When does science-fiction become science fact? Throughout various mediums over the last few centuries, we’ve seen early versions of concepts that would eventually become a reality. Sometimes these portrayals are pretty far off base (still waiting on those flying cars), while other times they feel downright prescient. But in the case of Star Trek and one particular engineer at NASA, science-fiction actually informed science fact, with NASA engineer and physicist Harold White now actively working on a space ship that would allow travel faster than the speed of light—or, for the Star Trek inclined, warp speed.
White announced this idea a few years ago, with the concept seeking to allow travel faster than the speed of light by literally expanding space-time behind the object and contracting space-time in front of it. In reality, the object doesn’t “go fast,” but instead takes advantage of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity to move between space-time.
If your head has yet to explode, sit tight—in concert with White, designer Mark Rademaker has now created a CGI design concept of the ship that would operate using this theory, which they have aptly named the IXS Enterprise. Per Rademaker in an interview with the Washington Post, the idea behind the concept art serves two purposes: to visualize their idea, and to inspire burgeoning young scientists:
“We wanted to have a decent image of a theory conforming Warp ship to motivate young people to pursue a STEM career,” Rademaker said in an e-mail interview. “It does have some Sci-Fi features that might never transfer to a possible final design, unless we really want to.”
So how close is this IXS Enterprise to becoming a reality? Well, the first step is proving that the math is realistically sound, which is what White is working on now. Still, this is kind of great, and it’s neat to see science-fiction being used to help actualize an idea that could radically change humanity’s place in the universe as we know it. See kids, science is cool!
Flip through Rademaker’s concept images below, followed by a video in which White explains the science behind this warp ship in much greater detail.