Updating the 100 Year Starship Symposium

by Paul Gilster on October 10, 2011

I’ve got an out of town speaking gig today and am pressed for time, so this may be a good occasion for something I needed to do anyway for the record, which is to highlight the papers given by Tau Zero Foundation and Project Icarus people at the recent 100 Year Starship Symposium. Most of the following were delivered as individual talks, although some were presented in panels. If you’re interested in reading the papers each author prepared for the conference, many (but not all, evidently) are to be published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. I’ll deliver publishing details when they become available.

Here are the presentations of those associated with Tau Zero:

  • E. Davis, “Faster-Than-Light Space Warps, Status and Next Steps”
  • K. Denning, “Inertia of Past Futures” (anthropology)
  • P. Gilster, “The Interstellar Vision: Principles and Practice”
  • G. Landis, “Plasma Shield for an Interstellar Vehicle”
  • C. Maccone, “Sun Focus Comes First, Interstellar Comes Second (Mission concept)”
  • J. Maclay, “Role of the Quantum Vacuum in Space Travel”
  • G. Matloff, “Light Sailing to the Stars”
  • M. Millis, “Space Drive Physics, Intro and Next Steps”
  • M. Millis, “Cockpit Considerations for Inertial Affect and FTL Propulsion”
  • R. Noble, “Small Body Exploration Technologies as Precursors for Interstellar Robotics”
  • S. White, “Warp Field Mechanics 101”

You may also be interested in Slate’s take on the Symposium, which focuses on some of the breakthrough propulsion concepts at the far edge of the speculative frontier. The Smithsonian’s blog also carried an update about the conference, while MSNBC offered up a look at possible starship destinations, a major interest as we continue to lack planetary data for nearby stars. Finally, I loved Gregory Benford’s article describing the 100 Year Starship Symposium: The First Hard Science Fiction Convention.

Papers and presentations from the Icarus team in Orlando were plentiful indeed:

  • J. Benford, “Recent Developments in Interstellar Beam-Driven Sails”
  • B. Cress, “Icarus Interstellar’s New Icarus Institute for Interstellar Sciences”
  • A. Crowl, J. Hunt, “How an Embryo Space Colonization (ESC) Mission Solves the Time-Distance Problem”
  • J.R. French, “A Review of the Daedalus Main Propulsion System”
  • R. Freeland, “Fission-Fusion Hybrid Fuel for Interstellar Propulsion”
  • P. Galea, “Machine Learning and the Starship: A Match Made in Heaven”
  • A. Hale, “Exoplanet Studies for Potential Icarus Destination Stars”
  • A. Hein, “Technology, Society and Politics in the Next 100-300 Years: Implications for Interstellar Flight”
  • A. Hein, K. Long, “Exploratory Research for an Interstellar Mission: Technology Readiness, Stakeholds and Research Sustainability”
  • R. Obousy, “A Review of Interstellar Starship Designs”
  • R. Obousy, “A 21st Century Interstellar Starship Study”
  • M. Stanic, “Fusion Propulsion Comparison”
  • R. Swinney, “Initial Considerations in Exploring the Interstellar Roadmap”
  • R. Swinney, “Navigational and Guidance Requirements of an Interstellar Spacecraft”
  • A. Tziolas, “Long Term Computing”
  • A. Tziolas, “ Starflight Academy: Education in Interstellar Engineering”

Also, be aware that Ian O’Neill is continuing his coverage of the Icarus study, the latest article being a look at sex in space that circles around to starship design. Icarus team member Tiffany Frierson gives us her personal perspective on the conference (and it was a pleasure to meet Tiffany, who was often to be found circulating near the Icarus and Tau Zero tables snapping photos). Athena Andreadis presents an insightful look at the conception and preconceptions of the conference in If They Come, It Might Get Built. Finally, Centauri Dreams contributor and Astronomy Now editor Keith Cooper offers up his own take on starship design and fusion propulsion in an excellent essay that delivers helpful background and segues into the Icarus team’s thoughts on fusion’s future between the stars.

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Adam October 10, 2011 at 8:28

Hi Paul
Thanks for the Link-Fest of comments and retrospectives. My next piece will be out soon. And thanks for the Greg B link! I should sign up for his Newsletter I guess… now that I have finally met him face to face (yes! *fist-pump*) So glad you were there to stop me from being more a Fan than an Icarii. And I must stop telling people (mundanes) about all these cool people (SF Writers) I (a Fan) have finally met. The blank stares and explanations have taught me all we Star-Seekers have a long way to go to be as well known as the average Pop-Star.

Mark Phelps October 10, 2011 at 10:52

Hi Paul,

Sounds like a great conference I hope there is another and I will be sure to attend. I tried to delay my start-up company but was voted down,go figure. Will the papers be published in some fashion after a bit? .

Best regards,

Mark

Brent October 10, 2011 at 11:46

Since the papers are being published in JBIS, is there not going to be a full proceedings published?

