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NASA’s Impossible Space Engine, The EMdrive, Passes Peer Review

“What has happened here is that a device has been designed that, when large amounts of power are pumped into it, tiny amounts of thrust are observed. The thrust-to-power ratio observed is 1.2 ± 0.1 Newtons per Megawatt, where 1.2 Newtons is the equivalent of the weight of an iPhone 6, while a Megawatt is enough energy to power everything in your entire house… and 649 others, all at once. Which is to say, it’s an incredibly large amount of power required for an incredibly tiny amount of thrust. Nevertheless, if you break the laws of physics, and you do it with such small measurement uncertainty compared to the signal you measure, surely that’s meaningful, important and robust, right?”

For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. While Newton may not be the final word in mechanics anymore since the development of relativity and quantum physics, this law – better known as the conservation of momentum – has held up from the 17th century through the 21st in every interaction ever observed. Unless, that is, the EMdrive is everything it claims to be. A propulsion-less device that results in thrust would be revolutionary, regardless of its efficiency. The tests done by NASA Eagleworks on this device have allegedly just passed peer review, meaning these results of a positive thrust with no observed exhaust (of an action with no reaction) are about to be published. But does that mean these results are real, and the laws of physics can now be considered broken? Or does passing peer review mean something else?

Spoiler: it’s something else! Find out what it means, and how we’re likely continuing to fool ourselves, today.

Space Travel In Record Time Is Here: EMDrive Works!

Well there goes Newton’s Third Law, kinda sorta because momentum is maintained ish sans propellant. Woot! This means we can go to Mars within months, not years! This means no more propellants peeps!

Leaked EM Drive pdf: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7kg…

Let me be shady for a moment…y’all know we have already used this right? Y’all know we have been using this for years and exploring our solar system and possibly beyond, right? No…okay then.

Improbable Thruster Seems To Work By Violating Known Laws Of Physics:

Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction. It’s perhaps the best known law of physics, and Guido Fetta thinks he’s found a way around it.

According to classical physics, in order for something—like a spaceship—to move, conservation of momentum requires that it has to exert a force on something else. A person in roller skates, for example, pushes off against a wall; a rocket accelerates upward by propelling high-velocity combusted fuel downward. In practice, this means that space vessels like satellites and space stations have to carry up to half their weight in propellant just to stay in orbit. That bulks up their cost and reduces their useful lifetime.

With that in mind, Fetta designed what he called the “Cannae Drive,” which he claims creates momentum without pushing against seemingly anything at all. He recently convinced a team at NASA to test it, who presented the results at a conference yesterday.

External image

A schematic of the lower half of the Cannae Drive cavity

The NASA team, using a torsion pendulum, or a device that can measure minute forces, found that Fetta’s drive created 30-50 micronewtons’ worth of thrust. That’s not a lot of force—even one whole Newton is less than the weight you feel in your hand when you hold an iPhone—but according to the laws of classical physics, Fetta’s device shouldn’t have produced any at all.

Fetta, an independent inventor with a background in chemical engineering, explains that the drive is a “superconducting resonating cavity.” According to him, the cavity is designed with little wells along the bottom edge to trap electrons, so that when electromagnetic waves bounce around inside the cavity, more electrons push up on the top surface of the cavity than push down on the bottom. This imbalance, Fetta says, creates upward thrust.

In the paper, NASA seemed reluctant to dive into the drive’s mysterious physics. They wrote nothing to suggest how, exactly, the force was produced. In fact, the mysterious drive actually worked even when they modified it in such a way it shouldn’t have produced any thrust, suggesting the mechanics of the system are hazily understood. The one exception was a reference, in the paper’s abstract, to a possible interaction with the “quantum vacuum virtual plasma.”

David Hambling, writing for Wired.co.uk, explains what that might mean:

This […] implies that the drive may work by pushing against the ghostly cloud of particles and anti-particles that are constantly popping into being and disappearing again in empty space.

A similar “microwave thruster” drive, proposed by British engineer Roger Shawyer, was tested last year by a Chinese team. Those results were largely dismissed. NASA’s results, though, seem to lend some credence to the idea that supposedly impossible “unbalanced forces” can actually result in momentum.

The NASA team stresses that the drive needs to be tested more thoroughly—but if it really works, it could be a major breakthrough for deep-space exploration. Because a drive like this could be powered solely by solar energy, satellites and space stations could stay on course and in orbit without having to lug around so much propellant.

Hambling:

A working microwave thruster would radically cut the cost of satellites and space stations and extend their working life, drive deep-space missions, and take astronauts to Mars in weeks rather than months.

We still don’t know if Fetta’s propellant-less drive works the way he claims it does—and we need more evidence before we can be sure that it even works at all. But if it does—watch out, space. We’re coming for you.