Physics-Defying Space Drive Confirmed by NASA, May Revolutionize Spaceflight

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Physics-Defying Space Drive Confirmed by NASA, May Revolutionize Spaceflight

NASA has conducted experiments on a revolutionary space drive that seems to defy the laws of conservation of momentum and confirmed that it works.

Developed by scientist Roger Shawyer, EmDrive is a spacecraft propulsion system that allegedly creates thrust without a propellant by using electricity to direct microwaves inside a specially-designed container. If proven to be possible, such an engine would revolutionize the way we design spacecraft by eliminating the need for the huge fuel supplies that currently consist of half the launch mass of most satellites.

But here's the problem: the EmDrive seems to violate the law of conservation of momentum. A rocket accelerates forward when the fuel inside of it is shot out backwards. Momentum, a measure of mass and velocity, is exchanged between the rocket and the fuel. But where does the EmDrive's momentum come from? There are three possibilities: either the EmDrive doesn't do what its creator claims, it somehow doesn't break the law of conservation of momentum, or our fundamental understanding of classical physics is completely wrong.

Shawyer came under a lot of criticism in 2006 for his seemingly wild claims about the results of his demonstration systems. So an independent, peer-reviewed Chinese team built its own EmDrive and confirmed that it worked in papers published in 2008, 2010, and 2012. But that wasn't enough to convince skeptics, so the cavalry was brought in: NASA.

US scientist Guido Fetta built his own version of the EmDrive, called the Cannae Drive, and convinced NASA to put it to the test. On July 30, 2014, the results of the test were presented at the 50th Joint Propulsion Conference.

NASA confirmed that the drive works.

Five NASA researchers spent six days meticulously preparing the equipment and two days conducting experiments in an attempt to debunk the drive - it has happened in the past that apparent violations of the laws of physics were simply a result of interference between instruments and equipment.

But NASA confirmed that the drive generates thrust - a tiny amount, and much less than the Chinese team reported, but it nonetheless works. How? The NASA team doesn't offer an explanation in its paper.

As for why the Cannae Drive generates less thrust than the EmDrive, Shawyer believes it is a result of the design of the container in which the microwaves are directed.

Of course, the results of this experiment will come under intense scrutiny. We will have to wait a while longer before we learn whether this truly is a revolutionary drive, or simply a huge gaffe. I have my fingers crossed.

Source: Wired

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this almost make me have faith it isnt a fake. but just like with that faster than light photon that turned out to be calculation error we will get this debunked. thats what humans are good at anyway.

And in the off chance that we dont actually get it debunked, this could be awesome engine.

If this indeed factual, it still apparently does not produce anymore thrust than current ion drives.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_thruster

However in reading the linked article, I get the same "Cold Fusion" vibe from it. It was all the craze in 1989-1990 but was later shown to be inaccurate.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_fusion

sleeky01:
If this indeed factual, it still apparently does not produce anymore thrust than current ion drives.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_thruster

Ion Thrusters still require a propellant ( Perhaps not a ton, but none is better than some), the point of this thing is that it apparently does not.

Jadak:

sleeky01:
If this indeed factual, it still apparently does not produce anymore thrust than current ion drives.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_thruster

Ion Thrusters still require a propellant ( Perhaps not a ton, but none is better than some), the point of this thing is that it apparently does not.

And the point *I* was making that a system already exists and is proven to exist with the same thrust abillity.

Edit: Captcha-White Rabbit

Hmm...even captcha has its Alice-in-Wonderland suspicions. :)

"A single electron weighs about 9.10938291 10−31 kg"

small yes but no "no mass".

according to da internet

electricity is a flow of electrons

so too is an electromagnetic wave

microwaves in particular have been used to transmit power over long distances and nasa has worked before of the possibly using them to beam down power from orbital solar arrays.

i should really know this stuff (studied it a long time ago) but if this thing basically "fires electricity out the back" then the only question is how much it would need to do so to move a spaceship. you can make use of constant acceleration with very little thrust...and you could also theoretically hook it up to a nuclear reactor and go tour...although tbh you could do that with ion drives atm...

