Engineers at NASA Johnson Space Center are designing instruments to find out, by slightly warping the trajectory of a photon and measuring the distance it travels, The New York Times reports.
Inspiration for the research came from Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre, who proposed in 1994 a method of stretching space in a wave which would in theory cause the fabric of space ahead of a spacecraft to contract and the space behind it to expand, as Anderson Institute explains. The ship would ride this wave inside a region known as a warp bubble of flat space.
“Dr. Alcubierre’s paper was purely theoretical, and suggested insurmountable hurdles. Among other things, it depended on large amounts of a little understood or observed type of “exotic matter” that violates typical physical laws,” says the Times.
However, “Dr. White believes that advances he and others have made render warp speed less implausible. Among other things, he has redesigned the theoretical warp-traveling spacecraft — and in particular a ring around it that is key to its propulsion system — in a way that he believes will greatly reduce the energy requirements.”