A West Vancouver student may have the keys to interstellar travel. A few votes and a large mass are enough.
Holden Liu, 16, has qualified for the finals of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, an international competition that aims to capture thought-provoking scientific concepts or theories and present them in accessible videos.
Up for grabs in the challenge are $ 400,000 in prizes, including up to $ 250,000 for post-secondary scholarships, $ 50,000 for a science teacher, and $ 100,000 for the school’s science lab.
In his video, Liu explains how it would be at least theoretically possible to travel to Alpha Centauri – the star system closest to our system – using Alcubierre Drive, a “warp” travel conjecture theorized by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre in 1994.
Traveling at the speed of a real space probe (61,000 kilometers per hour), it would take 70,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri. If we could bend the rules of physics and make a ship move at the speed of light, it would take 4.37 years to travel 1.34 parsecs away from our sun.
In his award-nominated video, Liu explains how it could be easier to bend space-time itself, using huge amounts of mass to compress the space between us and Alpha Centauri, and negative mass to extend the distance behind us – the technique of definitive shortcut.
Liu’s three-minute video is brilliantly animated with animated diagrams that help illustrate jaw-dropping concepts that would otherwise be the realm of science fiction, and he talks about the theory in an authoritative tone.
Although contest winners will be chosen by expert judges, there is a way to tip the scales in favor of the final contestant by liking (or getting other positive feedback) their videos posted on the Breakthrough Junior Challenge Facebook page. You can vote for your favorite “Steven Spielberg meets Albert Einstein” until September 20th.