1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Plan for a prospective "warp theorist"

  1. Jul 3, 2014 #1
    Hi everybody!

    I have really like the concept of warp drive, and working on it is a strong candidate for a future career for me.

    I was wondering if anyone knew what plan I should take to go towards the goal of working to create the first Faster than Light Spacecraft.

    And no, I didn't see Star Trek once and say, "Gee that looks cool, let's make that". I have done some research and I've seen speculations of it. (Star Trek did spark my interest though)

    What do you guys think I should study.

    I am planning to study Physics and Math at the moment, but I am an incoming freshman to University, so nothing is set in stone.

    Thanks everybody!!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 3, 2014 #2

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Let's start with a simple question. Who is going to pay you to invent warp drive?
  4. Jul 3, 2014 #3
    Well, there is the Advanced Propulsion Lab (I believe), at NASA. There might also be universities researching it as well.

    Also with recent advances in the field, NASA says it's "plausible" and with the popularity of shows like Star Trek (and how they incite people's imaginations) it certainly seems reasonable to expect a lot more people interested to be in an idea like this.
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2014
  5. Jul 3, 2014 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    There is the theoretical Alcubierre drive:


    which you should read about. The drive is based on sound theory but requires exotic matter to work. That's the part we have no idea about. We have the properties that it should have but know of nothing in nature that fits the bill hence the drive is a motor without gas.

    Without that key piece it won't get funding dollars to design and build it so that would have to be your mission in life to find exotic matter for the drive.
  6. Jul 3, 2014 #5
    I have read up on Alcubierre Drive before. (why I made this post) I didn't read the Wiki until now though. Interesting stuff. Thanks for showing it to me! :)
  7. Jul 5, 2014 #6

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Even Alcubierre doesn't spend the majority of his time working on warp drive.

    There are no universities that have "warp theorists" on faculty. Alcubierre does numerical GR. His "warp drive" was an interesting outcome of his mainline research. If you go to a university and say "I want to be a professor and I am a warp drive theorist" you are not going to get the job, I'm afraid.

    NASA used to, under pressure from Congress, fund all sorts of wacky things: the Breakthrough Propulsion Program was one. First, this is no longer the case - the bar is much, much higher. Second, even at it's height, BPP was $200K a year, which is not enough to support one NASA scientist.

    So I think we need to go back to "Who is going to pay you to invent warp drive? "
  8. Jul 5, 2014 #7
    Hmm I see your point. Of course I could work on trying create "exotic matter". Do you think as the idea becomes more plausible, more organizations would fund it?
  9. Jul 6, 2014 #8
    It seems like you are more interested in science fiction than science. People who thrive in competitive research environments do so because they naturally gravitate too and succeed in the process of science. They find their niche through a combination of interest and happenstance, but its the process and methods that they are good at and enjoy doing. I would think more about what actual process you want to do day in and day out than what narrow subject or sci-fi idea sounds exciting at the moment.
  10. Jul 7, 2014 #9
    Yes, you should study physics and math. You might like it.
  11. Jul 7, 2014 #10
    Even if you came up with the solution to warp drive, there's an old joke that goes something like this.

    Progress in science goes through 4 stages

    First, the new claim is violently rejected. Second stage, the scientific community asks,"who cares?". In the third stage the community says it was obvious the whole time. And in the final fourth stage, every says "I thought of it first. My credit." I have been subjected to each of these stages, and it is soul sucking.

    As a person who once had dreams like yours; don't, for the love of whatever deity you don't believe in, pursue this one. If you must insist on physics, double it up with EE, actuarial math, or CS so you'll be employable without a graduate degree. I also once thought "employment, bah, who needs that". But then you meet some, fall in love, want kids and need to pay for them. Stable careers in science are like the jackpot. Except you instead of winning a bazillion dollars, you win a lifetime of very hard work. Of all my friends from grad school, I'm one of few to stay in science. My friends on wall street have enough money to to retire ~5 years out of grad school.

    read this book

    You've been warned.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  12. Jul 7, 2014 #11


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    So I take it you're one of those people who thinks a physics degree is useless, right?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  13. Jul 7, 2014 #12
    It's not useless. It's a highly specialized tool that can work wonders. But without major major networking, people skills, luck, and crazy hard work, it's never gonna get used.
  14. Jul 7, 2014 #13
    Can you give an example of someone who said that a physics degree is useless?

