Mind-blowing technology could allow humans to travel from New York to Los Angeles in 1 second
What if we could travel at the speed of light? We’re still a long way off, but the technology used in spacecraft could one day allow us to travel from New York to Los Angeles in a second.
Light is the fastest thing there is. It travels at 186,000 miles per second. As such, it can travel from Earth to the Moon in just over a second. Creating vehicles that reach the speed of light isn’t going to happen anytime soon. There are simply too many variables to pin down. However, the technology we use in spacecraft could allow us to harness a small percentage of that speed. This could be enough to completely change the way we travel.
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Harnessing the speed of light for travel
Traveling at a percentage of something may not seem like much. However, even at just one percent of the speed of light, we would be able to travel nearly seven million miles per hour. This means that it would take a little over a second to travel from New York to Los Angeles. It’s about 10,000 times faster than traveling on a commercial jet.
Of course, harnessing this power will not be easy. While scientists are working on things like warp engines, the technology we are already using in spacecraft could give us a chance to reach faster speeds.
In 2010, we started using things called solar sails on some spacecraft. The idea behind solar sails is to capture the power of sunlight and use it in the same way that normal sails use the wind. There is a lot of complex math behind the technology, but if we could move it to more commercial transportation, we might break through in the way we travel.
Solar sails are basically just thin sheets of plastic that attach to the vehicle. They use the sunlight they capture to push them forward, and some scientists believe they could one day propel spacecraft at 10% the speed of light.
The problem of traveling as fast as light
NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Naval Research Laboratory / Guillermo Stenborg and Brendan Gallagher
We already have the technology, so why don’t we use it? Well, it’s not that simple. Energy is an important factor in moving quickly. Any moving object has energy due to that movement. This is called kinetic energy, and to go faster you will need a lot of kinetic energy. The problem, however, is that it takes a lot of kinetic energy to increase the speed of an object.
Making something go twice as fast requires four times as much energy. Increasing the speed of something by three takes nine times the energy, and so on. According to The conversation, it would take about 200 trillion joules for a teenager weighing 110 pounds to travel at one percent the speed of light. This is roughly the same amount of energy that 2 million people living in the United States use every day. If we are to travel at these insane speeds, we will have to find new ways to create kinetic energy. Burning rocket fuel, like that used to send shuttles into space, just isn’t going to be enough.
So far, we haven’t even managed to hit one percent of the speed of light. In fact, NASA’s Parker solar probe is the closest we’ve been to. In 2018, NASA launched the probe from Earth. After launch, it grazed the surface of the Sun and used its gravity to reach 330,000 mph. It’s still only 0.5 percent of the speed of light.
See the original version of this article on BGR.com