MadSci Network: Physics

Re: Could the proposal at happen?

Date: Mon Dec 13 20:57:36 1999
Posted By: Ken Wharton, Post-doc, Laser/Plasma Physics
Area of science: Physics
ID: 944284815.Ph

In all likelyhood... No.

There is no current experimental evidence that ANY information can be sent faster than the speed of light, let alone a manned spaceship. There are also many theoretical reasons to think that such a feat is impossible.

Quantum mechanics does allow for certain, well-ordered materials to have macroscopic quantum effects. This ordering is usually accomplished by very low temperatures; i.e. superconductivity and Bose-Einstein Condensates. But these quantum effects are limited; as far as we understand, no real quantum state can "tunnel" faster than light. Here is a lengthy FAQ concerning faster-than-light travel and the theoretical difficulties associated with it.

Also, the idea of somehow "tapping" into the zero point energy is improbable at best. Here's a good article on this subject from Scientific American.

The web wite you ask about throws around a lot of fancy terms, but they are almost always misused. The fancy-sounding "laser plasma", for example, is simply a plasma (charged gas) produced by a laser -- of doubtful propulsion value and completely devoid of the claimed quantum effects.

While new developments in physics may make some of these concepts possible one day, the advances will come slowly (if at all) and will not suddenly materialize as a fully functioning device. New physics effects are first demonstrated by simple "proof-of-principle" experiments in laboratories, and then other labs attempt to duplicate the results. We'll have to wait for news on the basic physics front before we can hope to see any fantastic devices such as faster-than-light spacecraft.

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