“In this way, the spaceship will be pushed away from the Earth and pulled towards a distant star by space-time itself,” Dr. Alcubierre wrote. Dr. White has likened it to stepping onto a moving walkway at an airport.
But Dr. Alcubierre’s paper was purely theoretical, and suggested insurmountable hurdles. Among other things, it depended on large amounts of a little understood or observed type of “
Theoretically, a warp drive could cut the travel time between stars from tens of thousands of years to weeks or months. But we should probably not book reservations anytime soon.
“My personal opinion is that the idea is crazy for now,” said Edwin F. Taylor, a former editor of The American Journal of Physics and senior research scientist at M.I.T. “Check with me in a hundred years.”
But Richard Obousy, a physicist who is president of Icarus Interstellar, a nonprofit group composed of volunteers collaborating on starship design, said “it is not airy-fairy, pie in the sky.”
“We tend to overestimate what we can do on short time scales, but I think we massively underestimate what we can do on longer time scales,” he said of the work of Dr. White, who is a friend and Icarus collaborator.
Dr. White likened his experiments to the early stages of the Manhattan Project, which were aimed at creating a very small nuclear reaction merely as proof that it could be done.