Friday, November 7, 2014

Warp Speed


Click the arrow to watch Dr. White's presentation to the NASA Ames Research Director’s Colloquium on August 12, 2014. Video source: NASA Ames Reseach Center YouTube channel.

Is a warp drive possible?

Possible, yes.

Feasible ... Not so much.

Harold “Sonny” White is the Advanced Propulsion Team Lead for the NASA Engineering Directorate. Based at Johnson Space Center, his speciality is advanced and exotic propulsion projects.

In 2011, he released a paper at the 100 Year Starship Symposium titled Warp Field Mechanics 101 which explored the known and theoretical physics necessary to travel at warp speed.

A sequel paper was released in 2013, titled Warp Field Mechanics 102: Energy Optimization.

White's research has earned him notoreity in popular media as the man figuring how to make the Star Trek warp drive work.


An artist's concept of Matt Jeffries' 1960s idea for the Starship Enterprise. Image source: Mark Rademaker.

In the above video, Dr. White shows an early 1960s concept for the Starship U.S.S. Enterprise designed by aviation artist Matt Jeffries, as envisioned by digital artist Mark Rademaker. White states that Jeffries' rejected design actually has some of the correct physics to make warp speed work, such as the rings around a central spacecraft.

A child recently asked me, “How close is NASA to warp drive?” The answer is “Not very,” but someone at NASA is thinking about it, demonstrating that Star Trek continues to inspire a half-century after its debut on American television.

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