Paul Gilster October 10, 2011 at 13:03

The latest word I have on the papers is that selected papers will be published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. To my knowledge, there will be no published proceedings of this event, but I’ll pass along any further news when it comes out.

Paul Gilster October 10, 2011 at 13:05

Adam writes:

I must stop telling people (mundanes) about all these cool people (SF Writers) I (a Fan) have finally met. The blank stares and explanations have taught me all we Star-Seekers have a long way to go to be as well known as the average Pop-Star.

Yes, we have a long way to go before we enter the realm of pop music stardom! Still, I did have the feeling at the symposium that it might be a turning point in terms of getting the public more interested in spaceflight. Assuming, of course, that we can keep the buzz going…

ljk October 10, 2011 at 13:18

Perhaps the Tau Zero Foundation can “fill in the gaps” that the JBIS is intending with the Symposium proceedings. My concern is that they will leave in most if not all of the technical papers and give only representative samples of the non-engineering ones, which would rather defeat the purpose of having a conference on Worldships, after all.

And what will become of all the videos taken at the Symposium? Only a small fraction got to attend this event, and even those there obviously could not be at every talk. If we want to get the message out about interstellar exploration (and colonization), hiding the records away or only making them available to an elected few is not the way to go. This is why most scientists and science fiction writers remain unknown to the general populace.

The Symposium was a ground-breaking event – now let us do the same for educating the public on the matter.

Paul Gilster October 10, 2011 at 13:30

Larry, yes, it would be a shame indeed to publish only the technical papers without regard to the profoundly multidisciplinary nature of the starship concept. But the organizers were also at pains to stress the wide reach that any long-term organization must have, so maybe they’ll keep this in mind. As to filling in the gaps, I’d love to do whatever turns out to be possible.

Interstellar Bill October 10, 2011 at 13:38

Could the authors of the unpublished papers
post them at an open site for all us fans to download?

Paul Gilster October 10, 2011 at 13:41

Bill, at this point I don’t know the legalities of that, but I’ll try to find out. Some of the authors will undoubtedly want to submit their papers to other journals, too, so that might slow down the process. My own goal is to see as many of the papers as possible in a publicly accessible venue, and I’ll continue to push for this.

Adam October 10, 2011 at 16:12

One suggestion about accessing papers is to approach presenters for copies. However if it becomes too widely distributed, even as a preprint, then the JBIS might find it unpublishable for legal reasons. Not sure about PowerPoint slides though. Paul?

Eric Davis October 10, 2011 at 17:16

Paul:

The JBIS editor told me that any symposium paper that DARPA does not forward to them for publishing will be considered on its own merit for publication in a separate issue of JBIS. So JBIS will accept any and all symposium papers that don’t make the DARPA cut, but they have to pass through the required peer review process before being accepted for publication.

Eric

Kelvin October 10, 2011 at 17:39

Hi all. I’m the assistant editor of JBIS.
From what I understand DARPA and their selection committee will be choosing which papers to send to the journal. We shpuld have this decision within weeks.

They will form a set of RED COVER issues of the journal which effectively forms the proceedings.

However, I too am keen to see as many of these papers published where possible. So can I invite those of you not selected by DARPA to appear in the special issues to consider submitting them to JBIS in the normal way later on. They will have to be peer reviewed but if accepted would appear in later issues of the journal, although not in the 100yss issues.

The more of these papers published from this historical symposium the better. We want them preserved for future generations.

Kelvin

Duncan Ivry October 10, 2011 at 19:14

Well, now that there have been a lot of positive reactions to the 100 Year Starship Symposium — and I’m positive about it too –, it’s time for a partly negative reaction.

I see these presentation titles:
E. Davis, “Faster-Than-Light Space Warps, Status and Next Steps”,
M. Millis, “Cockpit Considerations for Inertial Affect and FTL Propulsion”,
S. White, “Warp Field Mechanics 101”,
and, sorry, they make me sad.

There are still and again people wasting their own time and the time of others with pure fantasy physics — and some even want money for this –, instead of working in the spacious area of real physics, real engineering, and reasonable speculations. Yes, there are enough, really enough, opportunities for speculations, and there is enough, really enough, work to do, *without* sinking into a swampland of “ideas”, which have no foundation in physics and which are without any chance of realizing anything.

As most — most! — of the presentions mentioned in the article show, something better is very well doable. But, sorry, some people are not able to learn, I think.

Daniel October 11, 2011 at 0:49

Duncan Ivry@ Maybe You know more that anyone here and Any theoretical Physicist.

Your criticism did not help in nothing useful, if this theory was waste of time,I don’t think than would considerable by scientist

So please explain-me ,why this ideas it’s a waste of time? Do you have any better ideas? Do you know if warp drive is 100% impossible? Do you know with 100% sure the nature of gravity, quantum gravity ,quantum Vacuum, inertia ,dark energy mechanics and so on (the greatest challenges of Physics), that forbidden warp drive propulsion?

look like than you have the answers,if so please explain.

