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Hyperdrive to Epsilon Eridani?

A story in The Scotsman discussing how a hyperspace drive might work is in wide circulation, and today I read the feature in New Scientist that it’s based on (thanks to Ian Brown for the tip). Under discussion is the possibility of building what is being called a ‘hyperspace engine,’ one that could get us to Mars in a matter of hours and to the stars within the kind of time frames once demanded of the crews of sailing ships. But to say that the theories behind this drive are controversial is to turn understatement into a virtual art form. Here’s what The Scotsman has to say about how such an engine would work:

The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.

Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension.

Heim is obscure by choice; a rocketry enthusiast who suffered massive injuries in a laboratory experiment during the Second World War, the German scientist shunned publicity and died in 2001 largely unknown, the author of only a single peer-reviewed paper. His work grew out of his attempt to bridge Einstein’s general theory of relativity and the startling world of quantum mechanics. Heim’s revised equations of general relativity resulted in a six-dimensional universe that addded a two-dimensional ‘sub-space’ onto Einsteinian spacetime. Out of his logic came the idea that electromagnetic energy can be converted into gravitational energy and vice versa. Although Heim failed to follow up on hyperspace propulsion possibilities, Walter Dröscher extended his work to include more dimensions and two new forces, one of which might drive a spacecraft.

Joachem Häuser (Applied Sciences University in Salzgitter, and former chief of aerodynamics at the European Space Agency) worked with Dröscher to produce a paper on space propulsion using Heim’s ideas that won an award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics last year. Both he and Dröscher believe it is possible to put Heim’s ideas to the test. Here’s how New Scientist describes the experiment that the two would use:

This will require a huge rotating ring placed above a superconducting coil to create an intense magnetic field. With a large enough current in the coil, and a large enough magnetic field, Dröscher claims the electromagnetic force can reduce the gravitational pull on the ring to the point where it floats free. Dröscher and Häuser say that to completely counter Earth’s pull on a 150-tonne spacecraft a magnetic field of around 25 tesla would be needed. While that’s 500,000 times the strength of Earth’s magnetic field, pulsed magnets briefly reach field strengths up to 80 tesla. And Dröscher and Häuser go further. With a faster-spinning ring and an even stronger magnetic field, gravitophotons would interact with conventional gravity to produce a repulsive anti-gravity force, they suggest.

Häuser notes that the basic science of the hyperspace engine, still unproven, would demand a change in our understanding of the laws of physics, but he does believe that it would be possible to test a working device within five years. The upside: the kind of drive Häuser describes could get us to Epsilon Eridani (about 10.7 light years away) in 80 days, which is reason enough to hope the basic concepts can be verified. The downside: the basic science behind Heim’s work is obscure and has only recently risen to the level of serious investigation. That investigation will doubtless tell us whether the effects forecast by Heim really do offer us a gateway to the stars, but unravelling the scientist’s work is going to be a lengthy process. Markus Pössel, a theoretical physicist at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, isn’t the only scientist who finds Heim’s work ‘largely incomprehensible,’ but see the New Scientist article for other reactions.

You can download papers by Drs. Dröscher and Häuser, including the award-winning paper “Guidelines for a Space Propulsion Device Based on Heim’s Quantum Theory” here and also at the HPCC-Space GmbH site. Centauri Dreams thanks Dr. Berkant Göksel (Technical University, Berlin) for sending these links last year, and for passing along the original news of Häuser and Dröscher’s AIAA award.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Joseph January 7, 2006, 15:17

    While I never advanced in mathmatics past that needed to drop mortar rounds on various rascals I did search and found no immediate evidence where a trained mathmatician had shot holes in the theory. It would be interesting if it really was this simple (relatively that is).

  • Administrator January 7, 2006, 15:31

    Let’s hope nobody does find a way to shoot the theory down — it would be extraordinary (and wonderful) if we’re looking at the key to interstellar travel in Heim’s work. As I understand it, one problem is that Heim is so relatively obscure that his work has never been put through the kind of rigorous peer review that would give us definitive answers as to its credibility. So it may take some time before we start to find out whether tests on it are possible and what they reveal. As I say in the next post, I’m an optimist, but I do think proving Heim right or wrong will take quite a long and determined effort. One that is, to be sure, well worth undertaking!

