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 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.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, Futurist and Founder of the 311 Institute is described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers.” Among other things Matthew keeps busy helping the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers ideate the next five generations of smartphones, and what comes beyond, the world’s largest chip makers envision the next twenty years of intelligent machines, and is helping Europe’s largest energy companies re-invent energy generation, transmission and retail.

Recognised in 2013, 2015 and 2016 as one of Europe’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an award winning author, entrepreneur and international speaker who has been featured on the BBC, Discovery and other outlets. Working hand in hand with accelerators, investors, governments, multi-nationals and regulators around the world Matthew helps them envision the future and helps them transform their industries, products and go to market strategies, and shows them how the combination of new, democratised, powerful emerging technologies are helping accelerate cultural, industrial and societal change.

Matthew’s clients include Accenture, Bain & Co, Bank of America, Blackrock, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting Group, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deutsche Bank, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, Du Pont, E&Y, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, HPE, Huawei, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG, Lloyds Banking Group, McKinsey & Co, PWC, Qualcomm, Rolls Royce, SAP, Samsung, Schroeder’s, Sequoia Capital, Sopra Steria, UBS, the UK’s HM Treasury, the USAF and many others.

Comments
  • Vince Narisi#1

    1st May 2017

    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#2

    7th May 2017

    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#3

    7th May 2017

    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#4

      7th May 2017

      Agree with you mate.

      Reply
    • Keith Basey#5

      7th May 2017

      Me too.

      Reply
    • Gareth Morris#6

      7th May 2017

      Promises light speed: delivers 99.99999% of light speed.

      Reply
    • Erik Conlan#7

      7th May 2017

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

      Reply
    • Graham Morecroft#8

      7th May 2017

      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#9

    7th May 2017

    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#10

      7th May 2017

      Fried from blueshifted CMB too.

      Reply
    • Stephen Rose#11

      7th May 2017

      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#12

      7th May 2017

      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#13

    7th May 2017

    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#14

    7th May 2017

    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#15

      7th May 2017

      That’s the spirit Roy

      Reply
    • Robert E Sapsford#16

      7th May 2017

      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#17

      7th May 2017

      Unlike you’re driving then Rob? hahahahaha

      Reply
  • Mike Colbourne#18

    7th May 2017

    “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#20

    7th May 2017

    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#21

    7th May 2017

    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#22

      7th May 2017

      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#23

    7th May 2017

    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#24

    7th May 2017

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

    Reply
    • Gareth Morris#25

      7th May 2017

      Only if the acceleration happened suddenly.

      Reply
    • Mick Hard#26

      7th May 2017

      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#27

    7th May 2017

    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#28

    7th May 2017

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

    Reply
  • Rory Sprague#29

    7th May 2017

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

    Reply
    • Bill Stott#30

      7th May 2017

      Shit your telling us space isn’t really real.

      Reply
  • Wayne Grigsby#31

    7th May 2017

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

    Reply
  • Alan John McDonald#32

    7th May 2017

    “Theoretical” being the key word

    Reply

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