A theoretical physicist just found a way for us to reach Light Speed A theoretical physicist just found a way for us to reach Light Speed
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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF Travelling at light speeds, or “Warp,” is standard fare for every sci-fi film, but now, even though there are... A theoretical physicist just found a way for us to reach Light Speed

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

  • Travelling at light speeds, or “Warp,” is standard fare for every sci-fi film, but now, even though there are significant technological barriers to overcome, it looks like we could achieve it…


 

The fun world of theoretical physics frees us all from the shackles of reality and helps set our imaginations free to ponder, and that’s why we love it.

Whether it’s exploring the possibility of warp drives or understanding the rate of the universe’s expansion – something that I’m always thinking about – we’re always often quick to explore the untapped potential of our minds and the universe around us.

 

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Now, in a dive into the theoretical, a Norwegian professor, Espen Gaarder Haug, argues in the journal Acta Astronautica that photon rockets could reach 99.999 percent of the speed of light. Putting it another way that’s 186,000 miles per second, or 8.4 million times faster than the top speed of your Prius – I’ve heard that that’s how people on the West coast measure speed these days… And bearing in mind that deflector shields, food replicators and tractor beams are either already here, or on the horizon why shouldn’t we believe that light speed travel is attainable?

In it Haug asserts that, while humanity can’t do it anytime soon, we could potentially build a spacecraft that falls just short of the ultimate speed limit sometime in the future when the necessary technology is feasible.

Haug who’s a professor of quantitative finance at the Norwegian University School of Life Sciences believes that the math in contemporary physics isn’t too distant from the math in quantitative finance, and his background undoubtedly gives him an unconventional perspective.

In it he outlines the maths involved in developing a rocket that could take us to speeds just shy of light speed by taking cues from other projects, such as Stephen Hawking’s project that will use photons to accelerate small nano sized space craft to a fifth of light speed, and he believes that these projects could lay the foundation for his photon rocket.

 

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While his idea may seem improbable, but then again all great breakthroughs are, even Stephen Hawking’s, his proposal stays within the limitations of the laws of natural physics, and as long as none of the fundamental particles travel faster than the speed of light, then his proposal on spacecraft speed “must also be the absolute maximum speed limit for a rocket.”

However, Haug makes it clear that we’ve a long way to go before we can develop photon rockets that can send materials or people into outer space, and while the promise of using any fuel as long as it can be converted entirely into light energy is exciting, we would need a particle accelerator magnitudes stronger than CERN, Europe’s Large Hadron Collider.

That said though, and a few years ago this too sounded improbable, it looks like we might now be closing in on the technology to put CERN, or more specifically particle accelerators, on to a chip – something I wrote about just the other week – and now, all of a sudden it’s possible, just possible, that we can see a way to create Haug’s photon engine…

 

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If we could achieve light speed though Elon Musk’s Mars mission would be a five minute trip and never say never. Seriously – don’t say never otherwise I’ll E-Mail you an article that will change your perception of everything and make you smack yourself in the head. Have a mooch around this site and you’ll see that, as one credit card advert says, the word “impossible” is two letters too long.

By that way it’s “im” if you’re wondering… doh!

 

Updated: Thanks to everyone, including Espen Haug, for pointing out that my original Prius maths sucks, I originally posted that it was 3,476 times faster than a Prius when the actual number is 8.4 million. The Doh! is on me.

Matthew Griffin Global Futurist, Tech Evangelist, X Prize Mentor ● Int'l Keynote Speaker ● Disruption, Futures and Innovation expert

Matthew Griffin, Futurist and Founder of the 311 Institute, a global futures think tank, is described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers.” Recognised in 2013, 2015 and 2016 as one of Europe’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is helping governments and multi-nationals re-invent everything from countries and cities to energy and smartphones. An award winning author, entrepreneur and international speaker Matthew also mentors XPrize teams and is regularly featured on the BBC, Discovery, Kurzweil, Newsweek, TechCrunch and VentureBeat. Working hand in hand with accelerators, investors, governments, multi-nationals and regulators around the world Matthew helps them transform old industries, and create new ones, and shines a light on how new, powerful and democratised technologies are helping fuel disruption and accelerate cultural, industrial and societal change. Matthew’s clients include Accenture, Bain & Co, Bank of America, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting Group, Dell EMC, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, E&Y, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, Huawei, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey & Co, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Schroeder’s, Sequoia Capital, UBS, the UK’s HM Treasury, the USAF and many others.

  • Vince Narisi

    1st May 2017 #1 Author

    If you could reach 99.9999 percent the speed of light then space time dilation would enable crews to make long voyages.

    Reply

  • Simon hordley

    7th May 2017 #2 Author

    Hmmm thats interesting, seeing that light speed is approx 900,000 times faster than sound but only 1328 times faster than a Prius! That means the Prius can travel at 678 times the speed of sound!

    Reply

  • Adam Foxton

    7th May 2017 #3 Author

    Did anyone else read far enough through the article to realise that the ‘theoretical physicist’ is a goddamn accountant? And that GlobalFuturist seems to think that ‘theoretical physicist’ means ‘dreamer’?

    Also, reaction mass is how rockets work. Rapidly firing mass out the back of a spacecraft is how ion drives already work. This is in no way revolutionary.

    Aaand in any case it’s not warp. That involves deforming spacetime.

    Reply

    • Jiri Vesely

      7th May 2017 #4 Author

      Agree with you mate.

      Reply

    • Keith Basey

      7th May 2017 #5 Author

      Me too.