  • Dustin July 6, 2006, 16:33

    interestingly enough what if we put together this idea with another idea I found a long time ago refrenced on this web site “http://science.howstuffworks.com/light-propulsion2.htm” Together these 2 devices could accelerate a space craft at redicolous speeds, cause it to glow at night (ionized gases), cancel out gravity (that is if electromagnetic energy can be converted into gravity[heim droscher space]), and allow a ship to break the speed ouf sound while being completely silent (accelerating the slip stream). Dosn’t that seem like a common description of a ufo? Not to mention the unusual descriptions people give of ufo’s and how they suddenly disapear sometimes streching. Dosn’t that sound like activating the electromagnetic drive to slip between this dimension and another. Infact extra dimensions explain a lot of “mysteries” not talked about much. I wonder if this hypothesis will make it and hope they succeed.

  • hdeasy July 14, 2006, 5:43

    Well, no other group has reproduced Tajmar & De Matos yet – but the prospects are exceedingly good that they will soon, for 2 reasons: (1) This was not just a single experiments but a series of hundreds, using diifferent combinations of materials. (2) these are very careful and respected experimenters who have been awarded for their ion thrusters on several missions. As they themselves could not believe the size of the effect when they first detected it, they tried to exclude possible sources of error. Thus although we definitely need other groups to confirm it, the signs are very healthy that this confirmation will be forthcoming. Hopefully within a few months. If Droscher & Hauser have a derivation that almost exactly predicts the effect, then it is reasonable of them to present their calculations now. It’s particularly exciting as many were asking, after their winning AIAA paper and New Scientist cover story, if an experimental test were possible. Now they propose a new experiment with a much lower magnetic field than before. This should be within reach of many laboratories. If successful, the pay-off would be so enormous, that one may be forgiven now for anticipating ‘ victory’ .

    See the extraodinary paper of Droscher & Hauser, presented in Sacramento on Monday Jul 10, here:

  • tmayes1999 November 23, 2006, 14:44

    this approach can not succeed to drive a space craft , because the strength
    of an electromagnetic field varies proportionate to the inverse sqaure of the change in distance from the source of the magetic field. We do use this for things like magneticly levitaed trains but it can not propell a space craft.
    . This approach to propelling a space craft is based on physics errors.

  • Lubo March 26, 2007, 8:58

    Warp drive or hyperdrive? What will be first and when?

  • Administrator March 26, 2007, 9:56

    A question no one can answer, I’m afraid. We’re still at the stage of defining what we mean by the very terms ‘hyperdrive’ and ‘warp drive.’ Impossible to predict how and when these things may turn into practical propulsion.

  • Lubo April 25, 2007, 12:25

    I know about the work of Professor Jochem Hauser for the US Government. I also know about the “Z machine” that could generate the kind of magnetic fields required to drive the engine(Hyperspace engine). The last news about this project was announced in 05.01.2006 http://news.scotsman.com/scitech.cfm?id=16902006 The problem is that there is no new news about the work. Can anyone tell me if there is something new? I’m searching in CNN and somewhere else, but I find every time the same information. I BEG YOU TO TELL ME WHATS GOIN ON! I WANT MORE INFO!

  • Administrator April 25, 2007, 12:44

    Lubo, all this work is highly theoretical and undergoing study that will take years. So it’s not that we know something we’re not passing along — it’s just that scientists are beginning to develop concepts based on older work that aren’t in most cases ready for experiment, or in any case haven’t found funding to make such experiments feasible yet. The research can sometimes seem frustratingly slow but the way of science is to make sure it’s done right and that takes time. And I hate to keep coming back to this issue, but it’s just true that funding from NASA, ESA and other agencies is very tight.

  • Lubo April 26, 2007, 6:55

    Yes, I agree. But is there any progress now in the work of Professor Jochem Hauser?

