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Students calculate what hyperspace travel would actually look like

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January 14, 2013

Hyperspace as depicted by popular movies and TV shows (Image: Shutterstock)

Hyperspace as depicted by popular movies and TV shows (Image: Shutterstock)

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The two Star franchises (Wars and Trek) and countless science fiction movies have given generations of armchair space travelers an idea of what to expect when looking out the window of a spaceship making the jump to light speed. But it appears these views are – if you’ll excuse the pun – a bit warped. Four students from the University of Leicester have used Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity to calculate what Han and Chewie would actually see as they made the jump to hyperspace.

The fourth year physics students – Riley Connors, Katie Dexter, Joshua Argyle, and Cameron Scoular – say that the crew wouldn’t see star lines stretching out past the ship during the jump to hyperspace, but would actually see a central disc of bright light. This is due to the Doppler effect, specifically the Doppler blue shift, that results in the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light, shortening as the source of the light moves towards the observer.

What University of Leicester physics students suggest hyperspace travel would really look ...
What University of Leicester physics students suggest hyperspace travel would really look like (Image: University of Leicester)

As the spaceship makes the jump to hyperspace, the wavelength of the light from the stars would shift out of the visible spectrum into the X-ray range. Meanwhile, Cosmic Background Radiation (CBR), which is thermal radiation that is spread fairly uniformly across the universe and is thought to be left over from the Big Bang, would shift into the visible spectrum, appearing to the crew as a central disc of bright light.

“If the Millennium Falcon existed and really could travel that fast, sunglasses would certainly be advisable,” said Connors. “On top of this, the ship would need something to protect the crew from harmful X-ray radiation.”

Taking their investigations one step further, the students calculated that, despite being the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon would also need to pack some extra energy to overcome the pressure exerted from the intense X-rays from stars that would push the ship back and cause it to slow down. The students say the pressure exerted on the ship would be comparable to that felt at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

“Perhaps Disney should take the physical implications of such high speed travel into account in their forthcoming films,” said Dexter, referring to the fact that Disney last year bought Lucasfilm for US$4.05 billion and plans to add to the Star Wars franchise with another trilogy.

That appears unlikely, not only because it would break with the precedent set by the existing movies, but because star lines look a hell of a lot cooler than a disc of light.

The students’ paper can be downloaded here (PDF)

Source: University of Leicester

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
17 Comments

"space may be the final frontier, but it's made in a Hollywood basement"

Red Hot Chili Peppers

toolman65
15th January, 2013 @ 09:55 am PST

Hi,

The students didn't actually say anything about faster than light travel. They assumed the MF travelled just under light speed and then blue shifted everything and which would (maybe) cause a different EM radiation source to dominate the visible spectrum.

I would be interested to know how light would work going though a warp bubble.

dsiap
15th January, 2013 @ 03:15 pm PST

FTL is NOT happening - but *effective* FTL is. Huge difference. Moving mass takes enormous amounts of energy, warping space does not. What does warping space look like? You literally see your destination zoom up to you as the space in front of you does a very wierd lensing effect. You step through this distortion onto the ground of your destination. You turn, look back at where you came from, and see that you are now surrounded by your destination - your point of origin is a very long way away, not even in sight. No streaks or large fuzzy glows. Cool, but very much less impressive than movie special effects...

David Xanatos
15th January, 2013 @ 04:15 pm PST

A friend of mine and I were discussing what, if anything, you might see as you approached the speed of light and then went beyond it. Or what you might see from outside of it if an object was to do that in front of you. Before I go any further, kudos to those students on factoring the upward shift of the ENTIRE EM spectrum into the equation! I had completely forgot about that part of it; light energy would shift upwards to UV and beyond due to the Doppler Effect.

But now, as opposed to Early Greek times (it was thought by them at one time that our eyes created light which bounced off of things, thus making them visible to us), we know that we cannot see objects unless light from an energy source is bouncing off of them. Light is invisible to us, unless it is bouncing off of things be they small like molecules, or smoke or relatively large things like planets, or is coming straight at us from its source.

Sound cannot travel upstream against a flow that is moving faster than the speed of sound, so how could we see with our eyes rays of light coming towards us, if we are traveling at or beyond light speed?? Imagine light from a star shining on a planet that we are approaching at light speed, and that reflected light has to reach our eyes, how could it possibly register as anything at all? It would be gone faster than the blink of an eye! You can't even see clearly the blades of a ceiling fan when it is on high speed!

