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posted by janrinok on Friday August 01 2014, @08:49PM   Printer-friendly
from the it-shouldn't-work-but-does dept.

This story from a Wired article: NASA is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that "impossible" microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the results are completely wrong, or Nasa has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion.

British scientist Roger Shawyer has been trying to interest people in his EmDrive for some years through his company SPR Ltd. Shawyer claims the EmDrive converts electric power into thrust, without the need for any propellant by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container. He has built a number of demonstration systems, but critics reject his relativity-based theory and insist that, according to the law of conservation of momentum, it cannot work.

NASA states... "Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma"

 
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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by PinkyGigglebrain on Friday August 01 2014, @09:38PM

    by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Friday August 01 2014, @09:38PM (#76547)

    As I understand this device it would not violate any of the laws of thermodynamics, you have to pump energy into it to get it to work and you don't get more energy/thrust out.

    It does cause issues with Newtonian conservation, the whole action/reaction part. But then this wouldn't be the first time Newtonian "Laws" have broken down when applied to things that special relativity and quantum theory explain much better.

    EM radiation has an interesting characteristic in that there is a point in the wave propagation where all the energy hits zero potential before swinging back on the other side of the axis. There are lots of claims about getting "Free energy" out of this zero point, those violate conservation and thermodynamics.

    According to what I read about this device a few years ago it uses a cavity that has been tuned so at one end the microwaves reflect off it when the wave is at the zero potential state and is at full energy when it reflects off the other end of the cavity. It provides the push in the direction of the full energy side.

    Maybe it doesn't even violate the "Laws of motion" at all, the reaction part might be happening in another set of dimensions. Last I heard Quantum theory claims 11 dimensions.

    China has been researching this tech for years, and now NASA says they might have found something.

    At the very least they should continue to look into it until they can conclusively invalidate/validate the effect. And back it up with more than a "Physics says it shouldn't work so it doesn't" response.

    Hell, maybe they found a way to harness Dark Energy without even realizing it.

    And now for all the rebuttals by people who "know better" because modern physics is perfect and already explains everything.

    --
    "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
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  • (Score: 1, Flamebait) by hubie on Friday August 01 2014, @10:11PM

    by hubie (1068) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 01 2014, @10:11PM (#76555) Journal

    Or, maybe, it is all measurement error and there is nothing to it. If there is something new here it will be turned up because there is scientific fame and glory to be had. However, it it turns out to be a small effect that is largely non-reproducible, it will be tossed on the heap of curiosities that never panned out.

    And now for all the rebuttals by people who "know better" because modern physics is perfect and already explains everything.

    Wow. Nice broad brush you're using there. I guess any criticism will come from obvious "physics shills" then? Maybe wanting to keep down the little guy, trying to cover up the truth because it is a threat to their funding somehow?

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by choose another one on Friday August 01 2014, @11:08PM

      by choose another one (515) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 01 2014, @11:08PM (#76568)

      However, it it turns out to be a small effect that is largely non-reproducible

      It is a bit past that already. First designed and tested in the UK, effect reproduced in China, and now reproduced again by NASA - different experiments with different kit, all showing the effect.

      What still isn't clear is how exactly it works, and how to tune it and scale it.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by hubie on Saturday August 02 2014, @12:51AM

        by hubie (1068) Subscriber Badge on Saturday August 02 2014, @12:51AM (#76594) Journal

        The NASA results, at least the little bit that one can gleam from their conference summary, are underwhelming in their magnitude and I would worry about a problem with their experimental setup. The Chinese result is rather large and is on the order of what you get out of an ion drive; if those results are good they should be relatively easy to replicate.

        • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Saturday August 02 2014, @02:42AM

          by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Saturday August 02 2014, @02:42AM (#76626)

          The NASA design is different from the device used in the China tests. The difference in measured thrust might be because NASA did a better job accounting for all the factors and the device really does only generate such a tiny amount of thrust, or NASA's device might not have been as evolved and the Chinese device really did generate the greater thrust.

          Either way three different independent groups have found something and currently no one can say exactly what.

          What was considered impossible just 60 years ago is no commonplace, its all about advancing technology and our understanding of how nature works. This might just be a flash in the pan or it might be the key to a new understanding of the Universe.

          --
          "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Saturday August 02 2014, @01:40AM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) Subscriber Badge on Saturday August 02 2014, @01:40AM (#76606)

    What I wonder is why something like this hasn't been validated, or at least tested, on the ISS?

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by PinkyGigglebrain on Saturday August 02 2014, @07:03AM

      by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Saturday August 02 2014, @07:03AM (#76669)

      sorry if this is a dup, I had to leave in a rush and may have forgotten to hit submit before closing my browser last time.

      the per kilo cost of putting something into orbit is so high that they would want to really be sure it was worth sending a prototype to the ISS.

      --
      "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02 2014, @08:24AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02 2014, @08:24AM (#76679)

    EM radiation has an interesting characteristic in that there is a point in the wave propagation where all the energy hits zero potential before swinging back on the other side of the axis.

    This sentence is enough to tell us you know nothing about EM radiation or Maxwell's Equations. This is on the same level as the Dilbert strip where Dilbert told his PHB because the lan cable got loose, the token had fell out of the Token Ring network, and it can't be fixed until the PHB finds the token in his office. i.e. total bullshit.

    Just because you have heard stuff about science that you don't understand, doesn't mean any BS is valid science. And sadly, your post got modded up to +5 told us most Soylentils knew nothing about Maxwell's Equations either.

    tuned so at one end the microwaves reflect off it when the wave is at the zero potential state and is at full energy when it reflects off the other end of the cavity

    Classically (i.e. within non-quantum theory), EM radiation is a wave little different from water wave on any water surface, if the above is possible, then you can do the exact same setup with a tank of water on wheels, so the wave is flat on one side and peaked on the other side, and drive the tank to move without any other mechanism (i.e. no drive to the wheels, no material ejection, doesn't push on anything outside the tank). Obviously, you are not going see that demonstrated any time soon.

    And now for all the rebuttals by people who "know better" because modern physics is perfect and already explains everything.

    Yeah, what a great way to stop intelligent debate by first deriding anyone who possibly know more than you as people who "know better".

    But don't worry, I am sure my explanation above would be beyond you ability to comprehend, so you can simply dismiss that as something from someone who "know better" and thought modern physics already explains everything, and happily go back to your ignorant demon-haunted world.