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If mankind ever gets off this rock and becomes an interplanetary race, what's next? If we're colonizing Mars, mining the Moon, setting up marine biology bases on Europa and prospecting for precious metals on Pluto (could happen); suddenly our solar system would seem pretty small.

Once we are the purveyors of all the planets, dwarf planets and asteroids in our star system, it would be time for us to push into interstellar space and find other star systems to explore.

But there's a problem. Using current technology, it takes months to fly from Earth to Mars (or hours if the hyperdrive takes off), a planet that's on our doorstep. To fly to the nearest star would require some extreme patience (several human generations-worth of patience) or some extreme propulsion.

I for one would opt for the latter, but what kind of "extreme" propulsion would we need? A Star Trek favorite: the warp drive.

Unfortunately, there's a potential problem with zipping around the universe at the speed of light. You hit stuff. But this "stuff" isn't errant asteroids, vagabond planets or cloaked black holes (although I'm sure hitting any of those would do more than chip your windscreen). It's gas.

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