  • Lubo April 26, 2007, 7:05

    And my secound question is: Is there going to be a second “Manhattan Project” but this time to invent the Quantum hyperdrive?

  • Administrator April 26, 2007, 8:31

    I have no current word on Hauser’s work, Lubo, but maybe someone else here has something new. Re ‘Manhattan Project’ attempts to develop a hyperdrive, they seem unlikely given the current funding problems and the absence of the kind of huge public commitment that would make this possible. But of course, we can’t rule anything out for the future. What it would probably take to commit substantial resources to something like this would be solid experimental evidence of a breakthrough and a demonstrated need to get to another star. Neither of these seems likely in the short-term, but my belief is that we’ll get to the stars if not by exotic hyperdrive, then by antimatter or beamed propulsion one day. The timescale on that is anyone’s guess, but this kind of work happens on step at a time. Ad astra incrementis — to the stars one step at a time.

  • Lubo April 26, 2007, 10:32

    Is it possible that they keep things in secret(like Hauser’s work)? In the last article they said that he is working for the US government. Not NASA but US Air force. Why?

  • Administrator April 26, 2007, 13:27

    Lubo, it’s always possible that there are secret projects in these areas, but all I can say is that if there are, I know nothing about them. Sorry!

  • Bob Sunman June 15, 2007, 4:42

    Someone was running a blog called ‘Interstellar dreams: just a hyperdrive away.” a couple of days ago in the ‘Centauri Dreams’ blogs. It has disappeared completely, – do you know where it is? We were discussing the possibilities of bow-shock at relativistic velocities.

  • Administrator June 15, 2007, 7:05

    Bob, the post you’re talking about is “Interstellar Flight: Just a Hyperdrive Away.” It’s here:


  • Michael Houst August 22, 2007, 15:12

    I’m just looking for the nuts and bolts part. A model to scale up or build for a backyard enthusiast. I’m not talking about a vertical lift spacecraft. I’m talking about a proof of concept thruster unit that could propell a car or plane. (Yes, I know we’re talking about massive FOD (foreign object damage) problems for a ground-based magnetic propulsion system.)

  • chris January 6, 2008, 4:51

    i am just wondering what will happen when you can create a warp drive engine like in star trek and be able to travell at warp 9 in the ‘hyperspace window’ they are talking about. will that mean you are going to get to Epsilon Eridani in 11 days instead of 80 days? theoritaclly speaking, of course.

  • Administrator January 6, 2008, 8:28

    chris, we’d all like to know if ‘warp drive’ is possible. Most recent theoretical studies of these concepts derive from the work of Miguel Alcubierre, who has looked at how spacetime itself might be manipulated for fast travel times without violating Einstein’s strictures on exceeding the speed of light. But we don’t know at all if such things are possible without vast amounts of energy, and the energy required seems to be ‘negative’ energy, about which we know almost nothing. Heim/Dröscher theory has received much press attention but few papers have emerged from it. Like the many forms of string theory, Dröscher’s modifications to Heim’s original work are mathematical constructs whose intricacies may or may not relate to a physical reality.

    A trip to Epsilon Eridani even at a speed of ten percent of lightspeed would take over 100 years. Theoretically a warp drive, if one is ever built, could do the trip much more quickly, but exactly how and whether any form of hyperspace is involved — or indeed what hyperspace is — is something we don’t know. A great deal of theoretical study lies ahead!

  • Adam January 7, 2008, 4:28

    Hi Paul

    A recent meeting of the BIS covered warpdrive – I haven’t heard how it went, but it had a few of the usual suspects. If you have any contacts perhaps you should ask them.

  • Administrator January 7, 2008, 9:35

    Adam, I’m hoping to have at least two of the papers from the recent BIS session available for discussion here, though my impression from one of the attendees is that no new ground was broken. Even so, Claudio Maccone was scheduled to present a paper and was kind enough to forward a copy, so that one is already in queue. More on this in the near future.

