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Fri Aug 1, 2014, 01:14 PM

NASA Tests "Impossible" Perpetual Motion Drive; Says it Works


A study conducted last year by NASA scientists has become the latest, and by far the highest profile, piece of evidence in favor of a seemingly impossible space thruster design that’s been evoking worldwide skepticism for some time now. Apparently annoyed by the persistent boosters of several similar but distinct designs, the space agency finally agreed to test an American-made variant called the Cannae Drive. “Alright!” they said. “We’ll test your stupid drive that won’t work.” Except it did work. Seemingly in contravention of the law of conservation of momentum, the team confirmed that the device produces thrust by using electricity, and nothing else. Supporters call them microwave thrusters or quantum vacuum plasma thrusters (QVPT), while most others use the phrase “anomalous thrust device.”

*SNIP*

While NASA might not want to talk about it, though, for us it’s worth discussing just how this drive’s creators hypothesize the thruster works. By now, most people are aware that the laws of classical physics tend to break down at the quantum scale, and exploiting that fact can give you interesting little physical impossibilities like infinitely accelerating negative-mass photons. However, the effects of these quantum-scale impossibilities have always stayed at the quantum scale; sure one atom could theoretically phase-shift through another, but we still can’t run through walls.

The central insight here (assuming this isn’t all a big mistake) is that something called quantum vacuum fluctuations will occasionally spontaneously create particles all throughout the vacuum of space, and that these short-lived particles can be put to useful work. Thus, this thruster actually does use fuel — it just finds and uses that fuel as it goes. The thruster essentially turns these virtual particles into a plasma and expels them out the back of the ship, much like a conventional fuel source. The quantum fuel, though, spontaneously appears inside the thruster’s reaction area without even the need for collection or injection hardware. All things considered, that’s more than a little exciting.

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/187346-nasa-tests-impossible-no-fuel-quantum-space-engine-and-it-actually-works

Interesting if this holds up. A spacecraft would not have to carry fuel because it would rely on particles "spontaneously" appearing in the drive. Also interesting because theories about this type of drive have so far been more in the realm of thought experiments than hard science, and so have drawn intense skepticism.

A case of woo come true?

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Reply NASA Tests "Impossible" Perpetual Motion Drive; Says it Works (Original post)
DirkGently Aug 2014 OP
enlightenment Aug 2014 #1
Logical Aug 2014 #11
enlightenment Aug 2014 #12
backscatter712 Aug 2014 #59
DirkGently Aug 2014 #86
Logical Aug 2014 #87
DirkGently Aug 2014 #88
kelliekat44 Aug 2014 #55
enlightenment Aug 2014 #57
Marr Aug 2014 #100
enlightenment Aug 2014 #103
nashville_brook Aug 2014 #2
Logical Aug 2014 #17
crim son Aug 2014 #27
aint_no_life_nowhere Aug 2014 #89
G_j Aug 2014 #95
Uncle Joe Aug 2014 #3
jeff47 Aug 2014 #4
DirkGently Aug 2014 #8
jeff47 Aug 2014 #20
The Traveler Aug 2014 #24
jeff47 Aug 2014 #26
DirkGently Aug 2014 #30
jeff47 Aug 2014 #32
jberryhill Aug 2014 #101
Uncle Joe Aug 2014 #77
jeff47 Aug 2014 #78
Sirveri Aug 2014 #96
jeff47 Aug 2014 #97
Humanist_Activist Aug 2014 #69
hifiguy Aug 2014 #5
Orrex Aug 2014 #34
hifiguy Aug 2014 #36
Orrex Aug 2014 #37
Frank Cannon Aug 2014 #56
mathematic Aug 2014 #80
Go Vols Aug 2014 #6
MineralMan Aug 2014 #7
Kablooie Aug 2014 #14
MineralMan Aug 2014 #15
Treant Aug 2014 #19
DirkGently Aug 2014 #35
Treant Aug 2014 #38
DirkGently Aug 2014 #45
Treant Aug 2014 #50
backscatter712 Aug 2014 #60
sir pball Aug 2014 #74
joshcryer Aug 2014 #79
hunter Aug 2014 #9
DirkGently Aug 2014 #16
colsohlibgal Aug 2014 #10
Bosonic Aug 2014 #13
IDemo Aug 2014 #18
sarisataka Aug 2014 #21
jmowreader Aug 2014 #22
sarisataka Aug 2014 #28
awoke_in_2003 Aug 2014 #49
DirkGently Aug 2014 #53
awoke_in_2003 Aug 2014 #54
DirkGently Aug 2014 #61
DeSwiss Aug 2014 #23
DirkGently Aug 2014 #63
DRoseDARs Aug 2014 #25
paulkienitz Aug 2014 #33
DRoseDARs Aug 2014 #51
Spitfire of ATJ Aug 2014 #29
paulkienitz Aug 2014 #31
Treant Aug 2014 #39
paulkienitz Aug 2014 #43
caraher Aug 2014 #40
Eleanors38 Aug 2014 #42
paulkienitz Aug 2014 #44
caraher Aug 2014 #47
paulkienitz Aug 2014 #104
caraher Aug 2014 #105
paulkienitz Aug 2014 #107
caraher Aug 2014 #108
silverweb Aug 2014 #41
Rex Aug 2014 #46
DirkGently Aug 2014 #48
Rex Aug 2014 #52
nashville_brook Aug 2014 #62
backscatter712 Aug 2014 #58
Rex Aug 2014 #81
nashville_brook Aug 2014 #64
Motown_Johnny Aug 2014 #65
DirkGently Aug 2014 #66
Motown_Johnny Aug 2014 #67
Humanist_Activist Aug 2014 #68
DirkGently Aug 2014 #71
Humanist_Activist Aug 2014 #82
DirkGently Aug 2014 #83
Marr Aug 2014 #102
derby378 Aug 2014 #70
DirkGently Aug 2014 #72
derby378 Aug 2014 #73
DirkGently Aug 2014 #85
derby378 Aug 2014 #90
DirkGently Aug 2014 #91
derby378 Aug 2014 #92
Hugabear Aug 2014 #99
struggle4progress Aug 2014 #75
DirkGently Aug 2014 #84
intaglio Aug 2014 #76
backscatter712 Aug 2014 #93
DirkGently Aug 2014 #94
Rex Aug 2014 #98
Nye Bevan Aug 2014 #106

Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 01:33 PM

1. Woo is woo until

the scientific community says otherwise and shifts their paradigm.

I'm hoping they do. Since they tested the "Cannae", I also hope they will test the "Em-Drive" soon - with positive results.

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Response to enlightenment (Reply #1)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:28 PM

11. Isn't that how science should work? nt

 

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Response to Logical (Reply #11)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:29 PM

12. Of course.

Did I say it shouldn't?

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Response to enlightenment (Reply #12)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 09:14 AM

59. It's like Dara O'Briain's comment about "natural medicine"

Last edited Sat Aug 2, 2014, 09:47 AM - Edit history (1)

“I'm sorry, 'herbal medicine', "Oh, herbal medicine's been around for thousands of years!" Indeed it has, and then we tested it all, and the stuff that worked became 'medicine'. And the rest of it is just a nice bowl of soup and some potpourri, so knock yourselves out.”


They're testing this gadget. NASA says it works, and the scientists are making hypotheses about why it works. Before long, other scientists are going to try to replicate this, by building their own gadgets and testing them. Either the gadget works for them, and the gadget becomes science, or they can't make it work, figure out why it's not working, conclude the gadget's nonsense, in which case it is woo.

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Response to Logical (Reply #11)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 12:30 PM

86. Sometimes you need a leap. Rigid skeptics hate that.


It's one thing to insist on objective testing to explore / prove a new idea.

It's entirely another to savage new ideas as being irrational idiocy until a braver person investigates something dubious for you and actually delivers new knowledge.

New ideas should not be regarded as irrational bullshit to be shouted down and derided by cowardly skeptics who pretend they know everything and then simply change their tune after better minds have proven them wrong.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #86)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 12:34 PM

87. Scientific Method. n-t

 

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Response to Logical (Reply #87)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 12:36 PM

88. Still Often Requires a Dubious Leap. n/t

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Response to enlightenment (Reply #1)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 05:39 AM

55. I'm thinking that Big Oil will thwart this somehow because of its potential for

 

Autos. And no. I am not crazy just because you think I am.

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Response to kelliekat44 (Reply #55)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 08:55 AM

57. I don't think you are.

The fossil fuels industry has scuttled an idea or three in the past - it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see them attempt to preempt this, should it prove viable.

We humans are our own worst enemy, of course.

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Response to enlightenment (Reply #1)

Tue Aug 5, 2014, 03:16 PM

100. I guarantee you the people working on this are scientists.

 

And this is not "perpetual motion". Energy goes into the system to create the field. The particles created don't power that field.

