summary of “Warp Drive Research Key to Interstellar Travel”

The development of the warp-drive for faster-than-light propulsion is known to every eager Star Trek fan: The physicist Zefram Cochrane “invented the warp-drive engine in the year 2063” being hindered by “evil time-traveling aliens”. “It wasn’t easy.” In this way Cochrane established the basis for the interstellar voyages of the starship Enterprise centuries later.

In the real world at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston Harold “Sonny” White investigates the feasibility of building a real warp-drive engine. He assembled an experiment to create tiny distortions in space-time. This experiment may lead to the development of a system that generates a bubble of warped space-time around a spacecraft. Instead to further increase the craft’s top speed this bubble may allow to “sidestep the laws of physics that prohibit faster-than-light travel, allowing to cross the vast interstellar distances in a matter of weeks.

(For the author of the article) It is heartening to see that the federal government also invests in projects like the one of Mr. White that are challenging and even considered impossible by some physicists.

A surprising number of scientists engineers and amateur space enthusiasts believe in interstellar travel. They shared their hopes and hypotheses at academic conferences and founded organizations that seek to lay the groundwork for an unmanned interstellar mission. Their ardor has grown in recent years as astronomers have detected several earth-like planets that orbit stars in a habitable distance, stars that are relatively near to our sun.

“The problem is getting there in a reasonable amount of time.” NASA already has a probe in interstellar space. Voyager 1 launched in 1977 left our solar system in 2012. At its current speed of 38.610 miles per hour it would take 70.000 years to reach any of the nearby stars. “Researches need to make some serious breakthroughs in spacecraft propulsion to get there faster.”

In contrast to Mr. White most interstellar enthusiasts focused their attention to less hypothetical technologies. Icarus Interstellar, for example, is coordinating a study of a mission that would use the energy that is emitted by the fusion of atomic nuclei. “If this energy could be properly controlled and harnessed it could accelerate a probe to […] speeds, thousands of times faster than Voyager 1. But  researchers have been trying to build a fusion power plant for the past fifty years without much success.”

With these enormous speeds even the microscopic interstellar dust causes plenty of damage. “A spacecraft would have to be equipped with heavy shielding” needing more energy to accelerate. On the other hand there is the need to decelerate before reaching the destination. The probe would have to use its engines to slow down. In a nutshell the spacecraft would need to carry an even heavier load of fuel. The complications of interstellar travel seem endless, its difficulty tremendous.

“The dream of interstellar travel remains stubbornly alive.” Symposia are hold and new conferences are hosted. “At these times, when NASA has difficulties to fund its priorities” interstellar travel seems premature. But advocates argue that interstellar travel is essential to humanity’s long-term survival. As long as humans are confined to earth they are at risk of extinction by a planetary catastrophe.

So maybe the fate of humans lies among the stars looking something like Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets.

  • word count: 540
  • time taken:  7 hours 10 minutes

I’ am not sure about this summary. It seems to me more like a shortened version of the original article.

Homework week 17

Hi all. Thank you for sharing your writing prompts from the last session. Sorry I couldn’t be there.

I changed our semester schedule as suggested by Marianne. So this coming Thursday we will talk about research, references and citation.

In preparation of our session, please submit the following assignments:


Read chapter 3 on “Reading and Reviewing” in Zobel’s “Writing for Computer Science”. We will discuss the chapter in class.

Write a Summary

Read the article “Warp Drive Research Key to Interstellar Travel” in the Scientific American Blog.

Write a summary for this article (~500 words) and post it in your blog. Pay particular attention to the following aspects:

  • are all important details included?
  • Would a reader  have the same insights as reading your summary as if he would have read the original text?

After you submitted a first version feel free to polish it over and submit a revised version.

This exercise serves as preparation for the student project.


Summary of (a part of) my bachelor thesis

This is just about a third of the topics covered in my bachelor thesis. Nevertheless it is quite long. So I guess there are to many details. I admit that being inspired by Schlüko 3 my goal was actually to match it to the form denoted by the titles.

My bachelor thesis was elaborated in the context of a simulation system for chemical, thermal and hydrological processes in solid materials.
In computer-based simulation time series are used for the modeling of time-dependent effects on the simulation model. These effects originate from processes of systems that effect the modeled real-world system, but are not modeled themselves.
Time series are generated e.g by weather stations, that regularly gather measurements for properties of the local climate like temperature or humidity, or by gauging stations at rivers, that regularly gather measurements about the river like height of water or its velocity.

These devices, their sensors or their routines may fail. A Station may be out of power, a sensor may be blocked or biased by a leaf, measurement techniques may not work under certain unintended circumstances like extreme rainfall or errors in routines lead to erroneous representations for measurement results. Subsequently in generated time series certain data can be missing, non interpretable or less representative for the effect on the system that should be modeled. When this data is used for the model, the model will be less representative in comparison to a model, which does not contain these errors, and the simulation results will be less reliable.

In order to support the identification of those problems the goal of this work was to develop a visualization (using HTML and a certain JavaScript library) for time series. It should process such data and present the different problems in different manners, so the user is able to distinguish the problems.
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