Warp Drives Aren’t Just Science Fiction


Astrophysicist Eric Davis is one of the leaders in the field of faster-than-light (FTL) space travel. But for Davis, humanity’s potential to explore the vastness of space at warp speed is not science fiction.Davis’ latest study, “Faster-Than-Light Space Warps, Status and Next Steps” won the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ (AIAA) 2013 Best Paper Award for Nuclear and Future Flight Propulsion.

TechNewsDaily recently caught up with Davis to discuss his new paper, which appeared in the March/April volume of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society and will form the basis of his upcoming address at Icarus Interstellar’s 2013 Starship Congress in August. [Super-Fast Space Travel Propulsion Ideas (Images)]

“The proof of principle for FTL space warp propulsion was published decades ago,” said Davis, referring to a 1994 paper by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. “All conventional advanced propulsion physics technologies are limited to speeds below the speed of light … Using an FTL space warp will drastically reduce the time and distances of interstellar flight.”

Warp speed: a primer

Before delving into Davis’ study, here’s a quick review of faster-than-light space travel:

According to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, an object with mass cannot go as fast or faster than the speed of light. However, some scientists believe that a loophole in this theory will someday allow humans to travel light-years in a matter of days.

In current FTL theories, it’s not the ship that’s moving — space itself moves. It’s established that space is flexible; in fact, space has been steadily expanding since the Big Bang.

By distorting the space around the ship instead of accelerating the ship itself, these theoretical warp drives would never break Einstein’s special relativity rules. The ship itself is never going faster than light with respect to the space immediately around it.

Davis’s paper examines the two principle theories for how to achieve faster-than-light travel: warp drives and wormholes.

The difference between the two is the way in which space is manipulated. With a warp drive, space in front of the vessel is contracted while space behind it is expanded, creating a sort of wave that brings the vessel to its destination.

With a wormhole, the ship (or perhaps an exterior mechanism) would create a tunnel through spacetime, with a targeted entrance and exit. The ship would enter the wormhole at sublight speeds and reappear in a different location many light-years away.

In his paper, Davis describes a wormhole entrance as “a sphere that contained the mirror image of a whole other universe or remote region within our universe, incredibly shrunken and distorted.”

Sci-fi fans, for warp drives, think “Star Trek” and “Futurama.” For wormholes, think “Stargate.”

[See also: Warp Drive and Transporters: How ‘Star Trek’ Technology Works (infographic)]

Mirror, mirror on the hull

The next question is: how to create these spacetime distortions that will allow vessels to travel faster than light? It’s believed — and certain preliminary experiments seem to confirm — that producing targeted amounts of what’s called “negative energy” would achieve the desired effect.

Negative energy has been produced in a lab via what’s called the Casimir effect. This phenomenon revolves around the idea that vacuum, contrary to its portrayal in classical physics, isn’t empty. According to quantum theory, vacuum is full of electromagnetic fluctuations. Distorting these fluctuations can create negative energy.

According to Davis, one of the most promising methods for creating negative energy is called the Ford-Svaitermirror. This is a theoretical device that would focus all the quantum vacuum fluctuations onto the mirror’s focal line.

“When those fluctuations are confined there, they have a negative energy,” said Davis. “You could have types of negative energy that could make a wormhole that you could put a person through and, if you make a bigger mirror, put a starship through. The [mirror] is scalable … that’s the beauty of it.”

Davis described a theoretical configuration of Ford-Svaiter mirrors that could enable FTL spaceflight: “For a traversable wormhole, it’ll have to be separate Ford-Svaiter mirrors [arranged] in an array to create the wormhole and then a ship with mirrors attached to it to extend the wormhole to the destination star.”

The concern there is how to target the wormhole’s exit.

“We don’t know the answer to that question yet,” said Davis. “Einstein’s theory of general relativity doesn’t answer it.”

That’s the difference between the fields of physics and engineering, Davis explained. According to our current understanding of physics, targeting the wormhole’s exit is possible, but engineers have yet to figure out how to achieve it. [See also: NASA Turns to 3D Printing for Self-Building Spacecraft]

“On screen, Number One.”

Another issue addressed in Davis’ paper is how to navigate an FTL starship.

“If you’re in a wormhole, you don’t go faster than light — you’re going at normal speeds, but your visualization and stellar navigations are all gone [because] … there are no stars to navigate by.”

