However, the necessary energies to achieve substantial fractions of the speed of light, thus cutting the travel time to the stars to less than a human lifetime, are equally mindboggling.
Every pound of starship moving at 99.9 percent the speed of light will have a kinetic energy more than three times greater than the energy of the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated. Nevertheless, there may be a way of supplying an engine with such prodigious energies.
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In his 1955 paper Geons, John Wheeler, one of the pioneers of the theory of black holes, coined the term "Kugelblitz" -- which translates literally to "ball lightning." He suggested that if enough pure energy could be focused into a region of space, that energy would form a microscopic black hole, which could be described by the equations of Karl Schwarzschild -- a "Schwarzschild Kugelblitz" (or SK).
Fast forward 19 years to the ground-breaking work of Stephen Hawking, who realized that quantum mechanical effects near a black hole's event horizon (the boundary beyond which no light or other radiation can escape) would give rise to the emission of radiation, so-called "Hawking Radiation." The smaller the black hole, the greater its radiated power and the less its mass, but the shorter its lifetime until it completely evaporates.