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Alcubierre drive

  1. Jul 10, 2012 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I have been reading the fascinating paper by Miguel Alcubierre about the warp drive and one thing is confusing me.

    He says that the total co-ordinate time is

    T= [itex]\left[d/v + \sqrt{(D-2d)/a}\right][/itex]

    Would that mean that the warp bubble is constantly accelerating so its velocity is continuously increasing? Why can't it be a constant velocity?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 12, 2012 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Hmmm... well you use the drive to accelerate (was my reading). That's just how the math works out. Have you followed the problems with the idea as well? It's fun to consider exotic physics so long as you bear the limitations in mind.
  4. Jul 12, 2012 #3
    Yes I know you need to accelerate to faster than the speed of light but from what I read it is constantly accelerating for half the trip and then decelerating for the rest of it.

    What I am confused about is why does it need to constantly accelerate? What can't it get up to speed and then continue on at that speed until it reaches the destination?
  5. Jul 13, 2012 #4

    Simon Bridge

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    Well ... the way you travel at a constant speed in space is to switch off the drive.
    What happens when you switch off this drive is you lose the special conditions that allows FTL.
  6. Jul 13, 2012 #5
    Can you explain? I see nothing in there that says that constant acceleration is required.

    Also I don't get how he derives the volume expansion equations.
  7. Jul 14, 2012 #6

    Simon Bridge

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    ... apart from the bit you pointed out in post #1.
    Neither do I ... :)

    It's all GR and topology ... what kind of grounding do you have in these subjects?
  8. Jul 14, 2012 #7


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    While there is a lot of deep relativity and topology involved in the Alcubierre drive, the basic question you are asking, "why does it need to constantly accelerate" is basic Newtonian physics (or perhaps Gallilean). There is little to no resistance to motion in space- you simply don't need a "drive" of any kind to go at constant speed. You don't need to constantly accelerate but we are talking about using the drive and acceleration is the only thing you need the drive for.
  9. Jul 14, 2012 #8
    Yes but why? The paper only introduces constant acceleration when he calculates total co-ordinate time. Until then he makes no mention of it so aside from getting up to speed I just do not see the need for it.
  10. Jul 14, 2012 #9
    No, it's accelerating until the midpoint between A and B, and then starts decelerating with an opposite by direction, but equal by magnitude acceleration until it reaches a distance d to the star B
  11. Jan 8, 2013 #10
    From what I unnderstood about it, the "bubble" that is created needs to be on while traveling at speed, this is what makes it possible to not have the infinite amount of fuel not to mention special relativity would take hold. The drive doesn't cancel or break relativity, it just works around it. Without it on, it might just turn out to be a bad day for those inside. I see what you are saying, why can't it just accelerate and stay at "warp 1, 2, 3, 4, etc." but I just don't think it is really that cut and dry. It all depends on where you want to go and how fast you want to get there. Leave the earth, stop, engage the drive to a certain point in space, disengage and you decelerate and the use your conventional drive. Don't think we are going to go to the galactic center any time soon. Radiation might suck...
  12. Jan 8, 2013 #11
    Not just the infinite amount of fuel, of course I mean all the other limitations that special relativity would place on say Discovery traveling at or attempting light speed.
  13. Jan 8, 2013 #12
    Anyone have an idea on the effects of Hawking radiation yet? Obviously we are not going to quit with this idea, but what are some possibilities for sheilding? Of course the ship can't be huge, the negative or exotic matter already has to be more than the universe???
  14. Jan 8, 2013 #13

    Simon Bridge

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    What on?

    Hawking radiation is black body radiation that is predicted to be emitted by black holes, due to quantum effects near the event horizon. It's effect would be just the same as any other black-body radiation - there's nothing special about the radiation itself. But what has this to do with the warp drive?
  15. Jan 8, 2013 #14
    My bad, I hadn't read the paper yet. I saw the special on "how the universe works" I think it was and then stumbled upon this forum as I was looking up the warp drive. I understand the idea about it. My son Aspen (4) and I are very much into space and time. For instance, we were in the doctor's office and he quoted that another planet had crashed into Earth and the debris had created the moon. He explained it in much more detail and anunciated very clearly. no one, not my wife and he does not go to school yet, or his older brother, has every told him this stufff. I asked him how he knew this and he cocked an eye, looked up as if to the sky and said," I figured it out."
    Anyway, I had heard some scuttle-butt and read around the net that Hawking radiation would eventually cook those inside the craft using this Alcubierre drive. I have understood since the idea was proposed that this was emitted from dark bodies i.e. black holes and that sort of thing. Before I read the paper I knew that it was going to need some sort of exotic matter and had read of worry of Hawking radiation. Basically...jumped the gun. I just assumed that the scuttle-butt I heard was somehow attaching Hawking radiation to exotic matter.
    So, by what does Alcubierre mean by exotic matter...whatever works???
  16. Jan 8, 2013 #15

    Simon Bridge

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  17. Jan 9, 2013 #16
    First you start loving physics and fall in love with space, then join the military, have a family, raise some kids and like me get back into exploring the cosmos and realise that the physics world is a bunch of kids having a pissing contest. Ever notice that? lol

    I am by no means Einstein, Kaku, or Tyson but whenever something seems impossible we always exceed it. if not, we would probably still be sleeping in caves.
  18. Jan 9, 2013 #17


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    That's not a property of the physics world, it's a property of the internet :smile:
    PF is better than a lot of it - at least there are some grown-ups around :smile:

    We use the word "impossible" in at least three different ways:
    1) Impossible using any currently imaginable technology; In the 18th century flying to the moon was impossible, but by the 20th century it was different story.
    2) Impossible unless our current theories are wrong. Perpetual motion machines would fall in this category.
    3) Mathematically impossible, like finding integers I and J such that (I/J)2=2.

    #1 has a pretty poor track record, #2 impossible has generally held up pretty well, and the #3 stuff you can take to the bank.
  19. Jan 9, 2013 #18
  20. Jan 9, 2013 #19
    Looking at PF i do see that, love the conversation
  21. Jan 9, 2013 #20

    George Jones

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