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Each advanced race in Star Trek has a faster than light travel technology which the viewer knows as Warp Drive.

This answer to a question of when specific races achieved warp shows a ranges of dates through human history when different races achieved warp.

Star Trek: Insurrection is a clear indicator that if you don't have warp drive, the federation won't speak to you. With the Evora only just achieving warp drive and the Ba'ku, while not initially known to be advanced are advanced.

The Federation will also not accept you in to the Federation/attempt first contact until you are warp capable.

My question is : Is the warp drive used by different races the same technology?

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    Romulan warp drive is powered by a black hole so that is different. The POWER is supplied differently but the technique is still the same, space is warped. Is that what you mean?
    – Paulie_D
    Jun 4, 2023 at 4:55
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    Are you asking if the technology works on the same principles, or if it is literally the same "brand" of mechanism? Because I think the former is definitely true, whereas the latter is false. Warp drive works by compressing space ahead of a ship and expanding it behind, but the actual warp drives engineered and used by various races are different. Of course there are probably common models and variations used within organizations/cultures, but it's an independent invention among warp-capable races (except the Ferengi).
    – Derek
    Jun 4, 2023 at 5:27
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    Don't they use warp signatures to detect new candidates for Federation membership? That might suggest warp drives of Federation members work on similar principles (not in the least due to the selection bias). Jun 4, 2023 at 6:47
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    There are other ways to get to warp speed; memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Soliton_wave / memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Tachyon_eddy
    – Valorum
    Jun 4, 2023 at 8:31

2 Answers 2

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As you say, the warp drive is certainly the most popular way of making a faster-than-light journey in the Star Trek universe. We have seen alternatives that are compared to or distinguished from the warp drive, such as the Borg "transwarp corridors" or the "quantum slipstream drive". The fact that these are treated as different suggests that when we hear about the Klingons, Romulans, etc. using a "warp drive", or "coming out of warp", or showing a "warp signature", the technology must be roughly the same as the Federation version.

This is despite many visible differences in starship design; for example, the Vulcans use a single ring-shaped warp nacelle, and some ships have no visible nacelles at all, like the Klingon Bird-of-Prey. In many cases these civilizations have borrowed technology from one another, so there is some convergence, but the basic idea does seem to have been discovered multiple times.

Along the same lines, throughout the series we see various developments in Federation warp technology, such that the ships can sustain higher speeds more reliably (particularly during the Enterprise series, starting with its pilot episode showing the aim of going to Warp 5). These are still all called "warp drive" despite the differences.

The situation appears analogous to the idea of a "sailing ship" on Earth. Many cultures have developed the idea of moving a ship by having the wind push its sails. While there are design differences between ketches, sloops, junks, brigantines, xebecs, etc., they are all recognizable as sailing ships. They are subject to the same physics and therefore have similar constraints on their motion, even though various cultures have had different ideas about the shapes of the sails, keels and masts. So too, there appears to be a common notion of a "warp drive", whereby a ship is propelled by the creation of a distortion in subspace, even though there are many ways of creating and shaping the distortion, providing the power, and so on. Instruments that are capable of sensing subspace distortions can readily detect the arrival of a warp-drive ship, even from an unknown species, because the same principle is at work.

As to the first contact question, I think there is a distorting effect from the fact that many of the non-warp examples we've seen are from the category of terrifyingly advanced species, who have surpassed warp technology and so the issue does not really arise. It would be odd if the key criterion were knowledge of warp technology per se, as opposed to the ability to travel readily to other star systems. If somebody new turns up at Deep Space 9 with their hyperlight starship that works by some other principle, it's hard to imagine the Federation refusing to say hello. Rather, it seems that the warp drive is historically the most commonly discovered form of drive, and so "warp-capable" is shorthand for "advanced enough that they can get off their rock and come to see us, at which point they'll be finding out about warp pretty soon anyway".

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Let’s think of this in terms of our Universe:

This isn’t strictly related to Star Trek but I think it’s worth reading.

  1. As seems reasonable, other races or organisms capable of utilizing warp drive means they perceive the universe in a roughly similar manner to ours. This significantly means that the structure of the universe is shared across all forms of matter. Meaning space-time is the universe for everything.

  2. Logically, given these circumstances, there is one invention needed to use warp drive. (2.5 explains why)

2.5 This question deals with the properties of the universe.

(Only read for advanced reading, I recommend not reading this part on the first read through, seriously, skip this part and read it again after)

The invention of faster than light travel would not be and invention but an advancements in controlling the properties of the universe.

This is when things however get weird. This is taken from another stack answer: Original Post

Energy-momentum and spacetime are distinctive objects so energy-momentum acts upon spacetime by some process via something physical particles or fields or waves in order to make it bend.

These inventions are that of energy-momentum. Light, Space, Sound. All of which we control are energy-momentum, which inevitably affects spacetime (time).

For proof: We control space through using chemical reactions to make space move - Using muscles to push objects. Similarly - Using fuel to propel rockets into space. Large scale molecular activities.

We can control light by making fires, using light bulbs, or sending it through a phone screen.

We control sound similarly. However, sound is not a chemical reaction but the very movement of matter itself.

All of these energy-momentum factors, whether human made or not, affect spacetime.

(Food for thought: Perhaps a DNA species advances or evolves in some part by understanding this relationship. Maybe humans harnessing space time will cause our species to evolve to unimaginable points)

Therefore, affecting spacetime via warp drive would be made possible by finding the right energy-momentum to do so. It is a “fundamental invention”.

Discovering the type of particles necessary and the way in which to move them in order to create warp drive would be an outstanding and revolutionary breakthrough. This may cause a species to evolve similar to how our species changed/changes following the progressive mastery of light energy-momentum.

  1. Conducting faster than light travel is purely related to physics and the way the matter works. (This is what 3.5 explains). This means that with enough knowledge it is predictable and controllable. Therefore yes, there is only one way to travel faster than light. However, much like there is only one (usually) way light travels, there are different applications/mediums of it and I assume the same would apply for warp drive should a species invent it.

  2. If you read 2.5 and you understood the food for thought note. And if it hypothetically is true, then you we logically would understand why a species may not try to contact one that is not capable of warp drive. Just like we don’t build civilizations with beetles.

TLDR: Basically

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    I fail to see how this answers the question asked in any meaningful way.
    – Valorum
    Jun 4, 2023 at 8:29

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