Metapatterns of Transportation: From Wheels to Warp-Drive

Arturo Alemany
New York University

Citation information: Alemany, Arturo. 2017. Metapatterns of Transportation: From Wheels to Warp-Drive. The NYU Student Journal of Metapatterns, volume 1, issue 1. Available at:


In this essay, I will discuss the ways in which metapatterns, defined and discussed in Tyler Volk’s Metapatterns: Across Space, Time, and Mind, are observable in current transportation technology and how these metapatterns might be incorporated into futuristic space travel. The example of a theorized method of space travel that could be created in the future is warp-speed, which has been formalized by physicist Michael Alcubierre. I will discuss Alcubierre’s warp drive and the model that Alcubierre created to explain it, and I will also discuss my proposal for a warp drive spaceship and how it operates in spacetime. How metapatterns will be incorporated into warp-speed transportation will be the core topic of discussion in my writing.

* = Denotes the introduction of a metapattern word


Metapatterns have been largely used to achieve human transportation, and the development of modern transportation concretizes the idea that humans are capable of optimizing how they travel across landscapes of the Universe. The last frontier of travel that has yet to be fully mastered is that of space-time. As Earth’s precious resources (i.e., water and gas) continue depleting, it is imperative that humans find resources on other planets. Once Earth is no longer capable of supporting human life, the invention of a spacecraft that moves faster than the speed of light and allows humans interplanetary transportation en masse is of the utmost necessity. This would not only serve to help find humans a new home but to also continue the search for new and abundant resources.

Metapatterns could be used as a roadmap for the construction of a warp-drive vehicle as there is no current blueprint. Metapatterns can be defined as: the shapes, symbols, and behaviors that are tangible manifestations of many concrete objects in the universe. For instance, the metapattern of layers* is observable in the universe in crustaceans (crabs), who have a hard layered shell covering their soft and vulnerable skin positioned beneath. Tubes* are another metapattern that is seen as a template for the flow of objects, such as blood flow through tubular veins and electric impulses through tubular wire. Metapatterns can be observed within the scope of modern transportation, particularly in the components that allow a vehicle to operate, which will help us to understand how physics and metapatterns interact in the universe.

Metapatterns Molded in the Components of Modern Transportation

Automobiles provide clear evidence of metapattern integration in current transportation. They incorporate the use of parts such as the wheel and axle for movement, but along with this, these parts are also function to carry the weight of the vehicle as it moves, and the axle will relieve the wheels from receiving a large amount of pressure in friction and weight and distribute some of this tension across the axle.1 Parallel to the ground, the base of the automobile serves as a sheet* to protect the vehicle’s engine and interior from exposure to the Earth’s floor. The ability for the wheel to distribute ground friction across its small surface area in its rotation is an attribute that wheels derive from the sphere* metapattern since the small surface area of the sphere allows it to distribute physical elements such as light and friction across its round body. The wheels of an automobile resemble a sphere as the cut-out portion of it, but the wheel is vertically positioned so as to prevent the base sheet of the automobile from touching the ground and to allow for the automobile to roll. This parallelism between the sheets indicates a parameter by which automobile transportation must be conducted. It must be recognized that friction between physical sheets is too great to have them move quickly across each other on their own, and that other metapatterns will need to be involved in this process in order to generate the faster and smoother motion that we need. We can conclude that the base of the automobile and the ground floor must be parallel, and touch only using the wheel since its sphere-like design will permit the wheel to roll across flat surfaces. Parameters will also be incorporated into warp-drive space travel with respect to how humans will move across the structure of space-time and what limitations we might encounter by doing so.

Alcubierre’s Parameters for Space Travel

The first step in establishing how humans can achieve warp travel requires an examination of spacetime and the ways by which we will need to influence it. Physicist Michael Alcubierre modeled the current representation of warp-travel (Figure 1) by creating a model in which spacetime (where time and three-dimensional space coincide as a four dimensional continuum) is contracted in one direction and expanded in another using a warp-drive, a device that enables a ship to travel faster than the speed of light.2 According to Alcubierre, the way in which we initiate warp travel is by creating an energy-density field that has a lower energy density than a space vacuum (exists as negative mass), causing space-time that interacts with the low energy to bend or fold. Physicists must try to learn the methods by which humans can harness large amounts of this energy while assisting engineers to incorporate this knowledge into developing a warp drive. As work is done towards developing warp-speed transportation, difficulties will have to be overcome in order to make this technology work with respect to the parameters involved in space-time.

