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Frontiers of Propulsion Science: A Major New Text

Tau Zero Foundation founder Marc Millis has been anything but idle this spring. The good news, which I am finally able to share, is that he and a team of scientists have been compiling a book that is truly a first of its kind. Frontiers of Propulsion Science is a collection of essays about where we are today and where we are going with propulsion research.

This book is the work of many hands, and if you’ll peruse the list, you’ll see it contains some of the major names in this field. Many of them, I am pleased to say, are Tau Zero practitioners (for background on what a ‘practitioner’ of TZF is, see this background document on the Foundation).

Published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the book is intended for aerospace engineering and science audiences, with a goal of describing current research and offering pointers for following up these issues. And while this will be an expensive text, designed for a graduate school and above reading level, it is the intention of the Tau Zero Foundation to create a companion volume oriented to broader audiences that will aim to explain advanced propulsion for the layman.

Here is a list of authors and their papers (some titles may change):

  • Foreword
    Burt Rutan, Scaled Composites, LLC, Mojave, CA
  • Preface
    Marc G. Millis, NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland OH
  • A Recent History of Breakthrough Propulsion Studies
    Paul Gilster, Centauri Dreams, Raleigh, NC
  • Limits of Interstellar Flight Technology
    Robert H. Frisbee, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, Pasadena CA
  • Prerequisites For Space Drive Science
    Marc G. Millis, NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland OH
  • Review of Gravity Control within Newtonian and General Relativity Physics
    Eric W. Davis, Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin, TX
  • Gravitational Experiments with Superconductors: History and Lessons
    George D. Hathaway, Hathaway Consulting, Toronto, Canada
  • Nonviable Mechanical ‘Antigravity’ Devices
    Marc G. Millis, NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland OH
  • Null Findings of Yamishita Electrogravitational Patent
    Kenneth E. Siegenthaler and Timothy Lawrence, US Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs CO
  • Force Characterization of Asymmetrical Capacitor Thrusters in Air
    William M. Miller, Sandia National Lab, Albuquerque NM
    Paul B. Miller, East Mountain Charter High School, Sandia Park, NM and
    Timothy J. Drummond, Sandia National Lab, Albuquerque NM
  • Experimental Findings of Asymmetrical Capacitor Thrusters For Various Gasses and Pressures
    Francis X. Canning, Simply Sparse Technologies, Morgantown WV
  • Propulsive Implications of Photon Momentum in Media
    Michael R. LaPointe, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville AL
  • Experimental Results of the Woodward Effect on a µN Thrust Balance
    Nembo Buldrini, ARC Seibersdorf Research, Seibersdorf, Austria
  • Thrusting Against the Quantum Vacuum
    Jordan Maclay, Quantum Fields LLC, Richland Center WI
  • Inertial Mass From Stochastic Electro-Dynamics (SED)
    Jean-Luc Cambier, US Air Force Research Labs, Edwards AFB, CA
  • Relativistic Limits of Spaceflight
    Brice Cassenti, Rensselaer, Hartford CT
  • Faster-Than-Light Approaches in General Relativity
    Eric W. Davis, Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin, TX
  • Faster-Than-Light Implications of Quantum Entanglement and Nonlocality
    John Cramer, University of Washington, Seattle WA
  • Comparative Space Power Baselines
    Gary L. Bennett, Metaspace Enterprises, Emmett, ID
  • On Extracting Energy from the Quantum Vacuum
    Eric W. Davis and H. E. Puthoff, Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin, TX
  • Investigating Sonoluminescence as a Means of Energy Harvesting
    John D. Wrbanek, Gustave Fralick, Susan Wrbanek, and Nancy Hall, NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland
  • Null Tests of ‘Free-Energy’ Claims
    Scott R. Little, EarthTech International, Austin TX
  • General Relativity Computational Tools and Conventions for Propulsion
    Claudio Maccone, International Academy of Astronautics, Italy
  • Prioritizing Pioneering Research
    Marc G. Millis, NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland OH

The current schedule calls for the AIAA volume to appear late in 2008 (we are about to enter the page proof process now). I am unaware of any other text quite like this, aimed explicitly at the concepts that could take us to the stars using the kind of breakthroughs in physics we are all interested in studying and following up where they seem promising. As a leading indicator of the now coalescing field of interstellar studies, Frontiers of Propulsion Science should break useful ground indeed.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mark Phelps June 10, 2008, 10:08

    Hooray!!! Sign me up for two volumes,thanks for all your efforts…to infinity and beyond!!!

  • phil.gs June 10, 2008, 15:26

    Very exciting. Since I’m not an aeronautical engineer, I’m particularly looking forward to the “popular science” book. Will it be aimed at, say, the audience of this blog, or will it assume a somewhat lower level of technical understanding?

  • Administrator June 10, 2008, 15:36

    Thanks Mark and phil.gs for the interest! And phil, I think by ‘popular science’ you can figure that the second book will be probably aimed at a somewhat broader audience than this site, whose audience is already pretty heavily involved in astronautics and astronomy. We’ll see how it plays out, but the idea is to introduce some extremely exciting concepts to a wide group of readers, many of whom will have had no prior experience with these matters.

  • Ronald June 10, 2008, 16:28

    I am particularly looking forward to learning more about Martin Tajmar’s experiments. Would there be anything recent and new revealed or a repetition of his already known experiments?