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Response to Marr (Reply #100)

Tue Aug 5, 2014, 03:39 PM

103. I think you responded to the wrong person, Marr!

I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek. It's exciting and I hope it proves to be a VERY big deal.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 01:42 PM

2. the term "woo" is such silly BS -- it truly diminishes some important groundbreaking work

to the point where all groundbreaking work gets dismissed.

we need to stop using that framing.

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Response to nashville_brook (Reply #2)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:47 PM

17. Not at all......

 

Way more wild claims are thrown out without proof than are rejected and the proven true. And no real inventor will give up on something that works because no one believes in it.

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Response to nashville_brook (Reply #2)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:10 PM

27. Oh for gawd's sake.

I don't think anybody here is so simpleminded as to be swayed from their amazement by the term "woo."

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Response to nashville_brook (Reply #2)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 12:37 PM

89. "Woo" is about the most unscientific term you can use

and doesn't specify why something is being questioned as dubious or bizarre. Hard to believe someone uses that term to attack something as unscientific. I have yet to see the term "woo" used in a scientific paper challenging previous theory or in a scientific review article.

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Response to aint_no_life_nowhere (Reply #89)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 07:13 PM

95. exactly

and scientists I'm familiar with, don't use snark and ridicule as their mode of expression.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 01:48 PM

3. Kicked and recommended.

Thanks for the thread, DirkGently.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 01:50 PM

4. I think this is the worst-written science article I've seen.

It's not a perpetual motion drive.
It does use fuel - electricity.

What makes this interesting is satellites have to use thrusters to correct their orbit occasionally. The fuel for those thrusters limit how long the satellite keeps working. No fuel and the orbit decays, resulting in an exciting return to Earth.

If this thruster works, then satellites can just use electricity from their solar panels to run their thrusters. They are no longer limited by the fuel they carry.

Additionally, that makes satellites lighter and thus cheaper to launch. You don't have to boost a bunch of hydrazine into orbit inside the satellite.

We'll see if it holds up.

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Response to jeff47 (Reply #4)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:11 PM

8. Mmmm. Not quite. Electricity is not the fuel. Satellites are not the only anticipated application.

Here are a few other articles covering it. None of them characterize electricity as the "fuel" and each points out the potential for long-distance spaceflight.



http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/130168-nasa-confirms-microwave-space-drive-is-possible-fuel-free-propulsion-incoming

NASA confirms microwave space drive is possible, fuel-free propulsion incoming


http://rt.com/usa/177204-nasa-space-drive-emdrive/
In short, if the results hold up, humanity can say goodbye to huge energy consumption costs associated with space travel, and say hello to deep-space missions and distant world exploration at a fraction of the cost and at 100 times the speed.

But since its inception, the revolutionary drive had appeared to be impossible because it breaks the laws of the conservation of momentum. Put simply, acceleration in any rocket engine is achieved by a large amount of fuel bursting out of the thrusters and pushing the vessel forward. The drive promises to change this forever by creating its own momentum.


http://tech.uk.msn.com/news/articles.aspx?cp-documentid=261564761
NASA confirms fuel-free space drive that uses microwaves to fly
NASA said: "Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma."

With artificial leaves shown off this week and now fuel-free drives possible it's starting to look like deep space travel may soon become a reality.


The article cited is actually one of the few that tries to provide a realistic explanation of what's going on. The inventors of these drives are talking about "bouncing microwaves around inside a closed container to create thrust." But thrust from what? What is being pushed out of the drive to move the vehicle? "Electricity" cannot by itself create thrust.

Wild as it would be, particles spontaneously appearing inside the drive due to quantum phenonemon at least would not shred the conservation of matter / energy.

It would, however, be essentially "perpetual," given the device is neither carrying nor actively collecting fuel.

IF, of course, no is fueling themselves (yukka yukka) about what's going on here.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #8)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:54 PM

20. The effect is caused by microwaves, generated electrically.

Here's an earlier post on DU with a much better article: http://www.democraticunderground.com/122831229

The effect is caused by firing microwaves through the chamber. Those microwaves are generated using electricity.

What makes this "fuel free" is you're not burning fuel for thrust. But you still need an energy source to generate microwaves.

What makes it work for "long distance" is you could use an RTG for electricity, as in the Voyager probes. But you still need a source of electricity.