So therefore, even though there may be energy all around us, I posit that we wouldn't be able to tune into it because our body just isn't set up for that kind of an experience. You wouldn't see a star ship growing in length like a rubber band being stretched as in STTNG and you wouldn't see dots of light stretching out into long lines (recall where in Hot Rod Lincoln he says "Slow down, I see spots, the lines in the road just look like dots"), it would all just disappear from your sight, you'd be completely blind unless you somehow had a way of shifting the spectrum back down into your normal band of perception.

If you could find a transparent substance that could slow the speed of light down enough, you might be able to see something again. But I don't know of anything short of transparent aluminum that can do that!! ;-P

Expanded Viewpoint
15th January, 2013 @ 08:55 pm PST

This has already been calculated/theorized by other astrophysicists who've essentially said looking out the window at lightspeed would look exactly as it does before the jump. Primarily because even at lightspeed the distances are so great that you would not appear to be moving any faster.

I'm no physicist so I don't know but, I'll take their word for it over that of the students until the answer is proven to be otherwise.

Joseph Boe
16th January, 2013 @ 06:03 am PST

Looks just the same way Spider Robinson described it a decade ago

Artisteroi Rlsh Gadgeteer
16th January, 2013 @ 06:17 am PST

If it were possible to travel faster than C, you would see NOTHING.

Every spectum visible and otherwise would be doppler-shifted past cosmic ray frequencies.

David Nichols
16th January, 2013 @ 07:48 am PST

The "Hollywood" depiction is accurate, showing the earliest moment(s) approaching the speed of light.

Then the disc of light.

Art Toegemann
16th January, 2013 @ 09:59 am PST

So, what would you see behind you? A reddish black, black, or your place of origin?

Jonathan Scott
16th January, 2013 @ 11:19 am PST

Nice try; but the Observer in this scenario isn't traveling faster than the Speed of Light.

The SPACE the Observer is in, is what's moving, not the Starship.

Trek Explanation:

Your Starship is merely coasting on impulse thrusters; the Warp Drive decompresses Space in front of your ship, making the distance to the destination shorter, and compresses Space behind your ship.

You ride forward in that Reference Frame.

For you, it's as if the stars ahead are rushing TOWARD you.

So you might see visual effects, as, after all, light is going to be altered as it passes through the decompression stage.

A star directly ahead of you might not look odd, but stars off to the sides certainly would.

Remember that "Blue Shift" happens in normal space when you are accelerating and the wavelength of incoming light gets compressed into higher frequencies.

But in the "Warp Drive" scenario, you aren't accelerating.

Here's an analogy; imagine that your Star Drive worked with tiny, instantaneous Jumps.

It's called "Trans-Cilial Drive".

You'd Jump; the duration would be so short you couldn't perceive it, but you'd be a light-day closer to your destination.

Then you'd Jump again, with only microseconds between Jumps.

Three Hundred and Sixty-Five quick Jumps equals one Light Year, and we're at Alpha Centauri Prime for breakfast.

The light from stars ahead of you would be unaffected because you aren't accelerating. You're skipping in and out of normal space and avoiding the whole "Blue Shift" issue.

Now consider that this is what is happening with Warp Drive.

You aren't accelerating there, either. So the wavelength of incoming light doesn't get compressed, doesn't Blue Shift, and you don't get X-Rayed to death.

Is there a likelihood that incoming light will be affected by the Decompression Field?

Sure. And I'm sticking with the "streaks of light" image until I see proof to the contrary.

William Carr
16th January, 2013 @ 11:25 am PST

@William,

I like your style, contrary to your expression to there hypothesis, that they are missing a few factors, you are as well. Yet I have to agree you are closer to the real than they are considering ultimately more than they have theoretically.

The truth of the matter is.. I actually have the design and tested on CFD software a geometry with a non nuclear propulsion system that allows me to imitate exactly what needs to happen in order to WARP... AS they call it... Which I'm going to rename after I develop my Vortechnology.. So in the future it will be called VORING and VORPING, not flying and warping..

Simply put..

I believe it to be self evident that the Universe would not have given humans the ability's to see distances incapable for them to travel and if they wish to travel these great distances we must first learn to forget everything we have learned and start guessing all over again as if we have been going about it all wrong from the beginning. Yet we only learn when we make mistakes becasue if we never made mistakes we simply are not trying hard enough.. and have nothing to compare values to determine good from bad.

So its not about acceleration, its about standing still in space and allowing the Universe to travel around you in your generated Vacuum of Space. And thats exactly what Vortechonolgy will accomplish when it reaches the zero point of staging, it also generates is own magnetic field and carries with it, which then protects it from all the harmful radiations and micrometeorites star dust etc just as the earths magnetic field does.

so again I'll scream it for all of you listening.. or reading..