  • Peter June 10, 2008, 16:38

    This should do a lot to clarify where the research priorities ought to be- that is if this is ever taken seriously again by the physics community and large scale funding is resumed. I’d be interested in knowing where the consensus is regarding how ready we are to take the leap from armchair theory to actual emperimental physics in the lab…whether we still need to work on theories or if there is enough literature now to go ahead with concrete proposals and well funded research. (I’m all for it, but I’m beginning to wonder if the consensus is different, which could be partly why the BPP and NIAC were shelved, and why Marc is writing books instead of continuing the push for research…)

  • Administrator June 10, 2008, 16:48

    Peter, there is much interesting work that needs funding for laboratory studies. That is why Marc and others have been working to set up the Tau Zero Foundation, which will solicit philanthropic funding to support a number of practitioners with work already in progress. The push for research continues, and I think Frontiers of Propulsion Science will play a role in that.

  • Administrator June 10, 2008, 16:51

    Ronald, re Martin Tajmar, the paper represents his most recent work on James Woodward’s theories, which invoke a Machian interpretation of inertia. In this view, inertial frames are established within the context of the most distant mass in the universe, a view Woodward has probed in the lab.

  • John Hunt June 10, 2008, 18:51

    For some time I have wanted to see a modern and credible engineering design for an interstellar mission — Basically a successor to the BIS’s 1978 Project Daedalus. I had hoped that TZF might be the entity that would do this. With this report it appears to me that the focus of TZF is not a mission within our lifetime but to explore distant and uncertain interstellar propulsion methods.

    Looking at the chapter titles of “Frontiers of Propulsion Science” it is clear that the Matloff/Kare/etc approach of credible missions using known physics is very underrepresented. As the first major activity of TZF I think that this is telling.

    As I look back at the founding papers of TZF I now realize that TZF never was intended to be an “Interstellar Society”. With the apparent empasis on breakthrough but iffy propulsion methods I can now understand why TZF uses the languange of impossibility:
    – “speculative, long-range ideas of interstellar flight”
    – “value in attempting the impossible”
    Perhaps it is also the reason why the Foundation eventually chose the name of a science fiction novel rather than a descriptive name.

    Focusing on propulsion methods of uncertain physics can also explain why an interstellar mission is placed so far off in the future:
    – “the indefinitely long time scales of interstellar flight”
    – “these ultimate goals are far from fruition”

    I can also now understand why it’s rationales focused on secondary benefits rather than the primary benefits of an interstellar mission:
    – “technological spin-offs & near-term benefits”
    – “interstellar flight provides a different perspective from which to ponder the lingering mysteries of cosmology”
    – “an inspirational theme around which to educate the public”
    – the cultural goal of encouraging us to live responsibly

    Fine. TZF is what it is.

    But where does one turn to find the Interstellar Society? We still need one. The BIS did a great service in producing Project Daedalus. But the BIS is not an Interstellar Society. So, if the TZF is not the Interstellar Society, can such an entity now be created?

  • Administrator June 10, 2008, 20:27

    John, I share your interest in technologies like lightsails, fusion runways, antimatter concepts and the rest, ideas of the sort that Greg Matloff discusses in The Starflight Handbook and I discuss in my Centauri Dreams book. In fact, I’ve written often about these and other more near-term ideas here on the site. I fully believe that we’ll still get to the stars using the kind of methods you discuss, or their descendants, even if faster options prove unobtainable. We’ll probably wind up doing a mix of both, using systems tapping known physics (i.e., known today) and moving into new technologies as we improve our knowledge. So I don’t see these as at all exclusionary, and as Marc notes in a comment below, he does believe that TZF will be inclusive of the kind of study that the BIS did with starship design.

  • James M. Essig June 10, 2008, 22:25

    Hi Paul;

    I kind of like the idea of doing a mix of both, perhaps within a single propulsion system. Suppose that Einstein was more correct than we would like him to be when he stated the fundamental speed limit of C. Even if C is indeed the limit, we might still be able to harness the zero point fields which may contain enormous latent energy. The zpf might contain 120 orders of magnitude higher latent energy density than the real mattergy content of our observable universe.

    The zpf might enable us to achieve gamma factors many many orders of magnitude greater than that for which matter/antimatter rockets, light sails, ISRs, and the like are capable. We might only need to determine how to overcome the resistive friction between the craft and the interstellar medium in order to avoid destruction of the craft by the radiation blast. Such high gamma factors could in effect make us cosmic time travelers able to travel into the cosmically remote future and to travel spatial distances of truly cosmic scale.

    I don’t want to promote any faith based agenda here, but I am encouraged as a Catholic by what I remember somehow, somewhere, of reading a comment about a mystical vision a Catholic Pope or some religious authority had that perhaps C would remain an insurmountable limit but that mankind would travel throughout the observable universe and beyond before the so called end of time. Obviously, I am not quite sure what I read and could have an entirely false recollection, but any way for us to explore the depths of the observable universe and beyond would be fine with me.

    Paul, I have to agree with you absolutely that we will send humans to the stars. Even with known physics and contemporary engineering and numerical techniques, I am convinced we could develop the hardware, mission objectives and protocol, crew selection and training for us to reach the Proxima Centauri system, Barnard’s Star and beyond, this very century, but it will take good financial backing.

    Faster the light travel may indeed be possible, and I hope it is, but I am convinced we will get to the stars with or without FTL. Who knows, even if FTL is not possible, we might find other dimensions or meaning to the concept of travel that might offer far more rich exploration opportunity than say wormhole travel, warp drive, and other FTL concepts. To this effect, I am encouraged by Stephen Hawking’s concepts of real time and imaginary time and new approaches to the meaning of spatial-temporal dimensionality in general.