The iconic image of stars streaking by a spaceship viewscreen popularized by franchises like “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” simply isn’t accurate, said Davis. “The light that goes through the wormhole gets distorted … you’re going to have a very weird visual display.”

This is because the negative energy necessary to create a wormhole or warp drive creates a repulsive gravity that distorts light around the ship.

So ships moving at faster-than-light speeds will not be able to observe their surroundings to calculate their location. Astronauts will have to rely on sophisticated computer programs to calculate their probable location. “You’ll need something on the order of a supercomputer equipped with parallel processing,” said Davis. “[The computer is] going to have to do all the figuring out  … [using] input data from the last position and estimating.”

This is more of a concern with warp drives, which are actively reshaping space as they travel, but not as much with traversable wormholes, whose entrances and exits will probably be preset before flight. “You can only go one way through the wormhole, so it’s not like you’re going to get lost,” said Davis

It’s also important for the computer to be able to produce some kind of visual representation of its flight plan and spatial location. These images would then be rendered and displayed in the starship’s cockpit or bridge for the crew to see and study. “It’ll help the human psychological need for understanding, in real time, what the position changes of the stars are going to look like,” said Davis.

Where no one has gone before

At the heart of Davis’ paper is the principle — supported by rigorous scientific theory — that faster-than-light travel is a real and even tangible possibility. The last section of the paper proposes nine “next steps” that would push the field toward engineering prototypes and other practical tests of faster-than-light theories.

These steps include creating computer simulations to model the structure and effects of space warps. Davis also calls for more rigorous exploration of the Ford-Svaiter mirror, which is still a largely theoretical device. The mirror is just one possible way to generate negative energy; further study is needed to determine whether there are any other practical methods of achieving the same effect. [See also: Hypersonic ‘SpaceLiner’ Aims to Fly Passengers in 2050]

Davis describes the development and implementation of space-warp travel as “technically daunting” in his paper, but in conversation, he said he has no doubt that faster-than-light travel will someday be not only possible, but necessary.

“The Earth is subjected to natural and outer space and ecological disasters, so life is too fragile, while the planets in the solar system are not very hospitable to human life. So we need to explore extrasolar planets for alternative homes,” Davis said.

“This is all part of the growth and evolution of the human race.”

Email jscharr@technewsdaily.com or follow her @JillScharr. Follow us @TechNewsDaily, on Facebook or onGoogle+.

Campbell, Sturgeon, and Lifeboat Winners Announced; Frederik Pohl Honored for Sturgeon Award Service

from http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/news.htm


Campbell, Sturgeon, and Lifeboat Winners Announced;

Frederik Pohl Honored for Sturgeon Award Service

LAWRENCE, KS – June 17, 2013
for immediate release

The winners of this year’s John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science fiction novel, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction, and Lifeboat to the Stars Award have been revealed, announced Christopher McKitterick, Director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. The awards were presented during the Campbell Conference Awards banquet on Friday, June 14, as part of the Campbell Conference held annually at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

The first-ever Lifeboat to the Stars Award went to Tau Ceti, a unique combination of novella by Kevin J. Anderson and sequel novelette by Steven Savile; Anderson was on hand to accept the award. The Lifeboat Foundation established this new award to recognize the best work of science fiction published in 2011 or 2012 that contributes to an understanding of the benefits, means, or difficulties of interstellar travel, in the hope that it will assist with the Foundation’s goal to improve humankind’s long-term survival. Eric Klien, President and administrator of the Foundation, said, “science fiction has the ability to explore the unknown and its human implications. We want to encourage writers to contribute their imaginations to these vital purposes.”

Molly Gloss won the Sturgeon Award for her short story “The Grinnell Method,” from the September, 2012, issue of Strange Horizons. Though she was unable to attend, Gloss provided a video of her acceptance speech. Linda Nagata won second place for “Nahiku West,” published in the October issue of Analog. Robert Reed took third place with Eater-of-Bone, a stand-alone novella by PS Publishing. The jurors note that the voting for this year’s prize was especially close, and that all of the top three stories deserve recognition. The Sturgeon Award was established in 1987 by James Gunn, Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at KU, and the heirs of Theodore Sturgeon, including his partner Jayne Engelhart Tannehill and Sturgeon’s children, as an appropriate memorial to one of the great short-story writers in a field distinguished by its short fiction.

Adam Roberts won the Campbell Award for Jack Glass: The Story of a Murderer; due to other obligations, Roberts was unable to attend, but sent his video acceptance. Terry Bisson’s Any Day Now, published by Overlook, won second place. Third place was a tie between M. John Harrison’s Empty Space, published by Gollancz and Night Shade Books; and G. Willow Wilson’s debut novel, Alif the Unseen, published by Grove Press. As with this year’s Sturgeon Award, the Campbell Award voting was extremely close, which is why the jury wished to recognize four books this year instead of the usual three. Writers and critics Harry Harrison and Brian W. Aldiss established the Campbell Award to honor the late editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine (which later became Analog) as a way of continuing his efforts to encourage writers to produce their best possible work. Campbell, who edited the magazine from 1937 until his death in 1971, is called by many writers and scholars the father of modern science fiction.

Depending on your reading tastes, your favorite book or short story for 2012 might turn out to be any of the finalists, so the jurors recommend that you read all the works on both the Sturgeon short-list and the Campbell short-list.

Additionally, James Gunn presented a special Sturgeon Award to Frederik Pohl for his long and distinguished service to the Award and the Center. Starting in 1995, when the Sturgeon Award became a juried award, Pohl served first with James Gunn and Judith Merril, and since then with several other highly respected jurors. Pohl also presented many talks, recorded a fantastic discussion about “Ideas in Science Fiction” for the Literature of Science Fiction Lecture Series, served the Intensive Institute on Science Fiction and Science Fiction Writing Workshop, and lent his understanding to the Center in countless other ways. We very much appreciate his insight and friendship, and will miss him.

Using the theme “To the Stars” (“Ad Astra Per Aspera” is the Kansas state motto), this year’s Saturday morning round-table discussion explored SF’s long relationship with off-planet travel, its promises, and the future of the human race as a galactic species. We also discussed the important steps along the path to the stars, and of course science fiction and its role in these themes. On Saturday afternoon, Kevin J. Anderson, Andy Duncan, and James Gunn read from new works, and the second issue of James Gunn’s Ad Astra journal was released. Attending special guests included authors Andy Duncan, James Gunn, and Kij Johnson; editor Eric T. Reynolds; and film-maker Kevin Willmott, who hosted a special screening of his upcoming film, Destination: Planet Negro!; plus many others.

Congratulations to all the honorees! Many thanks to all who attended, and thanks to the winners for providing us all with such fine reading – Ad Astra!


The Bestselling Books of 2013 (So Far)

per publishersweekly.com

By Jonathan Segura |
Jul 05, 2013

Dan Brown’s Inferno is the bestselling print and Kindle e-book so far this year, but, unlike last year when the 20 books on our print and Kindle e-book year-to-date bestseller lists looked very similar at the top, there’s a big difference between the two for the first six months of 2013.


Last year, the 50 Shades and Hunger Games trilogies were tearing up both the print and e-book lists, owning, in all formats and editions, the top nine print slots and the top seven e-book slots. While titles in both series are still selling, they’re not nearly the juggernaut they were, with Fifty Shades of Grey lingering on the print list, and Fifty Shade Freedat the bottom of the Kindle list. 

The print list this year has a few surprises: depending on your definition of “thriller,” there are only four books in this genre represented in the top 20 (InfernoGone GirlWorld War Z, and The Innocent). That’s right: of the top 20 selling titles so far this year in print, none were written by James Patterson. Commercial and literary fiction (Khaled Hosseini’sAnd The Mountains Echoed notched in at #9 in print) share space with highbrow nonfiction (Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, at #4) and children’s books from Jeff Kinney and Dr. Seuss.

The Great Gatsby enjoyed a huge lift in print and e from the film adaptation, and the Robertson family — the colorful, supremely bearded Louisiana family behind the Duck Dynasty TV phenomenon — is selling print books at a rate to keep up with their duck calls.

The e-book list is dominated by genre fiction and big brand name authors (Patterson, Sparks, Baldacci, Coben, Picoult, Roberts), though two self-published books, Colleen Hoover’s Hopelessand Elisabeth Naughton’s Wait For Me, muscled onto the list. Only one YA novel made the cut on the e-book list, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia.

It’s difficult to pin down an average retail price for print books, but it’s safe to say that e-books on the Kindle list are priced substantially lower than their print counterparts, with only eight of 20 Kindle e-books priced at $9.99 or above as of July 3, for an average price of just under $8.

Bestsellers, January-June 2013

Nielsen BookScan Top 20, week ending 6/30/13

1. Inferno by Dan Brown (Doubleday)

2. Proof Of Heaven by Eben Alexander (Simon & Schuster)

3. The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney (Amulet Books)

4. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (Knopf)

5. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (Thomas Nelson)

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Scribner)

7. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss (Random House)

8. Fifty Shades Of Grey by E. L. James (Vintage)

9. And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead)

10. Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson (Howard)

11. A Memory Of Light by Robert Jordan (Tor)

12. Green Eggs And Hamby Dr. Seuss (Random House)

13. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Crown)

14. American Sniper by Chris Kyle (Harper)

15. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath (Gallup Press)

16. World War Z by Max Brooks (Three Rivers Press)

17. The Best Of Me by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central)

18. Shred: The Revolutionary Diet by Ian K. Smith (St. Martin’s)

19. The Innocent by David Baldacci (Vision)

20. The Duck Commander Family by Willie Robertson (Howard)

Amazon Kindle Top 20, as of 7/1/13

1. Inferno by Dan Brown (Doubleday)

2. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central)

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Crown)

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Scribner)

5. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover (Colleen Hoover)

6. The Hit by David Baldacci (Grand Central)

7. Wait for Me by Elisabeth Naughton (Elisabeth Naughton)

8. Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson (Little, Brown)

9. Entwined with You by Sylvia Day (Berkley)

10. Damaged by H.M. Ward (Laree Bailey Press)

11. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia (Little, Brown)

12. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (Sarah Crichton/FSG)

13. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (Atria)

14. The Forgotten by David Baldacci (Grand Central)

15. Six Years by Harlan Coben (Dutton)

16. 12th of Never by James Patterson (Little, Brown)

17. Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan (Montlake Romance)

18. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead)

19. Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts (Putnam)

20. Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James (Vintage)

Penguin Random House Begins

Per publishersweekly.com

With more than 10,000 employees, 250 imprints, 15,000 new titles annually, and $3.9 billion in revenue

By Jim Milliot |
Jul 06, 2013

ith the deal now done, the new executive team of Penguin Random House can begin the process of building a 21st-century publishing company, CEO Markus Dohle told PW in an interview last week from London, where he was on the first leg of a tour to visit the various global offices of PRH. In the short term the priorities for the new company are to deliver “fantastic titles for the fall and holiday season, and to keep innovating,” while a small team will begin the integration of Random House and Penguin, Dohle said. He stressed that given the strong recent performances of both companies, PRH has the ability to move forward “in a thoughtful way.”

While Dohle said he knows there is lots of work to be done, he is confident PRH has the right assets to deliver benefits to authors and readers across the globe. “Continuity will outweigh change,” Dohle said, although he acknowledged that as PRH develops the new company, change will come. The first order of business is getting the publishing house on the same systems and processes, an effort that will begin with separating the old Penguin from Pearson.

Joining Dohle—who is now CEO of Penguin Random House worldwide, as well as CEO of Penguin Random House in the U.S.—in creating the new combined entity is a varied team of newly appointed executives.

John Makinson, formerly Penguin Group chairman, has been named chairman of Penguin Random House.

Coram Williams, formerly CFO of the Penguin Group, will now serve in a dual role as chief financial officer for Penguin Random House in the U.S. and worldwide, and will oversee Random House Studio, the film and TV studio; corporate services; and Penguin Random House’s self-publishing service, Author Solutions.

David Shanks, former CEO of Penguin Group USA, who had already planned to retire at the end of 2013, has stepped down and will now serve as senior executive adviser to Dohle and to the U.S. executive team.

Madeline McIntosh, former COO of Random House U.S., has been appointed president and COO of Penguin Random House U.S., overseeing sales, operations, fulfillment, IT, and digital operations companywide.

Kathy Trager has been named executive v-p and general counsel of Penguin Random House U.S.

Brad Martin, formerly president and CEO of Random House of Canada, is now CEO of Penguin Random House in Canada.

In the U.K., Gail Rebuck has been appointed chair of the Penguin Random House U.K. board and to the Global Penguin Random House board, and she will continue as a member of the Bertelsmann Group Management Committee.

Also in the U.K., Tom Weldon, previously CEO at the Penguin Group U.K., is now CEO for Penguin Random House in the U.K.

Ian Hudson has been named deputy CEO of Penguin Random House U.K., a position he held previously at Random House U.K. In addition, Hudson will also serve as CEO of Penguin Random House International (English-language), overseeing Penguin Random House operations in Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, and Asia.

