Copernicus and the Warp Drive

posted by Buck Field on September 5, 2013

Science historian James Burke points out two reasons why, in order to predict the future, we must look to the past. The first is that because the future hasn’t happened yet, the past is the only place we can look and the second is that the future is simply the present, with extra bits attached. In other words: today is simply yesterday, plus whatever happened the last 24 hours…a trend that seems likely to continue.

James Burke, Science Historian

If our future includes interstellar travel, we will almost certainly learn to circumvent the intervening distance between two points. Absent such an option, the lightspeed limit imposes challenges to propulsion, energy, life support, mental & physical health, and the maximum human life-span. This is to say nothing of popular opposition we could expect from trying to allocate a significant portion of the world’s resources to a journey with no plausible return, proposing to take zillions of tons of extremely valuable hardware and hurl it all away at relativistic speeds…never to be seen again. Our position might be likened to people at the dawn of the steam era contemplating interplanetary flight, and even that could be generous. One advantage that changes the equation is our new knowledge of how scientific knowledge advances. This knowledge could turn the future odds in our favor in ways similar knowledge has in the past.

As an information consultant specializing in “what comes next” and how to get it, I’m interested in what we can say about future revolutions in physics. Assuming at some point that warp drive or space jump capability will be achieved, it will have to involve transformative scientific paradigm changes. To predict them with any accuracy, we must look to those of the past and learn what made them revolutionary. We can then learn something about future advances, like how they develop and perhaps, how we might recognize them in advance. That potential ability to see into the future of physics leads us to examine the history of major theoretical milestones. We are talking about really big ideas, theories like the earth goes around the sun, that all life is related by common ancestry, and lesser known transformations in science’s understanding of our world.


Focusing our thinking on future scientific revolutions requires a vision of future capabilities where the transformative ideas and technologies exist. Star Trek and other science fiction possess these. In fact, science fiction provides the most advanced, best elaborated visions of this type. Within that focus, we require a methodology to help us manage our effort as reliably and productively as possible, especially given the vast uncertainties. “Prediction is difficult,” said Mark Twain, “…especially about the future.” International management standards for success with strategy, operations, and projects offer the most robust solutions for dealing with these issues, so following them seems sensible.

Enterprise E


Management standards recommend using experts as much as possible to avoid reinventing the wheel. They also suggest a good first step in any kind of project is to review the current situation.  If recent lectures at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics are any guide, the current state of our situation is troubled, to say the least. A recent report from the Dark Energy Task Force laments researchers only have one remaining option of “continued observation” due to the absence of “theoretical guidance”. In other words, “We’re measuring it, but we don’t have a clue what it is.” The desperation lurking behind such reports is obvious and the problems giving rise to this status have been accumulating for some time now.

By far the most commonly adopted response to this morass is that presented by Dark Energy committee: continue the status quo, hoping that at some point, lightning strikes, somebody has a brainstorm, or the creative muse inspires.


While researchers lack a clear vision of success, some initial, halting steps toward developing at least a vague vision have been taken. To create that vision, project teams wisely looked to the past. The physics community now envisions a New Copernican Revolution, officially described in a landmark 2004 report entitled: “Quantum Universe, the Revolution in 21st Century Particle Physics”. The National Science Board’s report on transformative research 3 years later admits no generally accepted definition of “revolutionary” or “transformative” even exists. This tantamount to admitting the report literally did not know what it was talking about. Nevertheless, that report does offer “a revolution…transforms science by overthrowing entrenched paradigms and generating new ones.”

Quantum Universe, the Revolution in 21st Century Particle Physics

Meanwhile, far outside the hardcore science community, a small group of philosophers and historians has been quietly working away on paradigm change since the 1960’s. Picking apart exactly how revolutionary ideas came about, the investigators did not read what physics texts or creators of grand ideas claimed in their memoirs. These unknown sleuths went directly to the notes, letters, and other primary sources, tracking what the creator recorded during the development process of these revolutionary ideas. Everywhere they looked, a very different picture than the common preconceptions began to appear. Science texts and speeches written decades later presented  something of a mythology. Contrary to the anecdotes of flashes of insight, revelations during dreams, or a burst of realization while shaving, the actual record documented a journey both more prosaic and more complex.