is it maybe possible the effect is so weak compared to gravity we just haven't noticed/accounted for it before ? nah surely not...maybe its of a different magnitude in space...no atmosphere/lower gravity/low temperature something

or mabe i should really go to bed cause i'm half asleep ?

why now with the heavy science thing *shakes fist*

Physics was always my worst subject, which is why I went with the Biology side of things. Have to compliment the article, as despite not knowing much, I was able to understand everything, unlike the God Particle one from a number of weeks back which I barely understood. I know it can be hard for some things, but whenever these articles are brought up, could you please try to keep it as simple as possible so people like me can understand. It would be highly appreciated so those of us who aren't as knowledgeable in certain subjects can understand the possible implications.

As for the actual content, it sounds pretty interesting. If it is indeed true, it could expand the possibilities of space travel, by how much I can't say, since I'm not an expert in it. Anything to get the space race back up sounds good to me though.

sleeky01:
If this indeed factual, it still apparently does not produce anymore thrust than current ion drives.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_thruster

However in reading the linked article, I get the same "Cold Fusion" vibe from it. It was all the craze in 1989-1990 but was later shown to be inaccurate.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_fusion

The big difference here is that 3 independent groups have reported similar findings. The Cold Fusion thing was caused by a bungle of misunderstandings within one group and was quickly debunked by other independent groups. They were so excited about the possibilities that they over reported their findings. Most importantly, the results are not readily reproducible. But with 3 independent groups each performing the experiment to their own satisfaction and all reporting similar findings the chances of this being experimental error or just plain incompetence are much, much lower. At this point it is probably something worth being interested in, cautiously (and mildly) optimistic about, and it should certainly be well investigated.

By the way, the really interesting this isn't the amount of thrust. It is the fact that if this is real it points to a clear hole in our understanding of the laws of the physical universe. This is the stuff that the great breakthroughs are made of. An experiment like this is what gave us atomic theory and quantum mechanics. Something that happens, we can reproduce it, but we are at a complete loss to explain it. If this turns out to be true this is the good stuff.

sleeky01:

Jadak:

sleeky01:
If this indeed factual, it still apparently does not produce anymore thrust than current ion drives.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_thruster

Ion Thrusters still require a propellant ( Perhaps not a ton, but none is better than some), the point of this thing is that it apparently does not.

And the point *I* was making that a system already exists and is proven to exist with the same thrust abillity.

Okay then? In that case you may as well also point out that standard rockets have even better thrust ability?! That would be just as relevant.

Jadak:

sleeky01:

Jadak:

Ion Thrusters still require a propellant ( Perhaps not a ton, but none is better than some), the point of this thing is that it apparently does not.

And the point *I* was making that a system already exists and is proven to exist with the same thrust abillity.

Okay then? In that case you may as well also point out that standard rockets have even better thrust ability?! That would be just as relevant.

Or that horses are more reliable and easier to care for than those new-fangled horseless carriages.

First-demonstration technology is often on par or worse than technology that is currently available in performance. It's the new principles that matter.

This may not require propellant, but that doesn't mean it doesn't require FUEL. You still need to be generating power to generate microwaves.

Kevin Cross:
This may not require propellant, but that doesn't mean it doesn't require FUEL. You still need to be generating power to generate microwaves.

Don't confuse "fuel" with "energy source" - there are a lot of ways to obtain electricity beyond just burning fuel sources (solar power being the most obvious one I can think of offhand). More to the point though, it's renewable. Once you spray propellant into space, it's gone - there is no getting it back. Energy sources can be recharged.

Kieve:

Kevin Cross:
This may not require propellant, but that doesn't mean it doesn't require FUEL. You still need to be generating power to generate microwaves.

Don't confuse "fuel" with "energy source" - there are a lot of ways to obtain electricity beyond just burning fuel sources (solar power being the most obvious one I can think of offhand). More to the point though, it's renewable. Once you spray propellant into space, it's gone - there is no getting it back. Energy sources can be recharged.

