I’m a fan of physicist Richard Feynman, and one of his most memorable quotes explains that “Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts.”
Indeed, the “experts” of science are so often wrong that it makes their arrogance laughable, and today we have yet another example of an emerging, unexplained technology that’s sending physicists back to the drawing board to rewrite the supposed “laws” of how the universe works.
The technology in question is called the EM Drive, and it’s an “impossible” spacecraft propulsion device that produces real thrust while emitting nothing (i.e. no exhaust) and having no moving parts. “The EM Drive (Electro Magnetic Drive) uses electromagnetic microwave cavities to directly convert electrical energy to thrust without the need to expel any propellant,” explains Hacked.com. “[Harold G. White, a scientist] proposes that the EM Drive’s thrust is due to virtual particles in the quantum vacuum that behave like propellant ions in magneto-hydrodynamical propulsion systems, extracting ‘fuel’ from the very fabric of space-time and eliminating the need to carry propellant.”
Invented by engineering pioneer Roger Shawyer nearly 15 years ago, the EM Drive has long been ridiculed by “mainstream” scientists in much the same way that cold fusion (Low Energy Nuclear Reactions) have also been widely ridiculed by hot fusion academics.
Yet Shawyer may have the last laugh after all. Martin Tajmar, the Director of Institute and Head of Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, has just reproduced the thrust measurements of the seemingly “impossible” thrust device, conducting his experiment in a vacuum that mimics the environment of space. He presented his findings at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Propulsion and Energy Forum and Exposition in 2015. You can see his EM Drive talk listed in the event brochure at this link.
“Our measurements reveal thrusts as expected from previous claims after carefully studying thermal and electromagnetic interferences,” says the science paper. Tests were also conducted in a high vacuum: “We used this setup to test an EMDrive for the first time in high vacuum down to 4×10 -6 mbar observing similar thrusts (although at somewhat lower power levels) ruling out any air influence in this configuration.”
As the document explains, numerous experiments have already apparently confirmed the thrust operation of this “impossible” engine that appears to violate the known laws of physics:
Some years ago, Shawyer claimed to have invented yet another type of propellantless propulsion system called EMDrive that only uses onboard electrical power similar to the photon rocket, but with orders of magnitude more thrust and without the need of another satellite. If true, this could certainly revolutionize space travel.
It must be noted that Shawyers analysis and claims are highly controversial (e.g. Ref. 9) as this would obviously violate the conservation of momentum (pushing against itself) following his theory. Aside from the theoretical concept, most interesting are the experimental claims that have been published to date. Shawyer tested the
EMDrive on a balance in the upwards and downwards direction observing weight changes (=thrusts) close to his theoretical predictions using precise Q factor measurements with 16 mN using 850 W of microwave power – <b>close to 5600 times larger than expected from pure classical radiation thrust</b>. He claimed to have done checks for thermal and electromagnetic influence. Later testing was done on a torsion balance using air bearings where he observed rotation of the complete apparatus with all electronics and power supplies on-board.
Independent tests were carried out in China by Yang et al10-12 who tested the EMDrive on a force-feedback thrust stand and achieved up to 720 mN of thrust with 1000 W microwave power with even higher Q factors compared to Shawyer. Most recently, Brady et al tested the concept on a torsion balance at NASA with a (micro)N resolution obtaining thrusts of 50 (micro)N using only 20 W of RF power. The microwave electronics were mounted on the balance and power was fed using liquid metal contacts. Strong magnets were used for eddy current damping of the balance and a laser interferometer for monitoring the balance movement. Testing was quite limited (only a few test runs performed, no thruster direction reversal) and interaction with the magnetic damping during operation of the thruster was observed – however below the EMDrive thrust values. A null measurement was performed using a resistor
instead of the EMDrive.
I’ve been watching this story for over a year, waiting for another laboratory confirmation of the thrust values. To my surprise, the UK media has begun to pick up on this development, too.
“The drive is capable of producing thrust several thousand times greater than a standard photon rocket and could get to Mars within 70 days or Pluto within 18 months,” reports the Telegraph. “A trip to Alpha Centauri, which would take tens of thousands of years to reach right now, could be reached in just 100 years.”
The Telegraph goes on to say:
Shawyer also claims that he is just a few months away from publishing new results confirming that his drive works in a peer reviewed journal.
However scientists still have no idea how it actually works. Nasa suggested that it could have something to do with the technology manipulating subatomic particles which constantly pop in and out of existence in empty space.
Prof Tajmer presented his findings to the 2015 American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Propulsion and Energy Forum and Exposition this week.
One of the reasons I love to cover this sort of news is because it reinforces the all-important idea that arrogant scientists aren’t fooling Mother Nature. It’s nice to see arrogant scientists humbled from time to time by new, emerging phenomena they can’t explain.
Richard Feynman understood this. He was brilliant but humble, always fascinated by the mysteries of nature. Feynman fully realized that even his own vast knowledge of physics was little more than a spec of dust compared to the realm of knowledge and yet to be explored.
Today, far too many scientists have abandoned the very idea that anything new might yet be discovered. They think they know everything already… that “science” has reached a plateau of absolute truth from which zero divergence is tolerated. But that isn’t science… it’s dogma. Real science is the practice of intentionally pursuing new knowledge even when you realize that new discoveries might render your existing “scientific” beliefs obsolete.
“New science,” as it’s often described, enters the realm of quantum physics and even the influence of the observer (intention) on outcomes in the apparent physical universe. As the research document shown above explains, “Nasa suggested that it could have something to do with the technology manipulating subatomic particles which constantly pop in and out of existence in empty space.”
Such ideas frighten conventional, old-school scientists who are terrified of real discoveries because they might threaten their sacred dogma. The idea that a device which emits nothing might produce enormous thrust that could revolutionize space travel just isn’t a concept most scientists are willing to entertain… even if it might arguably be one of human civilization’s most important inventions ever. (The implications for colonization of other worlds are staggering… this could be the technology that takes humanity from a vulnerable, single-planet species to a galactic civilization.)
For that reason alone, the EM Drive will be viciously attacked by old-school physicists and stodgy, cognitively constipated scientists. The idea that their faith-based scientific beliefs might be overwritten by new expansions in human understanding simply infuriates them. So they lash out and attack the pioneers to tear them down, suppressing the advancement of science while simultaneously protecting their “intellectual territory” and industry influence.
By the way, if the EM Drive proves workable, all those sci-fi films that depict spaceships producing visible, fiery thrust will suddenly be outmoded. In the future of space travel with EM Drives, there are no visible engines. Even better, a spaceship need not have any predetermined thrust orientation, since EM Drives could be built on internal gimbals deep inside the ship and pointed in any direction to produce thrust in that direction. You don’t need to mount them on the perimeter of the ship, in other words. They can be internal. This also means spaceships do not have to “turn” to alter their direction of thrust. It also means communications gear on the outside of such craft can be permanently oriented toward Earth, making communications far easier to maintain.
As a scientist myself, I can also tell you this means such ships will be built as spherical machines in order to mount the EM Drive engines in the center of mass (for all sorts of obvious reasons involving the laws of physics). Thus, future spaceships will look more like mini Death Stars than X-Wing fighters. There is no air in space. “Wings” are not necessary. Essentially, every spaceship you’ve seen in Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica is completely wrong.