Science in Sci-Fi – Faster than Light Travel

Science fiction is as the name suggests the fiction of science. I thought it would be a fun, interesting and at times mind bending idea too look at the science behind some of the technology in science fiction and look under the hood to see what’s required to make it work or what barriers are in the way.

Science in Sci-Fi – Faster than light Travel

Whether it’s Star Trek, Star Wars, Star Gate or one of many sci-fi flavours there are – spacecraft that can travel faster than light are necessary to get from one place to another fast enough that the story can work. Without this technology stories would takes years, decades or even hundreds to years complete. This simply isn’t practical for story telling but travelling the vast distances of the cosmos.

So the question has to be asked – can we travel faster than light and how practical is it?

Starship Enterprise ‘Going into Warp Speed’ No credit claimed on this

How does the faster than light travel Work?

It has to be noted before I get too far into this there is a rather severe problem with travelling faster than the speed of light (in a vacuum) and this is that the speed of light in a vacuum is the speed limit for anything in the universe – at least according to current physics.

There are various ‘methods’ in Sci-Fi used to explain how star ships can move at these speeds. Star Trek uses an antimatter driven ‘warp’ drive that warps space and time around the spaceship. Star Wars uses a term called ‘hyperspace’ which although not explained is likely to be something similar. The long and the short of this is that it needs a lot of energy t travel at near light speeds.

How much energy? Not as much as required for a wormhole but more than for teleporting… that kind area.

It also depends on how far you want to go, the reason for this – it takes energy to push something forward. Even for a tiny particle that has energy – putting energy into it gives a push back so it wouldn’t be possible to push even a tiny particle to the speed of light, let alone a star ship.

What are the Challenges?

Just like with many of the other challenges with other technologies – it’s energy. The fusion or antimatter energy generation systems that the light speed drives work on just aren’t yet available. In the case of antimatter we can only create a few atoms at a time – so it’s going to take a while just to get the fuel.

Basically we’re stuck at the relative snail’s pace that we currently move at. So we’re not going to be visiting any other star systems yet.

© Simon Farnell 2013 – 2022



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13 thoughts on “Science in Sci-Fi – Faster than Light Travel

  1. lol all sounds a bit warped to me!

    Travelling faster than sound was tricky enough … thought they were doing a plug for the most recent Top Gun movie when 2 F111’s swept up my beach today, their sound not quite caught up …

    Like

  2. One thing that irks me in some Sci-Fi stories: so we have faster than light travel, and yet Earth and/or our colonies are struggling with energy shortages. How can that possibly be? If you can generate enough energy to travel faster than light, you should be able generate way more energy than a planetary population would ever need.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And there’s the Frank Herbert method of eating lots of spicy food.
    Which begs the question just how did Humanity happen to get to the one planet out of lotsa planets and happen to find The Spice? What were they using up until then?
    Maybe I haven’t read enough Dune books…..

    Liked by 2 people

      1. To use a phrase for my 1950s/early 1960s days ‘Hey man. It’s something else,’
        From what I can tell over the years Dune readers have divided up into.
        1. Those who admire and are devoted.
        2. Those who have the opposite view.
        3. Those whose reaction is ‘Uhh?’ (Accompanied by head scratching)- I’m in the last category.
        Still; at least the first one ‘Dune’ is worth a read if only to admit to marvel at Herbert’s scope of imagination.

        Liked by 1 person

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