A few months ago I was squealing in fan-boy joy as scientists announced that, after re-evaluation some calculations, Alcubierre’s warp engine drive may be possible (warp engines, of course, being the main mode of transport for the ships of Star Trek). The primary issue with the warp drive wasn’t the technology to create such a thing but rather limits on producing the anticipated amounts of energy needed to run it. After reworking the power needs recently, though, NASA saw a plausible task and has begun working on a small scale with distorted space.
The proposed warp drive works by creating a “wave” in space time and then surfing along this ripple much faster than the speed of light– making it one of the very few plausible theories in travel which would allow the exploration of nearby solar systems withing the span of a single lifetime.
As soon as my hopes started growing on where this project might lead (specifically to me becoming Jared James, Space Architect) my dreams were shattered by Australian theoretical physicists who pointed out a simple fact: space isn’t empty. There is constantly a torrent of photons, radiation and other particles whizzing through the vacuum of space and according to these Aussies the warp engine would scoop up some extremely high energy particle stow-aways on it’s way to other worlds. The only problem then is that when the engine arrives at its desired system, these particles all arrive there too– blasting off in a massive explosion which would likely be large enough to destroy whole solar systems.
According to these physicists the only likely use for such a device would be as a weapon, not a means of acquiring knowledge. Once again, humanity has sought for advancement and exploration and landed on weapons of greater destruction than we could imagine. As if being able to turn our own little blue dot into a nuclear wasteland wasn’t responsibility enough, it seems we may now hold the “fire” button on solar systems so far away that their light hasn’t even reached us yet.