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White Paper: Why We Should Seriously Evaluate Proposed Space Drives

Moving propulsion technology forward is tough, as witness our difficulties in upgrading the chemical rocket model for deep space flight. But as we’ve often discussed on Centauri Dreams, work continues in areas like beamed propulsion and fusion, even antimatter. Will space drives ever become a possibility? Greg Matloff, who has been surveying propulsion methods for decades, knows that breakthroughs are both disruptive and rare. But can we find ways to increase the odds of discovery? A laboratory created solely to study the physics issues space drives would invoke could make a difference. There is precedent for this, as the author of The Starflight Handbook (Wiley, 1989) and Deep Space Probes (Springer, 2nd. Ed., 2005) makes clear below.

by Greg Matloff

We live in very strange times. The possibility of imminent human contraction (even extinction) is very real. So is the possibility of imminent human expansion.

On one hand, contemporary global civilization faces existential threats from global climate change, potential economic problems caused by widespread application of artificial intelligence, the still-existing possibility of nuclear war, political instability, at many levels, an apparently endless pandemic, etc.

Image: Gregory Matloff (left) being inducted into the International Academy of Astronautics by JPL’s Ed Stone.

One the other hand, humanity seems poised for the long-predicted but oft-delayed breakout into the solar system. United States and Chinese national space programs will compete for lunar resources. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has its sights fixed on establishing human settlements on Mars. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is concentrating on construction of in-space settlements of increasing population and size.

Because of the discovery of a potentially habitable planet circling Proxima Centauri and the possibility of other worlds circling in the habitable zones of Alpha Centauri A and B, one wonders how many decades it will take for an in-space settlement with a mostly closed ecology to begin planning for a change of venue from Sol to Centauri.

Consulting the literature reveals that controlled (or partially controlled) nuclear fusion and the photon sail are today’s leading contenders to propel such a venture. But the literature also reveals that travel times of 500-1,000 years are expected for human-occupied vessels propelled by fusion or radiation pressure.

Before interstellar mission planners finalize their propulsion choice, an ethical question must be addressed. In the science-fiction story “Far Centaurus”, originally published by A, E. van Vogt in 1944, the crew of a 500-year sleeper ship to the Centauri system awakens to learn that they must go through customs at the destination. During their long interstellar transit, a breakthrough had occurred leading to the development of a hyper-fast warp drive.

We simply must evaluate all breakthrough possibilities, no matter how far-fetched they seem, before planning for generation ships. The initial crews of these ships and their descendants must be confident that they will be the first humans to arrive at their destination. Otherwise it is simply not fair to dispatch them into the void.

Recently, I was a guest on Richard Hoagland’s radio show “Beyond Midnight”. Although the discussion included such topics as the James Webb Space Telescope, panpsychism, stellar engineering and ‘Oumuamua, I was particularly intrigued when the topic of space drives came up.

Richard is especially interested in possible ramifications of Bruce E. DePalma’s spinning ball experiment, which has not been investigated in depth. He later sent along a 2014 e-mail released to the public from physics Nobel Prize winner Brian D. Josephson discussing another proposed space-drive candidate, the Nassikas thruster. Professor Josephson is of the opinion that this device is well worth further study, writing this:

The Nassikas thruster apparently produced a thrust, both when immersed in its liquid nitrogen bath, and for a short period while suspended in air, until it warmed to above the superconductor critical temperature, this thrust presenting itself as an oscillating motion of the pendulum biased in a particular direction. If this displacement is due to a new kind of force, this would be an important observation; however, until better controlled experiments are performed it is not possible to exclude conventional mechanisms as the source of the thrust.

It is in this area of controlled experiments that we need to move forward. A little research on the Web revealed that there are a fair number of candidate space drives awaiting consideration. Most of these devices are untested. DARPA, NASA and a few other organizations have applied a small amount of funds in recent years to test a few of them—notably the EMdrive and the Mach Effect Thruster.

Experimental analysis of proposed space drives has not always been done on such a haphazard basis. Chapter 13 of my first co-authored book (E. Mallove and G. Matloff, The Starflight Handbook, Wiley, NY, 1989) discusses a dedicated effort to evaluate these devices. It was coordinated by engineer G. Harry Stine, retired USAF Colonel William O. Davis (who had formerly directed the USAF Office of Scientific Research) and NYU physics professor Serge Korff.

Between 1996 and 2002, NASA operated a Breakthrough Physics Program. Marc G. Millis, who coordinated that effort, has contributed here on Centauri Dreams a discussion of the many hoops a proposed space drive must jump through before it is acknowledged as a true Breakthrough [see Marc Millis: Testing Possible Spacedrives]. These ideas were further examined in the book Marc edited with Eric Davis, Frontiers of Propulsion Science, where many such concepts were subjected to serious scientific scrutiny. When I discussed all this in emails with Marc, he responded:

“The dominant problem is the “lottery ticket” mentality (a DARPA norm), where folks are more interested in supporting a low-cost long-shot, rather than systematic investigations into the relevant unknowns of physics. In the ‘lottery ticket’ approach, interest is cyclical depending if there is someone making a wild claim (usually someone the sponsor knows personally – rather than by inviting concepts from the community). With that hype, funding is secured for ‘cheap and quick’ tests that drag out ambiguously for years (no longer quick, and accumulated costs are no longer cheap). The hype and null tests damage the credibility of the topic and interest wanes until the next hot topic emerges. That is a lousy approach.

“That taint of both the null results and ‘lottery ticket’ mentality is why the physics community ignores such ambitions. I tried to attract the larger physics community by putting the emphasis on the unfinished physics, and made some headway there. When the emphasis is on credibility (and funding available), physicists will indeed pursue such topics and do so rigorously. And they will more quickly drop it again if/when the lottery ticket advocates step up again.”

Marc advocates a strategic approach, which he tried to establish as the preferred norm at NASA BPP, thus identifying the most ‘relevant’ open question in physics, and then getting reliable research done on those topics, thereafter letting these guide future inquiries. He believes that the most relevant open questions in physics deal with the source (unknown) and deeper properties of inertial frames (conjectured). Following those unknowns are the additional unfinished physics of the coupling of the fundamental forces (including neutrino properties).

In light of this pivotal period in space history and the ever-increasing contributions of private individuals and organizations, it seems reasonable to conclude that now is an excellent time to establish a well funded facility to continue the work of the Stine et al. team and the NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics program.


{ 64 comments… add one }
  • Savoy IL January 28, 2022, 14:58

    To me the first priority is really good space telescopes that can at least see a couple pixels to tell if the local star systems have any planets, their mass, and composition. I really am skeptical we are going to find somewhere with 1 ATM surface pressure 20% O2 80% N2 that we could just set foot on like in your typical Star Trek episode. I’d suspect the first missions would be robotic and the goal is to put some blue green algae and other assorted microbes onto the surface of any suitable planet that hopefully might be able to turn into an earth. Of course it took about 2 billion years before the plants on earth oxidized all the free iron and O2 started building up in the atmosphere. As far as fusion goes a lot of money is being poured into it as a source of Earth bound power. As a means of propulsion could well be a byproduct to come out of such research.

    • Antonio January 28, 2022, 18:24

      I never understood that obsession with finding an “Earth 2.0” exoplanet. Heck, SpaceX is about to start settlement of a planet that has none of these features and is much much closer to us! If 2030s humans can do that, why on hell would future humans that can travel through light-years need a planet that is exactly like Earth??

      • William January 31, 2022, 11:07

        Doesn’t have to be an either / or proposition.

