Warp speeds in ‘Star Trek’ are achingly slow, and a simple animation by a former NASA scientist proves it
In the sci-fi universe of “Star Trek,” spaceships with warp drives can zoom past the normally impenetrable limit of light speed, or about 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second) in a vacuum.
This trouncing of theoretical physics makes reaching alien-rich planets across the galaxy seem like just a convenient TV-commercial-break-length trip away.
But a new animation by the planetary and space scientist James O’Donoghue, who used to work at NASA and is now employed by JAXA (Japan’s national space agency), grounds the warp drives of those fictional spaceships in reality. He says the work gives him “a sense of despair” about traveling through space, even at superluminal speeds.
“All parts should go together without forcing. You must remember that the parts you are reassembling were disassembled by you. Therefore, if you can’t get them together again, there must be a reason. By all means, do not use a hammer.” —IBM Manual, 1925