Take Note 'Star Trek/Wars': Scientists Reveal What Traveling at Warp Speed Would Really Look Like

Take Note 'Star Trek/Wars': Scientists Reveal What Traveling at Warp Speed Would Really Look Like

Feb 04, 2013


Warp Speed

Uh oh – don’t look now, but science is about to ruin another thing we see in the movies…

That’s right, scientists -- the guys who proved Batman couldn’t really glide on his cape without suffering major injuries and debunked other bits of movie magic – are at it again. The target this time? What traveling at warp speed would look like in outer space.

Anyone who’s seen Star Wars or Star Trek already knows that movies love to show the jump to warp speed or speed of light travel with a visual effect featuring stars with long light trails to demonstrate how fast the spacecraft is moving. However, a group of physics students say this is wrong.

Young scientists in the physics master's program at England’s University of Leicester have concluded that the Doppler effect would actually make the stars a ship like the Millennium Falcon was passing largely invisible. That’s not very exciting, is it? (You can see it for yourself in the photo above. It sort of looks like “going into the light” in a near-death experience…).

The Doppler effect is already something even high school students know about – it’s commonly demonstrated by how the sound of a siren changes as it approaches a fixed position and then moves away. This effect applies not only to sound waves, but light as well. As such, stars wouldn't be plainly visible and traveling at light speed would also require some modifications to ships and passengers to keep everyone safe.

“If the Millennium Falcon existed and really could travel that fast, sunglasses would certainly be advisable," said research team member Riley Connors. "On top of this, the ship would need something to protect the crew from harmful X-ray radiation."

The students even theorize that traveling at this rate of speed would cause pushback from that X-ray radiation – making it like traveling at the bottom of the ocean. This would require a ship to have even more energy reserves in order to keep pressing ahead.

As interesting as all this is, we wonder if Disney will implement some new visuals into Star Wars: Episode VII. We’re guessing they probably won’t, but we'll never think of making the jump to warp speed in the same way again.

[via Space.com]

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