Figure 1. Alcubierre’s warp-drive model (Based on Einstein’s theory of General Relativity).3

Transportation Through Light and Space

The reason that we would need to contract and expand space-time to achieve faster than light travel is due simply to the fact that we cannot travel faster than the speed of light in normal space-time. If we develop the ability to bend space-time, then we can travel across this space faster than light traveling outside of it since bended space is no longer flat like a sheet, and does not expand across as much area as normal space-time would. The flat, blue surface area of Figure 1 shows the area where light would normally travel across in regular space-time. The elliptical shape in the center of Figure 1 shows the bending of space-time, where light will travel faster than normal. The sheet is a perfect metapattern to resemble space-time since space-time is ever expanding and encompasses what we know of as the area of our universe, “where the press of maximizing area overwhelmingly drives the design, sheets will dominate” (2, p.34). Sheets also serve to model space-time as a flat, two-dimensional grid, which will appear in later Figures. Our spaceship needs to penetrate the border* that keeps space-time unaltered in a perfect sheet, and if no border is truly impenetrable,4 then it is possible to create a pore or an opening within the border of space-time. My conception of a warp-drive spaceship will reveal how it functions to achieve this aim.

The Warp Drive: Theorized Devices for Warp Travel

The components that make up my model of a warp drive consist of individual devices rather than a single, large mechanism that are part of our spaceship and allow it to bend and travel through space. Figure 2 displays the components of my idealized warp-drive spaceship. The ship is spherical*, and is positioned the center* of Figure 1’s mold. I outline several important components of the warp-ship in Figure 2, including an energy converter that is shaped as a half sphere that will be installed just below the cockpit of the ship where the device will be embedded to not only create the energy field required to bend space, but also to pull space-time so that it will condense and move underneath the ship and be expanded from behind. Space-time will travel under the ship with the guidance of a metallic sheet, shown in Figure 2 as a slim rectangular shape that covers the entire surface area of the ship’s bottom. A fear that I have with our ship is that the newly generated channel of bended space that we create will shape into the exact same dimensions of the ship, which may cause the ship to fall back into normal space-time should it move outside of the channel’s perimeters. The aforementioned metallic sheet would be size-adjustable so as to ensure that the space-time we bend can create a channel that can adjust its size to fit to any type of ship. The direction of the moving space-time appears as dotted arrows in Figure 2. Metapatterns need to be embodied in this warp-ship so that it can easily integrate a congruent interaction between this technology and the natural phenomena that occur in bended space.

Figure 2. Our ship’s anatomy + a visualization of the warp-speed ship bending space-time. (Source: author)

Warp Bubble: Parameter of Transportation

So we have our space, our ship, and our warp drive, but we have yet to discuss how our ship will travel through bended space. According to Alcubierre, a warp bubble will form in front of our ship that would travel at the speed of light once we have properly achieved bending space-time.5 This bubble resembles a perfect sphere, and our ship must remain alongside or within this bubble as it travels through channels of bended space. This idea is visualized in Figure 3, which displays a method of warp-travel that best utilizes our ship’s metapatterns. Instead of following the bubble, I would instead try to pull our ship so close to the warp bubble that eventually the ship is encapsulated by it, in a similar manner to a nucleus resting in the center* of a eukaryotic cell. The purpose behind the spherical design for our spaceship is so that when our ship manages to enter the warp bubble, it will mimic the nucleus design and gravitate towards the center of the bubble and remain there as the bubble transports the ship across bended space. Once the bubble reaches our desired destination, we then use our ship’s four jets on the ship’s posterior to propel ourselves out of the bubble’s perimeter and back into normal space-time. Although we have yet to visually witness and interact with a warp bubble, we can apply what we know from observations of spheres (such as planets, cells, suns) to address how the bubble might behave in space. We should attempt to use these observations as our basis for developing the technology that will allow us to create and interact with the warp bubble.

Figure 3. Model of a spaceship moving in a warp bubble through bended space-time.6


In reviewing warp-speed travel, many obstacles associated with calculating the physics and creating the technology to achieve this mode of travel have yet to be overcome, but Michael Alcubierre’s warp-drive clearly illustrates the metapatterns that we will see when we put warp-drive technology into practice. Humanity’s primary step should be to learn how to interact with the metapatterns of sheets and spheres that exist in space-time, then use this information to find the method that will provide humans the ability to transport in a sphere-like warp bubble across space. The issue of developing the sufficient technology to harness energy suited to bend space-time must be addressed in order to successfully build a warp-drive. Though these complications can appear complex and overwhelming, our understanding of space as the fabric of our universe and as the host of all metapatterns might allow us to eventually discover what it takes to make the universe accessible to us all.

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