- Fuel Up:
Start beyond Earth's immediate gravitational pull. Convert matter into negative energy (particles with negative mass that are repelled by gravity rather than attracted to it).
Emit pulses of negative energy to curve spacetime. Form a sphere around the ship with the energy, insulating passengers in their own private spacetime bubble.
- Drop Out:
The bubble warps spacetime so drastically that it actually slips out of the visible universe. Only a narrow tube of negative energy keeps it tied to our world.
- Expand Space:
Now that the craft is protected in its spacetime bubble, the real work can begin: Expand space behind the bubble at faster-than-light speed, and shrink the space in front.
- Discover Negative Energy:
There are no known particles with negative mass. The closest scientists have come is a phenomenon called the Casimir effect, wherein empty space between two conducting plates behaves as if it contains negative energy.
- Devise a Way To Manipulate It:
Even if scientists could transform matter into negative energy, they would still have to find a way to focus it and create an infinitesimally thin, yet extraordinarily stable, bubble of the stuff around the spaceship.
- Harness Dark Energy:
In recent years, cosmologists have been studying a mysterious force called dark energy that they think is accelerating the expansion of the universe. If scientists could generate it at the back of the bubble, it might move, or expand, space.
- Build Bubble Brakes:
Because the spacetime carrying the ship would be completely cut off from the outside of the bubble, there would be no way to send a signal to turn off the warp drive. The signal would never get there, and the ship would never stop.
- Is it even possible to outrun light?
You can't move through space faster than the speed of light. But it is possible for space itself to expand faster than light, because it's not moving relative to anything, at least not that we know of. Cosmologists believe that the entire cosmos expanded faster than the speed of light in the first moments after the big bang.
- What would it be like in the bubble?
The area inside the bubble of negative energy would be isolated–a kind of pocket universe–so passengers wouldn't experience any ill effects from the acceleration. The ship would actually be at rest in its local space, like a pedestrian carried along on a moving sidewalk.
- Would warping space be risky?
It could produce the luminous equivalent of a sonic boom, a shock wave with infinite energy. And yes, that would be bad. Or, since the bubble would be connected to normal space by only a tenuous tube of energy, it could pinch off into a new universe, trapping travelers forever. Better pick your crewmates wisely.
- Could I return before I left?
Although time inside the bubble would tick at the same rate as on Earth, the bubble itself could get back before you left. That's because the passage of time is relative; it depends on the observer's velocity. As a general rule, if you can beat light, you can beat time.