Is the Alcubierre Warp Drive a Doomsday Weapon?

The Alcubierre warp drive is a theoretical tool that would allow for spacecraft to travel long distances in space rapidly, by deforming the space-time continuum in a bubble around the spaceship.

Miguel Alcubierre, a Mexican physicist, proposed this warp drive in 1994 as a way to travel globally faster than light, overcoming the limit on particles travelling at such speeds in Einstein's theory of special relativity.

"It sounds like it's straight from science fiction, and in a way it is, as the Alcubierre warp drive is a theoretical solution to the problem of travelling the huge distances in space in a reasonable amount of time.

But unlike science fiction, the Alcubierre warp drive completely obeys Einstein's general theory of relativity," said Professor Geraint Lewis of the University of Sydney's School of Physics.

"All innovations start with theory, however, so these calculations contribute to our understanding of how such speeds could be achieved.

Our team decided to consider what would happen to particles and radiation that a spacecraft, travelling in a bubble created by the Alcubierre warp drive, would come across as it travelled through space," explained Professor Lewis.

"What we've shown is that when this spacecraft decelerated to arrive at its destination, it'd release high energy particles which would destroy anything near the spacecraft's landing spot."

While scientists have examined how it's theoretically possible to create a bubble around a spacecraft with the Alcubierre warp drive compressing space-time in front of the bubble and expanding it behind the bubble, there has been little consideration of how this high-speed bubble would interact with particles of matter and light.

"Our calculations show that particles that come in contact with the warp bubble can get caught up and congregate in front of the spacecraft, and some particles even enter the warp bubble," said Professor Lewis.

The space-time warp created by the Alcubierre warp drive, which would theoretically allow a spacecraft to travel the long distances in space in a rapid amount of time. Credit: University of Sydney

"When the spacecraft decelerates to stop at its destination, the particles collected at the front of the spacecraft are released with such high energy that they would destroy anything they came in contact with.

Also, during the journey, the particles picked up and included inside the bubble could threaten the safety of people travelling in the spacecraft."

Brendan McMonigal said, "Interestingly, the energy burst released upon arriving at the destination does not have an upper limit.

You can just keep on traveling for longer and longer distances and the energy that will be released will continue to increase - one of the odd effects of General Relativity.

This is what a warp drive spaceship looks like

"Even for very short journeys the energy released is so large that you would completely obliterate anything in front of you," said Brendan.

"It seems that human exploration of the universe will have to wait until we've worked out how to avoid the destructive deceleration of a spacecraft in an Alcubierre warp drive bubble."

While the study may seem like a fun theoretical consideration, exploring the implications of Einstein's theory of relativity is significant and has all sorts of practical uses, such as relativity correctors for GPS systems, found in virtually all smart phones, that correct for the time difference between the ground and satellite.

Is it possible the Alcubierre warp drive can be a doomsday weapon?
“We didn't look at the full 3-D effect of the bubble, so we don't know if when you stop the drive if it sprays off particles in all directions or if it’s just a very finely collimated beam, but we do know it will throw off beam of high-energy particles,” said Lewis. “So we don't know [yet] how much to the left or the right you need to stand to be safe!”


Halley VI - The science station that can go skiing!

It looks like a spaceship from the Star Wars universe which has crash-landed on a frozen planet.

But this futuristic-looking facility on skis, which opens 100 years after Robert Scott's iconic expedition to Antarctica, is actually the £25.8 million future of cutting-edge research on the frozen continent.

It is the world's first movable research centre designed specifically to be towed around to avoid it being buried under snow in the unforgiving region.

This is the amazing £26million British research centre that has been built on skis in the Antarctic to keep it from sinking into the snowy wastes below

The base can be slid across the frozen surface to beat the shifting ice and pounding snow that doomed its predecessors.

The British Antarctic Survey said Wednesday that the Halley VI Research Station, designed by British firm Hugh Broughton Architects, is the sixth facility to occupy the site on the Brunt Ice Shelf - a floating sheet of ice about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the edge of the South Atlantic.