  • Adam June 11, 2008, 5:25

    Hi Guys

    John – harsh words! How soon do you want that interstellar mission launched? Why the big hurry?

    Paul, one paper looks quite interesting…
    Relativistic Limits of Spaceflight, Brice Cassenti
    …what’s Brice discussing here? The CMB limit to a starship’s speed or something more involved?

    I share John’s enthusiasm for near term studies, but surely the pay-off of a breakthru in physics is worth more than just getting to another star? If we want quick and dirty interstellar missions then “Orion” nuclear pulse rockets are always an option. Make an in-space pusher-plate and let rip with megaton pulse units.

    Anything else will take development of infrastructure, especially Jordin Kare’s sail-beam or any mass-beam concepts. All the new proposals for in-space solar satellite power are definitely related and should be encouraged. Any kind of energy beaming can lead directly to star-probes – if we make the right design choices. But let’s not settle for second best if it means >50 year wait times.

    We only live so long. But starflight is bigger than any of us – bigger than ALL of us – and we must work broadly so the option remains open to humanity for as long as necessary. Eventually we’ll be safely spread across the Solar System and able to boot-strap to interstellar capable if any particular human world should fail – but for now, as part of a fragile World System, the risks are real and the challenges are multiplying. Fundamental changes are needed to produce a world with a long term prospect – the means of resource gathering and production must be transformed.

  • Paul Titze June 11, 2008, 7:39

    Great work Marc, Paul etc. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

    Cheers, Paul.

  • Marc Millis June 11, 2008, 8:21

    To all;

    Thanks for the interest. I thought I’d address a few questions:

    First, although Tajmar has a chapter, it is on his tests of two of Woodward’s devices (independent assessment) rather than his own experiments. Tajmar’s own experiments are mostly introduced in the chapter by Hathaway, but these experiments are still undergoing so many revisions that we are not yet ready to describe it. That will have to wait for future publications.

    As far as “why books instead of pushing for research dollars?”… Every time a student (who schooling is paid by others) picks a thesis topic, they are doing research. The book makes it easier for students to find research topics that support the quest for revolutionary spaceflight. Also, the book will help demonstrate to decision makers that the topic has matured to the point where research is supportable. This topic still has a giggle factor amongst some.

    Rearding the choice between ‘propusion science’ and ‘interstellar technology;’ that was a chose specific to this one book, not the whole Tau Zero Foundation. The book’s scope only covers propulsion science because that was a topic which was missing a foundational publication. As far as sequels to the BIS Daedalus, I look forward to such things from my other cohorts of the Foundation. I completly agree that a seqeul to Daedalus is needed to refelct how recent advances improve the prospects. Right now, however, is premature to discuss other works in progress.

    Regarding the question about theory or experiments – both possiblites exist. When an individual researcher picks what to study, that choice is largely driven by their personal abilties and interests. We offer starting information for both. As far as prioritization schemes to pick which to fund should money become available, that depends on the proposals received. The last chapter of the book does, however, go into gory detail about how such a selection process could be implemented.

    Thank you for your continued interest and patience.

    Marc G. Millis

  • george scaglione June 11, 2008, 10:32

    marc and all of the above, wonderful news! i very much look forward to reading both books!! marc,paul, please keep us advised of the progress of both!! can not imagine anything more important to this group or for that matter the world or the future! very respectfully your friend george

  • Peter June 11, 2008, 11:59

    These technologies generally go through the cycle of theory to experimental physics to engineering, wich each step costing 10x more (and requiring 10x the effort) of the last. As I understand it, C technology is approaching the end of theory and gradually moving towards experimentation.

    I agree with Marc that the book will do much to support the research. On the other hand, there already is an abundance of related literature available on the web- enough for 100 such books (for example, I have about 10 GB of papers and files in the “propulsion physics” folder on my hard drive) – and nothing supports research like the concentrated and organized push for funding itself. Those who are enthusiastic about the subject would appreciate a book that lays things out in a contemporary and general way, but as a stepping stone to research I don’t believe that it’s necessary, and is perhaps premature: since the experimentation is still in its infancy, we are still uncertain of which paths to take; which ones offer the most promise. The bedrock that defines the precedents and parameters has yet to be laid- there’s just so many theories out there. Also, one would expect the TZF website- with constant updates- to do a superior job of establishing parameters (and of offering research topics and convincing decision makers to support research) than a book. I might be wrong.

    As I previously stressed to Marc in an email, the TZF might, ironically, risk credibility if it focuses too much on the secondary benefits: the commercial applications coupled with the vague philosophy. History shows that that’s not how engineering progress is made. I’d even go so far as to argue the contrary- we live in an age of unprecedented voluntary public scientific ignorance- the majority of the population couldn’t care less about the stars, and if they do it’s on the level of science fiction, since the actual science is too intimidating. And let’s be honest: any wealthy philanthropists interested in the cause probably aren’t going to have anywhere near a professional understanding of the physics, nor would they desire to or need to. Great movements throughout history fed on a strong, dynamic core of shared knowledge and ideas, but the strength of this core isn’t necessarily dependent on its number of adherents, disciples and devotees (and as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his article “group-think” http://www.gladwell.com/2002/2002_12_02_a_snl.htm , the success of a revolution may well depend on its’ “allure of exclusivity”). So I don’t see how reaching out to people is a necessary step towards the science and engineering.