I won’t say the this warp drive,FTL and so on is possible or not, I say that still many open questions in Physics,to simple disqualify this ideas at all. Many of this open question in Physics can lead in a Potential Physics Propulsion Breakthroughs

I think that it’s early to discard warp drive,FTL, wormhole,and so on,for what mankind know in Physics.

personally in “exotics theoretical Physics ideas” I like wormhole and the Krasnikov tube.

And I Like the mach effect theory with experiments underway,and Martin Tajmar experiments in gravitomagnetic field in superconductor, if any of this experiments be prove will be a great step in Physics, that possible lead in a propulsion breakthroughs,who knows.

we have lot of open question in physics,so we need keep open mind for new ideas.

Athena Andreadis October 11, 2011 at 1:24

Thank you for the signal boost, Paul!

To Duncan Ivry:

My blog post that Paul refers to in this entry contains the following sentence. “The presentations that I attended were overall high quality (though I personally thought “exotic science” should have been folded into the SF panels).” In other words, I agree with you. FTL, warp drives and wormholes are terrific for SF (I use them myself in my space operas) but for real-life tech, especially in the next 100 years… ixnay.

Avatar2.0 October 11, 2011 at 3:26

Duncan Ivry
“There are still and again people wasting their own time and the time of others with pure fantasy physics”

OPERA just measured FTL neutrinos, in a meticulously checked and rechecked experiment.
The ‘old guard’ reacted to this with scepticism and hostility, despite the fact that they have yet to find any fault with the experiment.
Such resistance to new ideas is predictable – it happened many times in the history of science. An example among many – years after the Wright brothers proved heavier than air flight, articles claiming that heavier than air flight was impossible were still being published.

What’s the conclusion – one reached long ago?
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Just because you call something ‘pure fantasy physics’ does not make it so.

Michael Spencer October 11, 2011 at 7:46

Paul,

I wonder about the videos, and when they might be available? Can you link us to someone who knows when these vids might be released? There were so many papers that I missed knowing I’d be able to stream them on the big screen teevee at some point with pause and rewind!

Oh. And everyone: I sat next to Greg Benford, chatting, talking, criticizing a talk! It’s some sort of heaven, I think…both of those boys were incredibly warm and friendly.

On the author side, I wish I’d seen Jack McDevitt and Peter Hamilton, both of who were invited, I’m told, by Dr. Benford. But on the other hand, seeing Verner Vinge and imagining after having read his creepy spider story was terrific.

One more thing, Paul: there were several references to additional funding, apparently a grant hanging out there with several vying for it, not the least our own Tau Zero (it is our own, now). Could you link us to more about this grant and perhaps point out who might be in the running?

As always, Paul, I remain incredibly grateful for what I saw there, the people I met, ideas bathing me like a rising sun on a desert island.

I should also tell the rest of my compatriots here– those readers and commenters unable to attend– that our host was incredibly warm and receptive, even in the midst of a very busy schedule, recognizing me immediately from my name tag. I’ve met many good friends for life.

And, this: I don’t think I realized until the meeting exactly how deep the science went in this effort. Nor did I understand in any meaningful way the amount of effort and life-dedication by Paul and Marc and the other participants. It’s stunning, really.

Finally, Paul, although I do write for a living, someday, hundreds of thousands of words in the future, I might achieve your fluidity with words. You know. In another universe?

Paul Gilster October 11, 2011 at 8:51

Michael, it was terrific to meet you at last — you’ve been commenting on Centauri Dreams articles for many a year! You’re right about the grant, which comes from DARPA and will be awarded in the not so distant future:

https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=769617e61616fd042f71b91b97ce7750&tab=core&_cview=1

Tau Zero will be submitting a proposal, and so will the Icarus team, along with a number of other groups, not all of which I’m familiar with. More on this as the final selection is made.

The videos are still in doubt. DARPA has referred to them in at least one email I’ve seen as for archival purposes only, but I still hope we may find a way to get them online. Can’t promise anything here, but as news comes in, I’ll be glad to pass it along. If you want to apply your own pressure, you can reach the 100 Year Starship organizers at info@100yss.org.

And thank you for the kind words — much appreciated!

Mindrust October 11, 2011 at 11:03

I don’t understand all this hostility towards “exotic physics”. As long as those researching this stuff actually follow the scientific method and perform experiments, I don’t see the problem. They’re only wasting time if no actual experiments are being done.

Speaking of which, Harold White’s lab is going to be operational soon where he will be performing experiments on his hypothesis of using the quantum vacuum as a source of propellant (and several other experiments, including the experiment he described in his presentation at the 100 year SS).

