The state of Texas and NASA hope to take an early lead in interstellar space travel with technologies that sound like dialogue from Star Trek or Star Wars peppered with terms like "Warp Drive" and "anti-gravity". Simplistically, a new generation of space-craft may produce "tuned" gravity waves with which it may surf a "grid" of gravity waves. Some writers have referred to this as a cosmic, universal net.
The term breakthrough propulsion refers to concepts like space drives and faster-than-light travel, the kind of breakthroughs that would make interstellar travel practical.
For a general explanation of the challenges and approaches of interstellar flight, please visit the companion web site: Warp Drive: When? The Warp-When site is written for the general public and uses icons of science fiction to help convey such notions. This web site, on the other hand, is intended for scientists and engineers.
This research falls within the realm of physics instead of technology, with the distinction being that physics is about uncovering the laws of nature while technology is about applying that physics to build useful devices. Since existing technology is inadequate for traversing astronomical distances between neighboring stars (even if advanced to the limit of its underlying physics), the only way to circumvent these limits is to discover new propulsion physics. The discovery of new force-production and energy-exchange principles would lead to a whole new class of technologies. This is the motivation of breakthrough propulsion physics research.
--National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA], Breakthrough Propulsion Physics [See also: Prospects for Breakthrough Propulsion From Physics, Marc G. Millis, Founder and Manager, Breakthrough Propulsion Physics (BPP) Project, NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, PDF]NASA is quick to point out that something like the Space Ship "Enterprise" is not imminently feasible but points out that "new possibilities continue to emerge". NASA confirms that it supported the breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project from 1996 to 2002.
- Setting Goals Beyond Existing Limits
- Prospects for Breakthrough Propulsion From Physics, Marc G. Millis, Founder and Manager, Breakthrough Propulsion Physics (BPP) Project, NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, PDF]
Chiao argues that a superconductor could transform radio waves, light or any other form of electromagnetic radiation into gravitational radiation, and vice versa, with near perfect efficiency. Such a feat sounds as amazing as transmuting lead into gold--and about as plausible." It is fair to say that if Ray observes something with this experiment, he will win the Nobel Prize," says superconductivity expert John M. Goodkind of the University of California at San Diego. "It is probably also fair to say that the chances of his observing something may be close to zero."
--Scientific American, A Philosopher's Stone: Could superconductors transmute electromagnetic radiation into gravitational waves?The University of Houston has been researching "super-conductivity" for over ten years and just recently received a large grant to continue and expand it's research.
The University of Houston has received a Research Superiority Award from the exas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF), announced today by Gov. Rick Perry on behalf of the ETF board. The University of Houston's Texas Center for Superconductivity (TcSUH) will receive $3.5 million over a five-year period to help establish TcSUH's Applied Research Hub (TcSUH-ARH) and recruit stellar scientists and researchers in superconductivity and related materials.
"The Texas Emerging Technology Fund has helped create an unparalleled research environment in our state by encouraging innovation and providing a path for bringing emerging technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace," Perry said. "The University of Houston is a worldwide leader in superconductivity technology, and this grant will help expand its research capabilities while encouraging the commercialization of this promising technology."
Established by Perry and the Texas Legislature in 2005, the ETF is bringing the best scientists and researchers to Texas, attracting high-paying jobs and helping start-up companies get off the ground faster.
--February 3, 2010, UH Superconductivity Center Receives $3.5M ETF Grant, UH Superconductivity Center Receives $3.5M ETF GrantSuperconductors capable of converting electromagnetic radiation into 'gravitational radiation' (and vice versa) promise to open up an new era in space exploration. The known universe is a veritable 'Moire pattern' of electromagnetic energy. Intersteller travel may become a matter of surfing the 'gravity waves' that permeate the universe.
An estimate of the transducer conversion efficiency on the order of unity comes out of the Ginzburg-Landau theory for an extreme type II, dissipationless superconductor with minimal coupling to weak gravitational and electromagnetic radiation fields, whose frequency is smaller than the BCS gap frequency, thus satisfying the quantum adiabatic theorem. The concept of ``the impedance of free space for gravitational plane waves'' is introduced, and leads to a natural impedance-matching process, in which the two kinds of radiation fields are impedance-matched to each other around a hundred coherence lengths beneath the surface of the superconductor. A simple, Hertz-like experiment has been performed to test these ideas, and preliminary results will be reported. (PACS nos.: 03.65.Ud, 04.30.Db, 04.30.Nk, 04.80.Nn, 74.60-w, 74.72.Bk)
--Conceptual tensions between quantum mechanics and general relativity: Are there experimental consequences, e.g., superconducting transducers between electromagnetic and gravitational radiation?Superconductivity is defined by little or no electrical resistance. Reducing resistance allows electrons to carry large amounts of electric current with minimal or no "heat loss".
Supporters of "super-conductivity" hope the new research will find obvious applications to the development of new energy sources and applications --transformers, wind generators, cables and magnetic energy storage as well as the more spectacular spin-off: intersteller space travel.
A craft with a sufficient energy source might produce gravity waves relative to a local field wherever it might be in the universe. The degree to which the generated field is either negatively or positively in or out of phase with the surrounding field, it is hoped, will get future astronauts from planet to planet, or as Klaatu ("The Day the Earth Stood Still") told an Earth-bound physicist:
Barnhardt: Have you tested this theory?Anyone writing or speaking of the exploration of the universe cannot escape the issue of time --the time required to reach a destination, the time required to return. Anyone who has read Einstein is familiar with the "time paradox" in which a space traveler returns to earth as young as the day he/she left home only to discover that everyone else has either aged or died.
Klaatu: I find it works well enough to get me from one planet to another.
[Julian] Barbour's central argument is that a mistaken belief in the reality of time prevents physicists from achieving their ultimate goal: the unification of the submicroscopic atomic world of quantum mechanics with the vast cosmic one of general relativity. The problem arises because each theory provides a radically different conception of time, and physicists simply don't know how to reconcile the two views. Until they do, they will never have one seamless theory of the universe comprising the very smallest objects to the very largest. And certain middling-sized objects— human beings— will never understand the true nature of time and existence.
What makes the two versions of time so different? Time in the quantum realm has no remarkable properties at all. In theories of quantum mechanics, time is essentially taken for granted; it simply regularly ticks away in the background, just as it does in our own lives. Like a clock at a sporting event, it provides an invisible framework in which events unfold. That's not the case in Einstein's general theory of relativity.
To describe the universe on the largest scale, Einstein had to weave time and space together into the very fabric of the universe. As a result, in general relativity, there is no invisible framework, no clock ticking outside the universe against which to measure events. How could there be? Time and space joined together have weird consequences: Space and time curve around stars and other massive bodies and make light bend away from straight-line paths. Near black holes, time seems to slow down or even come to a full stop.
--Discover, From Here to EternityTime --on a craft 'surfing' the gravity waves of space-time --will have stopped. I have always liked the description of "gravity waves" --that they are ripples in the fabric of space-time. The above quoted and referenced sources lead to the inevitable conclusion that if a craft is built utilizing the interference patterns generated by dissimilar wave fronts, inter-stellar travel will be akin to surfing the universe.
Just as wave forms on an oscilloscope may be "tuned" to appear to move either forward or backward, a craft generating a "tuned" local field would be capable of moving forward, backward, up or down. If, as Einstein proposed, time is a fourth dimension, such a craft may be capable of moving freely in all four dimensions.
Also see: Truth, Time and 'Absolute Space'