I have found various explanations on how the warp drive works. And right now I'm confused. First I thought warp drive works by expanding space-time behind you, and contracting it in front of you. I thought that this expansion creates a sort of a space-time wave that then pushes the ship like a wave, the ship itself isn't moving, so no physics laws are broken. Later I found an explanation that says that warp drive simply lowers the distance the ship has to travel, and as I understood it, it would still have to use conventional propulsion to move, but the distance it would have to cover would be much smaller. So which one of these is true? How does warp drive work, exactly? And would the ship need to use conventional propulsion to move while inside a warp bubble or not? That's the only thing I don't understand.

I know warp drive is right now only theoretical, so this is also a theoretical question.

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    $\begingroup$ It doesn't work. This is not even a theoretical question. It's a complete fantasy so far. For it to be a theoretical question, a working theoretical model of superluminal travel would have to exist, which it doesn't. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 25, 2021 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ It works very well, thank you. $\endgroup$
    – GordonD
    Commented Dec 25, 2021 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ @AtmosphericPrisonEscape Well no, actually a viable theory exists since 1994. But that one requires exotic matter (matter with negative mass), which might or might not exist. However recently two papers came out that proposed two warp drive concepts which do not require exotic matter, and could be created with positive mass only. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 25, 2021 at 22:55
  • $\begingroup$ "the ship itself isn't moving, so no physics laws are broken": this does nothing to address the problem of FTL travel allowing violation of causality, which only requires information to get from one point to another faster than light. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 25, 2021 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ @ChristopherJamesHuff I am not sure you understood the question. Causality violation is not the problem. Space-time can move faster-than-light. Universe expands at FTL speeds, and universe is space-time with matter in it. Nothing within the universe can travel at FTL speeds, but the universe itself can, and warp drive literally makes the wave out of the universe (space-time). What I don't understand is: Does the ship need to use conventional propulsion in order to move while using warp drive. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 25, 2021 at 23:03

1 Answer 1


Warp drive or FTL works differently depending on who wrote the book. The Enterprise works differently than the Millenium Falcon. Hyperspace from Babylon 5 is different again. All of this should be in the Sci-Fi section. --Edit: this answer was written before the question was modified to specify the Alcubierre drive. IDK if or how that works.

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    $\begingroup$ Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Commented Dec 25, 2021 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ Lol. Alcubierre warp drive theory exists since 1994 when Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre created a solution for Einstein field equations that could if exotic matter existed allow for ftl travel. And there have been two more papers published something like a year ago that designed a warp drive don't require exotic matter. One of them from Erik Lentz. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 25, 2021 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ I referred to your answer in my answer but alas, it's at least temporarily deleted. Please consider un-deleting? I can help add some altitudes to it and delete my comments. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 20:44

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