ITS NOT ABOUT ACCELERATING BECAUSE WE ARE ALREADY HAULING BUTT AT 1 HALF MILLION MILES PER HOUR AND ITS NOT ABOUT BLOWING UP EXPLOSIVES AS WE ALREADY HAVE A SUN DOING SUCH, SO YOUR LITTLE ROCKET OR NUCLEAR POWERED CRAFT IS NOTHING IN FRONT OF THE SUN THAT POWERS OUR SOLAR SYSTEMS GRAVITY, ROCKET/NUCLEAR POWERED SPACE CRAFT IS LIKE FIGHTING GRAVITY WITH GRAVITY OR FIRE WITH FIRE, NOT TO MENTION THE SUNS THAT POWER THE UNIVERSE, SO IN SHOOTING A MACH 5 CRAFT IN SPACE IS LIKE RUNNING ON A MARRY GO ROUND.. YOUR NEVER GOING TO REACH THE OTHER SIDE BECAUSE ITS ALWAYS TRAVELING AWAY FROM YOU AT A HIGHER SPEED..... SO IF YOU CAN IMAGINE JUMPING UP AND FLOATING ABOVE THE MARRY GO AROUND FOR JUST A FEW SECONDS YOU WILL OBSERVE THAT THE DISTANCE YOU WERE TRYING TO REACH, MAGICALLY COME UNDER YOUR FEET WHEN YOU LAND BACK DOWN ON THE MARRY GO ROUND.... SO WE DON'T FLY THROUGH SPACE, WE DON'T SHOOT THROUGH SPACE, WE DON'T WARP THROUGH SPACE, WE JUMP THROUGH SPACE IF WE WISH TO TRAVEL A GREAT DISTANCE THROUGH SPACE, WE VOR THROUGH THE ATMOSPHERE AND WE VORP FROM ONE UNIVERSE TO THE OTHER...

I HAVE OVER 5 YEARS OF DATA AND RESEARCH AS MY HYPOTHESIS THAT I CALL ATMOSPHERICA DISPLACEMENT, I BEAT EVERYONE TO THIS, YET I'M JUST AN IGNORANT UN EDUCATED YOUNG MAN WORKING IN THE LTA INDUSTRY AS AN AERO/MECHANICAL ENGINEER SINCE I WAS 20...

BUT MY INTELLIGENCE EXCEEDS ANY CLASSROOM AEROSPACE, COSMOLOGICAL, THEOLOGICAL DEGREE ANYONE CAN EVER RECEIVE FROM A SCHOOLING SYSTEM.. SIMPLY I GOT THE SECRET AND I'M GOING TO OWN THE SPACE INDUSTRY WITH IT SOON ENOUGH..

I'VE WRITTEN TO NASA, HALF WAY TRIED TO COMMUNICATE WITH PLANETARY RESOURCES, WRITTEN AND CALLED TO THE BEYSTER INSTITUTE WHO IS INVOLVED WITH THE 100 YEAR STAR SHIP INITIATIVE BY DARPA AND NASA..

I SIMPLY HAVE THE ANSWERS TO Alcubierre's and NASA's questions.. Rather I had them prior to their theoretical sharing of knowledge with the world on Warp Drive or vs my knowing of there attempts and interest as I derived everything from my own imagination crossing it with my natural gift of logical thinking and 11,000+ hours of Aero/mech field experiences that I have since 2006.. So to say I'm an intelligent uneducated 27 year young kid, i'm more like the Wright brothers who built the craft as an unintelligence design before I tried to under stand the science intelligenctly behind it...

Now that I have the design and have run it on CFD and have negative numbers in the 1000's with positive lift numbers.. You can read in NASA's release that gizmag published + Alcubierre's discriptive equeations that I have in physically designed what they have explained in numbers on paper, there mathematical values and hypothesis prove what I have is what they are looking for :) hehe that ensures my designs accuracy of its hypothesis via my conclusion cross checked with all their expressed data............. yet they have a a few things wrong like how much energy is going to be required to power such a system..

I need 3 million dollars to jump start Vortex Orbital Research to polish the theory, develop working prototype Technology and sell it for a Trillion Dollars :) or if no one wants to buy it, I'll make a few 100 trillion with it over its life time of expanding humanity out into the universe..

YEP... I'm sure you all might be thinking like this kids crazy... BS.. lol hahaha whats that they say??? history repeats it self, everyone in my high school thought i was crazy and all the latter and now as still a crazy kid... I do live in the middle east and i do work with a bunch of old men on a very small LTA project, yet I do make 6 figures a year and I am a hell of a lot more intelligent than anyone that I work with here in the field. and the reason I am here is because I am most probably judged because I never took the time to get a traditional education when my father offered me this one at 20 to be making 6 figures a year.