    The funding will follow if enough buzz is created, but that buzz can’t be artificially created in the manner that a corporation would sell merchandise; the buzz has to come from the laws of physics themselves, and our level of understanding of those laws. It has to come from highly specific research proposals, and from laboratories. If I was a wealthy philanthropist, I’d rather give my money to the people in the labs than the ones sitting behind desks.

    I’m not criticizing the book in any way- just the idea that it advances the research more than all the other things that can and ought to be done. In itself, I think it’s a wonderful idea, and my warm congratulations goes to all those involved.


  • Administrator June 11, 2008, 13:33

    Adam, re Brice Cassenti’s paper, this from Marc Millis: “Brice’s chapter is just a foundation-setting tutorial on special relativity in preparation for the two faster-than-light chapters that follow. I hope that readers find his explanations of relativity with its paradoxes and his discussions on the meaning of time helpful.”

  • Ron S June 11, 2008, 14:21

    “I hope that readers find his explanations of relativity with its paradoxes…”

    What paradoxes? Some results of relativity may be surprising, however the theory is consistent.

    I understand there is some (unfortunate) history in the use of the word paradox in this context. I believe it would be good to avoid it.

  • george scaglione June 11, 2008, 14:57

    peter, i read your posting above with great interest and yes i agree money is needed.”funny” thing one of my dreams is if i where say to win mega millions would be to fund some kind of a study that would resemble the kind of thing marc millis was involved in in the breakthrough propulsion physics program at nasa. most people would say that they would want to buy a sports car or go to europe.i’m just a wild guy i suppose,lol . ooh by the way that study was only 50,000 dollars.well well within what i would be willing to spend under those circumstances, if i win a huge amount of money in that way! but thank you very much,your friend george

  • Adam June 11, 2008, 16:31

    Hi Ron

    The Twin Paradox has a long and venerable history as a didactic tool – even if idiots have used it for sophistry. There are subtleties in SR that catch out the unwary – I learnt new things the other day reading up on the event horizon that trails an accelerating starship for example. I hadn’t given it much thought until I specifically sat down to work out the phenomenology, and it was quite surprising, even paradoxical.

  • Marc Millis June 11, 2008, 17:52


    When I said “paradoxes” I was referring to the common examples such as the pole through the barn… one of those teaching tools to take students from the seemingly weird to show them how it really works out. Yes, the physics itself is consistent and matches physical observables. I made sure to have Brice include examples of those founding physical observables too.


  • Ron S June 11, 2008, 22:16

    Adam, Marc,

    I was pretty certain you folks understood that the use of the word paradox was not to imply any uncertainty or controversy in relativity theory, so I took the risk of sounding somewhat pedantic about it. It’s just that I believe that every opportunity we/you have of communicating to a broader public would benefit from avoiding possible misunderstanding of loaded terminology, despite its historical usage.

    I like your description of the teaching value of ‘paradox’, Marc. That is, at the end of the lesson the student sees there is no paradox. However when used out of this context, especially as just the name of an effect of the theory, such as twin paradox, I think the impact is negative, and so I tend to prefer something like ‘twin effect’ or ‘twin phenomenon’ or whatever.

  • John Hunt June 12, 2008, 1:18

    Why should we hurry to get an interstellar mission flying?

    Michael Anissimov at the Accelerating Future blog says…

    “Based on all the conversations and reading I’ve done, I consider humanity’s risk of wiping itself out in the next few decades to be substantial…” He also notes that both Stephen Hawking and Martin Rees raise the same alert.

    Now, certainly it is a stretch to say that an interstellar mission is necessary to save the human species. But the Fermi Paradox might suggest that whatever is necessary to spare an intelligent civilization is so difficult that none has been able to do it before they went extinct. A self-sustaining lunar base would not qualify because aliens could have reached their Moon had they continued their “Apollo” program. To me, an interstellar mission qualifies as something sufficiently difficult to meet Fermi’s criteria.

    If this is true then this rationale becomes far greater than the secondary benefits that a long-term program researching breakthrough propulsion methods could ever yield.

    I just found the TZF website and feel better that it includes references to “Now” and “Conceivable” missions. But there is this presumption that “Now” missions would not survive intact presumably because of the “tens of millenia” that it would take to get there.

    But the following website indicates that there may be several near-term technologies that could get us to Alpha Centauri in as low as about 10,000 years or less.


    VASIMIR – 4,387 years
    FEEP – 10,123 years
    M2P2 – 6,580 years

    Also the solar wind travels at about 1 x 10^6 km/hr. So if we could use a MagSail to achieve that speed then by my calculation we could reach A.C. in 473 years.

    A month ago, Adam stated,

    “There was work on interstellar messenger probes a few years back…they pointed out that some electronic components already have mean failure lifetimes of c. 10,000 years or so.” Also, long-lasting, high-power superconducing magnetic fields could provide protection against cosmic rays.

    My point is that, perhaps, we are closer than many think to being able to conduct an interstellar mission using technology within reach. However, this is if the mission were in the few thousand year time frame. Only a survival mission to establish humanity (i.e. via vitrified fertilized eggs, stem cells, etc) on another planet could justify a mission lasting that long.

