Alcubierre Drive Practical Application


Here is an interesting article on the Alcubierre Warp Drive which a number of Sci-Fi writers use as their method of FTL.

Simply stated the Alcubierre or Albcubierre metric hypothesizes that by creating a warp in the time/space fabric before and after a vehicle, faster than light or FTL travel can occur.

Not being a physicist, astrophysicist but a plain dumb aeronautical engineer, I’m intrigued by the subject. After doing some basic research there is an abundance of debate on its practicality or feasibility. Putting all of that reality aside is the nice part of being a Sci-Fi author; damn the facts – full speed ahead – “warp factor 10 Scotty.”

All I can do is attempt to put some ‘reality engineering’ to the subject. I’m going to ignore the following issues.

  1. Power requirements-some say power required is almost infinite; some say it can be reduced dramatically
  2. Based on negative mass – I won’t even dare to go there!
  3. If it can be initiated onboard or if it needed to initiated at the destination 2,000 years ago! -Another point I don’t dare go into.
  4. Find a way to navigate en route.

Assuming that the alignment of the forward and rearward distortions determines the direction of travel, then their alignment is absolutely critical. Let me show an example. If the traveler is planning on jumping 1 light year which is about 5.87E+12 miles (really big number) and the alignment is off 100th of a degree then you would miss your target by about one billion miles. Not too bad? If you were trying to jump 10 light years or more; your miss would be considerably larger.

For argument sake let’s assume that we could align the distortion to within 1000th of a degree; (much better but a major engineering accomplishment on its own) – we’d miss by approximately 100 million miles (only a little more than the distance from Earth to the Sun) From a practical engineering perspective I’d presume that the length of jump is somewhat limited.

Ok, how do we fix that? If we can find a way to navigate during the jump it would solve the problem. Unfortunately that is on the ‘too tuff today’ list so let’s make some assumptions. Given a wave pattern where it is distorted in a positive direction in the front and a negative direction in the rear then it must pass through zero at the sides. Ok if that is true then we ‘might’ have windows to the sides where we could get a fix while traveling and adjust our course. I don’t know if this will work too well because have you ever tried to drive a car while looking out of the side windows. Not the best way to navigate, but it might be the only option.

So a viable option might be to make relatively small jumps 1 or two light years at a time, navigate a little while jumping. Then as soon as we come out, we update our position quickly and then jump again. I suppose that could work; if we could make it any reasonable distance – say 2,000 light years then we would have to jump about 1,000 to 2,000 times.

I’m planning on using this concept in a follow-on book to my series SIMPOC which I’m hoping for release this fall, I’m assuming that it can work as long as I use small jumps and quickly update my trajectory between jumps. Incidentally I’m ignoring the little things like Hawking Radiation which might cook everyone inside.

Food for thought, if any of you want to use this in your work – go for it.

Ray Jay Perreault


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