It turns out that iconic revolutions we admire like Copernicus and Darwin result from the kind of normal, everyday problem-solving in which we all engage while going on about our daily business. It is a mix of a) which problem is selected, b) the resources applied to solve it, c) its context, and d) the manner in which it is attacked – these are what make the difference. Processes of searching for solutions to a problem were identified in 2008 by Nancy Nersessian, and labeled “model-based reasoning”, which uses analogies to produce creative ideas very similar to playing games.

If problems go unsolved despite large efforts over extended periods, we can conclude the right mix of resources are not being applied. For information systems, we can almost always track such problems to incorrect assumptions in the way the problem is formulated. Given the history and state of physics, we can conclude incorrect assumptions are probably at the root of our troubles. We might reasonably argue the number of problems in diverse areas of physics suggest an effective problem has yet to be identified, other than the vaguest notion of a physics revolution “as dramatic as any that have come before.” What management standards tell us here is that resources are not being provided sufficiently for the effort to succeed – resources like a good, concrete problem.

I suggest Roddenberry’s vision of warp drive could provide an effective problem where searching for solutions might catalyze the revolution in physics we need. To pursue those solutions, we will want to assemble the most suitable tools we can for the job, and for physics models, those tools are mathematical. We probably need better math.


Outside appraisals tend to support this conjecture. The history of how currently popular math came into use contrasts dramatically with a well-managed selection process. Thousands of years ago, when logic and geometry were first combined to create rational models of reality, we knew much less about the universe (and math) than we do now. Yet, ancient and inappropriate artifacts remain embedded in the math tools we use for modern cosmology. Zero dimensional point objects, one dimensional strings, two dimensional branes, and so on illustrate this incompatibility. As far as we know, reality never seems to exhibit Euclidean geometric figures. On the contrary, reality appears to have fractal structures at both very large and small scales.

Papyrus Scroll

We also have a number of reasons to suspect fundamentals in physics are probably not real. If a revolutionary model were to hold some fundamentals were actually as illusory as the motion of the sun or the separation of species, some current conflicts would seem to become non-issues. Problems with dark matter and dark energy measurements could evaporate, if space and time were some kind of observational consequence of our perception. In such a paradigm, our main concern would be understanding and describing the structures and processes that give rise to such illusions. Like revolutions of the past, a successful future paradigm will redefine some our current concepts in physics as observational effects.

My belief is that those in the interstellar community interested in pursuing revolutionary, warp enabling theory should work together to establish and strengthen cross-discipline partnerships with those in related communities where our interests overlap. Physicists and mathematicians, collaborating with scholars specializing in the history and philosophy of scientific revolutions and starship advocates might together enable what we could never do when divided: create new math disciplines, complete the revolution started by Einstein, and “Build a Starship”.

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42 Responses to Copernicus and the Warp Drive

  1. berne says:

    I agree. However, I propose an attempt at artificial gravity. The same track will give many tools to the pursuit of the “Warp Feild” dynamics.
    I will start with my own Artificial Gravity program, and make money at it. Good luck to the rest of the 7 billion of you all!!

    • John says:

      Hello beme, If you are serious about making a contribution to what may become “artificial gravity”, contact me, I’d like to hear more about what you plan on doing. My email is

  2. Ioannis says:

    “….If our future includes interstellar travel, we will almost certainly learn to circumvent the intervening distance between two points. Absent such an option, the lightspeed limit imposes challenges to propulsion, energy, life support, mental & physical health, and the maximum human life-span….”.

    The key to this is, what Einstein missed when he developed the Mass-Energy equivalence. When you would like to know what does that means, then you should visit my web site:

    Kind Regards

    Ioannis Xydous


  3. william f collins says:

    the otherpossibility is that if problems go un solved or unresolved over long periods of time, it may mean 1) the problem cannot be solved or 2) the problem cannot be solved with the proposed solution(s), So if warp drive technology proves to be either impractical, not doable, or just plain fanciful, it maybe that it is not in the cards – no matter how much collaboration or how many resources are thrown at the warp drive propulsion dream. Interstellar space travel will of necessity, have to find other means of propulsion to make real humankind’s drive to the stars – which I believe is inevitable.

    • pov says:

      No. That isn’t quite so. If warp drive isn’t developed it means that there was something amiss in all the approaches brought to the task.