So I'm just saving my cash until I can afford to live for 3 years with out a job, set up my lab and show the Aerospace Industry how they have been going about Earth & Space Travel Wrongly All Along.. :) I'm very proud of our accomplishments and could not have the knowledge or theory with out watching and learning from others mistakes as I always try and ask myself how I can do it better, because obviously no matter how powerful they make those Rockets and Jet propelled aircraft, in ratio to the size of the Universe, that technology is like shooting a .50cal rifle into a barrel of sand.. all they doing is making alot of noise and going no where really fast.. :)

I'm tired of being humble here but currently I'm finding myself in the same position Einstein once did, now its time to start being loud and obnocious. lol j/k just not as intelligent looking from their Vantage point VS from where I am standing. So as most might judge a book by its cover, I would appreciate that you do not grade me for my grammar and writing skills as its a waste of my time an energy to try and perfect it for anyone who thinks slower than I do. I've no special powers, yet I do not draw any limits to what my powers exceed.. :)

JPLAZ1912
17th January, 2013 @ 05:57 am PST

assume that the universe is a holograph so there is no distance

Asoka Nelson
18th January, 2013 @ 05:12 am PST

@asoka, I like that, but in fact we can't always assume if we wish to achieve.. and in assuming that the universe is a holograph we should assume the holograph has more than one dimension and the infered distance between the two is the distance we must travel.

JPLAZ1912
18th January, 2013 @ 07:55 am PST

JPLAZ1912

Whilst I agree that things in the universe are moving mighty fast as it already stands, and accelerating, it should be noted that they are moving mighty fast with a single direction. So if you could somehow remove yourself into this "space-time vacuum" and let the universe rush past you then you could only travel in one direction, if I am not mistaken.

Further to this, frames of reference are relative to each other. Dont forget this with your analogies. If you fire a gun from a moving position the projectile moves with a speed and direction relative to both frames of reference.

I don't think there is much money to be made in interstellar space travel, what would the point of it be? Travel light years away from the only known life sustaining biosphere, but for what? whats the benefit to reward the cost?

cm
19th January, 2013 @ 05:10 pm PST

CM

Thank you for your constructive criticism this is what my quantum brain feeds off, the unknown challenges, the questions, the unthinkable.. Also thank you for asking such an intelligent question :)

I have yet to even question myself such, but here's my best off the fly answer given my greater understanding of exactly how all this could be possible.

You see, once we get under the fabric of space we should be able to move in multiple directions with a magnetic field of attraction or opposing, to other magnetic fields present above the fabric of space. Simply with Vortechnology the craft generates its own magnetic field through displacements. Which charges it in ratio to its mass vs the charge of magnetic field in which the Earth holds relative to its total mass. Does that make since, there is a covariance of equality in our magnetic field kinda like a DNA to the crafts origin. This part of it all is very theoretical, yet I feel if we are blessed with such great achievement the required will evolve along the way.

I'm not sure if you read the NASA article published here by gizmag about warp drive. But honestly speaking the only two questions or problems that I feel I have in common with NASA is that... 1. We do not know how we would disengage the drive once its staged. 2. We have no idea where we will end up. Which is why I'm very thankful for your challenge to push my limits of understanding such.

I do have a hypothesis for this.. As I do not believe the warp drive theory can or will be achieved while in space. It must be induced/staged in an Atmosphere such as our Earths. Because it is our Atmosphere and the Power of all our Earths Energy in motion that equates our gravity inwhich is actually the power source behind this warp maneuver. So potentially if we achieve such we will get warped to another terrestrial body like our own earth that is in our Universe or another Galaxy.

Even when I succeed such technology I can promise you I will not be the first person to raise my hand as the test pilot lol :)

Interesting enough, my discovery's of such did not stem from my efforts to accomplish faster than light travel etc. It actually came from me questioning how I can turn the drag on my 600,000 cuft LTA craft into propulsion. So that I could launch it into the jet-stream and absorb the energy of the jet stream and send it back down the tether to earth, or simply use it to launch a satellite into space via high energy laser power. Or strike it down to the power station in a controlled bolt of lighting like manner. None the less.. I have a book of application that my discovery of such a thermodynamic technique can be applied to in our 21st century of aerospace technology's.

