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The Alcubierre drive, also known as the Alcubierre metric, is a speculative mathematical model of a spacetime exhibiting features reminiscent of the fictional "warp drive" from Star Trek, which can travel "faster than light", although not in a local sense.
In 1994, the Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a method of stretching space in a wave which would in theory cause the fabric of space ahead of a spacecraft to contract and the space behind it to expand.^{[1]} The ship would ride this wave inside a region known as a warp bubble of flat space. Since the ship is not moving within this bubble, but carried along as the region itself moves, conventional relativistic effects such as time dilation do not apply in the way they would in the case of a ship moving at high velocity through flat spacetime relative to other objects. Also, this method of travel does not actually involve moving faster than light in a local sense, since a light beam within the bubble would still always move faster than the ship; it is only "faster than light" in the sense that, thanks to the contraction of the space in front of it, the ship could reach its destination faster than a light beam restricted to travelling outside the warp bubble. Thus, the Alcubierre drive does not contradict the conventional claim that relativity forbids a slowerthanlight object to accelerate to fasterthanlight speeds. However, there are no known methods to create such a warp bubble in a region that does not already contain one, or to leave the bubble once inside it, so the Alcubierre drive remains a hypothetical concept at this time.
Contents
Alcubierre Metric
The Alcubierre Metric defines the warp drive spacetime. This is a Lorentzian manifold which, if interpreted in the context of general relativity, allows a warp bubble to appear in previously flat spacetime and move off at effectively superluminal speed. Inhabitants of the bubble feel no inertial effects. The object(s) within the bubble are not moving (locally) faster than light, instead, the space around them shifts so that the object(s) arrives at its destination faster than light would in normal space.^{[2]}
Alcubierre chose a specific form for the function f, but other choices give a simpler spacetime exhibiting the desired "warp drive" effects more clearly and simply.
Mathematics of the Alcubierre drive
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