    • Buck Field says:

      Hello William,

      I think we need to be specific about what is referred to by “the problems” going unresolved for a long time. In a general sense, problems can be structured in insolvable ways such as: What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?

      In physics however, we have a workable representation in the universe itself. Reality operates, so it seems uncontroversial that the problem of how to create the reality we perceive has been solved at least once. We just don’t happen to have an error free representation of that yet.

      While all my best hopes are with Sonny White and his warp bubble lab experiments, project management experience tells us this is not a well-founded research effort, and I feel a moral obligation to follow (and recommend) my best reasoning rather than my most cherish desire for the breakthroughs we seek. From that perspective, the NASA warp research is fanciful.

      This brings up another point: “fanciful” is like “revolutionary”, it’s a categorization that depends not on any particular thing being described, it depends on us and our experience. A moving earth and airplanes were considered fanciful by everyone in the past, now they’re regarded as no more outlandish than a toothbrush.

      Because of my PM perspective, I tend to avoid investing time on whether warp technology doable, because I realize we lack the foundational tools to answer that, although many physicists in the FTL domain would disagree. Historically, specialists in pre-revolutionary fields overwhelmingly disagree with revolutionary approaches, however as they come from outside, threatening the knowledge of a scientific domain, and consequently the value of the specialist.

      • william f collins says:

        Hi Buck,
        Thank you for your very gracious response. I I look at the vast distances to the nearby star systems, the immense size of our milky Way galaxy ( 100M Stars/ 100K light years across),the tremendous scope of the universe (100 billion (?) galaxies), and I regretfully,suspect that the shortcuts – wormholes, superluminal propulsion systems,or warp drives- may never come into fruition. Our species will still go to the stars in some manner. Finally, as a Vietnam-era/Desert Storm veteran who loves science ( spacesciencein particular), I cannot help but think that we would be so much fruther on in space exploration/ space research without these very tragic wars which wasted resources – human and otherwise.

  4. pov says:

    An area that I think will impact greatly on warp is force fields. Currently humans have yet to develop a viable force field technology – much less one that could contain and direct the energy needed to generate a warp field.

  5. Buck Field says:

    Hi pov,

    Project failure can have many causes, including in this case of failure to develop warp technology: the structure of the universe is not such as to allow it. That would not be surprising to me, although I hope that’s not the universe we inhabit.

    Also, insufficient resources could have been allocated to the project, scope creep could have killed it, loss of stakeholder support, or really external things like a fatal heart attack killing the researcher who was 1 minute away from the perfect key breakthrough that would answer everything.

    Such causes are not normally considered “in” our approaches, and I point this out not to be a downer, but to highlight the risks and challenges we face which merit rigorous project management to give us the best possible odds of success.

    • pov says:


      Whatever the structure of the universe, warp fields are possible. That is so because a warp field utilizes the structure of the universe.

      Beyond that, the notion of “universe won’t allow” though common and seemingly valid is almost always incorrect and flawed. The correct thing is that humans don’t currently know how to accomplish said thing and based on their “knowledge” they conclude it is impossible. I realize my saying so won’t change the minds of those who hold to various “we can’ts”. So the practical approach is to proceed with the assumption that the universe does allow it.

    • pov says:

      On another point, you suggest “rigorous project management” That may or may not be helpful. I’ll take a few maverick visionaries committed to accomplishing other structured projects any day.

      The one think I see as important that may be termed project management is fine-grained, “obsessive” data collection – very approach, every result, every anomaly.

  6. Ioannis says:

    “..So the practical approach is to proceed with the assumption that the universe does allow it…”..

    Hi pov!

    You are very right! I would like to add that the enormous space dimensions of the Universe call us that it is possible, without question. Otherwise, I do not see the reason of such a Universe creation (meaning, if Warp Drive is not feasible practically or theoretically, then the Universe should have around 1 light year radius. It would be enough for exploration with conventional propulsion means.)

    The solution to the Warp Drive is simpler than people think! Warp Drive like the Alcuberrie that uses General Relativity and enormous Energies although they grasped the initial idea, it is practically impossible. The space “bubble” of the so-called Warp Drive is nothing else than a Standing Wave (E/M Interference). This notion requires that a charged mass is electromagnetic in nature.

    Kind Regards


    • pov says:

      So let’s start with what I see as one possible first step. How, using your re-formulation, would you generate a force-field around an object?

