Being able to travel "beyond the speed of light", overcoming the known limits of space and time: this is one of the greatest and most important dreams and objectives of modern physics. Over the years, enormous strides have been made in this direction, towards a new type of inter-space travel.
But let's start from what we already know, let's start from the basics and then get to explain what are the steps forward made by science.
The first attempt
A first study on traveling at the speed of light was carried out by the Mexican scientist Miguel Alcubierre in 1994. His plan was based on a well known principle: the distortion or curvature of space-time.
In the Star Trek series and movies, the crew exploits distortion to allow the ship to move at a speed equal to the speed of light. Space and time behind the spaceship expand while space and time ahead compress.
Alcubierre tried to do more or less the same thing, but he ran into a problem. The negative energy caused by the distortion would have caused the ship to lose control and stability, too great a risk.
This is why spaceships like the one from Star Trek have never been made into reality.
Speed of light, one step ahead
Today, however, there are some news. A study conducted by Erik Lentz published Classical and Quantum Gravity offers new food for thought.
To be precise, scientists from Lentz's team have found a solution to the negative energy problem we just talked about. How did they do it? They built a new class of hyper-fast "solitons" using sources with positive energies, capable of ensuring the journey at very high speeds (even at the speed of light).
Solitons represent a type of wave that maintains its shape and energy while moving at a constant speed. According to Lentz, these components would be able to exclude negative energy and eliminate the problem in the bud.
With the right energy and the right control, one could go beyond space-time, approaching an experience never yet experienced.
How much energy would it take?
The current answer is still "too much energy".
As Lentz himself explains: "The energy required for this impulse which travels at the speed of light and extends over a spacecraft of 100 meters in radius is of the order of hundreds of times the mass of the planet Jupiter. (... ) Energy savings should be drastic, about 30 orders of magnitude to be within the reach of modern nuclear fission reactors. "
The physicist also expressed an opinion on what he believes to be the "next step", the next step:
The next step is to figure out how to reduce the astronomical amount of energy needed within the range of current technologies, such as a large, modern nuclear fission power plant. So we can talk about the construction of the first prototypes.Erik Lentz
If we ever succeed, the next goal would surely be Next Centauri. Such a planned journey would allow us to come and go in years, rather than decades or millennia.
The prospects are certainly attractive, but we would have to wait several more years before receiving an answer. For the moment, we just need to know that science is moving in the right direction.