Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

New Method for Space Travel.

  1. Jun 27, 2009 #1
    I was watching the show Exodus Earth on the Science Channel, and they were talking about new methods of travel in space. Things like Ion Engines, Solar Sails, and Vasimir Plasma engines. I was reading a HALO book, is it mentioned how their Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Slipspace Engines worked. I was thinking that with the technology we have today that it may be possible to build one of these engines. Any suggestions?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 27, 2009 #2
    From what I can understand we're still very far from such engines, but I believe the show "The Universe" also talked about some of the methods such as hydrogen engines and solar sails.

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  4. Jun 27, 2009 #3

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    You do realize that you're reading science fiction, right?
     
  5. Jun 27, 2009 #4
  6. Jun 27, 2009 #5

    Integral

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    We do not discuss science fiction in the engineering forums.

    Moving to GD.
     
  7. Jun 27, 2009 #6
  8. Jun 27, 2009 #7

    EnumaElish

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Am I correct that currently the biggest hurdle in the mechanics of space travel is not speed but exposure (e.g. to mini-asteroids)?
     
  9. Jun 27, 2009 #8

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Right now, the biggest hurdles to interplanetary travel are the cost of lofting sufficient fuel to orbit, and the inability (of our current technology) to shield crew-members from energetic radiation from the Sun. We got lucky with the Apollo missions - had the Sun started throwing tantrums once the missions were underway, we would have lost crews to radiation-damage.
     
  10. Jun 27, 2009 #9

    EnumaElish

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Why the need for so much fuel? I thought "solar sails."
     
  11. Jun 27, 2009 #10

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    We should realize that space is not empty in any real sense, and that once we get out of the gravitational wells of stars and planets, we might be able to gather and exploit the materials in space for propulsion. Unfortunately, on the largest scales, gravitation is a big player and accretion robs surrounding space of usable materials, so this is a pipe-dream for now. Baby-steps.
     
  12. Jun 27, 2009 #11

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    You can't tack against a solar wind. If you want to go directly away from a star, you might be able to employ a (huge) sail to do so, but since the energy you can collect from a luminous source like the Sun falls off as a function of the square of your distance from the source, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that a solar sail might be really handy for small payloads near the Sun, and not so much for stuff out by Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.
     
  13. Jun 27, 2009 #12

    Integral

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Solar sails will not get you from the earths surface to orbit.
     
  14. Jun 27, 2009 #13
    Good point. I guess we should invest some research in figuring out how to get an aircraft into orbit first :rolleyes:
     
  15. Jun 27, 2009 #14
    If we have environmentalists worried about the impact of automobiles on the atmosphere, then it is inevitable that we would also have environmentalists worried about the impact of faster-than-light drives on the fabric of spacetime!
     
  16. Jun 27, 2009 #15
    The Space Elevator.....
     
  17. Jun 27, 2009 #16
    I do realize that I am quoting Sci-Fi, but was it really that long ago when going to the Moon, or to Mars, or even to an ExoPlanet was Science Fiction? Think about it. In Star Wars, Episode II, at the end, Dooku was using a Solar Sail. And that was in 2002! Now in 2009, we're making them. So imagine if today we're talking the Sci-Fi of Shaw-Fujikawa engines, and in two years, a proto is made. All I'm saying is: Is is possible that with today's technology that we could make one. And if not now, then in the near future. And correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't a team in Europe create a micro-black hole? And isn't that what the engine is based off of? Think about it guys....
     
  18. Jun 27, 2009 #17
    One more thing: We always talk about traveling through space on a linear plane. But isn't space 3-Dimensional? why can't we go "UP" (or some sense of direction of up in space, whatever that may be) or vice versa?
     
  19. Jun 27, 2009 #18

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    There's a difference. Solar sails and journeys to the moon and mars and a lot of things that were considered science fiction back in the day were mainly theoretically possible. The problems were that they were tremendous engineering feats or simply hadn't been thought to try yet. With a lot of sci-fi crap, they're just throwing a lot of fancy sounding words together and selling it in a story. That's where you gotta distinguish between sci-fi who really extend our theory into plausible reality and those who are really just creating a fantasy world.
     