        Mars is reachable with conventional propulsion within reasonable time-frames, hence the willingness to work within the limits/confines of a non-breathable atmosphere.

        But the resources expended to travel to a different system will be considerably greater, by many orders of magnitude.

        It therefore makes sense to prioritize those efforts to the locations where the resource investment needed to have even a moderate chance at SURVIVAL (not to mention economic success or growth) is increased by a non-hostile environment.

        • Antonio January 31, 2022, 11:50

          It’s many many many orders of magnitude easier to live in a planet like Mars than to travel to, say, Tau Ceti.

      • Wojciech Jacyk February 3, 2022, 6:54

        “If 2030s humans can do that, why on hell would future humans that can travel through light-years need a planet that is exactly like Earth??”
        For science/knowledge sake only. However it would be very profound, as obviously finding another life would be a source of both insight into biology but motivation for new cultural movements, our understanding of place in the cosmos and quite likely gradually change our society and civilization.
        As to colonization-it is completely unneeded on planetary bodies. If you travel to other star systems, you already have technology making colonization unnecessary and can live in artificial habitats fine tuned for human needs and desires.

        • Alex Tolley February 3, 2022, 13:57

          Exactly. We still seem to be trapped in the historic idea of colonization. The ST Prime Directive is just a rule to prevent the historic genocides and disruption of societies. The American genocide of indigenous peoples as part of the Western expansion of the “Manifest Destiny” was as bad as other examples, such as the Spanish attempted genocide of the Mayans in Mexico, and the Australian (British) attempted genocide of the indigenous population.

          Finding living worlds with complex life forms would be figurative gold mines for the sciences (and humanities), and even better if inhabited by any sort of recognizable culture, especially with technology. (And a Prime Directive would prevent missionaries from attempting to instill their religions.)

          One imagines that any technology that facilitates star travel will allow for the local construction of space habitats of almost any feasible size with living spaces vastly greater than a planet, with terrestrial species that we have co-evolved with to share the space with the explorers. Less colonization and more like encampments in our history.

    • bt January 31, 2022, 13:36

      The thing that’s always missing from these light speed travel conversations is, how do the brakes work? On Star Trek when the engines are cut, the ship just stalls & drifts in space, and it doesn’t work that way.

      Once you reach your velocity in space, you need not apply additional thrust, there’s no drag, you’ll continue on forever, theoretically. But to return to normal orbital speed you’ll need the same amount of thrust, but negative to slow down. And then to return to earth you’ll need to do it twice more.

      That’s enough energy stored on ship for 4 thrust events “to and from light speed”. Going to need some large tanks and don’t forget to bring spare parts for wear and tear.

      Now you could travel at light speed to Alpha and then do a slingshot around their sun and return to earth at speed like in the movies – a neat trick that. No time to stop for groceries and I hope she can take the stress Captain.

      (not gonna happen without a complete re-write of our understanding of time, space and energy)

    • Helium Head February 1, 2022, 2:26

      I agree. There are several good propulsion candidates that beg for attempts at development. I especially like the prospects of Fission Fragment propulsion, especially since it may lend itself to ‘boosting’ with deuterium. See The Trillium Project @ https://cogito.blog/trillium-project/

  • Robert January 28, 2022, 15:04

    Thanks for this topic Paul!

    There are so many possibilities to investigate. A couple of other examples are Mike McCulloch’s Quantized Inertia work and physicist Jack Sarfatti’s theoretical work on low energy warp drives based on metamaterials.

    Is it being suggested that such a facility be completely independent of NASA?

  • Antonio January 28, 2022, 16:02

    “The possibility of imminent human contraction”

    What do you mean by contraction? If it’s population decrease, it’s more than a possibility, it’s almost secure. Total fertility rate, worldwide, has been decreasing every single year since 1964, and we are now almost at the replacement fertility rate (we will reach it probably in 10-15 years).


    “On one hand, contemporary global civilization faces existential threats from global climate change”

    Good joke.

  • FrankH January 28, 2022, 16:11

    I don’t think the “Face on Mars” and other alien nonsense guy is going to be helpful to the cause of advanced propulsion.

    There are a lot of wishful thinkers, cranks and crank adjacent people out there pushing “new physics” propulsion methods, like Sonny White. If the “new physics” method violates basic physical laws (like conservation of momentum, etc.) then it isn’t going to be real.

    The EMDrive is a perfect example. It’s been proven not to work (look up Monomorphic’s rigorous experiments on NASA Spaceflight) and the only people still pursuing it are those with either money on the line or just unscientific cranks.

    • Antonio January 28, 2022, 18:15

      Totally agree. The EMDrive never was a serious research. It came from a calculation error a physics college student could detect, and experiments done based on that layman error.

    • Robert January 28, 2022, 19:28


      Sonny White may be right or he may be wrong but he is not a crank and should not be labelled as such. The EMdrive may ultimately prove to work or it may not work but Monomorphic certainly did not definitively prove it one way or the other. Nor did he prove the Woodward Mach Effect device does not work. His criticisms on that device were welcomed and addressed by the researchers Woodward and Fearn.

      As for your comment ‘If the “new physics” method violates basic physical laws (like conservation of momentum, etc.) then it isn’t going to be real’. It seems to me that is the whole point of the proposal of this white paper, to broaden our understanding of the laws of physics not to just parrot a classical understanding of conservation of momentum and shut down such research. If you are arguing we know enough now to rule space drives out then I disagree. We don’t know everything yet.

      • FrankH January 29, 2022, 15:49

        Monomorphic’s work on the EMdrive was rigorous and went well beyond (and was followed by) university researchers. He clearly proved that the EMDrive was pure bunk. It’s now up there with Orgone energy and other pseudoscience.

        Sonny White may not be a crank, but he likes to make grandiose claims about his research that are – at best – self serving and counter productive to taking his work seriously (see the recent “warp bubble” nonsense).

        I’m not saying that new physics for propulsion isn’t out there, but what is harmful is giving obvious cranks and their ideas any consideration when it’s obvious that their designs/theories are going against the basic laws of physics even in a non-relativistic environment. Especially when real scientists review the work, point out the obvious flaws in either the math or basic physics and the crank ignores or obfuscates the criticism. Again, Sawyer and the EMDrive are a classic example.

        Going on woo-woo pseudo science podcasts is also not good – it’s like taking medical advice from Joe Rogan.

        The Mach effect drive is interesting; I agree that Woodard and Fearn are not cranks. They’re honestly doing what they can to address the objections to their experiments and if it doesn’t pan out, I’m sure they’ll be the first to admit it. That’s real science.

        • Robert January 29, 2022, 21:17

          Monomorphic is a dedicated and enthusiastic amateur but he is not a professional scientist or researcher. His critique of the MEGA drive was easily shown to be wrong by the Woodward team. Sadly, he is one of the reasons I stopped paying attention to the discussion group nasaspaceflight.com. Roger Shawyer may indeed be incorrect regarding his theory of why his device seems to work and he has many critics which is fair. But it is not certain that his device doesn’t work on some principle and if it is ultimately proven false, it will be by professional researchers in my view. As an aside, I also have little confidence in Tajmar’s lab. They have made major mistakes in their ‘replications’ according to the Woodward team and another scientist I have heard from and Tajmar refuses to listen to why he is doing it wrong according to the team. Read the teams NIAC Phase 2 final report. These are two examples of what Dr. Matloff discussed above, the damage done by incompetent replicators whom the skeptics have a bias to believe over the original researchers.

