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Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 2,741
# 5
02-24-2013, 12:44 AM
Physicist Miguel Alcubierre found a set of solutions to the problem of FTL travel, taking advantage of the fact that while nothing can move faster than light in an Einsteinian plenum, space itself doesn't technically, ah, "move". So, if you can cause the space in front of your vessel to contract, and the space behind it to expand, the bubble of flat space you're sitting in will sort of "surf" the metric of space/time.

The problem with Alcubierre's theory is that it requires a mass of exotic matter equal to approximately the mass of Jupiter. However, Howard White worked the numbers over, and found that if he assumed the exotic-matter ring to be more flattened (similar to the ring in a Vulcan D'Keyr-class cruiser, as opposed to Alcubierre's torus), and vibrated the edge of the envelope, it should only require a few hundred kilos of exotic matter.

NASA is in the process of constructing a test-bed to see if they can detect the production of an Alcubierre-White warp on a microscopic scale. If the theory does indeed describe something real, and if it turns out that dark matter exists, construction of an Alcubierre-White warp drive is just a matter of engineering. Travel speed would be limited to about ten times the speed of light under current theory, but that's a heck of a lot faster than we can manage now...

Meanwhile, in California, a physicist has designed a long-range stun weapon. It employs a relatively low-powered laser to ionize the air between the emitter and the target, then follows that with a powerful electric charge (which will follow the path of least resistance - that is, down the ionized beam). As the light beam and electrical discharge must be properly phased in order for this to work (and because what else would you call something that fires a beam on stun?), he has named his experimental weapon a phaser. The downside is that it's about the size of a typical kitchen table, and can only fire a couple of times before it needs its capacitors recharged, but then cell phones started off so big they had to fit into cars, and now I have a combination telephone, computer, and internet-access device that fits into a shirt pocket, so...
I'm old enough not to care too much about what you think of me --
But I'm young enough to remember the future, the way things ought to be...

- Rush, "Cut To the Chase", Counterparts