#AtoZChallenge – Faster-Than-Light, FTL

Time for F in my Sci-Fi themed A-to-Z Challenge!

I’ve talked before about the physical impossibility of going faster than the speed of light. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity describes a universe in which “faster-than-light” simply can’t happen. If you see a news story about something going faster than light, it is most likely a big miscalculation or a misunderstanding on the part of the reporter.

Getting around the universe is a huge pain. And I mean HUGE.

The Milky Way Galaxy alone is somewhere around 100,000 light years from end to end, and its nearest neighbor (Andromeda) is around 2.5 million light years away. This means that even if you could travel at the speed of light, it would still take a long time to get anywhere.

Science-fiction has had several ways around this for a long time now – some ways more plausible than others. The various incarnations of Star Trek have had warp drive, which basically folds space around a spacecraft, allowing it to circumvent the universal speed limit. Other series have had variations on warp drive, or have used hyperspace or jump drives.

Hyperspace drives push ships into another dimension or reality where it is possible to go faster than light, while jump drives allow ships to disappear and reappear elsewhere.

620px-lorentzian_wormhole-svg

Wormholes are also often used in science fiction – folds in space-time that connect two distant points, allowing ships to pass through. In theory, wormholes could exist, but they wouldn’t be stable – you would require vast amounts of exotic matter to hold a wormhole open long enough to be usable.

Is FTL possible?

warp

This is a big maybe. There has been research into the possibility of a real warp drive, but at this point, it’s pretty much all theory. As for wormholes – it’s still unclear how to make a wormhole big enough and last long enough to be useful. But hey, who knows what the future will bring?


 

In my current fiction:

In Far Flung, the colony ship Tereshkova was outfitted with a jump drive. It was supposed to open up a temporary wormhole to the Tau Ceti star system, but things didn’t go as planned…

More about FTL:

http://gizmodo.com/5942634/nasa-starts-development-of-real-life-star-trek-warp-drive

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warp_drive

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wormhole

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperdrive

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