    The TZF needs to allow consideration of near-term, long-duration interstellar missions. It’s website describes a “half-million years to reach a possibly habitable planets”. We don’t need an New Earth to be habitable. We will be inhabiting Mars which has minimal liquid water. There are 32 stars within 12 light years so hopefully we’ll soon find a Mars-like planet within that distance and with current technology we shouldn’t have to take 42,000 years to go one light year.

    Centauri Dreams has had something like 15,000 posts & responses. But although great for learning and sharing ideas, there is no mechanism to construct a mission. A threaded forum on the TZF website would be helpful as would leadership to help organize the design of a specific mission.

  • James M. Essig June 12, 2008, 6:33

    Hi Folks;

    I would sure like the Federal government to reinstitute the break-through propulsion program or at least something like it to the tune of about $1B to $2B. Some of the theory and concepts may seem a bit sketchy but the potential payoffs are huge. FTL travel could solve the problem of manned nterstellar and intergalactic travel once and for all. There is too much to be gained here, in my opinion, not to put the full brunt of NASA behind such research. My hope is that if signs of past or present life are found on Mars with the Pheonix, NASA, the ESA, Russia and the like will say, “We have got to aim for the stars!”, literally.



  • Marc Millis June 12, 2008, 8:38


    About the word “paradoxical”… I see your point. The casual audience might read “paradox” to imply “wrong.” I hope I can keep that point in mind as I craft future documents. Perhaps, ‘nonintuitive” or something to convey that we are talking about things that are beyond our human scale of perceptions.



  • Marc Millis June 12, 2008, 8:52

    About financial support…

    Federal funding is fickle. Often, even well-intended support can go awry as the money gets directed elsewhere – Congressionally earmarked to help weak constituencies get stronger or to build a new laboratory to help a certain district compete for future funding. In those cases the money does not go to the “best” practitioners, but actually to the weakest. That’s as much as I’ll say on that. Well, maybe one more comment: Burned there, done that.

    With our current culture, I am experimenting with the prospect that concerned citizens, when they see that the government is NOT going to pick up this cause, will donate what they can to help. This goes especially for the wealthy. Circumstances are driving me to try this venue too.

    Meanwhile, I do what I can to help others get more reliable information from which they can educate themselves and perform research on their own. This plants the small seeds in preparation for – and to entice – philanthropic support.

    That’s all for now, must leave for the day-job.


  • george scaglione June 12, 2008, 8:56

    jim,yes the breakthrough propulsion physics project was a great thing and it IS a shame that it is no longer with us.luckily many if not most of us here have a similar passion and maybe we can if not “carry the torch” then at least have some say in re igniting it!! looks good so far my friends. thank you one and all, george

  • ljk June 12, 2008, 9:50

    One way to get financial support is to promise to name
    something after the rich person who pays the most to
    have their name on it.

    I am sure plenty of rich folks would love to have the first
    starship named after them. Or maybe even a corporate
    sponsor. I could live with the Starship Coca-Cola if that
    will make interstellar travel a reality.

    A new nanotech facility went up a few years ago at the
    university I live not too far from. The building was named
    after the alumnus who ponied up $20 million for the priviledge.

    So it is possible to do the same with an interstellar project.
    Because quite frankly I don’t see many government wanting
    to spend money on traveling to another star, not at this point
    in history.

  • James M. Essig June 12, 2008, 10:04

    Hi Marc;

    I definitely see your above points.

    There seems to be no limit to the variety of interstellar propulsion concepts about which all of the Folks here at Tau Zero comment on.

    My hope is that the Tau Zero Foundation will seriously jump start investors, private research groups, NGOs, start-ups, and even the very large scale for profit defense contractor/aerospace firms such as Boeing, United Technologies, Northrop Grumman, and the like to look seriously into the wealth of proposed advanced and exotic space propulsion concepts.

    It would be cool if the physics of one such propulsion technique after another was verified in a manner analogous to the development of electro-dynamic inventions based on Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory equations that occurred during the 1800s and early 1900s.

    Marc and Paul, I wish both of you great success with your endeavors with the excellent organization that the Tau Zero Foundation has turned out to be. Tau Zero is really the in place to be. I have made several friends while commenting at Tau Zero and the site has drawn its many fine comments from many visionary intellects from around the globe.



  • James M. Essig June 12, 2008, 10:19

    Hi ljk;

    Very interesting concepts. I will even settle in my lifetime for Pizza Hut, 7/11, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeye’s and the like on the Moon and on Mars. To have franchises of the above on Virgin Galactic Star Lines ships would be just awesome. Since I am an avid consumer of fast food, in part because of its ubiquitous, quick, and easy access in the Washington D.C. metro area, I can definitely relate to ideas for naming starships after major food companies, and also, the idea of such food restaurants being located aboard starships.

    I say let the party begin! It will be a true star party.



  • James M. Essig June 12, 2008, 11:51

    Hi George;

    Thanks for the above response. Not to get overly political here, but can you imagine the science, laboratories, experiments, and the space craft that could have been built with the money that has already gone into the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We could at the very least, redesigned and optimized our space shuttle fleet and perhaps have built hundreds of units.

    We could have had a massive effort underway to plan an all out manned exploratory program for Mars, the Moon, and other planetary bodies, sort of a modern day chemical or nuclear rocket bases Apollo like program on steroids.


