Scientists have explained how technology from Star Trek‘s USS Enterprise could theoretically be made in real life.
Space.com showed how new research explains how warp drives and planetary scanning may not be as far away as Star Trek suggests. Though the Enterprise debuts in fictional 2245, theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre put forward the logic to create one in the early 1990s.
By thinking of space-time as a piece of rubber, and bending that piece of rubber into a wave shape, Alcubierre suggested that folding space-time into a tight wave in front of the ship and a long wave behind it could allow warp speed travel.
An incredible amount of negative mass would be required to do this, however, or equivalent to the mass of a massive star spread around the ship in what Space.com called a “warp bubble”.
Recent research from Göttingen University offers an alternative though, relying on positive instead of negative mass, as physicist Erik Lentz hypothesized that layering rings and risks of extremely dense fluid could also form the warp bubble.
Regardless of the method, being able to bend space-time around the ship would allow it to travel faster than the speed of light.
Researchers have also deduced ways to detect life forms on planets, allowing Star Trek’s scanning tech to also be brought from fiction to fact.
New research shows that light interacts differently with the biochemistry of living things compared to artificial material. This means that, while aboard a ship, scientists could observe how light interacts with the planet to theoretically identify if life is present.
Through this research and NASA’s recently announced Venus drones, sun-powered ships, and swarms of underwater micro-bots, the world of science fiction may be closer than we think.
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally remembers to tweet @thelastdinsdale.