And let’s be honest here: the dream of humans routinely traveling between the stars is a delusion without some kind of exotic propulsion, so we should at least see what experiment has to say before calling this fantasy physics. We’ll never know if we don’t try, as Marc Millis has said on several occasions.

stephen October 11, 2011 at 12:00

Adam wrote, “We Star-Seekers have a long way to go to be as well known as the average Pop-Star.”

And nobody’s stopping the SciFi Network from sending some reporters to cover the proceedings…except the SciFi Network executives, unfortunately.

Duncan Ivry October 11, 2011 at 12:22

I knew, that my partly — partly! — negative reaction will be controversial.

In the past I commented about the reasons for me thinking that things like warp drive and faster than light travel have no foundation in real physics. Because it would drift too much into off topic country, I won’t repeat all this. But I insist in having reasons. And I appreciate *all* reactions to my reaction.

@Daniel:

The things you mentioned are interesting and fascinating for me too, some of them as physics research topics, but some of them as science fiction only (well, “only” — I like science fiction very much). Over and above that there are indeed no results from these topics showing any evidence, that warp drive or FTL are possible. Imagination is cheap if you do not need to bother with the details, as somebody said.

And regarding “we have lot of open question in physics,so we need keep open mind for new ideas” — there is the risk of a mind being so open, that the brain falls out, if you know what I mean.

@Avatar2.0

The case of the neutrinos — which, by the way, is no case of new ideas, but of experimental data — is not closed, and the reaction of the … how should I say it … “open minded ones” is as predictable as the reaction of the old guard. So, this does really tell us nothing.

Mindrust October 11, 2011 at 16:35

“Over and above that there are indeed no results from these topics showing any evidence, that warp drive or FTL are possible. ”

The problem with this statement is that there actually hasn’t been any experiments to see if warp drive or other FTL propulsion schemes are possible (at least none that I know of). Warp drive and wormholes have only been on paper, exclusively as toy models for GR.

This is mostly due to the requirement of negative energy densities, but Harold White has proposed negative pressure as an alternative. He outlined the experiment in his 2006 paper and the 100 SS symposium paper he presented.

Bob October 11, 2011 at 17:40

Duncan,

The problem with talking about “real physics” as you say is that “real physics” is a human construct that does not map to reality 100% or we would already know everything. What you are expressing is the conservative nature of “real physicists” who shy away from new ideas, especially popular ones. The fact is that the Alcubierre drive is a solution of the Einstein field equations. It is probably more valid than the very esoteric M theory constructs so popular among certain theorist crowds. Certainly it is a far more conservative concept than the so called “Multiverse” so popular today among physicists. So, it is as real as at least two of the most discussed mainstream ideas.

henk October 11, 2011 at 18:28

Mindrust

you can travel without exotic propulsion to the stars. If you travel 99.999% of lightspeed you can travel billions of lightyears in a lifetime. Evey year people claim that the found a way that ftl might be possible,but i will only be interested if they will create a small wormhole/warpdrive in a experiment. Some say that you need a jupiter mass exotic matter to create a wormhole. It will take a long time before we can create such a think and we need a lot of energie. I agree with you that it is good that some people research those topics

I think we should begin with a spaceship that move 10% of lightspeed and maybe one day we will find a way to make a real ftl drive. lets do it step for step before we go to the stars, lets go to mars

Mindrust October 11, 2011 at 21:23

Henk,

Sure, you can travel across the galaxy in much less than a human lifetime at 99% C, but everyone at home will be dead. That’s where the desire behind FTL propulsion comes from – getting to your destination arbitrarily fast as measured by both you and the people at home. The idea here is to have practical space travel, as opposed to it being a last resort for when or if our solar system is on the verge of annihilation.

And FYI, you need a jupiter mass of exotic matter to create an absurdly benign wormhole. That is, one that has no tidal forces and a large enough radius for people to safely walk through. To actually perform an experiment to see if wormholes can be created at all would require minimal exotic matter; just enough to make one that is detectable.

I agree with you on baby steps, but we can both work on near-term solutions and spend a modest amount on breakthrough propulsion/exotic physics. Heck, any breakthrough in exotic physics would likely solve a large amount of the problems we currently have with getting to Mars.

Duncan Ivry October 12, 2011 at 6:50

Bob,

Regarding the Alcubierre drive being a solution of the Einstein field equations, this is only a fact — a true statement — inside a set of mathematical formulas. This does not imply anything for the world outside. It does not imply or suggest, that anything is possible physically.

I went intensively through the literature about the Alcubierre drive: a small amount of theory, and *only* theory, no physical experiments, not even useful suggestions, only totally unspecified claims of this and that being possible or promising, chains of citations of publications with citations of publications etc. with no substance at the end of the chain. This low quality material does not impress me. Here we don’t have scientists at work. Valid to any degree? No!

Did you do anything equivalent?

Did I “shy away from new ideas, especially popular ones”?

Daniel October 12, 2011 at 13:17

Duncan Ivry@

Classic answer, I know what you mean lol ,but who take their feet off the ground, are called visionaries, and they will be remembered by history.