Good points. You could even get power via a microwave or laser link to sources on or around earth.

Sleekit:
electricity is a flow of electrons

so too is an electromagnetic wave

An electromagnetic wave (like radio waves, X-rays or light) is an oscillation (vibration) in an electromagnetic field. The source can be the oscillation of a charged particle, or the annihilation of matter and antimatter, the interaction of two charged particles. There are doubtless other sources as well.

Nitpicky: I'm not sure that 'electricity' as a well defined scientific term. Generally 'current' is used.

It's possible we have a faulty understanding of basic newtonian physics, but the wikipedia article on this subject offers more plausible explanations.


Easy peasy banana squeezy

Propulsion without propellent?

There is an oft quoted saying that sufficiently advanced technology would appear as magic to those who don't understand it. That three different parties have produced an effect which defies our understand could mean that our understanding could use a little work. Also, Spaceships. Lets get going on the spaceships.

Love the cynicism of the scientist: the Cannae Drive, as in "I cannae do it Captain!"

Sleekit:
"A single electron weighs about 9.10938291 10−31 kg"

small yes but no "no mass".

according to da internet

electricity is a flow of electrons

so too is an electromagnetic wave

microwaves in particular have been used to transmit power over long distances and nasa has worked before of the possibly using them to beam down power from orbital solar arrays.

i should really know this stuff (studied it a long time ago) but if this thing basically "fires electricity out the back" then the only question is how much it would need to do so to move a spaceship. you can make use of constant acceleration with very little thrust...and you could also theoretically hook it up to a nuclear reactor and go tour...although tbh you could do that with ion drives atm...

is it maybe possible the effect is so weak compared to gravity we just haven't noticed/accounted for it before ? nah surely not...maybe its of a different magnitude in space...no atmosphere/lower gravity/low temperature something

or mabe i should really go to bed cause i'm half asleep ?

why now with the heavy science thing *shakes fist*

The point is that no mass is being ejected, not that none is involved, the em waves are fired into a chamber, nothing is leaving the ship. This is the issue, currently there's a gaping hole in the conservation on momentum equation for this, nothing's leaving the ship to satisfy it that has so far been detected.

There are a number of options (including but not limited to);

1. We simple are missing the particles leaving to satisfy the laws of momentum as we know them.

2. Our understanding of conservation of momentum is flawed.

3. Experimental errors (less likely with each successful repeat) showing thrust where there is none.

The thing about modern physics, and the reason why no physicist would ever claim anything violates momentum conservation, is that momentum is basically DEFINED to be conserved. It is the conserved current due to translational symmetry of the theory. If we get a weird source of momentum somewhere our formulation of the theory was incomplete (i.e. we forgot something).

Now, on to the facts. Note that we can COMPLETELY SCRATCH the original "inventor" and his explanation because he never submitted it to peer review. That's never a good sign.
Moving on to Dr. Yang ( http://www.emdrive.com/NWPU2010translation.pdf ) my eyes already hurt from the lack of LaTeX. If a freshman handed this in I would immediately give it back to him and tell him to make an effort at presenting his findings if he wants to be taken seriously. Now I know that Dr. Yang's team published it ONLY in Chinese and this is a translation, and they submitted it to peer review, but I really can't take this seriously in the way this is presented. Especially if we take into account that Dr. Yang's team is several orders of magnitude off the NASA results. In conclusion the current experimental data on the subject is scetchy at best. Note: wikipedia claims there was an official english peer reviewed paper submitted by Dr. Yang and claims to link to the PDF but it doesn't work for me. If anyone could find the PDF I'd appreciate it.
Now the last of the actual (peer reviewed) sources I could find to explain this is http://arxiv.org/abs/1302.5690v3 . Now it's already a great sign that this is on arXiv. However, even the author admits that this is still highly speculative. It's simply a possible way to explain a very strange effect that we don't even know is there yet. No physics had to be violated.

