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posted by takyon on Friday May 01 2015, @06:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the newtons-per-kilowatt dept.

An article at NasaSpaceFlight.com is claiming that the superficially reactionless EmDrive has again been tested at NASA Eagleworks, this time in hard vacuum, and the anomalous thrust is still being detected:

A group at NASA's Johnson Space Center has successfully tested an electromagnetic (EM) propulsion drive in a vacuum – a major breakthrough for a multi-year international effort comprising several competing research teams. Thrust measurements of the EM Drive defy classical physics' expectations that such a closed (microwave) cavity should be unusable for space propulsion because of the law of conservation of momentum.

With the popular explanations of thermal convection or atmospheric ionization being ruled out by operation in vacuum, and thrust thousands of times greater than expected from a photon rocket, is it time to start taking the EM Drive seriously as a fundamentally new form of propulsion, and possibly a door to new physics?

Roger Shawyer, the inventor of the EmDrive, claims that the device's efficiency will scale even further with greater levels of power, potentially enabling fast interstellar travel powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator or nuclear fission.

Previously: NASA Validates "Impossible" Space Drive's Thrust

 
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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by jmorris on Friday May 01 2015, @07:15PM

    by jmorris (4844) on Friday May 01 2015, @07:15PM (#177569)

    So three labs show thrust where there can be none by every law of physics we know. Ok. Only one way to really know for sure, build one big enough to keep the ISS boosted, install it and let it run for a year, if the orbit is still good it will be time to rewrite the physics books.

    It is about time we actually got a drive system more advanced than throwing mass out the rear end of the vehicle, now maybe we will get a few people off of this rock before we all die of insanity.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Friday May 01 2015, @07:41PM

    by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Friday May 01 2015, @07:41PM (#177577) Journal

    That would be weird...

      " so we've got this new propulsion system. We've built it, tested it, scaled it up, tested it again, and now it's flying an expedition to mars."
    " cool, how does it work?"
    "nobody knows..."

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by maxwell demon on Friday May 01 2015, @08:14PM

      by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 01 2015, @08:14PM (#177596) Journal

      Not that weird. Has happened all the time.

      "You put the meat on the fire, and then it gets much easier to eat."
      "How does it work?"
      "Nobody knows."

      "We put that substance from a calf's stomach into the milk, then it gets hard and remains edible for a long time."
      "How does it work?"
      "Nobody knows."

      "We put that stuff into a cask and let it stay there a while, and then it tastes different and doesn't get bad as quickly, but if you drink too much of it, you'll lose your mind."
      "How does it work?"
      "Nobody knows."

      "If we infect people with the harmless cowpox, they won't get the dangerous smallpox."
      "How does it work?"
      "Nobody knows."

      "This substance produced by that mold kills bacteria, we use it to heal people."
      "How does it work?"
      "Nobody knows."

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Grishnakh on Saturday May 02 2015, @12:09AM

        by Grishnakh (2831) on Saturday May 02 2015, @12:09AM (#177687)

        Here's another one, which still applies today:

        "You jump into the air, and then you fall back to the ground. Or, you drop something from a height above the ground, and it falls to the ground. We call it 'gravity'."
        "How does it work?"
        "Nobody knows."

      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Saturday May 02 2015, @03:00AM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 02 2015, @03:00AM (#177743) Journal

        Maybe this is propelling "Daaarrrrrk Maaaatter".
        "But what is this Dark Matter of which you speak?"
        "Nobody Knows".

        Seriously, given everything else that has been pinned on dark matter, I'm surprised some hasn't made such claims already.
        The only question remaining, is were these experiments detected by the aliens? Will the now be forced to come and wipe us out before this gets out of hand?
           

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 02 2015, @05:02AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 02 2015, @05:02AM (#177773)

          Seriously, given everything else that has been pinned on dark matter, I'm surprised some hasn't made such claims already.

          Someone has. When this was going around last time I thought of that, and with a little searching found someone else who had thought of it earlier.

          This vacuum test makes it a little more likely, but it's still a very long shot.

      • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Saturday May 02 2015, @05:52AM

        by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 02 2015, @05:52AM (#177779)

        The difference is, we now know how lots of stuff works and this is different to all of that. So it's like putting wood on the caveman's fire and the fire goes out - it is in contravention to everything he knows.

        Except now, all you have is someone "telling" you that it is wood... then you have to be very careful and make sure you check very thoroughly both the claim that it is wood, and the claim that the fire goes out.

        Especially when people come up with this sort of crap every other day and try to sell it for $$$.

        • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Saturday May 02 2015, @06:24AM

          by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 02 2015, @06:24AM (#177785) Journal

          Except that the post I replied to was already in the hypothetical situation that we are using it for going to Mars. Which certainly implies that in that hypothetical scenario the drive works, because if it didn't work, it certainly would be noticeable when trying to use it to get to Mars.