  • Adam January 8, 2008, 5:11

    Hi Paul

    Claudio is very generous towards our little group here. His contributions to astronautics cover an incredibly broad range – solar sailing to warp-drive metrics – that I am awed by his efforts. Truly inspirational.

  • Administrator January 8, 2008, 8:18

    Adam, yes, Dr. Maccone is not only inspirational from the standpoint of his contributions to science, wide-ranging indeed, but because of his willingness to share ideas and engage the wider community. I had the pleasure of spending some time with him in Princeton a few years back, and in particular remember a dinner where the conversation ranged broadly across science, philosophy and history. What a fine memory. Two papers of his are in queue here, the one on warp drive metrics and the other on the lunar far-side and its suitability for an observatory.

  • Ronald February 8, 2008, 8:04

    As I just mentioned in another thread: Martin Tajmar has just applied for an international patent for a “Process for the generation of a gravitational field and a gravitational field generator”.

    see among others:

  • kevin February 12, 2008, 14:10

    as a response to the comment of the magnetic field dropping off by the inverse square, you forget that the supermagnetic coil is travelling with the spacecraft, and thus high field intensities can be sustained as long as there exists enough power, or possibly a nonresistive current loop that sustains itself. in theory, the magnetic field would allow a force on the ring to cancel out gravity, then eventually reverse and work against gravity, not against the magnet.

  • alan ward May 20, 2009, 22:28

    increasing feild effects in this theory may explain fusion which them selfs have found in focus fusion and the z pinch generation of energy.like fusion. if so the same facility can make two experiments to test both stages.

  • nigel bradbury August 29, 2009, 15:46

    What we need is an engine that can consistently accelerate at 1g for decades – at 9.8m/s.squared it would take some 7 months to approach the speed of light, whilst also providing earth gravity for the crew. At mid flight the craft would have to either rotate 180 deg, or power up a second engine to deccelerate towards its target. A round trip to centauri might take 10-15 years, eplsilon eridani maybe 25

  • nigel bradbury August 29, 2009, 16:00

    And another thing, concerning ‘Manhatten’ style projects, a more pressing concern might be to target funding at, say, expanding Nevada Solar One to provide for all of the United States’s electricity requirements – 100×100 miles should do the trick!

  • Sebastien August 21, 2010, 1:51

    Hello! I’m not sure if anyone still checks this but I was wondering what the news on the progress on Mr. Tajmar and Professor Hauser is. It seems that 2008 is the last year I can find with news on it. Google turns nothing up and I was surprised to find this thread. Was Heim’s theory disproven or upheld? Its been 4 or 5 years since Hauser and them started to try to prove it so it would seem that now or soon an answer should be available. Just curious. Hope to get a response since this is a very interesting subject even though I have a minimal background in science.

  • Paul Gilster August 21, 2010, 8:30

    Sebastien, things are more or less where they were in 2008 — Martin Tajmar continues his own work, and the Hauser/Dröscher collaboration is studying Heim theory, though without any conclusive result. Heim theory is incredibly complicated, so it is understandable that this is going to take a long time. As soon as I have anything more on Tajmar or the Hauser/Dröscher work, I’ll post it on the site. You can keep tabs on the latter, by the way, here:


  • Astrus Somnium November 26, 2010, 22:18

    Have not read all posts so forgive if repeating. Physical interstellar travel requires detailed 3d map of orbiting objects size of house and larger so avoid collision. We are blind without such map. Like children gaze in wonder lacking discipline to learn processes. When ready, we get it but not before we responsible. As before times, must seek analogs in nature to emulate before knowledge of such travel is revealed… example – shape of ship hull floats upon water, bird wing shape navigates thru air, etc… Perhaps shape is important as it always is. These dreams developed to reality by individuals who remain followers of ideal, not money. So too will epiphany come to one or more of great character and hyperdrive will be born. Sacrifice brings reward. All of information is here – just need new interpretation of data hidden in plain sight. Imagination time machine… but will we use for good?

  • Winston Smith February 10, 2011, 14:06

    If we make it to Epsilon Eridani, will the Vulcans declare war on Earth?