So as the months passed on and I found myself making great leaps I simply moved past the focus of HAWT designs as I achieved it in design. Taking it another step further to reduce drag on my craft and increase lift. I can blow the wings of the U2 no problem. I'd like to see yachts in the Atmosphere as safe as yachts on the sea. I only became aware of my discovery's true potential after I started reading into faster than light and doing some research on what I was experiencing in my design on CFD and got bending space and time, faster than light etc..

Nonetheless, I'd like to mine some asteroids and really make some big moves help save the world when it needs it. i.e making room in space for the growing population, or simply just ship the undeserving earthlings somewhere else, so we can let mother earth heal her wounds.

Maybe just take my kids on a picnic to the moon some day and be back home before there bed time.. :) So NOT staging warp drive just catching 6th gear, on the plan of earths conservation of momentum we should be able to get to the moon in some 3 hours and have enough energy and fuel to make the trip back home the same.

I'm not really that interested in leaving my mother earth, rather I think I'd be one of the old guys flying around on old technology just because its more fun than the new technology.

I call my discover the wheel for the Atmosphere as we currently travel on ski's. What ever you wanna call it, its an advancement in technology as great as the discovery of the wheel was when it was first discovered.

To what extent we decide a good purpose for it is up to the world. I'd at least like to Jump in my craft and be able to Jump from one spot on earth to another anywhere on earth in less than hour.

And this Vortechnology should allow such as its like a wheel, and it can be geared differently, so 1,2,3,4,5,6 and R is the Warp drive.. Kinda like in men black when the guy says not to push the red button..

So the physic's of Vortechnology works by reducing drag and increasing lift, so its the ZERO point down into the negatives that we will need to control. I have a CFD models that show negative drag numbers or just simply 0.1 drag and some 100-1000's of Lift and you can calculate the L/D ratio as per the capability of such. The highest L/D ratio achieved on white paper is the U2 by Lockheed at 28.

So back on to subject.. How we might direct our self under the fabric or over the fabric. Its all straight line traveling, everything is most efficient in a straight line.. So imagine like when you take a water hose and spray water on a wheel and it ends up shedding off the wheel 90degrees from its first point of contact on the wheel. As the Earth is in orbit around the Sun, you can imagine it like the Wheel and our craft like the water. So from anywhere in the Earth's atmosphere we would point and shoot into the direction of space we wish to travel and change direction accordingly via other body's of mass in our universe. By going negative in G's and positive in Lift.. Would work kinda like an elevator if you stay on top of the fabric. And if we choose to go under the fabric we would slip through it.

Maybe I have confused you, hopefully one day in the future I can focus my energy to you and you can just understand me. I also have some leads onto how that will work as well..

And before I end this note, I'd like to say, such that I have discovered on the smallest scale of project. I'd like to take a Volkswagen beetle and implement my Vortechnology to make the worlds first efficient flying cars.. correction.. Jumping car.. So we would just kinda take off down the runway and stage vacuum reducing G's and as we hit Zero it would jump off the earth and you start heading in a straight line for space, then you would want to start inducing G's drag or pulsing drag to recover and control the maneuver back down to your target destination...

JPLAZ1912
20th January, 2013 @ 12:16 pm PST

There are two main road blocks that will never be past.

1. the distances involved are so huge that to get anywhere you would have to have a very very long sustained positive accelleration and then a very very long decelleration. Whoever was on that craft when it started out would be extinct by the time you got anywhere.

You could not accellerate any faster than 9.8 m/s/s for long as living in an environment with the equivalent of gravity grater than earth would no doubt kill you before long. Short burst ok but even then not more than a human can withstand and not going to get you anywhere.

2. Inertia. You would turn to mush if you stop too fast or accellerate too fast. Don't start with your bull theoretical system for getting around this as you can't.

Foxy1968
3rd April, 2013 @ 06:18 pm PDT

@FOXY1968

Did you read any of the comments above before you posted this limited belief that is bound to today's physical parameters?

1. we would not be accelerating if in hyper/warp drive..

2. if we were accelerating a vehicle in which generating its own magnetic field and gravity would protect the human inside the vehicle from these deadly forces, by countering it all, simply converting these forces into energy.. Make Sense huh? so in slowing down we would absorb all the force that was once spent back into energy to be stored as converted power for a 2nd launch.. Conservation of energy in its finest forms..

Theoretically yes your statement is valid today, but soon as we make one great break though your statement then must be readdressed..

What is called crazy and impossible today is only the future of tomorrow.

So we people who live on the edge of breaking boundary's feed off the limited beliefs and notions of impossible that people as yourself lay before us... So keep up the good work.. We love you all and could not do great work with out great critics..

JPLAZ1912
3rd May, 2013 @ 12:47 pm PDT
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