          Regarding your comments about cranks, there is a strong tendency to prematurely label solid researchers with new ideas as cranks which greatly sets back science and technology in my view. As Dr. Matloff discusses above, we really need some agency to seriously evaluate new ideas even the sometimes crazy sounding ones in an environment free of hostility and bias. We do not have that now.

          • Alex Tolley January 30, 2022, 14:01

            IIRC, David Brin remarked that he would be interested in a space drive when its performance was out of the noise. From what I can see so far, the performance is mostly in the noise regime with inconsistent results. While there might be new phenomena to be discovered, its effect is so low that it may not exist. Shawyer has had over 15 years to improve his device and yet nothing has improved its performance, which suggests to me that there isn’t anything going on – it is very similar to the pursuit of other wrong ideas – like alchemy.

            Solid performance is important. Suppose that the quest for fusion energy could just barely exceed breakeven for all the consumption vs. energy inputs. We wouldn’t bother with such a technology. If the em-drive had a much lower, but real, acceleration than a solar sail, why bother with the technology given its very low performance?

            At their core, space drives offer propellantless propulsion, or very low propellant (inertialess drives), or even high fractional c/FTL velocities. We have various options for propellantless propulsion. A way to reduce/eliminate inertia would be beneficial for conventional propulsion. To travel easily at c or better still FTL would be breakout propulsion opening up the stars, but that still seems like a speculative dream so far. [If we could create a graviton beam or bend spacetime locally for the same effect, wouldn’t that allow for very fast travel with no apparent acceleration effects? ]

            In practice, we already have ways to transport items to certain destinations at the speed of light. Information can be transmitted as em radiation and used to send both information (e.g. images and data) to remote receivers, and even certain physical objects to be recreated in 3D printers (primitive Star Trek replicators).
            If the bandwidth requirement is too high, send a small object with the data instead and live with the costs of acceleration and deceleration. As long as the technology and resources needed for reconstruction are available, almost any non-living object can be sent at light speed. Once we have facilities on the Moon, Mars, and other planets and Moons in teh solar system, we might be able to “transmit” our development by this means, just physically transporting physical bodies conventionally. The same applies to starflight. The same applies. If we can also send along fertilized human eggs and the means to replicate them, we could transplate new DNA (and add the required epigenetic components) to grow new humans with any new traits on these worlds. [I still think this expansion is far easier with intelligent robots.] This approach would not colonize new planets in the solar system or the galaxy faster, but once the core replication facilities are in place, then the energy cost of expansion is hugely reduced, just as it is with Von Neumann replicators.

            Bottom line, developing known propulsion is more likely to succeed [sails, beamed electric engines, NTR, Fusion, anti-matter] and coupled with an already rapidly develping replication technology – 3D printers, fabs, AI robots to extract/grow resources and operate the replicators – we have a model for rapid development of new worlds. [Why mine asteroids and bring the material back to earth rather than use the materials to fabricate eveything we need to develop the siolar system locally, using information supplied from Earth?]

            • Geoffrey Hillend January 30, 2022, 18:05

              Quote by Alex Tolley: ” [If we could create a graviton beam or bend spacetime locally for the same effect, wouldn’t that allow for very fast travel with no apparent acceleration effects? ] Being someone who rigidly sticks to physical first principles, special and general relativity, I have to say no because all I can use is thought experiments especially because one is dealing with unknowns. I assume it is not anything goes, so we have a foundation to form a hypothesis which can extrapolate into the hitherto unknown future since the first principles are unchanging through time, i.e., don’t disregard them and always apply them.

              The idea of a graviton beam is interesting and we could easily make one by changing the wavelength of the gravitons and wavelength to high energy, short wavelength. I have to agree with the ideas in Marc G. Millis Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program, the idea that it takes negative energy to expand space and without any negative energy, there can be no expansion of space. I will admit that this idea is an assumption of mine based on the literature and scientifically intuitive. A warp drive has a free fall geodesic so it’s occupants and the whole local space reference frame does not feel the affects of inertia. The reason being, according to Newtons and Kepler’s laws one has to give energy to an object to move it through local space. If inertia is equal to gravity, the inertia must be a property of space time according SP and GR.

              With a gravity beam, one could make a gravitational wave rocket which is one of the ideas in the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program. If we could do that, then we would have an awesome, space drive without a propellant which is a good enough reason for making one. I don’t think we can make an FTL spacecraft with only positive energy density because it’s occupants would feel the full inertial effects of SP and it would never be able to reach the speed of light. I am completely biased against the idea of something with positive energy density expanding space which seems to be not sequitur because it is the opposite of empirical observations as far as known matter and energy behave, they cause positive curvature or contract space, and I mean by this results that can be proven in a laboratory. I start with an absolutely secure theoretical foundation, and then extrapolate the unknown, I can chip away at the unknown.

              The problem with making a gravitational beam is we don’t know how to do it. Gravity control is necessary in order to make a space warp and I still stand by my idea that if we can learn how to make gravity control, then anti gravity control and negative energy will be easy to understand and make.

              One idea is unified theory theory, but not only only with electromagnetism and gravity, but all four forces. We don’t know how to do that. I thought since the graviton is thought to decay into two photons, we could simply reverse that process and combine two photons into one graviton and we get gravity control. I thought it could be done with high energy photons, but they usually combine to produce an electron and a positron and if these recombine or collide these together, it produces two photons or gamma rays. Maybe if we include the other two forces the strong and weak nuclear force there might be some intermediate process which could result in a gravitational beam.

              Also the graviton decays into leptons, quarks and bosons according to the online web page of CERN, select from the menu international physics master class, hands on particle physics, new physics, Z-path, the Graviton. Maybe we could recombine these is some way to make gravitons once again reversing the decay process. These are all high energy process found in particle collisions and accelerations. The Large Hadron Collider will be active again at peak intensity and I am hoping we can look for the graviton decay to get an idea on how to make gravitons.

              • Alex Tolley January 30, 2022, 22:47

                I’m not saying that we could create a graviton beam or bend spacetime, only that if “by magic” we could, would that not allow very fast travel?

                If the force of gravity could be locally increased, by adding mass, then objects around that mass will start to fall into it. The mass would also start to move in the direction of greater mass. [Again, I am not saying we can do this – E = MC^2, just if that were to happen, this would be the result.] I don’t see any violation of physics here other than the assumption of creating the mass.

                Objects do not experience any gravitational forces as they freefall towards the mass.

                Now suppose that the gravity was focused (again magically focusable) so that it was a narrow beam rather than a spherical distortion in spacetime. The only object that would accelerate towards the mass is the one the beam was focused on. So focussing a beam of spacetime distortion from Jupiter to a spacecraft in free space would pull that craft towards Jupiter at any acceleration rate commensurate with the apparent experienced gravity.

                Obviously stopping would be a problem. So you need a 2nd beam on another large object behind the craft to be turned on, perhaps midway on the flight as the Jupiter-based beam is switched off. This would now attract the craft backward, slowing it down with a calculated velocity to achieve Jupiter orbit. Any passengers or cargo would not experience any untoward acceleration effects, and could, in principle, be accelerated at any large multiple of gravity to reduce flight time. The spacecraft’s velocity could not exceed c, although it could approach it.

                If the beamer was based on another star, the experienced tug from gravity would take the time light takes to reach us from that star, e.g. 4.3 years from Proxima. It would be important to take c into account when switching on the beam in the solar system to slow down the ship. Under just 1 g, the ship would attain light speed in about 1 year. This time could be reduced to less than a day with a 1000 g force.

                Now again, note that I am only trying to explain how such a flight system might be experienced, not that it is in any way possible to engineer such a system. Even if it was, the energy required might far exceed that required to accelerate the same craft using another propulsion method, e.g. anti-matter.

                Now consider another gravity approach, hitching a ride on a BH. A BH traveling at some velocity past Sol could be intercepted and the spacecraft attracted to the BH. The real value of this BH would be to accelerate the craft to near lightspeed with a tight orbit around the BH, preferably one that doesn’t spaghettify the ship. Under such a high velocity, the passengers should experience a time dilation effect (but how much reduced by the intense gravity well?). This should allow the passengers to experience interstellar travel as if they were moving at FTL velocities. The obvious snag is that such a flight would be inescapable until the BH evaporated releasing the ship (preferably before the BH disappeared in an intense flash of energy.) AFAIK, this approach, however impractical, does not violate any physics. Whether the needed orbital velocity to achieve any sort of decent time dilation can be achieved without closely approaching the event horizon with gravity ripping the passengers and ship to atoms needs some computation. (I suspect it is not possible.)

                However, IMO, while the pursuit of physics’ theories should continue, I am not that sanguine about focussing work specifically on exotic space drives unless physics research suggests a new discovery could have space drive implications. It is the difference between the study of atomic physics and realizing that radioactive decay could have energy production implications, rather than looking for energy production ideas and lucking into the discovery of radioactive decay generating energy.

                • Michael January 31, 2022, 14:47

                  Alex we can create gravity waves by acceleration of matter, the reason we can’t really use it is because it is so weak.

            • Geoffrey Hillend January 30, 2022, 18:13

              The only type of warp drive model I use is the Alcubierre warp drive because Miguel Alcubierre used a designer space time which was completely supported by general relativity. It also is a loop hole around the inertial effects of special relativity that keep any object of mass from reaching the speed of light or faster.

              • Geoffrey Hillend January 31, 2022, 18:12

                Excuse me for the mistake. I read the gravitational wave rocket idea in the book Frontiers of Propulsion Science. The FTL free fall geodesic only works with an Alcubierre warp drive because it drags it’s local space time reference frame with it. One has to engineer the local space to do that. Whether or not one feels the mass increase of inertial effects depends on the escape velocity and orbit velocity of the mass. For example: Earth’s orbit velocity is only 17,500 miles per hour. It is different with a black hole, so if one can reach relativistic speeds falling around a black whole, then one will still feel a mass increase like the same as the protons in the LHC which each have 7,000 times their rest mass. I don’t know how many G’s that is pulling, but it is probably not survivable. According to GR and SR, inertia is a property of space time and it does not become a problem for non inertial frames until they become relativistic.

                I think the ideas that should be funded is how to make the energy for a space warp which is the real problem. Once we figure out how to do that, only then will we be able to know how possible the warp drive, etc. is. I don’t like the idea of using large masses for propulsion for ones ship because they we can’t move them and that is a problem since there always has to be a mass in the direction one is gong and if there isn’t, then it’s better to make one’s own energy field.

                As far as original physics is concerned, it should not change first principles or remove them. Disappointingly, Mach principle is made completely obsolete by general relativity. We can’t change the rules because they are part of physical reality. Non inertial, relativistic frames will always be controlled by mass gain and inertial forces which can’t be separated from space-time. Alcubierre’s warp drive did not change GR and SR, but found a loop hole where they don’t apply leaving them GR and SR intact. Also an Alcubierre warp drive moving at 100 times the speed of light is still inside our universe, but just not the visible detectible part of of our universe from local space or even at FTL due to the event horizon surrounding the spacecraft and it’s occupants.

                What I would like to see is some new ideas or original physics of how to make a device or machine which can make gravity wave particle emission which is detectible in the laboratory. The same is true for negative energy.

                What I like is the new ideas in the book Frontiers of Propulsion Science to try and make negative energy in the laboratory. I think we should try to come up with some more of these ideas because those now I think are those ideas to make negative energy of the laboratory are already obsolete. Dr. Eric W. Davis said in his lecture about space drives for MUFON, he criticized squeezed light states as being too low energy. I will add the further criticism that I don’t think that we can make a gravity wave by squeezing electromagnetic waves, i.e., light can’t be squeezed, so it has lower energy than zero. Negative energy would warp space and is not a deficit of energy or lack but is still energy but a different form of energy which does not warp space unless we have an extremely strong magnetic field or laser. Since E equals MC squared, then photos with high energy will also warp space, but that is a very inefficient way to make gravitons or gravity waves. It may be that the graviton does NOT decay into two photons even though that idea fits into general relativity, an idea that has not been proven and still speculative. Consequently, it may take some other process to make gravitons and that uses all the four forces or at least three of them considering we want to make a field which will warp space. If the idea of negative matter is true, then we will still have to learn how to make it. I am biased against the idea of negative matter since we need to use so much positive matter just to make a 200 watt field which naturally comes out of the Earth over certain amount of square feet to make one G. One would need an Earth sized amount a negative matter to make the opposite of our surface gravity wave emission. Negative matter might not come in naturally occurring designer energy strength and warp bubble size since we can’t do that with positive matter.

                Finally, the idea that a laser can be fired through a Lithium Niobate crystal won’t work. The laser light will be diffracted and form a interference pattern, but it will still only be squeezed light waves. If the laser is too intense, and the crystal to opaque, the laser will excite the atoms, heat the crystal and crack it.

                Studying the CASIMIR effect will at best only tell us if there is some negative energy is a viable idea, but not how to make it because the energy is too low. Original physics does not remove first principles. I agree we should fund some of these and come up with some new ideas as well as put to the test what we already know.

                • Geoffrey Hillend January 31, 2022, 22:07

                  Excuse me for the typo. It is refraction when light and or a laser passes through a crystal not diffraction.

        • charlie January 31, 2022, 14:33


          I have often discovered that these so-called “cranks” are often more than not individuals, who (I agree) are often more ‘self-serving’ are in more ways that are hidden rather than just getting publicity. What I mean is they use their self-serving-ness in ways to keep their programs ‘alive’ (i.e. financed) so that the money keeps flowing to keep themselves employed as well as their employees. Government programs have a funny habit of presenting results that permits their selves to keep going long after they have served their original function. In other words, they work to keep themselves from getting canceled and unemployed, pretty much like anyone else who wants to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

          Sort of the government equivalent of ‘publish or perish’ that you see in colleges. It always usually all boils down to the economic question rather than the validity and usefulness of their particular work. You can judge that as you will, but that’s what I have found out in life; that first and foremost survival of the researcher comes first and the usefulness and validity of his work comes second. Harsh, but true.

    • Brian Altmeyer January 31, 2022, 7:48

      While I can’t speak to his work specifically, calling Sonny White a “crank” because he had some research results that don’t fit some aesthetic makes no sense at all.

      Absolutely nothing in conservation of momentum demands omniscience about all possible sources of energy. The universe doesn’t care what we know or suppose. Conservation is literally just accounting, not a prescribed explanation for each and every variable.

      Physics advances by identifying anomalous results. Even if all it does is advance the understanding of experimental apparatuses, that is itself useful. Attacking someone for having followed up on exactly that kind of result…regardless of the ultimate interpretation…is to completely miss both the point and the method of doing research at all.

      We need people pushing and prodding at the edges of experiment. Certainly need them more urgently than more theorists making up fancy math that explains anything and nothing, has no clear path to experimental falsification, and no apparent applications.