  20. Jun 27, 2009 #19
    Then someone needs to take that extra step and try it. Who's it going to be? You? Me? The guy sitting at the bar with a notepad and a pocket protector from MIT? Don't you agree?
     
  21. Jun 27, 2009 #20

    G01

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    The concept of a solar sail appeared long before Ep II!



    To answer your questions:

    Micro black holes are a theorized byproduct of the LHC experiments at CERN. This is probably what you are referring to. They have not been created or shown to exist at all. They are hypothetical.

    The hypothetical engines you are talking about are fictional, created to help explain a video game universe. No, it is not possible to build them with today's technology. The functioning of these fictional engines involves, according to the wiki link posted above, micro black holes, extra dimensions of space-time, and wormholes. We have no proof that any of these exist.

    The explanation of these engines on the wiki posted above may involve words and terminology from real theoretical physics, such as "quantum", "extra-dimensions", "space-time". However don't let this fool you. The "physics" involved in them is fictitious. It is not based on real, proven physical theories.

    Considering that the physics behind these engines is, at best, unproven, and, at worst, entirely fictitious, these engines won't be built in the near future.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2009
  22. Jun 27, 2009 #21

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Take some personable responsibiliy, for one. Search your sources, and see if they are reliable. When you encounter extraordinary claims, you would be well-advised to demand extraordinary evidence.
     
  23. Jun 27, 2009 #22

    Integral

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Solar sails have been a discussed topic for way longer then most of us have been alive. There is a difference between known physical phenomena and made up names. The old saw that since some people used to believe that the earth was flat all, modern science is in doubt just doesn't cut it. There is a big difference between accepted science and folk lore. SciFi writers are free to use their imagination to solve the problems of inter stellar travel, we however must play the hand the universe has dealt us. From what we currently know long distance travel at any significant portion of the speed of light is going to be near impossible. It simply requires to much energy.
     
  24. Jun 27, 2009 #23

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Honestly what do you really think would happen? Are you going to hand someone this book and say "hey in this book, this guy threw a bunch of fancy words together and mentioned cool sounding phenomenon to create a faster then light engine. Build it"? No details are ever really given in sci-fi books for devices outside of mainstream scientific plausibility because there are none.

    To give you an idea of what you're kinda saying, it's like going back into the 1800s and asking someone to making a thermonuclear weapon by saying "this book talks of a bomb that uses things called atoms and gluons resulting from quantum vacuums connected through ether tunnels". Throwing a bunch of scientific words (and yes I know gluons and QM hadn't even been though of that back but I can't really think of what was cutting edge knowledge back then) is meaningless and gives nothing to people who actually further technology.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2009
  25. Jun 27, 2009 #24
    Let me know when it's finished. I will start a new company and start selling them. I am even ready to invest but no more than 10$.
     
  26. Jun 27, 2009 #25

    G01

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member


    Pengwino has a good point. Solar sails were theoretically possible at when they appeared in science fiction. These S-F engines are not even theoretically possible. S-F engines are based on no accepted physical theory. It is not that our technology prevents us from building them, it is that physics prevents us from building them. There is a big difference.

    Science fiction is based on sound scientific principles. Bad science fiction only uses words from real science. HALO should really be termed "science fantasy," not science fiction. These S-F engines are a product of "science fantasy."

    What do you mean "try it?"

    If faster than light travel will ever be theoretically possible it will emerge after a lot of physics research, probably many future centuries of it.

    It won't be developed by someone just trying to "build" an engine that is not even based on science. How would you even go about designing these engines without any scientific theory to work from? There are no details given about how they work, no conceptual model or framework, and no physical principles backing them up. The only thing they have behind them is a fantasy story from a video game universe that uses some words that sound "physicy" These engines are completely a product of fantasy.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2009
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook