Most science fiction movies would be considerably more boring without the ability to travel across the galaxy at greater-than-light speeds. It's obviously a plot device to move things along and make movies more interesting. But is there any science behind the science fiction?
Believe it or not there are ways, at least theoretically, where one could accelerate a spacecraft to light speed and beyond.
The biggest problem is finding a way around Einstein's theory of special relativity. Specifically, the closer one approaches to the speed of light, the more energy that is need to continue accelerating. Eventually a nearly infinite amount of energy is needed to further increase your speed.
So non-conventional methods are needed if there is any hope to travel at such speeds. Luckily, there are some theories that suggest that by manipulating exotic forms of matter or objects such as black holes one could possibly break this unbreakable barrier.
The reason this is possible is that these methods don't require that the spaceship actually travel faster than the speed of light. Confused?
Well since we can't actually travel at light speed we either have to move space or create a bridge from one place to another that would allow us to "cut the corner" so to speak. And technically neither of these options violates the laws of physics.
Of course, any option involving these sorts of constructs has problems. First of all the energy required to create such devices is far beyond anything we can manage with today's technology. While it is not infinite, it is still almost prohibitively great. (This is why in the film series Star Trek the Starship Enterprise used a matter-antimatter energy source.)
Then there is the issue of needing "exotic matter". This is material that has negative mass, and while it is predicted by the laws of physics to exist (and there is even some experimental evidence of it) we have no idea how to make it, manipulate it or control it. Worse still, we would need lots of it, probably more than we could readily manufacture.
So is faster-than-light travel possible? Theoretically, yes. But it seems highly implausible. And even if it is possible, we would still have to design a ship that could survive the trip, which isn't trivial either.
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