How Einstein could help unlock the mysteries of space travel

August 21, 2015, University of Sydney

Warp drives might be the stuff of science fiction, but they could be a step closer to reality if we look to Einstein's theory of gravity, according to a University of Sydney researcher.

Professor of Astrophysics Geraint Lewis, from the School of Physics, discussed how new work on the famous theory is opening up fresh possibilities for space travel at his National Science Week talk, "Einstein's wonderful idea: A century of space-time, black holes and expanding universes" on Monday 17 August.

Albert Einstein first penned his theory of in 1915, but we're only now starting to scratch the surface to see what the theory predicts, said Professor Lewis.

"One of the things coming out of the mathematics is a possible mechanism to allow us to travel through the universe nominally faster than the speed of light," he said.

"In the next 100 or 200 years, maybe the theory will give us solutions such as being able to travel efficiently and at high speeds across the universe."

Maths fiend

Einstein's theory of general relativity went largely ignored in the science community for many years after its publication as it was considered "mathematically fiendish," said Professor Lewis.

"We've now come to realise that the theory is very important to modern science, as it not only describes the entire universe, it also predicts some very strange things, like ," he said.

Einstein's description of gravity underpins such modern innovations as Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which rely on differing clock rates in orbit and on Earth. But extending this same understanding of how space and time can bend also holds exciting possibilities for our ambitions, Professor Lewis argued.

He pointed out to the growing industry working to detect the behaviour of gravitational waves – ripples in the curvature of space-time first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916 – as an example of the potential breakthroughs in the not-too-distant future.

Space-time wobble

"If you have really violent events in the universe, it can cause space and time to wobble. It's been a dream for the past 50 years to detect these wobbles – and we are getting closer. There are some new gravitational telescopes being built that are trying to get the sensitivity to detect the waves," Professor Lewis said.

"Once we can detect , then we are going to be able to see the most violent explosions and collisions in the universe. That's going to be an absolutely amazing advancement: We'll have a brand new window on the universe."

While Einstein's general theory of relativity now sits with as one of the major pillars of scientific understanding, Professor Lewis believes the next century will see many more surprises.

"It's still a bit of a theoretical curiosity for everyday people, but in terms of a scientific idea, it's got wide-reaching consequences. When we finally unite Einstein's and quantum mechanics together, we're likely to reveal many more secrets of the universe."

Explore further: What are gravitational waves?

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1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 21, 2015
There is no end to the pseudoscientific crap.
4 / 5 (4) Aug 22, 2015
There is no end to the pseudoscientific crap.

Whats pseudoscientific about GR?
Da Schneib
4.5 / 5 (2) Aug 22, 2015
Bah, this is all well-known theoretical physics from decades ago. There is nothing new or newsworthy here. This article is a waste of time. It's all non-controversial and widely published in Kip Thorne's popular works of the past. Can we have something that is actually substantial instead of this fluff please?
1 / 5 (5) Aug 22, 2015
There is no end to the pseudoscientific crap.

Whats pseudoscientific about GR?

You had to ask. Here are a few voodoo physics gems found in GR:

1. A time dimension makes motion impossible because changing time is self-referential. This is the reason that Karl Popper called spacetime "Einstein's block universe in which nothing happens."
2. There is no time dilation, only slow clocks.
3. Newton was right about gravity being instantaneous. Gravity is a non-local phenomenon caused by some violation to the conservation of energy.
4. The universe is discrete, not continuous. This is something that Einstein himself was beginning to realize not long before he died.
5. Space (distance) is a perceptual illusion. It is abstract because it leads to an infinite regress. In the future, we'll have technologies that will allow us to jump from anywhere to anywhere instantly.

This does not mean that GR is 100% wrong, only mostly wrong.

Just saying. Take it or leave it.
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 22, 2015

Where can we read your peer reviewed papers?
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 22, 2015
Pseudo science from "a" to "z". GR have nothing to do with reality.This theory is pure mathematical speculation which mathematical aparatus operate on cosmic space that is geometric object rather with vacuum filled the cosmic space, which is a real physical environment with certain properties and limitations.
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 22, 2015

Where can we read your peer reviewed papers?

Peer review is synonymous with arse review. I got something for you to review. Right here. LOL
1 / 5 (1) Aug 22, 2015
Time being merely a mertical representation of the relative motions of particles in space due to charge interactions, precludes spacetime as being considered a substantial entity. Einstein probably used the term spacetime to recognize that Time arises from these motions at the quantal scale, and that Space and Time are inseprably related.

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