But what makes it not work at all for long distance is the thrust is very small. But it is high enough to work for satellites, if the previous experiments in the UK and China are correct. In this NASA experiment, they didn't get nearly as much thrust.

It would, however, be essentially "perpetual," given the device is neither carrying nor actively collecting fuel.

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Response to jeff47 (Reply #20)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:06 PM

24. It has wider application than that ...

 

But hard to tell how much wider. We don't understand the physics here, really. Not yet. So we can't even speculate on the practical limits of a technology based on the physics this model is demonstrating for us.

But low thrust is not necessarily a big impediment. Ion drives are low thrust ... and they have long been considered viable for interplanetary flight due to their very high specific impulse. Low thrust is fine in space ... you just have to keep thrusting for a long time. And with this thing you might be able to thrust for practically ever.

This machine does need a power source (hence fuel of some sort ... or solar arrays) but it doesn't need a working fluid ... that is, it doesn't need mass that it spits out to produce a reaction. That is an incredible thing! Quite possibly a game changer.

Harold White at NASA has been working on "Q thrusters" which they hope will exploit quantum vacuum particles in a manner analogous to a propeller. (Not a clear analogy ... works off the Casimir effect IIRC.) Not sure where that research is right now ... wonder if he is looking at this.

Trav

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Response to The Traveler (Reply #24)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:10 PM

26. Usually when people say "long distance spaceflight" in normal media

they're talking about human long distance spaceflight.

Low thrust means the trip takes too long. Supplying enough food and water becomes pretty much impossible.

Given the quality of the articles in this thread, I'm assuming they're talking about human long-distance spaceflight instead of probes that spend decades getting to another planet in our solar system.

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Response to jeff47 (Reply #20)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:13 PM

30. Actually, low thrust is fine for long distances.

Even the conventional ion drives using carried fuel rely on fairly small impulses. On the contrary, no one thinks we'd be traveling long distances with giant full-power rockets blasting behind.

And again, using electricity to propel particles does not make electricity the "fuel." It is energy, but energy by itself doesn't propel anything anywhere.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #30)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:15 PM

32. Low thrust doesn't get you there fast enough if you have humans on board.

Which is what articles like the ones you used are usually talking about when they say "long distance".

It takes so long that you have to supply so much food and water that it isn't really possible.

And again, using electricity to propel particles does not make electricity the "fuel." It is energy, but energy by itself doesn't propel anything anywhere.

Says the guy that is claiming it's a perpetual motion machine.

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Response to jeff47 (Reply #32)

Tue Aug 5, 2014, 03:25 PM

101. Not necessarily

 

The way we do rockets is to have a shitload of thrust initially and then no thrust at all. Any thrust is going to contribute to acceleration, so it all depends on how long a range comparison you want to make.

But this sounds more like experimental error, given the extremely low forces involved in the measurement.

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Response to jeff47 (Reply #20)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 05:10 PM

77. Could it be possible that other "particles" could be used for electricity generation as they're

collected to either replace or replenish the original source as is used in this case?

I'm not talking about solar, but another newly discovered dynamic from those particles that could create electricity.



The central insight here (assuming this isn’t all a big mistake) is that something called quantum vacuum fluctuations will occasionally spontaneously create particles all throughout the vacuum of space, and that these short-lived particles can be put to useful work.Thus, this thruster actually does use fuel — it just finds and uses that fuel as it goes. The thruster essentially turns these virtual particles into a plasma and expels them out the back of the ship, much like a conventional fuel source. The quantum fuel, though, spontaneously appears inside the thruster’s reaction area without even the need for collection or injection hardware. All things considered, that’s more than a little exciting.

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Response to Uncle Joe (Reply #77)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 06:44 PM

78. No. Perpetual motion machines are impossible.

You can't use the particles that are being used as thrust to generate the electricity to make that thrust. You'd either lose the thrust, or you'd lose the electricity.

Something has to be the energy source. What's interesting here is there are a variety of options to supply electricity that are far more compact than fuel.

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Response to jeff47 (Reply #78)

Tue Aug 5, 2014, 12:51 PM

96. Except that if the article is correct, the particles appear from 'nowhere'.

So they could be violating the laws of physics there if the amount of energy fed into the device is less than the amount of mass generated (in addition to the the energy of that mass, which as plasma is probably quite high). If E-in is less than E-out they have created a device with the potential to be perpetual.

They probably haven't though...