      Reply

    • Gareth Morris

      7th May 2017 #6 Author

      Promises light speed: delivers 99.99999% of light speed.

      Reply

    • Erik Conlan

      7th May 2017 #7 Author

      Interstellar space doesn’t have time. Time is a human construct

      Reply

    • Graham Morecroft

      7th May 2017 #8 Author

      Incorrect. Space and Time are two sides of the same coin. It’s only how we choose to mark time that is our construct. Not the passage of time itself.

      Reply

  • Andrew Pullen

    7th May 2017 #9 Author

    The physicist seems to have forgotten the fundamental laws of physics that any object with mass cannot attain the speed of light. Photons can because they have zero resting mass but not the craft they’re being fired out of. You’d also need to protect the craft from being destroyed by micrometeorites, dust particles etc which would pack a helluva punch at sub light velocities.

    Reply

    • Lee Moss

      7th May 2017 #10 Author

      Fried from blueshifted CMB too.

      Reply

    • Stephen Rose

      7th May 2017 #11 Author

      the entire ship n contents would have to travel as neutrinos to be able to successfully reach anywhere without being destroyed by any matter

      Reply

    • Andrew Pullen

      7th May 2017 #12 Author

      Even if a way could be found to generate a ‘shield’, every particle, dust grain, rock and asteroid impacting on it (or even directly onto a super-tough hull) would impart kinetic energy into it thanks to transfer of momentum. A BB gun can stop a locomotive if you fire enough bb’s at it for long enough time. The challenges even to get to 50 percent speed of light are mind-boggling.

      Reply

  • David Jarrett

    7th May 2017 #13 Author

    Sadly matter cannot travel at the speed of light without being light. Because everything in its path will rip it to shreds ( no matter how tiny ). Very early during the acceleration.

    Reply

  • Roy Cross

    7th May 2017 #14 Author

    Not so long ago we had the cassette it held 15 songs…if I took my iPod classic and held it up in 1986 and said this holds 10,000 songs..you would have been locked up for being insane….that was 30 yrs…trust me..we will achieve light speed or self destruction….it’s the human way..

    Reply

    • Jonathan Cooper

      7th May 2017 #15 Author

      That’s the spirit Roy

      Reply

    • Robert E Sapsford

      7th May 2017 #16 Author

      At the speed of light you will be frozen in your own time. By the time you pressed the brakes you could be thousands of light years past your stop.

      Reply

    • Ray Piper

      7th May 2017 #17 Author

      Unlike you’re driving then Rob? hahahahaha

      Reply

  • Mike Colbourne

    7th May 2017 #18 Author

    “If we could achieve light speed though Elon Musk’s Mars mission would be a five minute trip and never say never. Seriously – don’t say never otherwise I’ll E-Mail you an article that will change your perception of everything and make you smack yourself in the head. Have a mooch around this site and you’ll see that, as one credit card advert says, the word “impossible” is two letters too long.”

    Impossible.

    Reply

  • Faried Osman

    7th May 2017 #20 Author

    Looks like this Professor of Quantitative Finance (an Economist who Probably dropped Science in High School) has been reading too many Superman comics and thinks he can play at Physics.

    Reply

  • Sf Specht

    7th May 2017 #21 Author

    Not ‘a theoretical physicist’, he’s an accountant, &, seems to be missing, in his ‘theoretical concept that photon rockets could near the speed of light’, a whole lot of basic physics that says ‘but, you missed a few things … ‘. Like, what does one do about impacts with space dust at near light speeds, which would release atomic bomb levels of energy, & how much energy would one have to put into a ‘photon rocket’ to move even micrograms of payload? Interesting, but, pure speculation, not ‘theory’.

    Reply

    • Bill Stott

      7th May 2017 #22 Author

      The infinitesimal thrust from a single photon suggests an infinite amount of time required to accelerate to such velocities. Ultimately the energy required would be greater than that available in the universe. As you say about collisions imagine colliding with an insect at 100km per hour never mind 300,000km per second.

      Reply

  • Robert Collie

    7th May 2017 #23 Author

    Warp speed is an interesting concept, but what makes me suspicious is that it is so far fetched that only theoretical people study it. I’m waiting for real people to get onto it.

    Reply

  • Mike Hard

    7th May 2017 #24 Author

    Not much fun for any crew though, it’d turn them into jam patches at the back of the bridge.

    Reply

    • Gareth Morris

      7th May 2017 #25 Author

      Only if the acceleration happened suddenly.

      Reply

    • Mick Hard

      7th May 2017 #26 Author

      Given that the journey is mooted to be just a few minutes, I’d say that the acceleration would be somewhat sharp!

      Reply

  • Kendall Hallett

    7th May 2017 #27 Author

    From a dead stop and accelerating at 1G it would take roughly 7 years to hit light speed and another 7 to slow down.

    Reply

  • Bill Stott

    7th May 2017 #28 Author

    Physicist, he closer to an effing accountant. The technical barriers are indeed significant. Best for us to stick to Star Trek.

    Reply

  • Rory Sprague

    7th May 2017 #29 Author

    Wouldnt space have to be real in order for a warp drive to exist?

    Reply

    • Bill Stott

      7th May 2017 #30 Author

      Shit your telling us space isn’t really real.

      Reply

  • Wayne Grigsby

    7th May 2017 #31 Author

    So that’s why ya can’t hear them run

    Reply

  • Alan John McDonald

    7th May 2017 #32 Author

    “Theoretical” being the key word

    Reply

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