Traveling faster than light?
The big physical limit that a Science Fiction writer must overcome is the speed of light. Einstein put a limit on speed that makes it almost impossible for man to reach the stars. There is no use arguing with relativity. The “C” limit is real and we can’t design ships that go faster than light. Physically, there doesn’t seem to be a way to go more than a small fraction of the speed of light. You can’t write a story that breaks this rule.
Writers use “Warp Drive”, “Stellar Drive”, “Hyper Drive” and “Subspace Drive” to describe ways of getting from here to there without going through the space in between, thereby getting around a loophole in relativity. Space can be warped or has a shape according to Einstein and there may exist a straight line path that is shorter than the normal space-time path that we normally take. These are described as Worm Holes by Hawking and others and it could very well be that we can create a worm hole and go through it.
I like the possibilities posed by an area in Physics called Bell’s Theorem. In 1964 J.S. Bell published a theorem which stated basically that Reality is Non-Local. Bell was talking about quantum theory. The basic issue is that Quantum Theory is a kind of Voodoo approach to science that won’t go away because it works so well. Einstein described it as “spooky action-at-a-distance” and made the statement that “God does not play at dice with the universe.” To which Niels Bohr, the chief proponent of Quantum Theory answered “Quit telling God what to do!”
By Non-Local, it is meant that the actions of something can be effected by things far away, instantaneously. This, sort of, means that all things affect all other things. We can say that a butterfly flapping his wings in China can create a tornado in Kansas. It also means that a butterfly flapping his wings on Ursa Beta prime could have the same effect. It seems to take the time and distance requirement away from science. Of course, the new age soft science and soft heads seem to think that it has deep philosophical meaning. The theorem only works with a class of quantum reactions and does not imply the transmission of any information or imply any kind of control. The theorem only describes the way you measure things.
But, if there is a way to travel faster than the speed of light then it might involve Bell’s theorem and it will be less like travel and more like teleportation. I think that we may be able to create a quantum potential for us to actually be millions of miles from where we actually are and fool quantum mechanics into instantly jumping us there.
So far Bell’s theorem is only used to explain a paradox in the way quantum interactions occur. It does not seem to be controllable in that we can make use of the way these non-local interactions happen. They aren’t even interactions in the way we are accustomed to thinking about action and reaction. There are more like after-the-fact explanations of what we have observed. The basic idea is compelling, however, and leads one to believe that there is a trick that can make this non-local idea very useful. A couple of generations of PhD candidates have failed to find the key to using Bell’s theorem. Maybe some tricky minded student will come up with something and make a name for himself and interstellar travelers out of the rest of us.