      To attack someone for obtaining falsifiable lab results while journals pile up with decades-deep conjecture is ironic, and unproductive. Both for the actual science and for conversations about it.

      • Alex Tolley January 31, 2022, 14:13

        IIRC, it was the simple tabletop “sandpile” experiment by Per Bak to led to the new concept of Self-Organized Criticality. In his book he bemoaned the state of physics and the huge amounts of capital to fund the ever-larger accelerators. LHCb is now the largest and might have discovered a new particle that theoretically might change the standard model, but the jury is still out on that. There have been excitment and disappointments before.

        Certainly need them more urgently than more theorists making up fancy math that explains anything and nothing, has no clear path to experimental falsification

        Sounds like the common critique of String Theory, a theory that has taken over many physics departments but still has no falsifiable tests to offer, and worse, is squeezing out other ideas for GUTs. When I read Brian Greene’s book The Elegant Universe back at the turn of the century, it seemed like ST was “really close” to offering a good solution, but now decades later, we have lots of math but no firm idea if it is even on the right path.

  • Ron S. January 28, 2022, 17:44

    No matter how much support the alchemists received I don’t recall any of them successfully transmuting lead into gold. The desire for gold and prodding them to “nerd harder” proved insufficient. My confidence in today’s space drive alchemists is quite low. Their work has yet to survive a close inspection. I wish them every success since the ultimate goal is worthwhile. But not with my money.

    • Tom Aaronsty January 31, 2022, 20:37

      As a geophysicist I agree. Science and technology stand on their own merit through experimentation. Your alchemist analogy hits the mark. Some appeal to past dedication, exuberance, dreaming or whatever doesn’t matter a hill of beans to an issue at hand.

      As for the author mentioning ‘Richard Hoagland’. Good grief. Instant credibility loss. Makes me doubt other ‘experts’ mentioned.

  • Deanna Shaw January 28, 2022, 18:22

    Sorry, Greg.

    I appreciate, enjoy and respect your other posts here, but as soon as you mentioned “Richard Hoagland” I stopped reading.

  • Geoffrey Hillend January 28, 2022, 19:04

    I definitely want to see funding for a facility for the ideas in NASA’s breakthrough physics program. In order to chip away at any visionary, futuristic propulsion such as a space warp, the problems must be worked on continuously by propulsion scientists over time and eventually there will be a breakthrough, even if that breakthrough is only ideological based on principles which is why I always like to do thought experiments limited to physics with the idea to challenge the thinking that something is too hard to make which always leads to psychological and theoretical inertia.

    Antonio, you are uninformed about climate change. I saw a series on PBS recently, several programs about climate change which showed that our sea level rise of 3.6 millimeters per year, over one inch of rise in the last 20 years has already caused the loss of islands, and also coastline in India causing migration of people inland. It was about a guy who actually went to these places to talk to people who lived there and see the actual evidence. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/10/five-pacific-islands-lost-rising-seas-climate-change

    This is not caused by the normal climate, but proven by tide gages and satellite altimeters (radar).


    • Antonio January 29, 2022, 13:53

      Sorry, but something with an area of 1-5 hectares that can be wiped out by a sea level rise of 1 cm doesnt qualify as an island but a sand bank, and certainly it’s no proof of an existential risk to humanity LOL

  • Robin Datta January 28, 2022, 19:05

    While eminently unqualified due to the lack of a background in physics and mathematics, a superficial acquaintance with science fiction and science written for the masses suggests that inertia whether of motion or of rest and/or its mass are dependent as much on external influences (including but not limited to space, time, gravity and the mass of the universe) as on a body itself. If that were indeed so, identifying and quantifying those influences may offer for their manipulation not just a theoretical handle, but perhaps also an engineering one.

  • Jeff Wright January 28, 2022, 21:02

    Carlo Rubbia’s Americium never gets enough love. Now, in the Handbook, is DM 61 366 Gliese 710, or do we have two Oort cloud interlopers to ride?

  • Alex Tolley January 28, 2022, 22:14

    IIRC the has been criticism that the NSF has funded fewer and fewer “blue sky” ideas in favor of experiments that are certain to provide the expected result and show a payoff.

    This suggests to me that however such exotic physics is funded, civilian science agencies are not the best way to go.

    As far as exotic physics goes, wasn’t the US Navy more interested in funding cold fusion research than the NSF? It is hardly a coincidence that Lubin pitches his DE-STAR lasers for DoD uses, with propulsion as almost a side hustle.

    I agree that the research should be more fundamental to physics rather than “space drives”. I can see a future Congress awarding “Golden Fleeces” for wasting funding of such research. Arthur Clarke’s “Death and the Senator” is still relevant after 60 years.

    But I fear that the general trend of US R&D – lowering the %age of public funding, while a greater %age is being done by corporations for short-term commerce. It is a trend that is seen across the Western world and may reflect the relative decline of the West. There seems to be a lot more funding, and many more trained bodies, in China to do this sort of research. I recall they picked up the em-Drive fairly quickly, although nothing came of their experiments. OTOH, China appears to have cracked partial-orbit, hypersonic cruise vehicles, while the US still struggles to create a successful test. China does seem interested in pushing technology to lead the world, and just maybe research in the relevant areas of physics might be something they would aggressively pursue. [This doesn’t mean that American scientists cannot be involved, but rather the funding and IP are controlled by China. I would imagine the research would be done there too.]
    Historically, this repeats the ” 1950s-1960s “brain drain” from the UK to the US. Britain was unable and unwilling to maintain its science and engineering leadership, especially in cutting-edge technology. Rocket launchers were abandoned, followed by jet aircraft (especially after the Comet 1 disaster and subsequently Concorde), then the computer industry languished. Britain no longer has the interest to really back science and engineering, and I fear the US is following the same path as the military continues to suck much of the discretionary federal budget while impoverishing civilian science.

    So yes, I agree with the thrust of your argument. I am just not convinced the US is the right venue to pursue these efforts.

    My only suggestion concerning structure is to have a central, public, facility to build the test equipment and organize the protocols, which would be used by scientists/engineers with the ideas to test. Then seed funding can be given to those with the new ideas to research the basic ideas, which can then be tested with the expensive kit once those ideas have reached some level of validity (high enough to allow interesting phenomena to be investigated, but to keep out the crackpots).

    • AlexTru January 31, 2022, 3:49

      … My only suggestion concerning structure is to have a central, public, facility to build the test equipment and organize the protocol…

      I am sure that democratic principles are not working in this case (finding new horizons in the science). Most advanced scientific discoveries was done against opinion of majority. New discovery always will be “minority”.
      So if you give the right to majority to decide which research is important which is not – you loose the game from the start.
      So I cannot imagine any public organization who can effectively manage science – total most of human population do not have enough knowledge to judge anything related to science.

      • Alex Tolley January 31, 2022, 11:27

        Science funding is decided by a majority – it is called the NSF. Almost all academic science is publicly funded based on this institution’s decisions. Large projects like the LHC (The abandoned Supercollider), the ITER fusion project, and government space projects are all decided by some form of democracy.

        The problem for new ideas is funding. For example, the work to validate the Plasma Magnet was done in a small, laboratory setup. What it needs is the use of a larger facility, and later an in-space test. Individual scientists cannot afford this. Either there must be a publicly accessible facility of support to help with testing, e.g. using the Nasa space simulation chambers to test space hardware, or it must be corporate-funded where more resources can be brought to bear. Obviously it makes no sense to build such a facility for a few tests at a university, but it is worth it for many scientists wanting to be able to test an idea further with much more modest funding. The corporate route, including investor financing, is being used to support private fusion experiments. This funding is so far out of the range of an academic lab.

