Episode 9: Warp Drives With Zach Weinersmith

An Illustrated Alcubierre Warp Bubble

In episode 9, Its back to the A team (which stands for Apple, which points to “g”, cuz their words have weight!) with Jocelyn Read and Dave Tsang! Today We’re talking about the Alcubierre Warp Drive. You’ve probably heard of this before, There’s a lot of buzz on this topic. Oh, we definitely brought our Bee game to this episode!

To help keep us in line and on time, we’ve invited Zach Weinersmith from  Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and our sister podcast: The Weekly Weinersmith. It’s lively and fun, so Sit Down in your seat, turn up the podcast, pay attention, and bee hive yourself.

Note: There’s some Extra bits after the end music. Two extra bits actually. There was a third very long conversation about bees, but It didn’t make the cut.


Guest:  Zach Weinersmith

Physicists: Jocelyn Read, Dave Tsang

Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 

23 thoughts on “Episode 9: Warp Drives With Zach Weinersmith

  1. This discussion was awesome! Fascinating stuff. I’m a big fan of Zach’s and SMBC (where I came across the link to this podcast) and I’ll likely be back to check out more episodes. Now to start harvesting some negative energy from those emo teenagers…

  2. More bees? I thought everything was going to be expressed in terms of speed boats.

    Jocelyn, you’re such a heart-breaker. I’ll bet that poor guy never recovered.

  3. http://i.imgur.com/DsXYT.jpg BEES!!!

    Also, the books go kind of ‘out there’ at times, but I’d suggest reading Travis S. Taylor’s “Warp Speed” and “The Quantum Connection”. In those books they discuss FTL travel via Alcubierre drive powered by the Casimir effect. Something they also talk about in the books are devices that compress space into a small size, around the Planck length if viewed from the outside; however, much, much larger inside. So it could be possible to construct the tiny drive within that compressed space, that only has to effect a very small space. Something like that.

  4. Re: “Cooking”. What if you just turned it off once in a while? To prevent the accumulation of radiation? What about the sides of the bubble? Can photons escape through the sides? If so, could you build “sinks” around the sides of the bubble, to conduct radiation to the outside?

    Also, if I understand correctly, the random particles would show up and get “stuck” at the front, but not the back, right?

  5. Pingback: Episode 126 | Science Chronicles | Science... sort of

    • Hey lesle.
      this note isn’t to justify interrupting and talking over jocelyn. I probably do it… a lot. and you are right, it is rude.

      this is just to say that *after* we’ve finished talking, i edit the episode, cutting out as much of the *ums* and the breaks in conversation, and sometimes entire bits of conversation. so. in reality, we’re not quite that rude to each other.


  6. Interesting stuff. I dont think the most current theory that has been brought to light was discussed. I wonder if it would change anyone’s mind on how it would work?

    I would also like to know what would happen if two of these bubbles collided, what would happen? Are they capable of overlapping? If so what happens to the space between the two areas?

    Great site. Very interesting and useful information. Keep it coming :)

  7. My friend sent me this article today about a variant of this warp drive that would require much less energy. In fact it says here that it could be powered by a mass smaller than that of the Voyager 1 spacecraft. If you have the time to read it, please let me know what you think Ben. If you’ve already addressed this elsewhere, could you please refer me to it so I can respond to my friend? Thanks!


    By the way, I love the show!

    • yeah, the whole “use less mass than voyager 1” is probably true. i have no doubt that tinkering with the geometry would do it.

      the problem is the negative energy itself. there is only one candidate for it, the casimir effect, and it comes from quantum mechanics, and as far as i understand it, no one has ever shown that the casimir effect actually has negative gravitational mass.

      i should do a show on the casimir effect. i should also look up the spelling.

  8. So one of my hoobies is performing mental experiments and there is one that involves me (in an interstellar cruiser ) negotiating a worm hole . Now for me the benefits of mental experiments are the questions that arise from said simulations. So my question is as follows : How can matter exist in an “environment ” inside a worm hole ? I mean if a wormhole is rip in the fabric of space-time then how can space(matter/me) enter said rip ?

    • Hi Paul
      so wormholes are theoretical,
      but they’re place where two parts of spacetime are joined together. there isn’t a rip. It’s like… imagine that you drilled a hole through a table. an ant walking along the surface of the table would be able to walk THROUGH the hole, no problem. there will always be table under his feet.

      so yes, matter could exist inside a wormhole.
      (that said, it would need to have a lot of gravitationally repulsive matter to keep the thing from collapsing down on itself)

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