I’m aware that warp drive metrics be in accordance with general relativity and this is the first step (anyway a prefer wormhole metrics it’s more “simple”)

Sencond step: prove if warp drive metri it’s possible in the real world by manipulate the space-time.

experiments in this area is underway ,not in real space-time yet, but by metamaterial “emulating the physics of warp drive” http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/09/metamaterial-based-model-of-alcubierre.html

third step: warp the real space-time for propulsion, experiments on this step maybe hard,maybe we need know more deep on the nature of the Gravity,inertia,quantum vacuo,quantun gravity and dark energy. Areas in physics with lot of open questions, meaning that experimental physics have lot work to do, like quantum vacuo experiments ( http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/01/repulsive-casimir-force-casimir.html ), mach effect inertial experiments ( http://nextbigfuture.com/search/label/mach%20effect ),Martin Tajmar gravitomagnetic experiments and the real nature of the repulsive Dark energy that can lead a propellantless propulsion Physics system.
Maybe need lot energy to warp or open wormhole in space-time maybe not, we don’t know it yet, maybe what we need it’s just get know more deep the nature of such physics entities.

Science begin in theories that must be testing by experiments and then lead in practical technology.

But without try,we never know,and there is enough open question in the area, theories and exeperiments that justifies spend money in area like any other area in interstellar propulsion ,that can lead the mankind in a revolutionary new era.

with that all experiments and new ideas in physics , I don’t think that my brain will falls out lol, I just must be careful what’s deserve credit and what’s don’t. There’s lot of experiments in warp drive to prove or disprove if such manipulation of space-time is possible or not.

the Wormholes and Warp Drives still in science infancy, lot work need to be done, to be truly practical( if this prove possible) , and this need to begin now, like any other area in interstellar travel ” exotic” or not.

Bob October 12, 2011 at 13:32

“I went intensively through the literature about the Alcubierre drive: a small amount of theory, and *only* theory, no physical experiments, not even useful suggestions, … This low quality material does not impress me. Here we don’t have scientists at work. Valid to any degree? No!”

Duncan, the statement “Here we don’t have scientists at work.” I think is at the heart of the matter. It’s fine if you reach the conclusion you reached but you seem to go the next step and de-legitimize others who are actively looking, working dreaming and may someday make it more concrete. The great physicist Feynman once went to a conference on General Relativity in the early 60’s I believe and basically said he was unimpressed with the whole field, there was nothing worthy there. We are fortunate that the GR folks did not all move to other fields and that the field advanced.

“Did I “shy away from new ideas, especially popular ones”?”

I was speaking in broad terms and not saying you personally did. But are you not saying it’s an area a real physicist would not waste his time with?

So, if it’s not valid to any degree why would anybody work on it? And if nobody works on it then how will it ever go anywhere?

Seems like your saying we should just admit the universe will never allow FTL speed and give up.

Marc G Millis October 12, 2011 at 14:45

Sigh…
Regardless if warp drives or interstellar space drives are possible, much will be learned from investigating the possibilities. Warp drives are now homework problems to help teach general relativity. The value comes from gaining knowledge, without preconceived notions of what the answer will be. Remember the post about impartiality?

Our audience wants impartial, trustworthy, and informed assessments, rather than just off-the-cuff banter. The questions about these options need to be seriously addressed. To pedantically dismiss what is beyond your comprehension is NOT science. To consider the possibilities and then let the results speak for themselves is science.

None of us are clairvoyant. None of us can predict the technologies that will be in hand a century from now. But there is a powerful distinction between those that investigate and learn, and those that just wax pedantic on web blogs. My ears are tuned to those that investigate and learn.

Athena Andreadis October 12, 2011 at 16:13

In an earlier CD entry, Paul generously quoted my take on the OPERA neutrino result. Discussions of using quantum entanglement to make teleporters (snort) and FTL/wormhole flight based on “propellant-less propulsion” (eh?) makes it imperative that we separate wet dreams/science fiction from reality. Here’s a relevant quote from my entry:

“Anglo-Saxon cultures have a strong anti-intellectual streak. Some of it is the lingering mystique of the British gentleman dilettante; some is the American obsession with self-determination. Yet the same people who treat scientists like class enemies and jeer at their painstaking mindsets and work habits follow woo gurus – from homeopaths to investment advisors to Teabagger televangelists – with unsurprising outcomes.

If people really think that they can do science better than trained scientists, I invite them to apply this reasoning to other domains and have the next person they meet on the street do their root canals or wire their house for electricity. ”

The attitude of “experts are sticks in the mud, let dreamers drive the cart” is kinda like Luke Skywalker homing on the tiny dot of vulnerability in the planet-sized Death Star with little flying experience and eyes wide shut because, ya know, the Force is with him. Very enticing to the teenage nerds that made up Lucas’ target audience… but as likely as me waking up tomorrow with green eyes.

