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I have a spaceship which I want to have travel very quickly around a system like our own solar system -- let's say about 10 million miles per minute, which would go from Mars to Earth in ~15 minutes. The spaceship's "warp" drive is able to bend or break the laws of physics to do this, but it's preferable if this is done with the least amount of disruption to the normal, known laws of physics.

What's the least amount of physics that need to be changed in order to allow speedy, practical space travel between planets?

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  • $\begingroup$ Changing the laws of relativity seems like a bad idea, so you could just make light faster in your universe so you aren't violating those laws. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Apr 27 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ Speed of light is 11 million miles per min so you are under that at least. $\endgroup$ – user69935 Apr 27 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ Recommend closing as too wide-open a question. $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Apr 27 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed Keeping all laws of physics intact while changing the c constant would lead to a lot of changes which would likely cause the universe as we know it not to exist. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Apr 27 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ It's been well established that a thiotimeline-based spaceship drive works very well indeed! $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Apr 27 at 17:42
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There are really two questions here, based around the two attributes of travel you've specified:

Speedy

As has been pointed out in the comments, 10 million miles a minute is still below the speed of light, so it is theoretically achievable.

You'd need an enormous quantity of propellant and the ability to throw it out the back of your ship in a huge hurry, but that's all doable, if hideously expensive. The major problem is one of inertia. If you accelerate from 0 to .9c in an hour, any humans in your spaceship will be laminated against the back wall. If we assume that humans can withstand 5 Gs of acceleration indefinitely, it'd take 300 days of 5G acceleration to get to your proposed speed. So your warp drive needs to effectively break inertia. "Inertial dampers" are a key component of most space-operas, and they are pointedly never explained, because there's no realistic way we know of that they would work.

Practical

Probably, though, you want to do all this without carrying a tank of propellant the size of Ceres and a bottomless supply of energy. So the better bet would be something like an alcubierre drive, where your ship never needs to accelerate substantially at all, because the distance they're travelling has been modified. In this case, the only law of physics you have to be able to violate involves the creation of negative mass. Now, what that might do to things in the solar system is, at this point, entirely theoretical.

Really, What You Want...

Is the starship Heart of Gold, powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive. Then you don't have to worry about the laws of physics, as you need only determine how improbable a given course of events are, and the drive will do the rest!


Edited to add: "Practical and Speedy" space travel is, as far as the current laws of physics are concerned, not a thing. You have to adjust so many of them (or avoid them) that space travel in pretty much all space opera is just magic. It is necessary magic, but magic nonetheless. Even the Expanse, as good as it is, is a little light on where the energy comes from to provide the enormous thrusts its passengers have to deal with.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ah... the Heart of Gold. Just make sure that you stay away from those bloodthirsty Krikkiters... I've heard that they really want the Golden Bail. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Apr 27 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ "laminated"... now there's a lovely euphemism 😃. BTW, humans can withstand arbitrarily high levels of acceleration without even noticing... if you can accelerate every atom simultaneously (e.g. via gravity). The problems arise when you only accelerate stuff around the humans and rely on compressive forces to get the humans themselves to also accelerate. (Or, if you prefer, "humans are squishy" 😉.) $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 27 at 19:20
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Inertia

By breaking this one law, we don't have to worry about accelerating too fast, or the amount of energy needed to do so. Relativity is still limiting, but we're only traveling interplanetary distances, not interstellar ones, so that should be okay.

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  • $\begingroup$ Expect planetary orbit disturbances with the localized modification in the Newton's second law. $\endgroup$ – Adrian Colomitchi Apr 27 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ The drive's user manual cautions against applying the engine field to planetary bodies. I hope people read that thing. $\endgroup$ – Mathaddict Apr 27 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ Pretty frantic handwaving to reach a limited action for an antigravitational field - because that's what you need to bend the hand of inertia without actually breaking it. $\endgroup$ – Adrian Colomitchi Apr 28 at 7:15
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Take a look at the Alcubierre Drive: https://youtu.be/gHAaoTMrc3A

It enables FTL travel and doesn't break any current physics models and avoids the inertia problem. BUT it relies on an exotic fuel. This kind of matter could theoretically exist but has never been even close-to-observed in the real world.

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The laws of physics may or may not allow for wormholes to exist meaning they technically don't break any proven rules of nature, we simply don't know know enough about the extra-dimensional nature of spacetime to say for sure if they can or can not be created yet. If they can exist, then you could use one to travel between Earth and Mars in 15 minutes while flying at speeds that do not require exceptional acceleration or fuel usage because they shorten the flight path as opposed to going faster.

Some have theorized that you can not move the mouth of a wormhole; but you can perhaps get around this without breaking any proven laws of nature by making a network of wormholes that circumnavigate parallel each planet's orbital path.

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