Gabrielle Coyne, previously CEO of Penguin Group Asia Pacific, has been appointed CEO of Penguin Random House Asia Pacific, and Gaurav Shrinagesh, previously managing director of Random House India, has been named CEO of Penguin Random House India. Both will report to Ian Hudson.

In addition, Nuría Cabutí has been named CEO of the PRH operations in Spain and Latin America, where the company will continue to operate under the name Random House Mondadori. And John Duhigg, CEO of Dorling Kindersley, will be responsible for Dorling Kindersley business worldwide.

Also appointed with global and U.S. responsibilities at Penguin Random House are Frank Steinert, chief human resources officer; Stuart Applebaum, communications; and Milena Alberti, corporate development.

Novel Writing and Construction vs Short Stories



One question I see a lot from new writers is how to write a novel. Since Novels are totally different beasts from short stories, I figure it’s time to make a post on the subject matter.

First thing to remember is that events don’t necessarily have to be condensed down as they are in short stories. Most short stories have anywhere from 3-15k word count, while novels can be anything from 60k (in young adult) to hundreds of thousands of words (80-120k for new writers while established writers can go into 200-300k without too many complaints from their publisher.). This lends itself to exploring the issues of the story more in depth than in the short story.

Let’s start with the first major issue in novel writing: the beginning. Most new writers have heard the saying ‘grab the reader right away,’ which is true. However, what most do is start the book off with a car chase, an explosion, and fight or some other action. That’s not necessarily necessary to get a reader’s attention. What is important is to make the best use of the first 5-6 paragraphs of the novel, because that’s where most readers make their decision about going further from. So, make this count.

Chapter Construction:

This is something that is asked a lot, and here’s a basic idea. Each Chapter should convey a scene or a part of a scene. If you look at a lot of the bestselling books on the shelves, this is something that happens a lot of the time. The reasoning behind it is that not only does it push the story forwards, but it gives the reader a place to put the book down to either go to sleep or anything else they need to do.

However, this doesn’t mean one needs to cram a massively big scene into one chapter either. My two big battle scenes in my first Talia novel are split into two or three chapters. Why is this? Because I do a lot of point of view changes during the battle, thus allowing the reader to be immersed in the story and be able to see how things are progressing are or viewed from both sides of the conflict.

Remember: the word count in a novel allows you to go into greater depth than the short story does, and it can show itself in how your chapters are written.

Point of View:

    Short stories, by their very nature, limit the amount of POVs (point of views) that are able to be shown. This is not true with a novel. New characters (either another villain or ‘good guy’) can be added without much trouble. Switches in POV during a scene, with the appropriate line break, are not uncommon in a novel. This allows the writer to be able to show (like I mentioned above) things from multiple angles.

    For Example: Talia and her sisters are in a battle on a planet. During the chapters assigned to it, you get to see her POV, each of her sisters, and that of the two main villains at that point. Why so much? Because it brings the scene to life. Here’s a real life example. During the Battle of the Bulge, were there not two stories to the events? One from the American troops at Bastogne and the German troops surrounding it. Both sides saw the battle differently than the other, which would be their point of view. The same happens here. I allow the reader to learn how the characters are on the ‘villain’s’ side and their thoughts, feelings and motivations. Make sense?


Novels, by their very nature, allow for more narration than in a short. This gives the author a chance to explore the world (setting) of the characters that isn’t given in a short story. What makes the setting special? What are the days like? The cities? Planets? Each of these can be explored in depth.


    Each of these can be explored more in a novel. What makes him or her tick? The advantage of a novel is that you the author have the time to show the reader a lot about the character. Now this doesn’t mean go into their backstory in minute detail. Everyone has one and it’s boring, so don’t nail them with it.


    A lot of things in the plot can take place in a novel. More events can take place due to the additional word count. How many different events would’ve happened in ‘A Most Dangerous Game’ if the author wrote is as a novel. Scenes that took place in the short story could’ve been fleshed out more, and the interactions between Rainsford and Zaroff could’ve been built upon. Think of how much more dialogue could’ve taken place between the two, given additional information on the events between the two. How much more action could’ve been shown? What about the final fight between Rainsford and Zaroff? That could’ve be shown to the reader if it were a novel (depending on what the author wanted).

Word Count:

    This is the final thing I want to mention. 80-120k is the number for brand new authors to strive for when trying to get commercially published. It is the number the Big 6 like. So, keep that in mind. However, with that said, there’s plenty of space to build upon the things you would write in your short story.

Hopefully this’ll help.