        Biologists doing genomic research resort to commercial services for reagants, sequencing, and DNA sequences. They cannot easily do any of this at a bench and it is far more cost-effective to use such commercial services. But, AFAIK, there is no commercial space simulation facility. Nor would I expect there to be one for a long time. Hence the need for a publicly financed one, i.e. at NASA. We have NIST to do a variety of testing, and I do not see why a similar model could not be used to standardize testing for space-drive claims. The cost to the researcher should be lower than trying to do it themselves, and comes with a stamp of authority when a third party does the work and validates the claim.

        • AlexTru January 31, 2022, 15:15

          …Science funding is decided by a majority…

          I know well this obvious fact, it is the problem and additional bureaucratic entity (“filter” – that you propose) will make it worst, it is not solution.
          All hope is – statistic, probability, angel investors and natural selection – i.e. technological evolution …

  • Abelard Lindsey January 29, 2022, 0:21

    I’ve been following the Mach effect stuff over the years. I find it credible. I don’t consider any of the other stuff to be credible.

  • Brett Bellmore January 29, 2022, 18:21

    The problem I’ve always seen with these “space drive” tests is that they’ve been conducted in such a slap dash fashion that I couldn’t avoid the conclusion the people running the tests were actively avoiding proving the drive didn’t work.

    And you see ‘space drives’ where anybody with a basic grasp of relativity theory and physics would see flaws, like not accounting for the momentum involved in moving the energy around. And they’re not slapped down instantly, which really amazes me.

    I get wanting one of these things to be real, I really do. I don’t get why this motivates people to not look at them skeptically.

    I really think tying up the loose ends of physics is a much more promising approach than testing every new Dean Drive to come down the pike.

  • Andy Prada January 29, 2022, 20:51

    “Far Centaurus”, I think, had more to say on the socialogical and physiological implications of long term, deep space travel than its hyperdrive ‘punchline’ suggests. But as you rightly imply, why not wait for the ‘God’ drive?

    • Brett Bellmore January 30, 2022, 13:42

      The lesson from Far Centaurus is, don’t launch manned missions until you can be reasonably confident a later mission won’t beat them there. They’d launched on account of getting a good suspended animation drug, not a fast space drive; They could have thought about it for a bit and realized somebody could easily beat them there.

      Generation ships are unlikely to EVER be the first ship arriving in a system, IMO. OTOH, if they remain in contact with the home system, maybe they can just adopt new propulsion advances?

      A generation ship could be justified anyway, if it was intended primarily as a place to live, and only secondarily as a way of going someplace. Asteroid colonies graduating into Kuiper belt colonies, graduating into interstellar generation ships, without any real focus on reaching the destination first.

  • Michael Fidler January 30, 2022, 3:53

    For those of you that still have an open mind there is the biweekly Zoom conference called APEC. (APEC) is a fully online, Zoom-based conference on emerging propulsion research.


    • Abelard Lindsey January 30, 2022, 13:58

      This is Tim Ventura’s website and its quite good, even though I do not subscribe to much of what he has on it.

  • charlie January 30, 2022, 15:14

    “Before interstellar mission planners finalize their propulsion choice, an ethical question must be addressed. In the science-fiction story “Far Centaurus”, originally published by A, E. van Vogt in 1944, the crew of a 500-year sleeper ship to the Centauri system awakens to learn that they must go through customs at the destination. During their long interstellar transit, a breakthrough had occurred leading to the development of a hyper-fast warp drive.

    We simply must evaluate all breakthrough possibilities, no matter how far-fetched they seem, before planning for generation ships. The initial crews of these ships and their descendants must be confident that they will be the first humans to arrive at their destination. Otherwise it is simply not fair to dispatch them into the void.”

    I’d have to say certainly one of the most amusing intro lines I have ever read before in an article. Before mission planners finalize their propulsion choices ? As far as I know whe’re about as far from getting ready to ‘finalize our choices’ as the nearest star is to our star – I don’t know what you been reading but nothing indicates to me that we are anywhere near the possibility of beginning to go to other star systems. Ha ha ha ha ha !

    That all being said I’d have to say that if your concern is consigning a group of people either in a suspended animation and/or generational ships to be launched to the stars and you think it is unfair for them to be consigned to the void (as you put it) where they might end up arriving after others have arrived, then I’d suggest that one puts a homing beacon on such vessels as are sent on their respective missions. That way any rapid transit vessels can easily intercept these types of ships and recover their crews. It’s such a simple idea how could anyone not think of it. Problem solved !

    As for the prospects of actually achieving these relatively dreamy ideas I would suggest that serious methods be found to lower the population levels of the world. For my money I’d go with a population level that’s 1/100 of Earth’s current population which would make resource and dollar expenditures far more balanced than we are seen today. In fact I would think that such a level of population could afford to part with a little bit more dollars to permit just such enterprises.

    If one is actually seriously concerned with such problems as how to get there then I’d suggest that there would be far more intensive research into these now dawning work such as hyper fast travel within the field of general relativity. A second paper which I perused just recently, critiqued, in a hard but not what I would say unfair way some of the underlying ideas behind a more detailed analysis of the pros and cons of this particular type of hyper fast travel. And I must say that they did not see anything that was outlandishly impossible, but they did indicate some extreme difficulties which could be encountered – but I would say no showstoppers. Solar sales, fusion drives and what have you may be fine for travel within the solar system but nothing is going to really work for any type of sustained interstellar program.

    They closed with the following conclusion paragraph which I think would be of interest here:

    “The results discussed in the previous sections provide great insight into the properties of the weak energy condition for superluminal solitonic spacetimes. The geometric interpretation of the Eulerian energy density opens new doors for constructing realistic superluminal spacetimes from feasible energy densities. Numerical techniques could be employed to investigate the nature of the irrotational sector of the Hamiltonian constraint, such as a Finite Element Method for solving
    the second order partial differential equation. The techniques available during this study could not solve the PDE, owing to its high non-linearity. More than likely, a new PDE solver would need to be constructed specifically for this differential equation. One could also perform other decompositions of the shift vector field to investigate other hidden properties. This may illuminate hidden interpretations that would allow easier construction of a shift vector field composed of
    irrotational and solenoidal components.

    The energy densities discussed in Sec. 3.4 could easily be reduced to more manageable scales by minimizing the curvature of the shift vector potential. One could even utilize computational power to search for configurations that minimize the energy density while maximizing the central shift vector magnitude.

    These results are extremely exciting. They shed new light on physically-realistic superluminal warp drives and brightens the future of manned interstellar travel.”

    You can find the paper here: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2104.06488.pdf

    • Ron S. January 30, 2022, 20:55

      “These results are extremely exciting. They shed new light on physically-realistic superluminal warp drives and brightens the future of manned interstellar travel.”

      The authors certainly have a surfeit of optimism about their mathematical prognostication qua Lentz.

      • charlie January 31, 2022, 14:09

        @Ron S. “The authors certainly have a surfeit of optimism about their mathematical prognostication qua Lentz.”
        I’d certainly be careful if I was you; you don’t realize that you’re treading on sacred ground and that the world itself falls down and worships; via Albert Einstein. Einstein is worshiped worldwide and his prognostications and viewpoints are Holy Words (at least that’s what I’ve been told) and Mr. Lentz is his disciple.

    • Antonio January 31, 2022, 11:59

      It still amazes me how much risk-averse current generation is.

