Paths To Knowledge (dot Science)

What is actually real in Objective Reality? How do you know? Now, prove it's real!

Sorry Kirk, Spock, Sulu and Piccard no Warp Drives Allowed in Nature

Posted by pwl on April 3, 2009

Warp drives have been the focus of science fiction writers for decades. But scientists kept them at arms length until 1994 when the idea was put on a firm (ish) theoretical footing by the Mexican physicist, Michael Alcubierre. His thinking is that while relativity prevents faster-than-light travel relative to the fabric of space time, it places no restriction on the speed at which regions of spacetime may move relative to each other.

Yes, imagination is wonderful. Nature is beautifully harsh though.

… Physicists have long wondered what would happen if you threw quantum mechanics into the mix? … They … studied a property of a quantum field called the renormalised stress-energy tensor which should be well-behaved under normal circumstances. But in the front wall of Alcubierre’s bubble travelling at superluminal speeds, the renormalised stress-energy tensor grows exponentially.

That strongly implies that such a bubble would be unstable. So it looks increasingly likely that, after a brief few years of excitement, Alcubierre’s warp drive is impossible.

To this someone replied:

When the word “impossibility” appears in discussions re science, I am always reminded of Arthur C. Clarke’s quote:

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

To which I replied:

When “impossibility” is ignored and Arthur C. Clarke’s quotes start flying I’m always reminded of The Sagan Principle which states that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” which certainly applies to here and in general to FTL.

Do you object that Newton proves that it’s impossible given the Earth Moon System for a human being al natural to jump from the Earth to the Moon (without the aid of technology, aka space ships)? I gather that you’ll bring out Author’s old men quote for this case too. Gravity Sucks in so many ways, and one of those ways is in keeping you firmly within the Earth’s gravity well (unless you are one of the few to reach escape velocity doing the rest of us a favor).

The Fabric of Objective Reality sucks in so many ways. Not traveling faster than light is one of them.

Optimism or pessimism are both irrelevant to the Nature of Objective Reality. The Universe doesn’t care about us, as it doesn’t care at all about anything.

Each aspect of Nature, each Law of Nature that we learn is what is actually going on gives us insights into what is actually possible and what is impossible. Nature is the limiter not our imaginations. Clearly our imaginations run amok all the time (see Amok Time episode of Star Trek for an example of this).

When you willfully ignore hard earned scientific knowledge that can be tested, that has been tested, you might find yourself crossing into that no man’s land of fantasy and delusion. You are not alone as many if not most humans live their lives in the land of delusional fantasies that simply can’t be true given the harsh Laws of Nature, which are the very Laws of Nature that enable you to exist!

So be optimistic or pessimistic all you want. Nature is the final judge of what is possible and what is impossible. Not that Nature is an is. I choose to embrace Nature in all of it’s beauty and horror rather than have delusional fantasies about it. I save my fantasies for entertainment (like the upcoming FTL fantasy Star Trek movie out in about a month) and private relationships.

So enjoy your invisible friend of FTL all you want, just know that no matter how much you enjoy it your enjoyment won’t alter the Fabric of Nature one iota.


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