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Response to Sirveri (Reply #96)

Tue Aug 5, 2014, 03:03 PM

97. No.

E=mc^2 isn't a conversion formula. It's an equilibrium. So energy is constantly being consumed to create mass, equal parts matter and antimatter. Which then collide and go back to being energy.

Those are the particles that are supposed to be influenced by this system. These particles are not created by the system. They exist everywhere as the equilibrium swings back and forth. This device attempts to move them to create thrust.

So the energy input is just the electricity creating that thrust. The energy bound in the particles is just part of the background world.

(And that's assuming the thrust wasn't caused by errors like not running the device in a vacuum)

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #8)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 03:13 PM

69. Fuel in this case is simply propellent, unlike in chemical rocket engines, which are...

controlled explosions of fuel that provide the thrust. The thrust in ion engines, and this EM drive is provided by the electricity, which is used to accelerate the propellent. The propellent is NOT the source of energy in this system, but what the system uses to provide thrust.

Think of it like gasoline in your car, the gasoline provides the energy, but the tires provide the torque needed to push against the road and move forward. The propellent, small, ionized particles, serve the purpose of the tires, while electricity supplies to process just like gasoline does in an internal combustion engine.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 01:53 PM

5. Einstein was nuts until the eclipse observations proved

 

that he was right all along. I can't believe human understanding of physics ended with Einstein.

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #5)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:21 PM

34. I can't believe that anyone seriously thought Einstein was nuts.

The eclipse observations proved that he was right. His sanity was not in question prior to that time or after.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #34)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:28 PM

36. True, but his theories were thought to be either

 

waaay out there or likely unprovable.

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #36)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:34 PM

37. Okay, I can go with that.

The reason that I bristled at the "thought he was crazy" framing is that it opens the door for all kinds of actually crazy ideas to claim that they'll be vindicated in time.

There's a line between "crazy" and "not yet provable," and there are some who would blur that line!

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Response to Orrex (Reply #37)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 05:46 AM

56. "They laughed at the Wright Brothers."

"Yes, but they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

--Carl Sagan

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #5)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 07:25 PM

80. Stop rewriting the history of Einstein

He was not some outsider genius waving chalkboards furiously at establishment physicists.

He published a bunch of papers in 1905 when he was 26. Those papers alone would have been enough to establish him as a historically important physicist. The theory of general relativity, which you refer to, was published in 1915. Nobody thought he was nuts.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:01 PM

6. K&R

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:07 PM

7. It's not perpetual motion at all. Energy is supplied to

the device, resulting in a very low level of thrust force. If the energy source is removed, no thrust is generated. It's not a perpetual motion device at all.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #7)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:37 PM

14. It kind of is if quantum fluctuation particles drive the engine and are created perpetually .

I was under the impression that these particles were fairly rare.
If there are enough to drive an engine noticeably it must be a more common occurrence that I thought.

I think these things are also what hawking radiation is based on.
The faint radiation that comes from a black hole and will, in time, a lot of time, evaporate it away.

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Response to Kablooie (Reply #14)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:39 PM

15. Still, energy is input into the system.

That means its not perpetual motion. It's interesting, and may be something heretofore unknown, but it's not perpetual energy, by definition.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #15)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:49 PM

19. THANK You.

Yep, with a constant energy input required, this is not perpetual motion. No more than a Bussard ramjet, which would collect hydrogen and use it as fuel.

This simply influences quantum fluctuation-generated particles and uses those as fuel.

No energy input, no thrust.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #15)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:22 PM

35. Perpetual motion. Not "perpetual energy."

You're restricting the definition to the quack devices that claimed to move on their own, or preserve some initial energy input indefinitely. That's not being discussed here.

What is being incredibly suggested is that you could go on forever with just energy collected from solar arrays -- which by itself does not create motion -- and a fuel that "spontaneously appears."

That is a very wild notion, but if it were truly possible to gather both energy and fuel without ever "stopping for a refill" you would in fact have a perpetual motion device.

IF.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #35)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:52 PM

38. Same difference

Perpetual motion = perpetual energy. Even in space, there's a tiny, micro amount of friction--which would become very, very important as you accelerate.

Effectively, in this case, externally generated electricity turns into thrust. Energy goes into the system. Thrust comes out. It's no different from a conventional rocket except that you don't have to carry fuel.

It's as inaccurate to call this perpetual motion/thrust/energy as it is to call a solar sail perpetual motion. Both simply use external particles--solar photons in the sail's case, particle pairs in this one.