TL;DR: STOP MISREPRESENTING SCIENCE IN THE SCIENCE SECTION

giles:
The thing about modern physics, and the reason why no physicist would ever claim anything violates momentum conservation, is that momentum is basically DEFINED to be conserved. It is the conserved current due to translational symmetry of the theory. If we get a weird source of momentum somewhere our formulation of the theory was incomplete (i.e. we forgot something).

Now, on to the facts. Note that we can COMPLETELY SCRATCH the original "inventor" and his explanation because he never submitted it to peer review. That's never a good sign.
Moving on to Dr. Yang ( http://www.emdrive.com/NWPU2010translation.pdf ) my eyes already hurt from the lack of LaTeX. If a freshman handed this in I would immediately give it back to him and tell him to make an effort at presenting his findings if he wants to be taken seriously. Now I know that Dr. Yang's team published it ONLY in Chinese and this is a translation, and they submitted it to peer review, but I really can't take this seriously in the way this is presented. Especially if we take into account that Dr. Yang's team is several orders of magnitude off the NASA results. In conclusion the current experimental data on the subject is scetchy at best. Note: wikipedia claims there was an official english peer reviewed paper submitted by Dr. Yang and claims to link to the PDF but it doesn't work for me. If anyone could find the PDF I'd appreciate it.
Now the last of the actual (peer reviewed) sources I could find to explain this is http://arxiv.org/abs/1302.5690v3 . Now it's already a great sign that this is on arXiv. However, even the author admits that this is still highly speculative. It's simply a possible way to explain a very strange effect that we don't even know is there yet. No physics had to be violated.

TL;DR: STOP MISREPRESENTING SCIENCE IN THE SCIENCE SECTION

Just what I wanted to say.

Also, have you read the NASA paper? They did the test in a sealed vacuum chamber... that wasn't in use. In other words, it had air in it.
Now then, what happens when you unevenly fire microwaves at a structure like that engine? Well, it creates heat-difference!
And what does heat-difference create? AIR-FLOW THAT CAN SERVE AS THRUST!
Seriously, they forgot to control for something that ridiculously simple?! Especially when they are measuring their results in microNewtons?

Sleekit:
"A single electron weighs about 9.10938291 10−31 kg"

small yes but no "no mass".

according to da internet

electricity is a flow of electrons

so too is an electromagnetic wave

No it isn't. Electrons and photons are entirely different things.

microwaves in particular have been used to transmit power over long distances and nasa has worked before of the possibly using them to beam down power from orbital solar arrays.

Transmitting power has absolutely nothing to do with generating thrust.

if this thing basically "fires electricity out the back"

It doesn't. Aside from the fact that photons are still not electricity, the whole point is that it doesn't fire anything out the back. It wouldn't be vaguely controversial if that were the case, since we already know that's a perfectly valid way to generate thrust, albeit a very weak way which needs large solar sails to make use of the effect.

giles:
STOP MISREPRESENTING SCIENCE IN THE SCIENCE SECTION

Indeed. NASA has "confirmed" that this thing works by producing results several orders of magnitude different from what anyone else has claimed. That's what us physicists would generally refer to as "not a confirmation at all". There are also little bits like this in the abstract:

Thrust was observed on both test articles, even though one of the test articles was designed with the expectation that it would not produce thrust.

In other words, the NASA tests explicitly contradict the previous claims.

giles:
...scetchy...

I'm sorry, I can't take your comment about not being able to trust science if the translation isn't properly formatted seriously when you misspell "sketchy".

Azuaron:
I'm sorry, I can't take your comment about not being able to trust science if the translation isn't properly formatted seriously when you misspell "sketchy".

Ah, the unwarranted arrogance of native english speakers :D
Also I have to question your literacy if you would summarize my post as "not being able to trust science if the translation isn't properly formatted". The experimental results are sketchy either way, I was simply complaining about the illegibility in the translation of the theoretical explanation proposed by Yang for two reasons:
1) I'm interested and it's supposedly based on classical electrodynamics, so given some effort I could probably understand it within a reasonable time span
2) the escapist article we're supposedly discussing here specifically makes a statement about the theoretical side of the device ("physics-defying", "violating" momentum conservation etc.) so that's the relevant part.