          I agree that at the present point in time it is reasonable to be sceptical. There's a good chance that it is indeed snake oil. However should the drive ever be regularly used in space ships, it will be a safe assumption that it works, or else someone would have noticed by then.

          --
          The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 2) by Rivenaleem on Tuesday May 05 2015, @08:59AM

        by Rivenaleem (3400) on Tuesday May 05 2015, @08:59AM (#179011)

        "Magnets!"
        "How does it work?"
        "Nobody Knows."

    • (Score: 2) by Hartree on Friday May 01 2015, @08:15PM

      by Hartree (195) on Friday May 01 2015, @08:15PM (#177598)

      " so we've got this new navigation system. We've built it, tested it, tested it again, and now it's helping sail an expedition beyond the end of the Mediterranean past Gibraltar."
      " cool, how does it work?"
      "nobody knows... We call it a lodestone, though."

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by Ethanol-fueled on Friday May 01 2015, @08:20PM

        by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Friday May 01 2015, @08:20PM (#177599) Homepage

        This fucking thing had better sound cool.

        I'm not flying with it if it makes a stupid noise, like how things sound in Star Wars Episode I. What good is a menacing star-destroyer with ion cannons and tail fins on the ass-end if it sounds like, "Boo-boo-boo-boo-boo-hee-hee-hee-heee!"

        • (Score: 2) by Mr Big in the Pants on Friday May 01 2015, @10:57PM

          by Mr Big in the Pants (4956) on Friday May 01 2015, @10:57PM (#177661)

          Are you fucking serious?!

          I get a chance to fly in this thing I will take it even if it sounds like a fairy shitting itself politely...

          • (Score: 2) by BK on Saturday May 02 2015, @02:09AM

            by BK (4868) on Saturday May 02 2015, @02:09AM (#177728)

            But what if it sounds like Jar Jar...?

            --
            ...but you HAVE heard of me.
            • (Score: 2) by Mr Big in the Pants on Saturday May 02 2015, @06:34AM

              by Mr Big in the Pants (4956) on Saturday May 02 2015, @06:34AM (#177787)

              I believe that would defy the moral laws of physics.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 02 2015, @11:04AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 02 2015, @11:04AM (#177833)

              "Powering up the Jar-Jar drive"
              mmmmmmMMMMMMMMMEEEEESA-MEESA-MEESA-MEESA-MEESA-MEESA

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by SubiculumHammer on Friday May 01 2015, @07:52PM

    by SubiculumHammer (5191) on Friday May 01 2015, @07:52PM (#177586)

    How depressing would it be if the stars would always be out of reach. The article states that such a drive might reach alpha centauri in less than a century, and that is probably absent any innovations that would occur after we find explanations for how it works...if it works, I mean.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Friday May 01 2015, @09:27PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 01 2015, @09:27PM (#177624) Journal
      Even at slower speeds, the stars aren't out of reach. Just live longer.
      • (Score: 2) by mr_mischief on Friday May 01 2015, @10:09PM

        by mr_mischief (4884) on Friday May 01 2015, @10:09PM (#177642)

        I'm just hoping to extend my life until the singularity. Then the computer will help me figure out how to get the rest of the way to another world. Thanks, Ray!

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 01 2015, @08:01PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 01 2015, @08:01PM (#177590)

    > Only one way to really know for sure, build one big enough to keep the ISS boosted, install it and let it run for a year

    What makes you think that is even a remotely reasonable way to "know for sure?" We should build a full-scale system and deploy it in one of the most conspicuous and expensive possible applications and just cross our fingers it won't fail in a spectacular way?

    How about all the people who aren't crazy pants take it one step at a time in the lab for a while and let the first deployed system be an unmanned satellite that only does a couple of weeks of testing?

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by jmorris on Friday May 01 2015, @08:11PM

      by jmorris (4844) on Friday May 01 2015, @08:11PM (#177594)

      If you expect people to accept a drive that operates on unknown principles it needs to be demonstrated in a splashy way. Apparently it just sits on a bench and quietly draws electricity and generates a very small thrust so it shouldn't be dangerous.

      Flying it on the ISS sounds a lot simpler than building an entire space vehicle to find out if it generates thrust in low orbit. Regular missions bring cargo to it, it has plenty of electrical generation capacity, and so on. And if it works it is an instant improvement to the station.

      • (Score: 1) by Bogsnoticus on Saturday May 02 2015, @02:38PM

        by Bogsnoticus (3982) on Saturday May 02 2015, @02:38PM (#177872)

        "If you expect people to accept a drive that operates on unknown principles it needs to be demonstrated in a splashy way."

        Given how 95% of the population accept mobile phones, computers, the internal combustion engine, electricity generation, televisions, and all sorts of modern appliances with absolutely no understanding on how they work, why should one more device whose operation is beyond their ken be hard for them to accept?

        Most will be happy if;
        - It works
        - Doesn't kill them immediately, or further down the track.
        - Doesn't shrink their testicles.
        - Doesn't produce the "brown note" and make them crap themselves when it is switched on.