      Yeah, if you travel to the stars, there is a non-zero probability of someone reaching the same destination before you. So what? If you don’t travel, that probability is 100%.

    • Antonio January 31, 2022, 12:03

      “As for the prospects of actually achieving these relatively dreamy ideas I would suggest that serious methods be found to lower the population levels of the world.”

      I would suggest to seriously look at demographic data before advocating non-sense.

  • Mike Serfas January 30, 2022, 22:58

    I’m skeptical that the generalized question of whether to support unusual or mainstream ideas for propulsion is deserving of the passion we’re seeing here. More likely what we should care about most is how to make such decisions democratically, but more specifically, in a way that addresses major questions in science, yet allows creative people to pursue their dreams. If we respect the scientist as a source of unique inspiration, we should try to make sure that a lone scientist who has proved worthy can garner some funds for wild ideas, and that enough such people, if they are so minded, can opt to collaborate to test even the most lunatic notions. But by definition, most people hold mainstream ideas, and in any democratic system these must be supported with the bulk of funding. Is there a philosophy that can break down what percentage of science grants should require the approval of X reviewers not to be rejected, for any given value of X? Or can the decision be returned to the taxpayer, allowing each individual paying the bills substantial freedoms to earmark funds for specific fields or funding organizations, yet somehow avoiding a triumph of mountebanks?

    • Ron S. January 31, 2022, 11:40

      There already exist privately funded physics institutes that give free rein to eminent and young bright lights in the field. A couple that come to mind are Kavli and Perimeter. Many universities have privately funded positions and schools that do similar. There are also independent theorists out there with interesting and wild ideas. Barbour comes to mind.

      Creative thinkers are not being hobbled by mainstream roadblocks. It is the unsuccessful “mavericks” that claim repression when it is almost always the failure of their own ideas. Some of the names mentioned in this article and the comments are of that ilk.

    • charlie January 31, 2022, 14:19

      @Mike Serfas

      I’m far more concerned myself with the question with whether or not we deal in our society with practical considerations. I myself am an advocate of dealing with the human problems that we face here on earth in a sustainable and practical way which I believe will entail population reduction – by limiting the family to one child per couple. This frees up resources, including money for other enterprises which humanity wishes to address.

      Putting all our eggs in one basket (Earth) is silly as there could be any number of reasons for the decimation of our species. To me to go ahead and colonize a few other worlds in our solar system as well as going ahead and mining other planetary bodies for resources we can send to earth as well as use for other planetary bodies seems to be the way to proceed.

      I’m not against other basic research such as an exciting possibility of faster than light travel but I think that has to be done with SERIOUS efforts by qualified researchers and dedicated monies by governments who have more interest than enriching their own pockets. There is so much corruption now in government and in industry that I’m having trouble seeing a way forward for the common man now accept as being a source of income and cannon fodder for these governments. Highly skeptical here. Until we find a way here to deal with practical and pertinent matters within our societies overall, we will not make any progress in my opinion.

  • Brian Altmeyer January 31, 2022, 3:25

    Here, it seems, would be a good application for high-throughput approaches to experimentation, if such could be realized for such far-range physical questions. The “lottery ticket” mentality stops being a problem if you can buy large numbers of tickets every time there’s a drawing, and the statistical nature of the results can allow larger-scale progress over time.

    The apparent reason this isn’t already happening is mundane, so can be overcome by choice: Big Money is not in the discovery, but simply in the apparatus of investigation, so we get absurd investments in systems like LHC to do gruesomely narrow science that (to my very small understanding) just barely avoids confirmation bias. This is in stark contrast to the far-field lunges into the dark that were once regularly undertaken, with continuously stunning results for decades.

    I would suggest that the oft-alleged “stagnation” of physics has not been a result of any lack of scope in the universe, but in the economic approaches to investigating it in the current generation.

    If I had to bet, I would say the drastic progress being made in gravitational wave astronomy suggests there are unknown new horizons of instrumentation possible in the field that may lead in strange directions. Until you can see something in very fine detail, it’s not clear how many ways there may be to engage with it (e.g., electrical engineering and computer science building on Maxwell and so on).

    But that’s just conjecture. I doubt we even need new technology to apply high-throughput tactics to many of these problems: As the article suggests, a mid-range investment seems the most likely missing element, caught in the economic death valley between the lottery ticket and the national lab “tenure” track.

  • Marshall Eubanks January 31, 2022, 10:38
    • Robert January 31, 2022, 15:03

      “Here we have proven that the Mach-Effect-Thruster (an idea by J. Woodward) is unfortunately a vibration artifact and also not a real thrust.”

      The Woodward team strongly disputes that claim. All Tajmar should say is that they got a null result which could just mean they didn’t do the same experient in the same way. Tajmar let his student just remove a critical part and then they get a null result. Then they claim they have proven there is no Woodward effect at all?

      We need to be equally skeptical of replication efforts and the claims made as we are of the original work.

      • Adam February 3, 2022, 17:33

        Hi Robert
        Marshall actually worked with Woodward et al at one point, so he’s not without some inside perspective.

  • Patrick Borghese January 31, 2022, 13:43

    We have the ability right now for transports in out solar system but refuse to take the steps needed. This transport is the use of fission energy to create electric power for Ion engines. This system could accelerate at 1/2 g and take humans, or robotics to the outer reaches of our system.

  • ljk January 31, 2022, 14:08

    Why don’t we focus first more on starship propulsion concepts that are based more solidly in known physics and technology? We have plenty to choose from…




  • Peter Elia January 31, 2022, 14:16

    Good applied science starts with a solid understanding of the principles behind the scenes. It’s one thing to aim for an ambitious application that confronts hard but potentially soluble problems. At least there, you know you have a framework (physics) in which to characterize the problems. Trying random things and seeing what breaks the framework means you lose the power of intuition and prediction.

    The Mach effect thruster seemed the most grounded in that it started from the framework, but then it became a black box, and it seems like it’s mostly been ruled out at this point.

    We know there’s gaps in physics; some even seem like they could be turned towards propulsion if we knew how to manipulate them. Why not push on those until we gain greater understanding and THEN try to apply that understanding?

  • Jim January 31, 2022, 18:34

    I always hear about potential drives, but what is the realistic next step? The step that will be in space craft in the next 5 – 10 yrs? The step that will decrease travel time to Mars, lets say in half. The step that can be placed in a satellite, space launched and sent on a speed run to how fast we can make out of our galaxy. The practical stepping stone, more improved than what we have, but not as good as it will get.

  • Brett Bellmore February 1, 2022, 6:58

    Honestly, if I had a billion dollars to spend on space, there are so many urgent things not currently being funded, that I don’t think $5 would go towards investigating ‘space drives’. Propulsion technologies, maybe. Not Mach Thrusters, Helical Drives, oscillating capacitors, precessing pendulums. Maybe I’d put money into fission fragment rockets.

    We STILL haven’t done testing to see how partial gravity effects human biology. Not one rotating orbital lab to test this. Isn’t it kind of critically important to know this stuff when we’re talking about colonies in space, and on other planets?

    Life support technology is still primitive, not one genuinely closed life support system has ever been built. At most air and water get recycled, and food must be imported. This HAS to change, if we’re going to live in space at any scale.

    We can take over the whole galaxy without space drives. Why are we so obsessed with them?

  • Michael Fidler February 1, 2022, 10:04

    There is no need for Mach’s principle as explained by R.C Jennisson.

