Faster Than the Speed of Light?

Beyond the security gate at the

“Nature can do it,” he said. “So the question is, can we do it?”

Einstein famously postulated that, as Dr. White put it, “thou shalt not exceed the speed of light,” essentially setting a galactic speed limit. But in 1994, a Mexican physicist, Miguel Alcubierre, theorized that faster-than-light speeds were possible in a way that did not contradict Einstein, though Dr. Alcubierre did not suggest anyone could actually construct the engine that could accomplish that.

Harold G. White uses an interferometer to measure any change caused in a photon’s trajectory.
Harold G. White uses an interferometer to measure any change caused in a photon’s trajectory.

His theory involved harnessing the expansion and contraction of space-time by generating a so-called “warp bubble” that would expand space on one side of a spacecraft and contract it on another.

“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 “ 1 2 3