In both cases, however, distance from the Sun matters if you're using solar panels for this engine. They're very nice things, but not terribly effective in the outer solar system and completely ineffective in interstellar space.

We'd need a different energy source to generate electricity further out. Historically, we use a nuclear engine for that. And nobody's claiming you can exploit this quantum trick to generate the electricity that also generates the thrust (if they were, the claim becomes extraordinary and the proof becomes correspondingly more rigorous).

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Response to Treant (Reply #38)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 05:10 PM

45. I know the term of art "perpetual motion" requires zero energy input.



... and that is not what it implied here. But the nearly equally bizarre proposition of "spontaneously generated fuel" raises the tantalizing possiblity of a machine that could go, if not forever, for heretofore unimaginable distances.

Push-to-shove, though, I do wonder if they aren't fooling themselves somehow with these results.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #45)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 08:50 PM

50. Given that

a little further research shows their null engine (the one that isn't supposed to do anything) generated the same thrust, it's probably a measurement error. When measuring micro-Newtons, that's not impossible.

Spontaneously generated fuel doesn't bother me, it happens all the time in a vacuum anyway. We'd just be exploiting that.

And certainly, unimaginable distances (at very low thrust) become possible. But really, they already were just as realistic with a solar sail (thrust reduces as you leave your star, but you get moving very, very fast before that happens), laser-driven sails (which don't suffer quite as much of a problem), a (theoretical) Bussard ramjet, and so on.

We don't build them because we don't plan robotic space missions that go that long.

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Response to Treant (Reply #38)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 09:29 AM

60. It's a thruster that requires no reaction mass.

Up until this gadget was invented, thrusters had to obey Newton's 3rd Law - for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction.

So you had to carry fuel, or more precisely, reaction mass. To move forwards, you have to throw something backwards. A rocket works by squirting fuel and oxidizer into a combustion chamber, lighting it on fire, letting it explode violently, and let the exhaust gasses of the explosion shoot out the back to push the rocket forward.

This gadget for all intents and purposes pulls subatomic particles out of nothing, and throws them out the back, instead of throwing reaction mass that was brought along. Pretty cool, assuming it works!

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Response to backscatter712 (Reply #60)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 04:57 PM

74. Yeah, but it still takes energy (electricity) to accelerate the reaction mass..

The article is short on details, but it seems like this is sort of akin to a conventional ion drive, but instead of carrying hydrogen onboard it exploits virtual particles. You still need an external power source; solar would work great close to a star but for interstellar travel the only real option would be an RTG or full nuclear plant..

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #7)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 06:54 PM

79. Yes, but, 1000 J = 1000 N * M.

They claim that they can take 1000 J and produce 80 kN * M.

Impossible.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:26 PM

9. Call me a skeptic.

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Response to hunter (Reply #9)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:42 PM

16. It does come off a bit like "something from nothing."


And most of those, like the "perpetual motion machines," were either deliberate frauds, or some inventor fooling themselves, mostly by drawing energy from a hidden or unseen sources.

What seems different here is the testing, and the idea in the Extremetech article that fuel particles could "spontaneously appear" in the device. I don't know enough about quantum physics to know if that's a possible thing, and am likewise leery of quantum physics being used as a catchall for possible "magic" phenonomenon.

That's pretty wild and sounds extremely unlikely, but not as unlikely getting thrust just by bouncing microwaves around in a chamber -- which seems more like "something from nothing again."

The big weakness here seems to be that while they think they are measuring thrust, there is as yet no explanation as to HOW this thrust is being generated.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:26 PM

10. The Wonders That Await

Well, only if we don't destroy ourselves first. My guess is that we will, in the next century or two, figure out warp drive technology, we are already working on it.

Some of this stuff seems impossible to us. However could someone in the 17th century imagine watching color moving pictures from a box in their residence? The impossible in the past tends to become the possible in the future.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:37 PM

13. Quantum Vacuum Plasma Thruster

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_vacuum_plasma_thruster


Theory of operation


The research team claims the "Q-thruster" utilizes the quantum vacuum fluctuations of empty space as a "propellant". The existence of quantum vacuum fluctuations is not disputed, because experiments with the quantum mechanical Casimir effect have unambiguously demonstrated that quantum vacuum fluctuations do exist. What remains to be proven is that these fluctuations can be utilized for this practical purpose.[4]