    Wavemechanical inertia and the containment of
    fundamental particles of matter.
    R C Jennison
    The Electronics Laboratories, University of Kent at Canterbury, Canterbury, Kent, UK
    Received 14 February 1983, in final form 26 May 1983

    Abstract. It is shown that the form of a non-dispersive wavemechanical packet representing a rotating particle of matter has a sharp and finite boundary in the equatorial plane and is entirely consistent with earlier models of phase-locked cavities. The latter have been shown to possess the properties of inertia without the need of Mach’s principle. Hence,
    it appears that the origin of inertia for all finitely bounded particles of matter lies in the feedback process that is intrinsic to phase-locked particles. The sharp bounding of the wavemechanical packet befits models of some elementary particles and may shed light on the remarkable process whereby the actions of quantum phenomena are concentrated into particular space-time events and are not diluted over large regions of the Universe.

    Here is the point and the explanation for electrons being Phase locked cavities and their inertia is internal.

    The properties of the boundary formed from the rotating transformation are remarkable and probably of some importance to the interpretation of measurements in particle physics. The boundary represents an onset of matter with a tangential velocity at the velocity of light. The formation of a mechanical system with a boundary
    rotating at this velocity would be quite impossible in macroscopic classical physics, but in this case it is simply constructed from the component matter waves so that the usual mechanical constraints are inapplicable; indeed, the mechanical system appears to correspond closely with the electromagnetic models discussed by Jennison (1978).
    In that paper it was shown that the Compton energy and momentum equations could be derived classically for such a system whilst Ashworth and Jennison (1974) showed that the angular scattering could be treated classically. Ashworth (1978) showed that the angular distribution of the scattering could be expressed in a form directly
    compatible with a specular reflection and with the Jennison (1978) energy and momentum treatment. In these treatments it is usual to transform from the laboratory frame to that of the particle and then back again. It is assumed that a fundamental observer at the particle could apply the usual laws of physics and that Snell’s law and the usual conservation laws apply.

    From the present analysis we now ascertain a number of very remarkable facts relevant to such a particle observer. If the reflection occurs at a surface which is rotating at or very close to the velocity of light then the scale size of the Universe will be vanishingly small. (This effect has been discussed in Ashworth and Jennison (1976).) If this observer receives radiation, then, as the Universe has been reduced
    to vanishing dimensions, the remainder of the wavefront which strikes him is contained in the encounter at the rotating observer’s point in space-time. We can speculate that it may therefore disappear, or strictly, never appear, as far as all other observers are concerned. Furthermore, the apparent specular reflection encountered in the
    Compton effect may be a simple outcome of the curious rotating geometry at this boundary. If this is the case, the communicating properties of fundamental particles in space-time are out of this world but still amenable to physical understanding.

    No attempt has been made in the paper to discuss wavemechanical models for the system which embrace the axial dimension and I have ignored the possibility of co-related electromagnetic phenomena, whereas many fundamental particles having rest mass also have electromagnetic properties. This paper has been concerned entirely
    with the wavemechanical system, but it invites the speculation that the boundary, rotating at the velocity of light, may behave as a ring displacement current, giving rise to an axial dipole magnetic field which may well constrain the polar component of the matter waves. I repeat that this is entirely speculation, but the present treatment has taken one so far down the road in providing a wavemechanical description of a discrete fundamental particle that one suspects that the final axial closure must come about in an equally simple manner.

    The point is that the electron s not a point but a quantum wave encoled on itself which makes the inertia…


    An approach to the understanding of inertia from the physics
    of the experimental method.

    Abstract. Current theories of the origin of inertia are reviewed. An alternative treatment is given. This recognizes the physical extent of even the smallest masses and the interaction effects of physical measurement. It is shown that there are very good physical reasons for
    identifying the origin of inertia with the local system and that this simultaneously accounts for quantization and the units of length and time. Two experiments are described which illustrate some of the properties under discussion.


  • Gary Wilson February 1, 2022, 16:32

    To me, advanced propulsion means accelerating a significant mass to a significant fraction of c. It doesn’t mean getting humans out to other stars. If we achieve true AI and can use currently known means to get to a nearby star with an AI device on board in a few decades or a century that will be huge progress (especially if we can slow down and have a proper visit). That’s the future that I see. Not appetizing for those that want immediate answers but definitely the most likely types of successful outcomes. The currently suggested breakthrough propulsion technologies are likely not realistic. Think in terms of many decades or even centuries to make such a true breakthrough. Don’t expect a warp drive to drop into our laps in the next fifty to one hundred years. I could see an AI created by us reaching Proxima Centauri a one or two hundred years from now.

  • Michael Fidler February 3, 2022, 7:00

    Here is a very interesting new effect!!!

    Cosmic Physics Breakthrough: Scientists Produce Particle-Antiparticle Pairs From a Vacuum.

    “In January 2022 issue of Science, they report specially designed devices such as narrow constrictions and superlattices made from graphene, which allowed the researchers to achieve exceptionally strong electric fields in a simple, table-top setup. Spontaneous production of electron and hole pairs was clearly observed (holes are a solid-state analog of positrons) and the process’ details agreed well with theoretical predictions.

    The scientists also observed another unusual high-energy process that so far has no analogies in particle physics and astrophysics. They filled their simulated vacuum with electrons and accelerated them to the maximum velocity allowed by graphene’s vacuum, which is 1/300 of the speed of light. At this point, something seemingly impossible happened: electrons seemed to become superluminous, providing an electric current higher than allowed by general rules of quantum condensed matter physics. The origin of this effect was explained as spontaneous generation of additional charge carriers (holes). Theoretical description of this process provided by the research team is rather different from the Schwinger one for the empty space.

    “People usually study the electronic properties using tiny electric fields that allows easier analysis and theoretical description. We decided to push the strength of electric fields as much as possible using different experimental tricks not to burn our devices,” said the paper’s first author Dr. Alexey Berduygin.

    Co-lead author Dr. Na Xin added: “We just wondered what could happen at this extreme. To our surprise, it was the Schwinger effect rather than smoke coming out of our set-up.”

    Dr. Roshan Krishna Kumar, another leading contributor, said: “When we first saw the spectacular characteristics of our superlattice devices, we thought ‘wow … it could be some sort of new superconductivity’. Although the response closely resembles that routinely observed in superconductors, we soon found that the puzzling behavior was not superconductivity but rather something in the domain of astrophysics and particle physics. It is curious to see such parallels between distant disciplines.”


    1/300 the speed of light it would take less the 10 minutes to reach the moon! If this is a chain reaction it may be one hell of a rocket!

  • Michael Fidler February 3, 2022, 7:07

    The Paper;

    Out-of-equilibrium criticalities in graphene superlattices.

    https://arxiv.org › abs › 2106.12609

  • Paul Titze February 14, 2022, 3:33

    It’s a shame the NASA BPP programme got shelved. We really need a well funded, rigourus organisation that looked at the various propulsion ideas put out there impartially under the guidance of Marc Millis and colleagues.

    I don’t see any serious interstellar missions happening for the next 50 years minimum myself being optimistic (probably more realistically at least 100 years if current society/industries are still prosperous that time).

    Also our political systems are not conducive to long term interstellar mission scenarios and hence will unlikely be funded by governments unless a major breakthrough in Propulsion Physics occurs. So although it is good we’re thinking of interstellar travel options today, more pressing issues would be for eg coming up with alternative propulsion systems to get a hardware into orbit (100 Km above the ground) without relying on chemical rockets or space elevators for eg and spacecraft power systems to make space exploration more routine/cheaper.

    Cheers, Paul.

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