    I'm sure it's happened, I just dont remember it and it would be nice to know where you're coming from with this recent line of inquiries you've been making.
  15. Jul 7, 2014 #14
    I did some searching and found these two posts. Though it’s not obvious the first one thinks the degree is intrinsically useless – they suggest the quality of their own studies got poorer, so that might be what they’re referring to. Even the second didn’t declare the physics BS useless – just what they got out of it. It’s not a subtle difference.

    I think your assumption that anyone who thinks poorly of the degree thinks it’s useless doesn’t make much sense. Very few people have heaped as much scorn on a physics BS here than me, but I don’t think it’s useless. In fact, the primary (only?) route to several areas of scientific study is through a physics BS. Some of those areas are interesting and a very few even offer pretty reasonable employability. Similar opinions have been expressed by people in several threads, which I can link if you desperately need them.

    I think it's really important to point out that in all three cases above you were wrong about what the person thought or said.
  16. Jul 7, 2014 #15
    For the generation before, physics was a versatile degree. I saw, and still see, PhD in physicists working in EE, CS, nano, medicine, finance, etc... But these fields have matured and a physics background is no longer sufficient to enter, unless your research happens to strongly coincide with these fields.
  17. Jul 7, 2014 #16


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    What you state above doesn't just apply to those with physics degrees, but to anyone who graduates from any university program, with the possible exception for those who graduate from vocational programs offered in university (e.g. engineering, nursing, medicine, accounting, etc.). And even in those programs, having network, people skills, luck and crazy hard luck helps (and certainly doesn't hurt).
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
  18. Jul 7, 2014 #17


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    Locrian, I think you fundamentally misunderstand what I am trying to do here and in the other posts. My intention is to question and challenge the very reasons why you and the others think so poorly of a physics degree, in comparison to other degree programs (whether in STEM or non-STEM fields).

    Pretty much all of the reasons you and various others cite as to why you think so poorly of the physics BS degree (e.g. that the degree does a poor job of preparing students for employment outside of academia, that people are unable to find jobs that use their physics knowledge) could just as easily be leveled against practically every college/university degree program offered that is not specifically a vocational degree (e.g. engineering, law, accounting, medicine, nursing, etc.).

    After all, I have a math degree, and math degrees do not particularly prepare their graduates to employment outside of academia either. However, without sounding like I'm boasting, I've done fairly well for myself, and so have the physics majors that I know. So why is it that I hear such scorn being poured on physics degrees and physics majors in particular here and elsewhere in the Career Guidance section? What's so special about physics? That's what I'm asking.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
  19. Jul 7, 2014 #18
    BS in physics is advisable only for those guys that learned calculus when they were 13 OR people who are job-search geniuses.

    I'm half-joking here. You don't exactly have to have learned calculus at age 13, but that gives you an idea of how far ahead you have to be to be to really be assured of success--not that specifically learning calculus at age 13 is any guarantee, either. For the people who aren't absurdly ahead of the game, you could always luck out and have a successful academic career, but the chances are pretty low. So, that means you need a back-up plan.

    Because I'm socially retarded, my bar for being a job-search genius is pretty low because someone who is above average at job-searching probably looks like a job-search genius to me (actually, a lot of my own difficulties would be lowered considerably, if I had planned ahead more and done stuff like get an internship). But there are plenty of people who will have great difficulty with it. Physics majors are not particularly known for their outstanding people skills, on the whole.

    Of course, with a little luck maybe the economy will get better and employers might get better at hiring people in a few years, but you never know.
  20. Jul 7, 2014 #19

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    It seems that everything that needs to be said has been said. And then some.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Plan for a prospective "warp theorist"