We have still much to discover. But I guarantee you that we won’t find out tomorrow that the sun goes around the earth. And I guarantee you that even if the OPERA neutrino results are confirmed, they won’t lead to fast starships. Perhaps I should simply adopt xkcd’s policy and take bets on some of the “visionary” science advanced by too-widely-open minds whose owners are enthusiastic but uncritical or unversed. It would make me very, very rich.

Jean-Pierre Le Rouzic October 12, 2011 at 16:33

Hi,

This is my second post here, I am a Telecom R&D engineer living in Europe. I now nearly nothing about space exploration.

What do you think about a prize that would be about small, concrete steps to achieve interstellar travel for robotic probes? I am thinking about a small sum with respect to X prize (at least $10K, if possible $100K) but a prize with criterion that ask for sensible, concrete solutions that are either conventional or at least testable with a good success forecast.
I ask this because I think it’s possible to go to the nearest star, with a robot probe and near future engineering techniques. This was even mentioned on Saturday at 100YSS by G Benford and another person whose I forgot the name. The other person even mentioned he tried experiments with neutron sources(1), the EMC2 SME (2) was also mentioned by G Benford. There are also realistic studies about interstellar precursors going as far as the Oort cloud. One of them seems to have found funding (6).

The prize could have two parts, one for near future engineering techniques and another for more exotic techniques.
For the near future part, the success criteria would be to produce a detailed plan for a probe (to the level of Master in engineering thesis).
The other (more exotic) prize part the success criteria would something testable with a cost let say less than $1M for making it possible to find a funding. In addition another criteria would be mandatory: Only reliance on physics ideas that are mainstream, so no Warp drive or often misunderstood concepts such entanglement. But that doesn’t mean nothing is possible, for example quantum tunneling is used in electronic devices since more than 50 years (3) while I don’t think about tunneling across light years :-) , why not think about some implications it could have in realistic fusion devices (4)(5)? What is proposed essentially would be to use solid established ideas in one engineering domain to make an engineering breakthrough in another domain. No science breakthrough would be sought.

I can help to find some funding, in fact it’s the easiest part of the job. Writing requirements and criterion for the two prizes is much more difficult, perhaps as much as difficult as finding solutions that would meet the requirements. If someone find a realistic solution another step would be to realize a Proof of Concept. A further step would be to find an incentive to go to the stars, maybe a business model or perhaps ending the current recession.

What is your opinion on this kind of prize?

Jean-Pierre

PS:
(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_generator
(2) http://www.emc2fusion.org/
(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnel_diode
(4) http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2008/June/11060803.asp
(5) http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.38.5202&rep=rep1&type=pdf
(6) http://interstellarexplorer.jhuapl.edu/

Athena Andreadis October 12, 2011 at 17:26

“To pedantically dismiss what is beyond your comprehension is NOT science.”

“…there is a powerful distinction between those that investigate and learn, and those that just wax pedantic on web blogs.”

Let’s make this crystal clear, Marc, beyond the pomposity.

Am I, a bench scientist doing primary research, one of those “waxing pedantic on web logs” because I hold the view that, even if neutrinos are definitively shown to occasionally go barely FTL it won’t avail us much — even if we could build starships made of neutrinos?

Daniel October 12, 2011 at 17:56

Marc G Millis@

Could you please tell more about the interstellar space drives? where can I find more scientific article about this interstellar space drives ? Is it doesn’t break any Conservation law?

Bob October 12, 2011 at 18:29

Athena Andreadis writes

“If people really think that they can do science better than trained scientists, I invite them to apply this reasoning to other domains…”

I don’t think people here are saying that but there certainly are some scientists with vision who do not treat the sciences as their private little club (at the taxpayers expense I might add) looking down at the poor dirty masses that lack a Phd. in physics or whatever.

“And I guarantee you that even if the OPERA neutrino results are confirmed, they won’t lead to fast starships.”

That attitude will guarantee it.

Marc G Millis October 12, 2011 at 23:36

Daniel;
So far, the only things that are readily accessible are in the “Frontiers of Propulsion Science” book. Conservation laws are used as defining constraint to better understand the problem. Next on the list is examining what might constitute a reaction mass. And then there is the ‘net external thrust’ requirement.

The short answer is that this work is mostly at the stage of ‘defining the problem’ well enough to point where to look next at unfinished physics. That said, my personal areas of curiosity are on the sources of inertial frames (akin to notions of Mach), and the role of quantum lowest-state energy. These two things are still not well understood. Not sure if using a space drive perspective on these lingering unknowns will result in working space drives, but they will help us better understand these unanswered physics questions in general.

I want to write more papers on such things, but my priorities are currently on proposal writing, web revisions, and other admin stuff.

Mindrust October 12, 2011 at 23:49

It is too early to say what will come from the OPERA results (assuming they’re valid). I certainly don’t think anyone can guarantee anything at this stage.