Most of the previous stations were crushed under the weight of the polar snow, while Halley V had to be abandoned due to fears that the station would be lost if the ice sheet split apart, said survey spokesman Paul Seagrove.

Solitude: Antarctica is the most isolated place on Earth - but its remote location means the scientists will be able to see the stunning aurora australis

Halley VI is made up of four-legged modules linked by enclosed walkways.

The centre will house between 16 and 52 members of staff, depending on the time of year.

A central social hub will give residents the chance to relax and contains a dining room, bar and a gym.

A vacuum drainage system keeps water consumption down, and the ski-clad stilts keep the units about 4 meters (13 feet) above the level of the ice.

The inside of the centre has been been specially designed to support crew numbers ranging from 52 in the summer to 16 during the three months of total darkness in winter, when temperatures at the base drop as low as -56C.

It has triple-glazed windows and a quiet room at the north end of the station is included for residents to contemplate the Antarctic environment in peace.

Futuristic: Scientists will be housed in triple-glazed modules that sit on skis high above the snowy surface

Home from home: The modules will house labs, a dining room, a bar and a gym

Snowy wastes: Previous stations have been dogged by the punishing conditions

A long way from home: The vast frozen continent is uninhabited apart from the shifting population of scientists

Linked: The scientists won't have to go outside to move between modules as they will be joined together by walkways

If the station needs to be moved, the modules are disconnected and then towed to a new location, Seagrove said.

The designers were tasked with creating a cutting-edge laboratory and living accommodation that was capable of withstanding the extreme winter weather, and it took architects eight years to come up with the cutting-edge design.

The station was built over four years because engineers could only work for a nine-week period during the Antarctic summer. The total cost of the station was nearly £26 million.

The skis on the bottom of the structure allow the centre to be raised high enough to stay above metres of annual snowfall as well as making it easy to move when required.

This is especially important to avoid the centre - and its occupants - being stranded on an iceberg as the floating ice shelf moves towards the sea.

The new research station replaces the 20-year old Halley V facility.

It is the sixth to be built on the floating Brunt Ice Shelf in a region that has established itself as an important natural laboratory for studying the Earth's magnetic field and the near-space atmosphere.

It was data from the previous station that led to the 1985 BAS discovery of the ozone hole.

Professor Alan Rodger, interim director of British Antarctic Survey, said: 'The long-term research investigations carried out at Halley since the 1950s have led to deeper understanding of our world.

'In half a century, society has been alerted to our changing climate, about the possibility that melting ice in the Polar Regions will increase sea-level rise, and that human activity can have an impact on the natural environment.

'The Polar Regions are the Earth's early warning system and it is here that the first signs of global change are observed.

'This is the first summer field season for Halley and already our scientists there are working with colleagues from the USA, including NASA, on studies that will gain new knowledge about how our world works.'

David Willetts, UK Minister for universities and science, said: 'This new state-of-the-art research facility demonstrates the UK's ambition to remain at the forefront of scientific endeavour.

'The new Halley Research Station is a triumph of British design, innovation and engineering.

The UK's world-class polar science community now has a unique, cutting edge suite of laboratories on the ice.

The legacy of Captain Scott, together with our strong track record of scientific discovery in Antarctica, is set to continue in this excellent new facility.'

This map shows the location of the Halley VI research station

Halley, named for astronomer Edmond Halley, has served as a scientific research site for more than 50 years.

The British Antarctic Survey said the region has served as 'an important natural laboratory' for studies of the Earth's magnetic field, its near-space atmosphere, and climate change.

It was data from Halley that led to the survey's 1985 discovery of the hole in the ozone layer.

Cosy: A cross-section from an artist's impression shows how the living and working quarters will be arranged in the modules

Forward-looking: Artist's impression of one of the modules - but scientists might not use the balcony as even in the summer the temperature is below freezing

Research results: The hole in the ozone layer was identified thanks to data from the previous Halley research station in the Antarctic

Are they by any chance related? The AT-AT Walker from Star Wars bears a striking resemblace to the new Antarctic research station