    Your Friend Jim

  • george scaglione June 13, 2008, 14:39

    jim,marc, i too see the above points,although lol the kentucky fried chicken in space one,not so much!it is wonderful that so many of us here have had ideas for propulsion for interstellar travel.that is the very fabric from which our group here and our cause is cut! i’ve had a couple of such ideas myself. maybe we WILL get something started,or at least i hope so,especially in the funding dept. i too have had an idea for myself in that area too.but what would be a big help? why most of all getting the public interested in this cause…especially the young people.my hope is this marc my hope is this jim : that we find an extrasolar planet that is “just like” or at lest very similar to earth. i predict that at that point peoples imaginations will be aroused to the point that they will feel that we must go there! never mind that it could be alot of light years distant,still what the people want is something much more likely to be funded.that is where you come in marc that is where martin tajmar comes in that is where everybody else currently working on the book that is comming out will come in ! for now i think everything i have just said makes my case about as well as i can make it for now.so thank you one and all hope i hear your opinions soon and have a wonderful weekend. your friend george

  • Tibor June 14, 2008, 18:15

    Marc, Paul;

    just a late response, but: I am keen to have the book in my hands asap!

    I am sure that it will break useful ground we need to go our way further to the stars – Ad astra!


  • george scaglione June 15, 2008, 11:49

    tibor i agree with the above i could not have put it better myself! wish i could start this book tomorrow! respectfully your friend george

  • James M. Essig June 15, 2008, 20:06

    Hi George;

    Thanks for the above comments.

    Finding an Earth like nearby planet would be awesome. If we find one in the next ten years, and then somehow develop a starship to get us there, even a mildly relativistic sub-C capable fusion rocket ship, for launch by 2035, I love to go on the mission even if I would likely die in route due to old age. Medical lifespan enhancement would be good for the cause. Heck, I’d be glad to be a grunt worker assembly technician to work on the assembly of modules of such a craft.

    I was musing on a concept, which obviously was developed by others but which I revisit because of its whimsical nature.

    Basically, the idea involves thermodynamic information and states of different large scale portions of our universe assuming that our universe is actually infinite in spatial extent and infinite in real mattergy content. More specifically, the idea involves the multiplicity of regions of space time that have an identical arrangement of mattergy to that of our observable universe.

    The reasoning is as follows. If thermodynamic quantum information has an ultimate fine structure or graininess to it including the discreetization of space time, then given an infinite extent of space in an infinite universe, the quantum building blocks of the thermodynamic information that characterize our observable universe in space or its spatial temporal history should be duplicated multiple times, even an infinite number of times, since the number of spatial or spatial temporal configurations of such building blocks given a finite time span is finite. Given an infinite spatial and mattergy-wise extent to our universe, the building blocks of different observable portions or regions bounded by different light cones should repeat themselves over and over again.

    Perhaps there are even an infinite number of universes produced by the process of chaotic inflation wherein each such universe is identical in the arrangement of its quantum thermodynamic information to that of ours.


    Your Friend Jim

  • Peter June 19, 2008, 9:42

    In an organization such as this, the bureaucracy should be minimized. That’s been my main problem with TZF since I first read the draft. I recommend completely doing away with all the ridiclious “levels” of membership. If people want to get involved, they’ll do so on their own terms.

    I’d even go so far as staffing the selection and review comittee entirely with volunteers. If the only ones on the payroll were actual scientists in the lab- who weren’t paid substantial sums of money- it would have the benefit of cutting costs, speeding things up substantially, ensuring donors exactly where their money is going, and shifting the focus from funding to research. I’m not being elitist, just realistic. If you water it down with all the grand musings and amateur crap, it gets sentimental and loses credibility. And I think the general public would be well aware of this fact. It’s the internet generation, after all. If they are well informed in an unpatronizing way of the colossal battles that lie ahead, it might just attract the kind of talent and ingenuity that is needed- those looking for something that would challenge their abilities as never before, tax their mental capacities to their uppermost limits. It would foster admiration- and intense competition- for the occupation of interstellar engineer.

    As I mentioned here before, I’ve been working on something similar to TZF for some years now. I’ll be sure to let you all know when/if things start happening on my end.


  • Administrator June 19, 2008, 13:30

    Pete, you’re conflating the Tau Zero Foundation with Centauri Dreams. Let me untangle this:

    TZF has been established to seek philanthropic funding for a network of practitioners, each of whom is a recognized expert in his field. Decisions about what funding gets approved are to be kept firmly in the hands of established scientists. A good many of the scientists involved in Frontiers in Propulsion Research have agreed to be practitioners in this network. Have a look through the contributors list of the book or the TZF documents online and you’ll see that these are working scientists. No amateurs are involved in their work or in the choice of projects they pursue.

    Centauri Dreams is not the TZF. I first established it as a private resource for keeping up with interstellar news, then affiliated it with Marc Millis, who chose to start TZF when the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics program lost its NASA funding. Centauri Dreams is a site that tracks developments that would be of interest to anyone who follows interstellar issues, and it also offers a forum for discussion of those news items. Both professionals and amateurs are welcome on the site, which supports TZF in any way it can.

  • Peter June 20, 2008, 10:16

    Thanks, I understand that-I’m not confusing the two. I was referring to the background document (https://www.centauri-dreams.org/wp-content/IFF_charter.html). You propose 5 different levels of membership, each of which conflict in various ways, and allow responsibilities based not on scientific expertise but on donations. I don’t think that’s the wisest approach. And why all the limits on database access? Doesn’t it stand to reason that dissemination of information- with full patent protection- can only help the cause (and the funding)? Why do you need sociologists and journalists, when it’s all about science and engineering? Why should philanthropists be given such decision making power (board of directors?), regardless of their scientific expertise? Why not let bureaucratic decisions be dictated by scientific progress, rather than the other way around?

