Warp Speed, Mr. Sulu

Another Star Trek technology becoming a reality?

"The hypothetical device, which has been outlined in principle but is based on a controversial theory about the fabric of the universe, could potentially allow a spacecraft to travel to Mars in three hours and journey to a star 11 light years away in just 80 days, according to a report in today’s New Scientist magazine."

"The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft." [impulse engine?]

"Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension [subspace?], where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension." [warp drive?]

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

8 thoughts on “Warp Speed, Mr. Sulu

  1. Jerry Nora

    Sweet. I’d love to go to Mars and elsewhere but don’t want to be away from the family for so long. A short commute would be just what the doctor ordered. (ha ha) Heck, maybe the whole family could go. It would make holidays a pain, but it would be pretty cool…

  2. Steve Nicoloso

    Umm… Faster than speed of light (in this universe) travel will cause the traveler (should he or she to return to this universe) to go back in time (by this universe’s reckoning). If the future (in this universe) is very long, and we have some reason to believe it is, ample time (in the future) will have elapsed for many, many travelers to travel back. So much so that surely one more such travelers will have “screwed up” and spilled the beans about the future and it would all be common knowledge today. (We’d all be millionaires with the Lotto winnings!) Since we have no such common knowledge, either a)future super light speed travel will never be possible; OR b)the future of this universe is rather short.

    In addition, a universe where the speed of light is very different from our own would have universal constants very different from our own. What cause have we to believe that matter from our universe could survive (or even exist) in such an environment? What safeguards could be in place to prevent the travelers’ protons from falling apart?

  3. Funky Dung

    Actually, the speed of light may be more flexlible than thought by most. In a vacuum, all other things equal, it is the speed quoted in textbooks. I think the implication of research like this is that there may be circumstances (such as other dimensions) in which the speed of light, though “constant” is is faster. IOW, I believe “faster than the speed of light” as used by this article means that researchers have hypothesized that conditions exist in which the speed of light is faster than it is in an ordinary vacuum. Also, recall the fictional physics behind warp drive. Starships don’t actually travel faster than light in Star Trek. They bend space-time such that two points are “pinched” together. Think of the example in “A Wrinkle in Time” where an ant travels from one end of the string to the other much more quickly when a loop in the string is made.

  4. gbm3

    “Starships don’t actually travel faster than light in Star Trek. They bend space-time such that two points are “pinched” together. Think of the example in “A Wrinkle in Time” where an ant travels from one end of the string to the other much more quickly when a loop in the string is made.” -FD

    Your thinking of a worm-hole. The warp drive is supposed to make an object travel faster than the speed of light by warping space-time around it (sort of like the pressure differential around an airplane wing for lift).

    See the link for better, albeit fictional, explanation:


    I would be curious to see how a large magnetic field could propel an object faster than the speed of light. I’m not convinced.

    This reminds me of the rewriting of physics in the movie Contact ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118884/ ). In this movie, objects were propelled from a sitting position with a large magnetic field setup around them.

    There’s that magnetic field again!

  5. Funky Dung

    Maybe a better analogy for warp drive would be shrinking fabric. It’s not a wormhole. It’s a compression of space-time. At least that’s what my fuzzy recollection of the Star Trek technical manual tells me. 😉

  6. Steve Nicoloso

    Compression of space time IS (I think more or less) gravity. Gravity IS acceleration (with a non-zero mass of course). I think we’re still comparing apples with apples. No matter how you do it, if you get to Mars in 3 minutes and then come back in 3 minutes, you should be back in just enough time to wish yourself a nice trip… or kill your father or something…

  7. Rob

    First, any form of FTL would in fact cause a “time travel” problem, whether wormhole or hyperspace or anything else. The problem is in defining “now.” “Now” for someone at rest is different from “now” for someone travelling .9999c. The problem, according to relativity, is that you can’t tell who’s travelling .9999c and who’s at rest!

    There may be a preferred reference frame (a form of symmetry breaking) or perhaps time travel (with all it’s attendant problems) is possible.

    The article this report is based on took a rather one-sided and limited view of the research. The theory that would predict such effects is not a complete mathematical theory. It has some math which permits some calculations, but it’s also got gaping holes through which you can drive a spaceship — resulting in FTL!

    It’s interesting, but it’s a long way from being tested, let alone used.

    I mentioned this theory briefly in a Quick Links post…perhaps I ought to comment more.

  8. Jerry

    Rob, I’d have to look over my old notes and book on special relativity (I want to say that this has to do with the “light cone” that is used in special relativity), but depending on how far away the destination is, it may not be a problem.

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