Re: The Physics of Star Trek

Anders Sandberg (
30 Aug 1999 11:58:56 +0200 writes:

> On the subject of the transporter, it is indeed possible, and, even more
> remarkable, being done often, albeit on a small scale. Photons have been
> destructured and restructured meters away. And if photons are, then they must
> have substance. And if matter can be moved, the large matter may be as well.

As Robert pointed out, the practical problems may be simply insurmountable. After all, particles exhibit the tunnel effect ("tunneling" through barriers that appear impassable) and formally even macroscopic objects can do it, but in practice it doesn't work because the probabilities of tunneling occuring are microscopic.

> While unmentioned, the subject of warp speed (faster-then-light travel) is
> seriously being studied, most notably by the esteemed Dr. Stephen Hawking.

Are you sure it is Hawking? He seems more to be interested in cosmology and theoretical physics than the warp drive discussion. There are many others who are involved though, such as Alcubierre and van Brock. There are some fun papers at

> The whole premise relies on the collision of matter and antimatter
> (in itself being produced often enough to bear mention), the energy
> released by the collision producing the fantastic power required for
> such speeds. While in the relativistic universe, such speeds are, at
> best, impossible. But such is the beauty of the warp field. The
> field alters a small portion of space that travels with the
> dual-nacelled starship, circumventing inertial and relativistic
> effects that would make such travel impossible.

This is the Star Trek explanation, but it doesn't work that well in reality. You have to make the antimatter (costs more energy to make than you get out of it) and the most "reasonable" warp drive geometries that are discussed still requires both magical physics to warp spacetime (the researchers just discuss what would happen if you already have the geometry, not how to make it) and amounts of energy that are much more extreme than "puny" antimatter reactions.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y