Alternative Cosmology Offers FTL Transport
Tom van Flandern, an astronomer formerly of the Naval Observatory, now a full-time heretic, offers a full stem-to-stern housecleaning of cosmology at his website, http://www.metaresearch.org which is absolutely essential reading for folks into astrophysics.
Astronomy has gone into an inflationary phase, so to speak, in the past 3-5 years, due to order of magnitude increases in the new observational capabilities made available to our species recently: planetary probes, orbiting EUV, Xray, and gamma ray observatories, the Hubble, VLBI radio networks, vastly larger dirtside optical telescopes, adaptive optics, etc. We see the universe lots better than we used to, and it's a very confusing place. Seems hardly a week goes by without some new observation "challenging" the basis of standard theories, requiring a paradigm shift. Big Bang cosmology is in a heap of trouble, for it can hardly keep up with all the adjustments it has to make to keep itself from looking like an elaborate fantasy. New cosmologies wait hungrily in the wings, watching for signs of weakness.
Van Flandern (in papers published in Astrophysics Journal and Physical Review Letters) offers his "Meta Model" cosmology which mercilessly cuts the standard interpretations off at the knees. He favors a quasi-steady-state cosmology, differing from the MOND (Modified Newtonian Dynamics) model by hypothesizing a characteristic path length (~2 kiloparsec) for gravity, beyond which its attraction decays, completely avoiding any requirement for dark matter supplements to explain galactic motions. There are lots of observations he can explain this way that assorted flavors of Big Bang theory are having a very awkward time with. But that's not the funny part. Space theories aren't sexy without bangs of some sort, so he has a solar system dynamics reminiscent of Velikovsky or Donelly bashing their planets around, except van Flandern has his planets popping spontaneously without waiting for cosmic billiards impacts. Planetary cores are hot and pressurized; cooling induces phase changes, which can suddenly change the size they need for lebensraum, and a planetary crust ain't gonna hold it in. Hot superfluids get into cold vacuum, and lo, they vaporize, whereas, big time. He calls this his "Exploded Planets Hypothesis", but that's not the funny part either.
The funny part is about his relativity theory: to replace GTR (General Theory of Relativity) as an explanation for gravity, his groundwork involves adopting Lorentzian Relativity (LR) instead of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity (STR). LR, it turns out, is practically indistinguishable from STR within the framework of tests which have been conducted to date, actually fitting more comfortably with the data in many cases with moving clocks (like GPS satellites are). The atomic clocks in GPS satellites are precompensated for relativistic effects before launch, so when in orbit they keep perfect synchrony with each other and with ground clocks, although in Einstein's theory this would be forbidden! Lorentz relativity allows Earth's gravity well to establish a preferred "local" coordinate system, which Einstein would disallow; the clocks work, when STR says they couldn't. But the feature of all this mathematizing which should be of most interest to starship designers, such as me and thee, is that Lorentzian relativity has absolutely no requirement that the speed of light establish a maximum velocity.
There have been a spate of recent experiments in physics labs which have shown "superluminal" transmission of signals, actual information, transferred faster than C. Phase velocity, group velocity, signal velocity, all the speed limits have apparently been broken by quantum tunneling. These results are in contradiction to Einstein's STR but are taken in stride by LR. See van Flandern's web site for the details, but it looks to me like we have some rethinking to do as starship designers. He never mentions the possibility there, of accelerating matter to superluminal velocity, but I just did. To my mind, the quandry that it's supposed to take "infinite" energy to accelerate a mass to lightspeed, because its mass would increase to "infinity", may be another delusion like other supposed "infinitudes" have proved to be. Philosophically, I am prejudiced against all forms of unlimited quantitative growth curves in nature, because I honestly don't believe in them. So let's find out, shall we?