hypothesized, but their existence would violate causality, and the consensus of physicists is that they cannot exist. On the other hand, what some physicists refer to as "apparent" or "effective" FTL depends on the hypothesis that unusually distorted regions of spacetime might permit matter to reach distant locations in less time than light could in normal or undistorted spacetime.

According to the current scientific theories, matter is required to travel at slower-than-light speed with respect to the locally distorted spacetime region. Apparent FTL is not excluded by general relativity; however, any apparent FTL physical plausibility is speculative. Examples of apparent FTL proposals are the Alcubierre drive and the traversable wormhole.

(1) The Alcubierre drive, Alcubierre warp drive, or Alcubierre metric (referring to metric tensor) is a speculative idea based on a solution of Einstein's field equations in general relativity as proposed by theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre, by which a spacecraft could achieve apparent faster-than-light travel if a configurable energy-density field lower than that of vacuum (that is, negative mass) could be created.

Rather than exceeding the speed of light within a local reference frame, a spacecraft would traverse distances by contracting space in front of it and expanding space behind it, resulting in effective faster-than-light travel. Objects cannot accelerate to the speed of light within normal spacetime; instead, the Alcubierre drive shifts space around an object so that the object would arrive at its destination faster than light would in normal space without breaking any physical laws.

Although the metric proposed by Alcubierre is consistent with the Einstein field equations, construction of such a drive is not necessarily possible. The proposed mechanism of the Alcubierre drive implies a negative energy density and therefore requires exotic matter. So if exotic matter with the correct properties cannot exist, then the drive could not be constructed. At the close of his original article, however, Alcubierre argued (following an argument developed by physicists analyzing traversable wormholes) that the Casimir vacuum between parallel plates could fulfill the negative-energy requirement for the Alcubierre drive.

Another possible issue is that, although the Alcubierre metric is consistent with Einstein's equations, general relativity does not incorporate quantum mechanics. Some physicists have presented arguments to suggest that a theory of quantum gravity (which would incorporate both theories) would eliminate those solutions in general relativity that allow for backwards time travel.

(2) The Casimir effect shows that quantum field theory allows the energy density in certain regions of space to be negative relative to the ordinary matter vacuum energy, and it has been shown theoretically that quantum field theory allows states where energy can be arbitrarily negative at a given point. Many physicists, such as Stephen Hawking, Kip Thorne, and others, argued that such effects might make it possible to stabilize a traversable wormhole. The only known natural process that is theoretically predicted to form a wormhole in the context of general relativity and quantum mechanics was put forth by Leonard Susskind in his ER=EPR conjecture. The quantum foam hypothesis is sometimes used to suggest that tiny wormholes might appear and disappear spontaneously at the Planck scale, and stable versions of such wormholes have been suggested as dark matter candidates. It has also been proposed that, if a tiny wormhole held open by a negative mass cosmic string had appeared around the time of the Big Bang, it could have been inflated to macroscopic size by cosmic inflation.

Lorentzian traversable wormholes would allow travel in both directions from one part of the universe to another part of that same universe very quickly or would allow travel from one universe to another. The possibility of traversable wormholes in general relativity was first demonstrated in a 1973 paper by Homer Ellis and independently in a 1973 paper by K. A. Bronnikov. Ellis analyzed the topology and the geodesics of the Ellis drainhole, showing it to be geodesically complete, horizonless, singularity-free, and fully traversable in both directions. The drainhole is a solution manifold of Einstein's field equations for a vacuum space-time, modified by inclusion of a scalar field minimally coupled to the Ricci tensor with antiorthodox polarity (negative instead of positive). (Ellis specifically rejected referring to the scalar field as 'exotic' because of the antiorthodox coupling, finding arguments for doing so unpersuasive.) The solution depends on two parameters: m, which fixes the strength of its gravitational field, and n, which determines the curvature of its spatial cross sections. When m is set equal to 0, the drainhole's gravitational field vanishes. What is left is the Ellis wormhole, a nongravitating, purely geometric, traversable wormhole.

Kip Thorne and his graduate student Mike Morris, unaware of the 1973 papers by Ellis and Bronnikov, manufactured, and in 1988 published, a duplicate of the Ellis wormhole for use as a tool for teaching general relativity. For this reason, the type of traversable wormhole they proposed, held open by a spherical shell of exotic matter, was from 1988 to 2015 referred to in the literature as a Morris--Thorne wormhole.

Later, other types of traversable wormholes were discovered as allowable solutions to the equations of general relativity, including a variety analyzed in a 1989 paper by Matt Visser, in which a path through the wormhole can be made where the traversing path does not pass through a region of exotic matter. However, in the pure Gauss--Bonnet gravity (a modification to general relativity involving extra spatial dimensions which is sometimes studied in the context of brane cosmology) exotic matter is not needed in order for wormholes to exist--they can exist even with no matter. A type held open by negative mass cosmic strings was put forth by Visser in collaboration with Cramer etc., in which it was proposed that such wormholes could have been naturally created in the early universe.

Wormholes connect two points in spacetime, which means that they would in principle allow travel in time, as well as in space. In 1988, Morris, Thorne and Yurtsever worked out how to convert a wormhole traversing space into one traversing time by accelerating one of its two mouths. However, according to general relativity, it would not be possible to use a wormhole to travel back to a time earlier than when the wormhole was first converted into a time "machine". Until this time it could not have been noticed or have been used.


Author: Grimloch
07/26/2023, 08:44
Category: Astronomy
Comments: 2
Views: 78

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Comments (2)
Joseph
Joseph Guest

07/26/2023, 16:15


Scientists have actually created a microscopic wormhole in a lab; of course that's a long long
way from anything practical. But the fact that this kind of research is going on, and given our
innate ability to "see beyond", I believe that mankind (if the planet stays intact) will eventually
figure it out and make it work.

Shannon
Shannon Editor

07/27/2023, 13:27


This article is a bit more scientific than my brain. However, I do get the Star Trek/Star Wars warp drive/FTL/ZPM connections. I believe these things are possible, it is just a matter of us not destroying everything in the quest for the knowledge on how to do them.


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