Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Energy bubble could enable warp speed travel

Einstein, eat your heart out: a space-time bubble could enable travel at light speed and beyond.

Physicists at Baylor University in Texas are working on a method to make the theoretical Alcubierre ('warp') drive a reality.

Proposed in 1994, the Alcubierre drive expands the fabric of space behind a spaceship into a bubble, while shrinking space-time in front of the ship.

The ship would not actually move; rather, space would move around the ship. The theory thus complies with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, which states that it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate an object faster than the speed of light.

Warp drives have, so far, remained in the realm of science fiction due to there being no known methods to create a warp bubble.

Now, the Baylor University researchers theorise that such a bubble could be formed by manipulating the 11th dimension to create dark energy.

Dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy that is said to be responsible for accelerating the expansion of the universe.

The researchers estimate that the amount of energy needed to influence the extra dimensions is equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter being converted into energy.

“That is an enormous amount of energy,” said Gerald Cleaver, an associate professor of Physics at Baylor. “We are still a very long ways off before we could create something to harness that type of energy.”

More information is available from Baylor University's press release.


Friday, 1 May 2009

New doubt cast on dinosaur-killing asteroid theory

The asteroid blamed for a mass extinction event 65 million years ago could actually predate the demise of dinosaurs by 300,000 years.

By analysing sediments near the asteroid's site of impact, called the Chicxulub crater, researchers have found that the impact did not cause the extinction of any species.

In the Mexican town of El Penon, Princeton University geologist Gerta Keller and her research team found evidence of 52 species in sediments that were deposited both before, and after, the impact.

"We found that not a single species went extinct as a result of the Chicxulub impact," she said.

Keller's report contradicts the popular theory that the Chicxulub impact heralded the extinction of 65 percent of all species, including plants, dinosaurs, and other animals.

She expects her findings to be unsurprising, as no other great mass extinctions are associated with an impact, and no other large craters are known to have caused a significant extinction event.

Keller suggests that the massive volcanic eruptions at the Deccan Traps in India may be responsible for the extinction.

Huge amounts of dust and gases from the eruptions could have blocked out sunlight and brought about a significant greenhouse effect, she said.

More information is available from the National Science Foundation's press release.