Now Dr Gerald Cleaver, associate professor of physics at Baylor, and Richard Obousy have come up with a new twist on an existing idea to produce a warp drive that they believe can travel faster than the speed of light, without breaking the laws of physics.
In their scheme, in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, a starship could "warp" space so that it shrinks ahead of the vessel and expands behind it.
By pushing the departure point many light years backwards while simultaneously bringing distant stars and other destinations closer, the warp drive effectively transports the starship from place to place at faster-than-light speeds.
All this extraordinary feat requires, says the new study, is for scientists to harness a mysterious and poorly understood cosmic antigravity force, called dark energy.
Dark energy is thought responsible for speeding up the expansion rate of our universe as time moves on, just like it did after the Big Bang, when the universe expanded much faster than the speed of light for a very brief time.
This may come as a surprise since, according to relativity theory, matter cannot move through space faster than the speed of light, which is almost 300,000,000 metres per second. But that theory applies only to unwarped 'flat' space.
Whoever gets the first patent on warp drive will make a fortune.