Relativistic Rockets, Antimatter and More

February 22, 2010

Interstellar theorist Richard Obousy (Baylor University) has some thoughts about William and Arthur Edelstein’s ideas on flight near the speed of light. As discussed in these pages on Friday, the Edelsteins, in a presentation delivered at the American Physical Society, had argued that a relativistic rocket would encounter interstellar hydrogen in such compressed form that […]

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Antimatter Propulsion: A Critical Look

June 3, 2009

Antimatter’s allure for deep space propulsion is obvious. If matter is congealed energy, we need to find the best way to extract that energy, and our existing rockets are grossly inefficient. Even the best chemical rocket pulls only a billionth of the energy available in the atoms of its fuel, while a fission reaction, powerful […]

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Billions of Positrons Created in Laboratory

November 18, 2008

Irradiate a millimeter-thick gold target with the right kind of laser and you might get a surprise in the form of 100 billion positrons, the antimatter equivalent of electrons. Researchers had been studying the process at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where they used thin targets that produced far fewer positrons. The new laser method came […]

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The Hunt for Ancient Antimatter

November 3, 2008

Antimatter’s great attraction from a propulsion standpoint is the ability to convert 100 percent of its mass into energy, a reaction impossible with fission or fusion methods. The trick, of course, is to find enough antimatter to use. We can produce it in particle accelerators but only in amounts that are vanishingly small. There is […]

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The Interstellar Conundrum Reconsidered

August 20, 2008

Just how hard would it be to build a true interstellar craft? I’m not talking about a spacecraft that might, in tens of thousands of years, drift past a star by happenstance, but about a true, dedicated interstellar mission. Those of you who’ve been following my bet with Tibor Pacher on Long Bets (now active, […]

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Black Holes May Fuel Antimatter Cloud

January 24, 2008

Those gamma rays coming out of galactic center, flagging the presence of an antimatter cloud of enormous extent, have spawned few explanations more exotic than the one we consider today: Black holes. Primordial black holes, in fact, produced in their trillions at the time of the Big Bang and left evaporating through so-called ‘Hawking radiation’ […]

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An Antimatter Cloud Around Galactic Center

January 11, 2008

Although I had planned to push straight on to look at instrumentation for a true interstellar mission (using Mike Gruntman’s landmark paper on the topic), I want to revise that schedule because of the recently announced antimatter news. We’ll return to the instrumentation issue on Monday, including the tricky question of how a probe designed […]

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Collecting Natural Antimatter

November 8, 2007

Robert Forward used to talk about antimatter factories in space, installations that would draw their power from the Sun. He would point out that at a distance of 1 AU, our star delivers a gigawatt of energy for each square kilometer of collector. And being Robert Forward, he thought big: Build a collector array one […]

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Finding Antimatter in the Solar System

November 7, 2007

James Bickford’s antimatter work for NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts, a Phase II study completed just as NIAC was announcing its closure, prompted a number of comments from readers when I opened discussion of it on Monday. And I can see why. We’re used to thinking of antimatter production as an extraordinarily expensive process happening […]

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Antimatter For Deep Space Propulsion

November 5, 2007

Great ideas fan out in unexpected directions, which is why James Bickford now looks at antimatter in a new light. Bickford (Draper Laboratory, Cambridge MA) realized that an adaptation of Robert Bussard’s interstellar ramscoop might have its uses in collecting antimatter. The concept grew out of the realization that antimatter sources were available not only […]

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