Warp Drive/Faster-Than-Light Travel
"“There was a young woman named Bright Whose speed was much faster than light. She set out one day In a relative way, And returned on the previous night.” -Arthur Henry Reginald Buller 1874-1944"
It’s hard to say when faster-than-light travel first appeared in fiction. Since realistically any travel to distant stars within a practical period of time would have to involve FTL travel, one could assume that all sci-fi stories that involve traveling to other planets also involve FTL travel, even if they don’t mention the manner of travel specifically. But a good guess at the first work to specifically mention FTL travel might be “The Skylark Of Space” by EE “Doc” Smith, published in 1928.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that FTL travel became a regular mainstay of science fiction. Perhaps this is because the public at the time didn’t have an intuitive grasp of the vast distances between stars, or what the speed of light meant. But with Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in 1947, and then the space race, the public began to understand the concepts of light and sound having speed and the vastness of space.
That’s when we saw the British comic book “Dan Dare” and the movie Forbidden Planet both feature FTL travel.
Forbidden Planet’s ship featured “DC stations” that held the crew immobile during deceleration, to protect them from the inertial forces of decelerating from hyperliminal speed. This brings up a big inconsistency between sci-fi and reality; unlike the speed of sound, the speed of light is an absolute cosmological barrier, and nothing with mass can travel at the speed of light (light particles have no mass.) Star Trek gets around this issue with the warp drive, which bends the fabric of space around the ship, rather than propelling it through space. Unbelievably, while this sounds like technobabble, the principle is sound, and as far as I can tell, Star Trek came up with the idea. Theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre, who proved that a warp drive was possible and did not violate the laws of physics, was inspired by Star Trek.