Interstellar travel has fascinated humanity for centuries, inspiring countless stories of exploration and adventure. However, until recently, such feats were only conceivable in the realm of science fiction.

Bending spacetime to travel from one point to another in the universe quickly and efficiently is what a team of scientists from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the Laboratory of Applied Physics Advanced Propulsion in New York are exploring, an idea that has captured the attention of the scientific community since it was first proposed by physicist Miguel Alcubierre.

The idea is to modify spacetime around a spacecraft in such a way that the craft moves within a deformed “bubble” of spacetime, rather than moving through space normally. This would allow the craft to “travel” at incredible speeds without violating the laws of physics as we understand them.

However, there’s a problem: classical warp-speed solutions violate some of the fundamental laws of physics, making them impractical.

Example of an Alcubierre warp trajectory with three flight phases
Example of an Alcubierre warp trajectory with three flight phases. Credit: J. Fuchs et al.

To address this challenge, scientists have developed advanced computational tools that allow them to more comprehensively explore warp-speed spacetimes. This has led to the development of new solutions that meet the energy conditions necessary for these journeys to be physically possible.

One key feature of these warp-speed spacetimes is that they modify the background spacetime so that the craft’s path becomes a geodesic, allowing for smooth and efficient movement through the universe. Additionally, these solutions include a compact vacuum region surrounding the craft’s trajectory, creating a protected environment for passengers.

Designing these warp-speed spacetimes involves a series of complicated steps, ranging from defining the starting and ending points to constructing a metric solution that guides the craft’s movement along a specific trajectory.

While we are still far from seeing spacecraft bending spacetime around us, the model proposed by the researchers demonstrates the possibility of a subluminal warp drive solution that satisfies all energy conditions.

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