Warp drives would 'completely obliterate' anything at the destination

Here's a harsh reality check to those of us who dream of zipping between worlds at faster-than-light speeds. Scenario: you're visiting your dear old grandmother on the planet GJ1214b, 40 light years from Earth. Result: she'd be "gamma ray and high energy particle blasted into oblivion" when you arrived.

To be clear, the FTL applications floating around today are all theoretical. Now, however, they're all theoretically deadly.

In analyzing the impact of Star Trek-style warp drive travel, a team at the University of Sydney in Australia looked at a warp drive concept proposed by Mexican theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre in 1994. According to Universe Today's Jason Major, the Alcubierre warp drive:

"...would propel a ship at superluminal speeds by creating a bubble of negative energy around it, expanding space (and time) behind the ship while compressing space in front of it. In much the same way that a surfer rides a wave, the bubble of space containing the ship and its passengers would be pushed at velocities not limited to the speed of light toward a destination."

(Emphasis not ours.)

"Any people at the destination," the Sydney researchers state in a paper, "would be gamma ray and high energy particle blasted into oblivion due to the extreme blueshifts for [forward] region particles."

That's because, like a space Swiffer, the ship's warp bubble would collect countless little bits of matter on its way to a destination. Even for a short trip, "the energy released is so large that you would completely obliterate anything in front of you" once your ship arrives.

"Interestingly, the energy burst released upon arriving at the destination does not have an upper limit," Researcher Brendan McMonigal said, speaking to Universe Today. "You can just keep on traveling for longer and longer distances to increase the energy that will be released as much as you like, one of the odd effects of General Relativity."

It sounds like FTL space travel would have to be very carefully regulated in that passenger spacecraft couldn't just drop out of warp right in front of, say, a space station. It also means that warships could use the tech as a deadly opening salvo if aimed right.

Of course, we don't have to worry about humanity running into these troubles any time soon as commonplace space travel isn't a reality. That said, maybe we should put up a "no warp wake" sign in orbit, just in case some else out there beat us to the punch.

Universe Today, via Geekologie

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