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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 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: 3, Interesting) by ancientt on Saturday May 02 2015, @02:10AM

    by ancientt (40) <> on Saturday May 02 2015, @02:10AM (#177729) Homepage Journal

    Solar cells provide perpetual motion machines by old definitions. The idea of turning light into motion would have been shocking a few thousand years ago, but nobody is shocked today because the idea of turning radiation into motion is considered basic science and the definitions we use for perpetual motion are updated to reflect that. The idea that there could be something new we didn't understand a few years ago and understand tomorrow is basic science. When a scientist encounters something that doesn't do what is expected, a scientist tests to see if any of the possible understood explanations can be used to understand the new thing first. That's what phase we're in now.

    From TFA:

    at thrust levels several thousand times in excess of a photon rocket, and now under hard vacuum conditions

    That's ruling out, piece by piece, the understood explanations.

    One of two things is happening here. Either we are encountering something new, or we're encountering something known in a new context. One is a breakthrough in physics, the other a breakthrough in engineering. Either is exciting and useful.

    Consider a simplified version, that's probably more of an analogy than example: You turn on a flashlight and measure the propelling force of the light and it is greater than your theory predicted. Likely the explanation is that the extra force measured is demonstrating a failure of your theory's comprehensiveness, but the possibility exists that your flashlight is producing additional thrust due to something that any current knowledge would fail to include.

    This is exciting news! The worst case scenario is that very smart people are going to learn to include an idea they hadn't previously considered. That means that engineers will be able to improve ideas and technology immediately. The better case is that there could be something new to learn and that means there are potentials to create whole new theories about how things work. Either scenario is great for science.

    We use dams, solar cells, wind and geothermal energy right now and all of those are perpetual motion for the common man. Science can explain where the energy is coming from, but there is no limit any human can personally observe to how much energy can be eventually used. Even if this is a tiny breakthrough along the lines of "of course it turned out to be explained by theory X that everyone knows," it will be something that has new applications to existing systems. Of course we all hope it will turn out to be "this new thing we didn't know before" so that we can better understand our universe and so far... so good.

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  • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Sunday May 03 2015, @05:35PM

    by tangomargarine (667) on Sunday May 03 2015, @05:35PM (#178162)

    Technically solar power isn't perpetual because in billions of years (or whatever) the sun itself will burn out.

    And isn't one problem with solar-powered space probes that they eventually get too holed up by bits of dust even in the "vacuum" of space.

    "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"