Gene Roddenberry’s classic sci-fi drama, Star Trek, made famous the warp drive, a theoretical concept whereby a spacecraft travels Faster Than Light (FTL).
I was once told by a ‘trekky’ enthusiast that the warp speeds they describe on the television shows and in the movies, may be calculated as follows. Warp factor w, from the original Star Trek series, means that the spacecraft travels at w3 times the canonical speed of light (c @ 300,000 km/s or 186,000 miles/s).3 Therefore warp factor w = 7 means the spacecraft travels at 73 = 343 c. It would be unusual to hear that the starship the USS Enterprise (see Fig. 1) had exceeded warp factor 9, which is about 729 times the speed of light.
Figure 1: The starship the USS Enterprise, from the original Star Trek TV series, which could travel faster than light by engaging its warp drive.
To travel even around the local neighbourhood of our galaxy warp factor 9 (from the original TV series) just won’t do it. The nearest star to our solar system is about 4 light-years away. So travelling at warp 9, you would take 2 days to get there. Not too bad but what about to other star systems?
To travel 50 light-years, which is a very small distance in the Galaxy and which includes very few stars—only 64 Sun-like stars—would take you 25 days at this speed. Within a distance of 100 light-years from Earth there are known to be only 512 stars of the same spectral class as our sun1 and very few of those might be candidates for a solar system that could potentially support life.2 So it would be much better to be able to travel 100 light-years quite quickly but that would take you 50 days, nearly 2 months. However in the TV shows they often arrive in just a matter of hours. Continue reading
First it was dark matter,1 then came dark energy,2 followed by dark fluid,3 dark flow,4 and dark radiation5; and now a new entity is suggested for the dark sector of particle physics—dark photons. The dark sector is full of hypothetical entities designed to save the big bang story but it is really just a lot of cosmic storytelling.6
Previously I have argued that dark matter is a sort of ‘god of the gaps’, the ‘unknown god’,7 in astrophysics. It is an unknown invoked to explain the inexplicable,8 which, if you follow the chain of logic, is required to maintain a belief in the big bang paradigm. Its existence is only inferred from the application of known physics to certain observations in the universe.9 Without assuming the existence of some exotic unknown dark matter comprising about 25% of the matter/energy content of the universe10 the standard big bang model would have to be discarded as a total failure.
Dark matter has never been observed in space or in any laboratory experiment.
Now a new observation of four colliding galaxies in the Abell 3827 cluster apparently may shed new light on the conundrum.11 See the four galaxies in the centre of the figure here.
Figure: Approximately real-colour image from the Hubble Space Telescope, of galaxy cluster Abell 3827. The galaxy cluster is made of hundreds of yellowish galaxies. At its core, four giant galaxies are smashing into each other. As the topmost of the four galaxies fell in, it is proposed that it left its dark matter trailing behind, separated from the normal matter. You can’t see the dark matter in this picture because it is ‘dark’; meaning invisible. But its position is allegedly revealed by the gravitational lensing of an unrelated spiral galaxy behind the cluster, whose distorted image is seen as a blue arc, around the group of four central galaxies. Credit: Dr. Richard Massey (Durham University) image. Ref. 12.
Part 2 of series “Redshifts and the Universe”
Watch Part 1 here.
Edwin Hubble’s observations in 1929 led to the conclusion that the universe is expanding, but is that the correct interpretation of extra-galactic redshifts? The standard big bang model derived by Friedmann and Lemaitre gave Hubble a solution to his dilemma but did he really believe that cosmological expansion was the correct interpretation for the redshifts he observed? Clearly he did not believe in the Creator and was repulsed at the idea that the universe might have a unique centre and that we might be somewhere near that.