But if neutrinos turn out to be tachyons as some bold people are speculating, you might be able to use them as reaction mass. John Cramer described the performance of such a hypothetical tachyon drive in his Alternate View columns:

http://www.npl.washington.edu/av/altvw61.html

Then again, my feeling is that the OPERA results are likely due to systematic error.

ljk October 13, 2011 at 0:34

The journey of 100 years begins with a single weekend

by Jeff Foust

Monday, October 10, 2011

This is a time of transition and upheaval for human spaceflight. Earlier this year the Space Shuttle program came to an end, a little over 30 years after its first flight. After an extended period of uncertainty prompted by the Obama Administration’s decision to cancel the Constellation program, NASA now has in place plans to build a new heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System, as well as the Orion spacecraft, but with no guarantee that the budgets will be there over the long term to support their development. Meanwhile, commercial ventures are making progress on both suborbital and orbital vehicles, the latter to support the International Space Station, but at slower paces than previously anticipated.

In other words, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about building starships.

Full article here:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1946/1

Duncan Ivry October 13, 2011 at 5:59

Daniel

“prove if warp drive metri it’s possible in the real world by manipulate the space-time.”

How? Put your experiments where your mouth is! This is crucial.

“experiments in this area is underway ,not in real space-time yet, but by metamaterial “emulating the physics of warp drive””

That’s just the problem: these experiments are emulating — you may as well say “simulating” — the “physics” in question. In the end we don’t know anything whether warping of space time is *really* possible *this* way. And people here, including me, want human beings *really* traveling to the stars, don’t they?

When looking into the literature about the experiments mentioned above, there is not even a hint, why it should be possible to make conclusions from the emulation to the real world.

And regarding your third step, there are no results since decades of talking and presenting formulas. As Marc Millis said: “Sigh”.

Talking about Marc Millis: “To consider the possibilities and then let the results speak for themselves is science.” Since decades now he and others have not been able to present useful results. Doing research in the formula cloud should eventually lead to something.

Marc said “there is a powerful distinction between those that investigate and learn, and those that just wax pedantic on web blogs”

Just in case, he meant me: Didn’t I just tell that I investigated the literature about the Alcubierre drive (not only this, by the way, but this too), and what I learned from it? So Marc’s “ears are tuned to” me. Funny!

Ronald October 13, 2011 at 7:07

@Athena: “We have still much to discover. But I guarantee you that we won’t find out tomorrow that the sun goes around the earth”.

I like that one and it is similar to what I like to say to some creationist and esoteric friends and acquaintances, that hope that someday, somehow, science will confirm their preferred belief systems: science keeps discovering new and surprising things, but seldom or never returns to obsolete ideas or myths. The earth will never be flat again.

On the other hand, I can also feel with what some others here are arguing, namely that it may be very worthwhile to scientifically explore entirely new and unconventional ideas. After all, that is how much (if not most) scientific revolutions originated (relativity, quantum physiscs, big bang, universal expansion, evolution, …).
The one important thing that these new ideas had in common, however, is that they were all testable against reality, verifiable, reproducable (some of the pillars of science). All new ideas will ultimately have to be able to stand these tests of scientific scrutiny. Exactly that is what distinguishes science from fiction, beliefs, mythology, hopes, nice ideas, good intentions, etc.
And that is why we have electricity, magnetism, electromagnetism, airplanes, computers, etc. And not (yet) cold fusion or Tesla free energy engines.
Having said that, I really think it is worthwhile to further investigate the ideas of Heim, Tajmar, Chiao, Mach/Woodward, Casimir, etc.
They may be in the stage where electricity and magnetism were during the ancient Greek and Roman times.
But they also will will have to stand up to scientific scrutiny and if they cannot, we will have to accept that and move on.

Duncan Ivry October 13, 2011 at 11:07

@Ronald: Well said.

Let me add this: Because of Einstein’s great physics breakthrough (TM), the theory of relativity, “we” realized, that it’s not possible to achieve *any* velocity by just accelerating on and on — like it’s possible according to Newton’s physics –, but that there is an upper speed limit for all material things. In a certain sense this is bad news — for space travel.

What we can learn from this, is, that some future physics breakthrough *may* as well uncover some restriction unknown today, whereas many enthusiasts and their brothers and their dogs hope it will be a change to the “better”, that there will be more possibilities, and a now old restriction will go away anyhow.

Newton’s physics is still here in our everyday life, and Einstein’s physics will still be in our space traveling life tomorrow.

Mindrust October 13, 2011 at 16:44

You state GR spells bad news for space travel due to the speed of light restriction, yet you ignore the exact solutions to the field equations that show it’s at least theoretically possible to engineer the space-time metric. Sure, it’s most likely not going to happen in the foreseeable future (perhaps never if quantum gravity forbids it), but the breakthrough you’re talking about doesn’t need to be found in a new theory or physical principle. General relativity already provides a way – and that is where a breakthrough will be made (if any are made).