The full explanation why I don't trust that translation is rather lengthy and boring. Being lazy, I simply pointed to the biggest red flag: the abyssmal, borderline unreadable format.

GabeZhul:

Also, have you read the NASA paper? They did the test in a sealed vacuum chamber... that wasn't in use. In other words, it had air in it.
Now then, what happens when you unevenly fire microwaves at a structure like that engine? Well, it creates heat-difference!
And what does heat-difference create? AIR-FLOW THAT CAN SERVE AS THRUST!
Seriously, they forgot to control for something that ridiculously simple?! Especially when they are measuring their results in microNewtons?

Yes, I am sure you are smarter then all the scientists at NASA who worked on this

Ooh! Can we go for the option that breaks Physics?

That's always fun :3

lassiie:

GabeZhul:

Also, have you read the NASA paper? They did the test in a sealed vacuum chamber... that wasn't in use. In other words, it had air in it.
Now then, what happens when you unevenly fire microwaves at a structure like that engine? Well, it creates heat-difference!
And what does heat-difference create? AIR-FLOW THAT CAN SERVE AS THRUST!
Seriously, they forgot to control for something that ridiculously simple?! Especially when they are measuring their results in microNewtons?

Yes, I am sure you are smarter then all the scientists at NASA who worked on this

Not all the guys at NASA, just the tiny little lab with a dozen or so possibly biased scientist whose entire job is doing low-cost testing on different improbable propulsion methods on a shoestring budget (hence the possible bias and the need for validation).

Also, the guys who managed to crash a space-probe by forgetting to convert imperial measurements into metric were also NASA employees. If your entire argument is "Well, they work at NASA so their test must be perfect!", you are just using an argument from authority.

This entire "breaking the laws of physics" thing smells like the old cold fusion (and the more recent "faster than light neutrino") debacle to me: A bunch of people with credentials making an elementary mistake during calculations/testing and the news media jumping on it before they could figure out the kinks and fix it up. This would also explain why their device was getting "thrust" even when offline and all the other issues with the experiment.

This is of course the best case scenario. In the worst case it could be as bad as a perpetual motion machine baloney.

Remember that there is nothing that can break the laws of nature- merely our understanding of them. And any honest scientist will tell you that our understanding is still woefully incomplete.

Me55enger:
Love the cynicism of the scientist: the Cannae Drive, as in "I cannae do it Captain!"

Or "I cannae break th' laws o' physics, Cap'n!"

Could be that both the chinese and the NASA scientists made a mistake.

Could also be that this is the start of the science-magic that is needed to reach the stars.

Hoping for the latter, but more likely the first.

This sounds like fun and interesting possibilities. However, I am disappointed it wasn't named 'impulse dive'. Way to drop the ball there, scientists.

Maybe I'm wrong, but aren't some scientists still in disagreement about what exactly makes an airfoil produce lift, or how a curling stone actually curls? Just because we don't have a completely bulletproof explanation for why it works doesn't mean that it won't work. Call me cautiously optimistic about this one.

GabeZhul:
Not all the guys at NASA, just the tiny little lab with a dozen or so possibly biased scientist whose entire job is doing low-cost testing on different improbable propulsion methods on a shoestring budget (hence the possible bias and the need for validation).

Which is what they're doing. They've just posted the results of their test, with the intent to try and debunk it, and they couldn't so far. So they published their results. More people will run the test again and again, and if it holds up, then it will have more validity as a valid thrust system. If not, it will be debunked. I'm not sure why you assume they're biased, when the article states they duplicated the test with the intent to try and debunk it? That seems to be the opposite of being biased to it working.

GabeZhul:
Also, the guys who managed to crash a space-probe by forgetting to convert imperial measurements into metric were also NASA employees. If your entire argument is "Well, they work at NASA so their test must be perfect!", you are just using an argument from authority.