  • Administrator June 20, 2008, 10:27

    Peter, thanks for your questions. The original document was Marc Millis’ work and I will leave the primary comment on it to him. When he responds, he’ll also have some thoughts on philanthropists in all this, I’m sure. My own take: If you’re trying to build an organization that will tap money from large donors to support cutting-edge scientific research, you’d better have strong involvement from philanthropists, and I’d surely want one on the board. A philanthropist knows how other philanthropists think, and can offer useful, perhaps essential information about fund-raising strategies.

  • Marc Millis June 20, 2008, 17:29


    First the background document you are citing is an old draft. Actual implementation details are evolving as we implement.

    When it comes to restricted access to some databases, that is because those databases would contain proposals with competition-sensitive information. That is a legal requirement. Regardless, we will not be ready to invite competitive research proposals until we have secured enough funding to support several research tasks at once. There are a lot of smaller things that can be done first that we are working on now.

    That said, I’m a bit confused about exactly what operating methods you would prefer to see. Care to disclose your operating strategy?


  • Peter June 21, 2008, 13:38

    OK. You’re more knowledgeable than I on the legal issues, but I don’t see why there can’t be a legal umbrella that allows universal sharing of ideas without jeopardizing individual’s claims to those ideas (just as a peer reviewed journal would). That said, I understand that people would still be wary regardless of the legal protections in place, so some limits would be warranted.

    As for your second point, I think you could invite competitive research proposals first, via the website or other means, because details are always a crucial aspect in obtaining funding, and because of the point I mentioned earlier- that many in the physics community still believe that research isn’t justified because propulsion physics isn’t yet ready to take the leap from theory to experiment, for lack of good credible theories (I don’t hold this opinion, but many still do). But there again- you have a few legs up on me when it comes to funding.

    I have put together a similar draft, but I’m holding off on taking things to the next, public step until I see what form the TZF finally coalesces into. The ball is in your court, after all- if the TZF fullfills the needs that I believe need fullfilling, then I won’t bother going further; otherwise, I will, and perhaps my organization could become an alternative to TZF, for those who prefer my views. (If so, it wouldn’t exist in a spirit of competition; it would exist because we would believe that we can reach these goals sooner. In such a case I’d be more than open to collaboration.)

    Suffice it to say, if mine were to come to fruition, the focus would be on research, and the word “Research” would be in the name (“Tao Zero” is rather obscure). The goal of the organization would be very clear: to transport human bodies through space as quickly as possible, as soon as possible, with the focus being on superluminal propulsion physics. This is the basic criterion by which all proposals would be judged, regardless of who they come from and the credentials of who they come from. This is not to say that interstellar exploration wouldn’t have profound sociological, philosophical, economic, cultural, and psychological implications; but if progress is to be made, it stands to reason that there must be a high degree of specialization, with the funds highly concentrated in specific areas, so those secondary responsibilities can be left to other people and organizations.

    Something that should be considered (indeed, that can’t be avoided) is life extension (I’m undecided on whether I’d want to incorporate this- in a way that would benefit space exploration specifically- or just leave it to other organizations). Life extension research (genetic engineering, stem cells, nanotech) would support both subluminal flight (solar sails, fusion, antimatter) by facilitating extremely long voyages and superluminal research (warp drives) by facilitating extremely long learning curves: researchers would have the opportunity to spend more time in the lab, honing their skills over many decades if not centuries.

    The selection process ought to be extremely rigorous (I trust I’ll get no argument from you there), with no more than 3-5 experiments going on at one time, making the competition intense and the research dollars well spent. This process should be explained in detail on the website, so that it will be accessible to anyone. The approach needn’t be necessarily “incremental”; since the physics involved is such that it’s impossible to tell how near or far away breakthroughs lie. (Also, it doesn’t make much sense to me to ask donors for millions of dollars to do esoteric research into seemingly impossible ideas that might yield incremental results far into the future.).

    Outside the demands of professional scientific experimentation and strict adherence to the scientific method, my approach would be less scrupulous about the means since it’s the ends that are evidently paramount. Given the choice between the scientific and engineering methods of the Russians and Americans of the 1950’s (or the present day Indians or Chinese, for that matter) and the modern day cumbersome, risk-adverse methods, I would lean towards the former. Suffice it to say, I’d like to foster a culture that tolerates risk, where the laws of physics take precedence over everything (a “Physicsocracy”), where no idea is too outlandish or unorthodox, and that attracts people who are motivated far more by the dream than by dollars, credentials, or public esteem.

    In summary, my ideal organization would be relatively simple in structure and would be composed mainly of researchers (in labs spread throughout the world- whomever and wherever the research requirements are met), a selection and review comittee to steer the research in the best directions, a legal department to protect people’s ideas, and someone to run the website. To encourage submissions, the website would provide plenty of information and links informing people on how they can legally protect their proposals before submitting them (in addition to the legal infrastructure already in place within the organization). There would be a lightly moderated forum on the site where people can hash out their ideas with one another before submitting proposals.

    The key here is the physics, and where and how it would lead the funding (not the other way around).

    I look forward to your book and especially to reading your chapter “prioritizing pioneering research”.


  • Marc Millis June 21, 2008, 15:20


    Thanks for your feedback.

    Much of what you say is indeed within the TZF aims, with the caveat that actually implementing them is a feat unto itself (‘devil in the details’ sort of thing).