        The curious 5% can entertain ourselves by producing theories, conspiracies and just generally pondering the math behind it until a suitable answer is discovered.

        --
        Genius by birth. Evil by choice.
    • (Score: 3, Touché) by soylentsandor on Friday May 01 2015, @08:41PM

      by soylentsandor (309) on Friday May 01 2015, @08:41PM (#177606)

      How about all the people who aren't crazy pants take it one step at a time in the lab for a while and let the first deployed system be an unmanned satellite that only does a couple of weeks of testing?

      That would be the sensible and responsible thing to do.

      But come on, where's the fun in that?

      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Saturday May 02 2015, @03:26AM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 02 2015, @03:26AM (#177749) Journal

        Besides, if you want a visit from the Vulkans, we'v got to strap this thing to a ship named Phoenix, and go for it. 2063 is just around the corner guys.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by gnuman on Friday May 01 2015, @09:11PM

      by gnuman (5013) on Friday May 01 2015, @09:11PM (#177616)

      What makes you think that is even a remotely reasonable way to "know for sure?"

      ISS was built for these sort of things.

      1. It has lots of power, check
      2. It is built for experiments, check
      3. It is maned, and so people can adjust it and do various experiments on it while in orbit, check.

      Clearly, first they will test it on Earth to try to figure out how it works. But this drive needs to be tested in space too.

      Anyway, these are very very very exciting news. When no one can readily explain *why* this works or *how*, that means there could be exciting physics here.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 02 2015, @12:58AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 02 2015, @12:58AM (#177705)

        let the first deployed system be an unmanned satellite that only does a couple of weeks of testing?

        But this drive needs to be tested in space too.

        Thank you for demonstrating which side of the argument is based on paying attention.

  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday May 02 2015, @01:27AM

    by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Saturday May 02 2015, @01:27AM (#177714) Journal

    Honestly, you don't need to test it in space at all. VASIMR and other ion engines were tested right here on Earth. If this thing can create 4 times or the promised hundreds of times more thrust per Watt than ion engines, it will be obvious. The vacuum testing eliminates some of the skepticism.

    NASA needs to do two things: refine it to work very predictably, and investigate claims of >1 Newton of thrust per kilowatt (or the insane 300 Newtons per kilowatt). State of the art ion engines produce 0.04 Newton of thrust per kilowatt.

    --
    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 2) by LaminatorX on Saturday May 02 2015, @04:45AM

      by LaminatorX (14) <{laminatorx} {at} {gmail.com}> on Saturday May 02 2015, @04:45AM (#177769)

      I think that it needs to be tested not only in a vacuum, which I'm delighted they've done, but outside the Earth's magnetosphere. I'm excited by this, but I'm not convinced that it's not following conservation principles by infinitesimally pushing-against/degrading the planet's magnetic field.

  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Saturday May 02 2015, @01:49AM

    by Immerman (3985) on Saturday May 02 2015, @01:49AM (#177721)

    The only problem with that is that the ISS is a very large system, requiring a comparatively large amount of thrust, and only for station keeping. It's basically a good idea though: if they can build a satellite consisting of basically just the thruster, solar panels, and a communications/control/monitoring system, then the same amount of thrust will generate radically more obvious results - and also allow for radically more precise measurements of the effect.

    I would think a good experiment would be to have a smallish solar-powered EM-drive placed in an orbit outside the heavily populated LEO "shell" (to avoid potential collisions), and have it attempt to spiral outwards.

    If successful it would:
    1) Prove that the thing works beyond any shadow of a doubt. We're not talking about the general public here - even a small satellite impossibly gaining altitude would be as attention-grabbing as an air-raid siren to every physicist and engineer on the planet.
    2) Allow us to possibly detect if the thrust varies with (or without) a predictable pattern. At present we know essentially nothing about this phenomena - if there are any variations in its thrust they could provide clues to the underlying physics. As it climbed we'd get variations in solar wind, magnetic field, spacetime distortion... lots of relationships that might be exposed.
    3) provide ever-more precise data as it climbs out of the chaotic drag of the nebulous outer atmosphere, without requiring a more expensive launch to higher orbit for an untested system.

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Saturday May 02 2015, @03:07AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 02 2015, @03:07AM (#177746) Journal

      Long duration thrust is just as good as a large amount of thrust.

      Our problem is doing either efficiently.
      If all we have to do is hoist some more solar panels and one or two of these engines, it would be a cheap one time fix.

      Just in time to hand it all over the Russians.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 02 2015, @11:16PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 02 2015, @11:16PM (#177977)

    > law of physics

    It's funny to see how a completely meaningless concept like the universe following a law *that has been formalized inside of it* is taken seriously. It's like science has forgotten science itself and has become a habit.

    We can discover free energy or faster than light travel, if those are features of the universe. Laws are not in the way except in your brain.