They've also sent many many people into space and to the moon, as well as countless satellites and probes without having any significant problems. On a track record, they've had more hits than misses in the "we do stuff in space" department. Not saying they're perfect, but of all the agencies in the world that deal with space related stuff like thrust and propulsion, they've got a pretty good house to draw from in the science department.

GabeZhul:

This entire "breaking the laws of physics" thing smells like the old cold fusion (and the more recent "faster than light neutrino") debacle to me: A bunch of people with credentials making an elementary mistake during calculations/testing and the news media jumping on it before they could figure out the kinks and fix it up. This would also explain why their device was getting "thrust" even when offline and all the other issues with the experiment.

Which is why they're doing test after test? This is what, the 3rd round of testing from 3 separate agencies? All they've done is post their results so far. It's going to keep getting tested. Now I agree that it could be a case of the news rooms getting wind of something crazy and jumping on it to fill air time, but still, the results so far suggest it might be accurate. They'll keep picking at it like crazy, don't worry. They're science/space nerds. Like people on the internet, they will obsess over every minor detail and try and pick it apart with a zeal.

GabeZhul:

This is of course the best case scenario. In the worst case it could be as bad as a perpetual motion machine baloney.

True, it could be total bunk, that's certainly possible, but until then I'm content to just let them do their tests over and over until they figure it out.

Wait, from the Nasa Abstract it says that the null drive also gave positive thrust results:

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20140006052.pdf

"Thrust was observed on both test
articles, even though one of the test
articles was designed with the ex
pectation that it would not produce
thrust. Specifically, one test article contained internal
physical modifications that
were designed to produce
thrust, while the other did not (with the latter be
ing referred to as the "null" test article). "

How the hell did the null drive test produce thrust if it was modified not to?

Kahani:
*snip*

Kahani...i'm an electrical engineer to trade with a decade in the industry under my belt and 6 years industry education beforehand.

i am acutely aware that when it comes to teaching advanced electrical/"em" theory what is basically involved is layers upon layers of "lies to children" and every time you move up a notch (or "peal away one layer of the onion") you reach a point where you're told "you know that supposedly fundamental thing we told you before...well it's not exactly true/the whole story...".

are you ?

if that, and my experiences in the industry, has taught me one thing it's never be "emphatic" about the nature of electricity. i've seen plenty shit that "shouldn't exist"....until you possibly begin to understand why it does...hell, they can't even entirely reconcile particle/wave theory at the best of times...

i never once mentioned "photons", and that was entirely deliberate, if you think EM waves are just "photons" you're orders of magnitude back on the onion peeling from where i once was...but that said the whole post was more or less just a late night pondering and meandering waffle.

happy now ?

i know what i was thinking (roughly) inside my head (in terms of energy, mass, transfers etc) but the truth is i've forgotten more about the subject matter than most people will ever know...that's not boast, i really have forgotten...but don't talk down at me, because even with that handicap, i'm still not an idiot.

turning "electricity" ("alone" in a sense) into "thrust" should, in fact, be a doable thing...somehow.

we just haven't figured out how yet...or maybe we have...even if we don't quite understand how we did it yet.

Strazdas:
this almost make me have faith it isnt a fake. but just like with that faster than light photon that turned out to be calculation error we will get this debunked. thats what humans are good at anyway.

And in the off chance that we dont actually get it debunked, this could be awesome engine.

It's best to think of NASA the same way you think of Peter Molyneux . Big on vision, big on selling that vision... but the reality will always fall well shy of the mark. Just as Pete is limited by the 'available tech' NASA will always be limited 'physics'. They know, that most solar exploration is going to be done by ships upon people will have to live and work for years if not decades . ANything outside our solar system fuggedaboutit.

We'd need c thousand or so years at least to get to our nearest neighbor..and considering that we as a species under got global language shifts every 500 years or so and civillization uphevalas every thousand years or there abouts... theres almost a certainty that the explorers and the people back home would be speaking entirely different languages, coming from different cultural perspectives and references. The explorers we send would be as alien to us as any alien we could think of.

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