Ron S October 13, 2011 at 23:30

“…the exact solutions to the field equations that show it’s at least theoretically possible to engineer the space-time metric.”

There are indeed many interesting manifestations of the EFE. Many of these require some mathematical license. For example, in the case of warp drives, it requires placing a “-” in front of “m” (or “E”). It’s a pity that there is no evidence that such a thing (exotic matter) exists, and may in fact be ruled out by QG (to be determined).

This is where we have to be careful to distinguish doing mathematics from doing physics. When you employ terms such as “-m” you begin to cross the line from physics to pure mathematics.

There are similar examples in other so-called exotic propulsion methods. It’s interesting work but not necessarily physics. While we use mathematics to express physical theories, the trouble begins when we start to consider every mapping of that mathematics back to physics. This is a necessary to explore a theory’s predictive power, just don’t abuse it.

Eniac October 14, 2011 at 0:52

@Athena

Am I, a bench scientist doing primary research, one of those “waxing pedantic on web logs” because I hold the view that, even if neutrinos are definitively shown to occasionally go barely FTL it won’t avail us much — even if we could build starships made of neutrinos?

Nope, I don’t think that’s it. I think it was more likely this passage that invited the characterization:

Discussions of using quantum entanglement to make teleporters (snort) and FTL/wormhole flight based on “propellant-less propulsion” (eh?) makes it imperative that we separate wet dreams/science fiction from reality.

Nevertheless, at the risk of inducting myself into the ranks of the pedants, I must admit that I fully agree with you on this particular subject matter.

Jean-Pierre Le Rouzic October 14, 2011 at 4:58

@Mindrust:
There is something I don’t understand, a Warp drive (if it is feasible) would be a nice tool to explore the galaxy, but do we really need one to send a robotic probe to the closest stars?
I mean the notion that a probe –which mandates incredible speeds– has to go and return on Earth in a life time is not something the humanity experienced in the past. For hundred of thousand years people have moved to other locations without thinking to ever return home. It would be feasible to colonize the closest stars with 10/20 years ahead technologies in the same way people colonized the “new world” 500 years ago. This without any need for FTL, warped dimensions or any other exotic physics.
IMO people should understand that engineering, CS, medical science and biology are much more able to provide useful clues about going to stars than exotic physics.

Mindrust October 14, 2011 at 8:33

Ron S:

Just to be clear here, I’m not an expert. However, from what I understand, exotic matter is just a misnomer. The correct word to use is negative energy density, which turns out violates all the energy conditions (strong, weak, dominant). This type of energy does exist in nature, albeit only in tiny quantities. So the issue here is not really whether such matter exists, but whether it can exist in any significant amount to be useful.

Duncan Ivry October 14, 2011 at 9:47

Mindrust: “at least theoretically possible to engineer”

The problem did not go away: it’s research in the formula cloud and only there. Engineering is essentially more than that. It includes at least a concept of how to construct real things. That a set of mathematical equations has a certain solution does *not* imply that we are able to engineer something. That the solution Einstein proposed — accompanied by good reasons — is indeed a solution, had to be shown by physical experiments. I can only say it again: I went through the literature about the Alcubierre drive and found nothing like that, not even useful proposals, only claims without substance, and, above that, bad wannabe science.

Bob October 14, 2011 at 13:19

“I went through the literature about the Alcubierre drive and found nothing like that, not even useful proposals, only claims without substance, and, above that, bad wannabe science.”

A current literature search in a nascent field is used as evidence that the field is worthless and unworthy of study. A conclusion both illogical and conservative to the point of being obstructionist.

You’re killing people’s dreams with a false sense of authority based on your own biases.

Rob Henry October 14, 2011 at 17:03

FTL travel mechanisms are indeed all so speculative that it would make a great deal of sense to fold them in with the science fiction boards as Athena suggested. What disturbs me is that Bob is also spot on when he observes

“The fact is that the Alcubierre drive is a solution of the Einstein field equations. It is probably more valid than the very esoteric M theory constructs so popular among certain theorist crowds. Certainly it is a far more conservative concept than the so called “Multiverse” so popular today among physicists.”

What has happened to modern physics, and does it mean that we are approaching an unexpected juncture, or is it a dead end?

Rob Henry October 14, 2011 at 18:02

I feel that I must add to my earlier comment. To me, there is no reason for the rules by which our universe operates to be comprehensible to the human mind. Actually, I can think of no reason why they should even have a finite complexity. To me the improbable coincidence that this universe has sufficient (emergent?) order that some phenomena within it can be matched to our scientific constructs to ten significant figures is staggering.

If physics really has reached a dead end then there still is a way forward, as demonstrated by Tesla. His great knowledge of parts of science and engineering skills allowed him to make breakthroughs that were only possible with gross ignorance of the most scientific contemporary evaluation of other parts of nature.

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