        • Ioannis says:

          To become more clear:
          Electric Field=Gravitational Field
          Magnetic Field=Inertial Field

          Every time you create an Electromagnetic field in space, simultaneously you create a Gravitoinertial Field. I found the right description according to my opinion about the gravitomagnetism and gravitoelectricity.

          On the other hand, when mass absorbs Electromagnetic Energy in static conditions (standing wave), it reduces its gravitoinertial properties. Then new Energy-Mass equivalence proves exactly this and it is the key to Warp Drive, otherwise forget it (Warp Drive)!

          Kind Regards

          Ioannis Xydous

          Electronic Engineer


          • pov says:

            I have long mused on the possibility that gravity is an EM property. But what I’m asking you is what do you see as the first practical steps, or hurdles to be leapt, in generating such an EM field around an object?

          • Ioannis says:

            Hi pov!

            It is very simple! High permeability or High K dielectric are the most suitable materials for gravity control or local creation of antigravitational fields (see new Energy-Mass Equivalence). I had made an experiment in the past by creating a simple coil using a ferromagnetic core. This video was in Youtube but I removed for several reasons. It is actually a very primitive version of a Warp Drive (matter trapped within a Standing Wave). Probably I will upload it again. The calculations of this experiment (not for the kinetic effects) are found in my paper.

            Kind Regards

            Ioannis Xydous


  7. william f. collins says:

    Fascinating discussion! I doubt that the immense size of the universe and the tremendous distances between the stars and the galaxies does not make it a given that we will be able to travel more or less rapidly across either the interstellar or the intergalatic “spaceways” either by
    warping space or traversing wormholes. However, the experimental investigation and the research must continue. Who knows what spinoff may turn up

    • william f collins says:

      I doubt that the very immensity of the universe and the tremendous distances between the stars and between the galaxies means that the means to traverse these distances – rapidly- is , well, possible to accomplish. At the recent Starship Congress, the most cogent and interesting presentations were those on the economics of spacefaring and on Solar Sail propulsion vice the ones on warp drives, faster-than-light travel. However, I believe that the research and experiments must continue. Who knows what spin-offs will occur!

      • pov says:

        It’s okay to doubt it . . . as long as you proceed as if it does. Also bring to mind that *in a linear time perspective* there were once people standing at the shore wondering how to cross the immensity.

      • pov says:

        As for the “versus” discussions, I view them as merry-go-rounds. A series of “what-ifs” and “how abouts” that lead to not much of anything. Those who have the impetus, enthusiasm and conviction to create warp fields are best served by doing that. Those who are motivated to develop other things will be most effective in going that road. The pedestrian scientist ponders “maybe this isn’t possible” The visionary embraces “let’s get it done.”

        • william f. collins says:

          Pov: Visionaries will and pull the rest of humanity to get it done – and sometimes they will succeed.
          Interstellar travel will come about eventually. Probably after a period of interplanetary exploration and settlement. To paraphase Fermi (roughly), “If faster-than-light &warp drive propusion ( not to forget traversable wormholes) existed in this universe where are the E.T.
          Travelers? Why have they not shown up yet?”. Unless Earth folks are the most highly advanced species in the Milky Way’s galactic neighborhood or within the nearest 1000 light years, some space traveles should have FTLed, warped spacetime, or wormholed here
          sometime over the last 10000 years.

          • pov says:

            Many people maintain with solid reasons that ET travelers have shown up. One thing is for sure, they’d have to be as backwards as humans to do it in a way in which the general population was aware of.

            Another thing for sure is that it is not possible to ascertain that they have not shown up. All that can be said is that they haven’t shown up in a way acceptable to the general population.

          • pov says:

            On another tack – who is to say that Earth is even known to other civilizations. They could for instance be – if humanoid – creatures of a size at which humans would seem like microbes. I think the “why no ET” argument is specious.

  8. william f collins says:

    Listen up, \. I certainly believe that there are ET’s out their in the interstellar
    neighborhood. I just used Fermi to knock or cast doubt on the warp drive propulsion thesis. One thing that always amazes me is the premise put out by many advocates of human space spaceflight are convinced that advanced E.T.’s are superior to “backward” humanity.
    So while I believe that there are technologically advanced E.T.s’ in the Milky Way Galaxy, I just suspect that the reason that we have not seen them may well lie in the great difficulty involved in traversing the distance between the stars. Sans warp drive, sans F.T.L. propulsion, sans traversable wormholes. Quite frankly, I do not see humans or humanity as a backward race. We get better all of the time.Unless you believe in Area 51 or alien abduction stories or Van Daniken, I do not believe that E.T.s’ have been seen by anyone.

