A new study explains that warp drives and planetary scanning may not be as far away as Star Trek suggests. Although the Enterprise debuts in the fictional year 2245, theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre put forward the logic behind its creation back in the early 1990s.

Thinking of spacetime as a piece of rubber, and bending that piece of rubber into a waveform, Alcubière theorized that folding spacetime into a dense wave in front of a ship and a long wave behind it could allow travel at warp speed (the principle of travel through hyperspace in a number of science fiction works).

However, this would require an incredible amount of negative mass scattered around the ship in what scientists have called a “warp bubble”.

A recent study from the University of Göttingen suggests an alternative based on positive rather than negative mass, as physicist Eric Lenz has suggested that the layering of the rings and the risk of an extremely dense fluid may also form this “warp bubble”.

Regardless of the method, the ability to warp space-time around the ship would allow it to travel faster than the speed of light.

Researchers have also found ways to detect life forms on planets, turning Star Trek’s scanning technology from fantasy to reality.

A new study shows that light interacts differently with the biochemistry of living things compared to an artificial material. This means that while on board the ship, scientists could observe how light interacts with the planet to theoretically determine if life is present.