Actually, it's called a White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer, part of on-going experiments into the Miguel Alcubierre paper of how to achieve warp drive without violating Einstein Relativity.
|Credit: see link @ end of post|
The Michelson-Morley Experiment was also an interferometer, invented to measure what was called the "luminous ether" and it's motion relative to the Earth. They didn't find it, but they were one of the giants on whose shoulders Einstein stood when his annus mirabilis happened in a German patent office in 1905. Poincare-Lorentz-Einstein: Sometimes previous failures can set up fabulous successes.
The NASA research paper is part of the focus of the 100 Year Starship project by Mae Jemison, M.D. and former astronaut. Giving oneself a century to develop a technological advance will be a test of our patience in a download, microwave dominated world.
In science, there are specialities and camps, e.g. those who pursue String Theory and those who compare it to bovine excrement. There's a strong consensus in our understanding of Special and General Relativity that there is no such thing as a "light barrier" analogous to the sound barrier that you can just speed beyond. We are all time-traveling forward, and experiencing the effects of that through Entropy: anything faster-than-light would inevitably lead to travel backwards. The equations show issues of causality (i.e. "what if you killed your own grandfather" paradox), that can't be remedied in a single hour on a Trek episode.
Research has been placed in the confining rubric of "the market," as something MUST be produced of immediate value before it's worthy of being examined. The increase of knowledge, being more informed about a subject and where to go with it than you were before, has lost most of its value. Under this criteria, Edison's invention of the light bulb in 1,000 steps (failures) would not be tolerated; we'd all still be using candles and homing pigeons.
The set of "Star Trek: Into Darkness" was shot at the actual National Ignition Facility as the cargo bay and warp core of the Enterprise. Nuclear fusion with lasers - creating a sun on the Earth - is a long shot, but a worthy experiment in that as I recall from the Science Channel, a single glass of water (source of Deuterium) could power a city the size of Los Vegas or New York. Such a long shot, unsuccessful up to this point, could truly make us energy independent not just as a nation: the price of food is tied to fossil fuels used to harvest them and to ship them to grocery stores and other countries. The cost of food is directly proportional to your grocer's fuel cost: notice it between the beginning of summer and Labor Day (at least in the US). Heating costs would be reduced. The nature of wealth and income inequality would take on a whole new meaning, that sadly would probably be resisted by the energy industry. This, I think should be an interim step before interstellar travel if possible is attempted, which in the Common Era with our predilection towards self-centered avarice would make us all the galactic equivalent...of locusts. Such I do not wish us to proliferate to our neighbors, nor reap the reciprocity of their responses.
Sometimes, science is as much a candle as it is a shot in the dark: the knowing, wonder and application occurs on the other side of your previous ignorance. That enlightenment, above whether or not we achieve something like warp speed, should be vigorously pursued.
NASA: Warp Field Mechanics 101, Dr. Harold "Sonny" White
NY Times: Faster Than the Speed of Light?
SPACE.com: Research Warps into Hyperdrive