No, sorry, NASA doesn't have a warp drive

I'm as anxious as anyone for NASA to have a warp drive, it would be the best news in the history of news. Unfortunately, they don't.

However, you'd be forgiven for not knowing that this week.

  • "Nasa might have successfully tested a warp drive that could carry people at speeds approaching that of light" - the Independent
  • "Nasa has a ‘warp drive’ that could zip people to the moon in just hours" - Metro
  • "NASA's building a real life WARP DRIVE - future space travel could use electromagnetic propulsion" - Mirror
  • "Nasa tests 'WARP DRIVE' engine that could carry passengers to the moon in just four hours...and may even travel faster than the speed of light" - Daily Mail

There are more if you want to look for them, but you get the general idea. The point is that all of these are wrong.

The news, such as it is, that started all of this has not been either confirmed or peer reviewed. It could very well be wrong and even if it's not, it doesn't mean that NASA will have a warp drive anytime soon, only that something extremely odd has happened.

So what was the odd thing? Apparently, again its unconfirmed, something happened with lasers during the testing of the EM drive. According to I Fucking Love Science:

"The unpublished experiment that led to this exciting possibility was performed in the vacuum of space. After shooting laser beams into the EM Drive’s resonance chamber, where the light is resonated to increase its intensity, researchers found that some of the beams of light were moving faster than the speed of light constant: approximately 300,000,000 meters per second (186,000 miles per second). The big question that’s intriguing scientists and dreamers alike is "How?" Einstein’s theory of relativity forbids any object from moving faster than the speed of light. Fortunately, there’s a theory that sidesteps this minor impossibility. If the laser beams are definitely moving faster than the speed of light, then it would indicate that they are creating some sort of warp field, or bubble in the space-time foam, which in turn produces the thrust that could, in the future, power a spaceship."

In other words, even if it's confirmed and not a mistake or misreading of the data. NASA still has a long way to go before there is anything like a functioning warp drive and that is assuming that they can figure out how the faster than light speed was achieved.

At any rate according to a statement published a less than two months ago from Nancy Smith Kilkenny of NASA's Glenn Research Center, “there are many “absurd” theories that have become reality over the years of scientific research.  But for the near future, warp drive remains a dream.”

In the age of clickbait there is a great temptation to embellish, or even abandon the truth altogether and this tendency applies to science reporting along with everything else. "NASA has a warp drive" will get more clicks than "Scientists measuring the speed of laser light have reported some weird readings" but NASA doesn't have a warp drive.
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