Ask Ethan: What ‘Impossible Physics’ Would Be Possible With Warp Drive?

See ourselves as we were in the past. You can’t use warp drive to travel back in time, but if you can outrace the light that the Earth, Sun or Milky Way emitted so long ago, you can then “catch” it with the proper tools. Warp yourself to 65 million light years away, and with a good enough telescope, you can see the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. Warp to 12,000 light years away, and you can see the end of the last ice age. Warp to 53 light years away and watch, for yourself, who really shot JFK. Or go back to 4.5 billion light years away, and watch our Solar System as it’s first being born. Warp drive, coupled with a powerful enough telescope, would suddenly become the ultimate forensic tool.”

When Star Trek debuted 50 years ago, we didn’t know that there would be regions of the Universe that were forever inaccessible to humanity, nor that there would be galaxies permanently unreachable to us, even if we managed to develop near-light-speed travel technology. Yet thanks to the existence and dominance of dark energy today, that’s exactly the case. The only workaround, it appears, would be to develop faster-than-light travel. But with the physical possibility of the Alcubierre solution to General Relativity, which would enable warp drive, this might actually render these distant, unreachable regions someday traversable. Not only that, but a whole slew of other “physical impossibilities” would suddenly become possible, enabling us to perform acts that physics without warp travel would simply never allow.

There’s a whole slew of fun physics to explore if negative mass/energy is real, and this week’s Ask Ethan goes after the biggest stakes of all!

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