The Q-thruster operates on the principles of magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), the same principles and equations of motion used by a conventional plasma thruster. The difference is that the Q-thruster uses the atomic particles spontaneously produced by quantum vacuum fluctuations as its propellant. The atomic particles produced by the fluctuations are subsequently electrically ionized to form a plasma. The now electrically charged plasma is then exposed to a crossed electric and magnetic field, inducing a force on the particles of the plasma in the E×B direction, which is orthogonal to the applied fields. The Q-thruster would not technically be a reactionless drive, because it expels the plasma and thus produces force on the spacecraft in the opposite direction, like a conventional rocket engine. However, this action does not require the spacecraft to carry any propellant. This theory suggests much higher specific impulses are available for Q-thrusters, because they only consume electrical power and thus are limited only by their power supply's energy storage densities. Preliminary test results suggest thrust levels of between 1000–4000 μN; specific force performance of 0.1 N/kW, and an equivalent specific impulse of ~1x1012 s.[5][6]

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:47 PM

18. I'm still holding on for the infinite improbability drive..

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Response to IDemo (Reply #18)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:55 PM

21. It should be any moment

Since it is so improbable that we would make such a technological leap anytime soon

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Response to IDemo (Reply #18)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 02:59 PM

22. That's already been perfected

It's called the House Republican Caucus.

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Response to jmowreader (Reply #22)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:12 PM

28. You are confusing it with

The infinite stupidity drive

Rule of thumb to tell them apart-
IID- will allow to to travel to any point/place in space time or other dimensions

ISD- produces hot waste gasses, goes nowhere but will cause a society to regress in time if allowed to operate unchecked

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Response to IDemo (Reply #18)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 08:37 PM

49. would you like a cup of something

 

That is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea while you wait?

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Response to awoke_in_2003 (Reply #49)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 11:45 PM

53. This all sounds vaguely familiar


... somehow. Maybe just due to the fundamental interconnectedness of things.


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Response to DirkGently (Reply #53)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 12:28 AM

54. when you pass through doors..

 

do they give you a smug, self satisfied attitude? How do the diodes on your left side feel?

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Response to awoke_in_2003 (Reply #54)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 09:49 AM

61. Here I am, brain the size of a planet,

and they ask me to take you to the bridge.



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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:03 PM

23. K&R

 

''Every fact of science was once Damned. Every invention was considered impossible. Every discovery was a nervous shock to some Orthodoxy. Every artistic innovation was denounced as fraud and folly.

The entire web of culture and progress, everything on earth that is man-made and not given to us by nature, is the concrete manifestation of some man's refusal to bow to Authority.

We would own no more, know no more, and be no more than the first apelike hominids if it were not for the rebellious, the recalcitrant, and the intransigent.

As Oscar Wilde truly said, ''Disobedience was man's Original Virtue.''''


~Robert Anton Wilson

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Response to DeSwiss (Reply #23)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 10:30 AM

63. ''Disobedience was man's Original Virtue.'''


That is truly excellent. All of it.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:08 PM

25. Really wish people wouldn't abuse the term "woo"

 

No, this is not a case of "woo come true?". Woo refers to crackpot nonsense that derives from religious, mystical, spiritual, occult ideas of how things work. There is nothing paranormal about unproven science. It is simply unproven science until it is proven science. Flotsam in science gets washed away by rigorous testing and experimentation. This is not "woo come true," this is scientific work being independently investigated, tested and possibly now verified. Much more work needs to be done, but so far looks promising.

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Response to DRoseDARs (Reply #25)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:16 PM

33. the case to use "woo" here is pretty legit, I think

There's a long history of crackpot "fringe science" which thought it could get free energy or free momentum, and the claims of this engine fit very well into that tradition. I don't think the term woo is uncalled for here. (Unless it really works as claimed.)

I think the odds are a lot higher that there's some kind of unnoticed secondary effect going on, similar to the palladium absorbency effect that looked to some people like cold fusion, than that we've discovered an exception to the laws of motion.

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Response to paulkienitz (Reply #33)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 09:24 PM

51. And you'd be wrong to think that.

 

There's a reason I posted "Woo refers to crackpot nonsense that derives from religious, mystical, spiritual, occult ideas of how things work. There is nothing paranormal about unproven science. It is simply unproven science until it is proven science."