    The selection process that TZF would follow will be based on the methods described in the chapter “Prioritizing Pioneering Research,” which will be published in the fall of 2008. Again, actual implementation will require reworking that process in part because the scope needs to be expanded to include the ‘technology’ in addition to the ‘physics.’

    One of the things that you suggest that I have not yet figured out how to efficiently implement is a moderated forum for ideas. The labor demands of that – to do it sufficiently well – currently exceeds my volunteer pool (estimated 2 full time people with special filtering skills). For example, the difficulty of filtering out the bad behavior of the “lunatic fringe” while still allowing in provocative ideas is extremely difficult and time consuming. The line between provocative ‘crazy’ ideas and ‘detrimental crazies’ can get very vague. Been there and been burned often. I know how to handle this challenge efficiently in research solicitations, but not in real-time forums. It would be a cool thing to implement, if only we can get to that point.

    Paul Gilster will soon post a status and directions article about TZF that will provide more details.


  • kurt9 June 22, 2008, 13:53

    I have a technical question for you guys.

    Let say that stuff like wormholes and FTL are not possible and that we will have to crawl to the stars at sub-light velocity. If you had a spacecraft that could get to a reasonable velocity (say around 0.1-0.3 c), doesn’t the debris (gas, particles) in interstellar space start to become a problem? I mean interstellar space is not completely empty and a ship traveling at 30,000 kilometers per second or better is going to have an issue with the collisions and resulting radiation with this stuff.

    At what velocity does this start to become an issue?

  • Administrator June 22, 2008, 15:38

    Quite right, kurt9. The Daedalus design team was worried enough about this (assuming a ship moving at 12 percent of lightspeed) to ponder various designs for shielding the vessel, including concepts involving materials like beryllium, boron and graphite. A. R. Martin discussed shielding for Daedalus in “Bombardment by Interstellar Material and Its Effects on the Vehicle,” Project Daedalus Final Report (JBIS, 1978), pp. S116–S121.

    More recently, Dana Andrews did a fine write-up of shielding issues that we looked at here:


    It’s interesting particularly because of the way he talks about extracting energy from the particle annihilation.

    As to Daedalus, it wound up with a beryllium payload shield — 9 millimeters thick and 32 meters in radius — to protect the vehicle. Interstellar space, of course, is the least of the worries. Imagine what happens as you make the transition into a destination solar system with much higher levels of dust and gas. Daedalus was, after all, a flyby probe. Another danger is bremsstrahlung radiation, created when charged particles are suddenly slowed or deflected, forcing the designers to shield sensitive electronics. Lots to worry about at a substantial percentage of c!

  • Paul Titze June 23, 2008, 1:21

    Bumping into debris along the way at substantial velocities can be a serious problem Kurt9 especially in our solar system… shielding seems to be one way, see also the following paper about this (although this deals with the hypothetical >c scenario):


    Cheers, Paul.

  • Peter June 23, 2008, 14:48


    You should find this helpful, if you’re not already aware of it: http://cosmicvariance.com/2007/06/19/the-alternative-science-respectability-checklist/. It could be revised for propulsion physics in particular, and posted right on the forum- made into a sort of holy scripture- so that the cranks’ ideas could be easily dismissed if they neglected to follow a few simple but very important rules.

    Another way to manage the crackpots would be to make the forum highly structured. Over time, the regulars would gravitate towards their own niches, further develop their expertise, and the moderating responsibility could be spread out more. You can see this happening over at the Yahoo Alcubierre Warp Drive group-it’s a rather specialized area, and the regualars have been there for years. They seem to have been doing an adequate job of identifying the crackpots.

    As with most forums, if the bar is set high enough at the outset, it would turn into the kind of place that would discourage crackpots, and there shouldn’t be that much activity to moderate.

    This is an area where credentials can be very important, but where strict, specific guidelines rather than credentials should be used to judge people’s work. Many like myself have a style of learning and study that holistic and intuitive- highly compatible with computers and the internet; not so compatible with traditional academia. We may lack official credentials, but we are far from quackery.

    In addition to a forum, there really should be some sort of collaborative, all-encompassing BPP wiki online, with links to all the most relevant pdf papers. I’ve collected about a gig of papers over the years, covering far more than is in your book (not to belittle the book; it would have to be thousands of pages to cover all the material). The wiki could be open ended with multiple authors- constantly in flux as progress is made (and of course known quacks could be banned from editing). This page http://members.tripod.com/da_theoretical1/wdphysics.html is an admirable start, but it only represents a fraction of what is out there.


  • Peter June 23, 2008, 19:27


    One solution would be to have extremely powerful telescopes connected to sophisticated computers and the navigation system, so as to identify the paths of least resistance far in advance, and automatically steer the ship while maintaining the general course.

  • Gary Vesperman August 13, 2012, 18:48

    Included in my compilation of 130 Electrical Energy Innovations (see http://www.padrak.com/vesperman) are seven possible new rockets for space travel. These rockets, if they work, are reconfigurations of electrino fusion, electron spiral toroid Spheromak micro-fusion reactor (space launch costs reduced by 95%), pair of counter-revolving hydro-magnetic dynamos, magneto-gravitational converter (Searl effect generator) , Moe-Joe orgone energy cell, gravito magnetic device, and meta-stable helium. When writing, I forgot to add an eighth rocket – Scottish inventor David Burns’ self-powered flying saucer.