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Alien 'warp drives' may leave telltale signals in the fabric of space-time, new paper claims

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"Warp drives" used by super-advanced alien civilizations may create specific space-time ripples in their wake that we can spot from Earth, a new paper argues. However, the jury is still out on whether the faster-than-light Technology is even possible to create in the first place. 

A warp drive is a hypothetical device that enables an object to travel faster than light. In theory, the device creates an invisible sphere around an object, known as a warp bubble, that contracts the space-time in front of it while expanding the space-time behind it. This essentially moves the universe around the object, enabling it to get from point A to B faster than light.

The warp drive concept was first theorized in science fiction books in the 1940s and 1950s but was popularized from the 1960s onwards thanks to the Star Trek franchise. 

In 1994, theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed the first real-world version of the device, known as an Alcubierre drive. However, while the physics of Alcubierre's concept checks out, it requires the use of large amounts of "negative energy" — energy with a value below zero — which we currently have no idea how to create. This is in addition to other issues, like creating closed space-time loops that violate causality or being able to control a warp bubble once it's formed. However, that doesn't mean we won't eventually figure it all out. 

"Some bright soul is going to have a new idea, something quite different from our current understanding of physics," Don Lincoln, a physicist at Fermilab in Illinois, wrote in a 2023 article on the subject. "Then, maybe — just maybe — we will be able to boldly go where no one has gone before."

And while warp drives are a far cry from our current capabilities, that doesn't mean that some super-advanced alien civilization hasn't already come up with the answers.

Related: Sci-fi inspired tractor beams are real, and could solve a major space junk problem 

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