    • pov says:

      You can certainly believe what you will. It’s when you want to advance that as a statement of fact that it becomes an issue. The fact is that you do not know if ETs have visited earth. And yes, the idea that humans are the most advanced species in the universe seems – at best – ridiculous. Yes we are advancing. But we’re still at a state that to me is primitive. As I said before the “why no ETs” line of argument is specious. It’s also diverting. Now let’s get back on topic, shall we.

  9. william f collins says:

    Last point. Humans as backward and primitive in comparison to an idealized species – who zoom rapidly along the spaceways, live almost forever, eliminated war or homicide, can communicate with other intelligent species, mindful of the needs of other life forms, especially those with lesser developed technology or no technology at all, etc. I truly believe in human destiny is in the stars. I believe that breakthroughs will come in ways that I cannot conceive to get our species “out there” I would like my doubts to be proven wrong in my lifetime but I suspect that will not happen.
    Ad Astra!

    • pov says:

      My perception that humans are still backwards has nothing to do with any other species. It’s just the way I perceive things. That humans have barely begun to explore and access their own capabilities and development. It’s not a perspective I came to by intellectual means.

  10. Roger Hitching says:

    Well written with paragraphs and some pictures, Buck perhaps you could do a class on how to make presentations interesting to the average person not just a few.

  11. Mark Douglas says:

    What about phased electromagnetic waves to warp spacetime?

  12. Mitchell says:

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Vеry well written!

  13. E.Laureti says:

    First excuse my english.
    In the opinion of the readers of this blog what might be the inertia law of a device that violates action reaction principle?
    I found exponential solutions for a resulting force in free space in the frame of fixed stars.

  14. Angie says:

    Wonderful, what a website it is! This web site presents valuable facts to us, keep it up.

  15. Jerry says:

    You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe. At all times go after your heart.

  16. Carmon says:

    Howdy this is somewhat of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  17. Emily says:

    I read this article fully regarding the resemblance of most recent and preceding technologies, it’s remarkable article.

    • Buck Field says:

      Thanks, Emily.

      Please take a look at Dr. Tziolas’ post “A Starship Worth Fighting For”!

  18. Dryson says:

    Looking to the Big Bang, the past, for an idea of how to occupy space at the FTL velocities – From a discussion elsewhere – If you reduce the inertial mass of your constituent particles too much, you disintegrate. I assume that the Higgs field does exist within a wormhole but if the vacuum expectation value is different, it might be dangerous to venture within.

    According to CERN the particles passing through the Higgs field exist prior to the interact with the Higgs field. Without the Higgs the internal mass of the particles does not exist as the Higgs is the particle that adds mass to the elementary particle called quarks and leptons.

    If inertial mass is reduced we wouldn’t disintegrate we would exist within another dimension of space-time that the quarks and leptons occupy. If the vehicle we were in that was passing through the worm hole emitted a field around it that was directed outwards and reduced the amount of particle mass by reducing the particles to quarks and leptons because of the sudden force being exerted on the field that the internal mass of the occupants would still exist based on the transfer of energy placed upon the field itself.

    I can see the process that I am thinking about in my mind but it is hard to explain.

    Maybe it be best explained by how a black hole functions. We know that when a star collapses the immense pressure from the layers of the core above the sun fall inwards occupying the space vacated by the core itself as it consumes its last amount of fuel. In this case however we are removing gravity from space as well by removing the mass from the particles within an area around the vehicle. Gravity like the layers the sun would possibly try and occupy the space left behind. The field would continue to reduce the particles of mass while gravity tried to occupy the now vacant space. There would still be a force exerted on the vehicle within though because of the immense amount of gravity trying to occupy the recently vacant space.

    • Dryson says:

      In order to travel faster than the speed of light you have to control gravity. Controlling gravity means having the ability to add and remove mass from a particle quickly or slowly in order to generate the necessary gravitational field around the object of transport.

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