We don't disagree on the significance of this development should it be further verified, but I do object to the attempt to make a word mean what it does not, refer to what it does not. There were no declarations of reiki energy in cold fusion and there are no attempts to link this phenomenon to whichever star is in ascendency. There is only science rising or falling on its merits, its reproducibility, and its independent verification. Woo proponents refuse to adhere to scientific principles and be subject to the same rigors as real scientists. Woo proponents instead appeal to magic or "Because God."

This is not Woo. This is science. Science can succeed, it can fail, it can evolve from earlier and incomplete understandings, but it remains science.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:13 PM

29. Sci-Fi has had repulsive tech for decades....

 

It's the basis for everything from flying cars to force fields.

The basis is electricity to thrust.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:14 PM

31. I'll put $50 on it coming to nothing in the end

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Response to paulkienitz (Reply #31)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:56 PM

39. Ditto.

Like many breakthroughs, it's likely to be too specialized, too expensive, too fiddly, scales poorly, and so on.

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Response to Treant (Reply #39)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 05:03 PM

43. I was thinking more that it would come to nothing in the sense

that the apparent breakthrough turns out not to be one. The amount of change this inflicts on known physics is just way too implausible compared to the possibility of an experimental error.

Such as, for instance, leakage or ablation of stray gas into the microwave chamber.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 03:57 PM

40. Frankly, I'm unimpressed by a lot of NASA bleeding-edge "science"

Has this been through any kind of peer review?

There's really not anything I've been able to find that lets me understand the experiments, the alleged principles behind the devices, etc. Just a lot of word salad. I just skimmed a paper (more like a lengthy abstract) called "Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum" and it's remarkably uninformative. It also includes this curious passage:

Thrust was observed on both test articles, even though one of the test articles was designed with the expectation that it would not produce thrust. Specifically, one test article contained internal physical modifications that were designed to produce thrust, while the other did not (with the latter being referred to as the “null” test article).


This really suggests to me a problem with their test procedure. And at these tiny thrust levels, there are so many things that could cause trouble.

The reporting itself is incredibly sloppy, which does not inspire confidence. Consider this gem on the MSN link:

The drive built by China managed 720mN, or 72g, of power. Not a great deal but enough to move a satellite about in space without the reliance on fuel.


Now I can sort through this hash, but believe me, any freshman writing this in my class on a lab will get hammered! What they claim to have measured was 720 mN of thrust, which is a force. That force equals the weight of an object whose mass is about 72 g. None of those quantities are power (energy transformed per unit time).

This sloppiness also makes me wonder whether they've also confused milli-Newtons and micro-Newtons (the NASA test pegged the force around 50 micro-Newtons).

For all my skepticism, I actually think there's nothing woo-like or even implausible about the existence of some quantum vacuum effect that could be exploited to created thrust without the need to lug a propellant. Since you need to supply some energy to the device it doesn't set off any "perpetual motion machine" BS detectors, and it's well-known that electromagnetic radiation carries momentum (though everyone seems to insist that classical EM theory cannot explain what they see). Even tiny thrusts can be game-changers if you don't need to lug reaction mass around!

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Response to caraher (Reply #40)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 04:57 PM

42. If space is a vacuum (relative to human existence, and

 

the apparatus we employ for existence in space), it seems a space vehicle is in position to "manage" that vacuum (presumably with electricity) and thereby create thrust. IOW, insread of horror scenarios about a rip in the space suit, an engine might rationally direct the vacuum from a "rip" while producing a non-vacuum condition for the vacuum to work against.

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Response to caraher (Reply #40)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 05:09 PM

44. one would hope that they allowed for photon momentum

which is twice the photon energy divided by the speed of light.

To make 50 micronewtons of thrust out of microwaves would I think require on the order of ten kilowatts of microwaves being beamed out. Is that the kind of magnitude they were playing with?

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Response to paulkienitz (Reply #44)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 05:25 PM

47. Their paper is pretty low on specifics

The only number they give is the microwave frequency (935 MHz). Another paper says, "The near term focus of the laboratory work is focused on gathering performance data to support development of a Q-thruster engineering prototype targeting Reaction Control System (RCS) applications with force range of 0.1-1 N with corresponding input power range of 0.3-3 kW."

I'm pretty sure that their claim is not just making a "microwave thruster." Which I guess is why they're happy to claim more thrust than your calculation based on the momentum of a microwave photon would predict.

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Response to caraher (Reply #47)

Wed Aug 6, 2014, 02:51 AM

104. XKCD took up this topic today, and guess what:

He says they used 20 kilowatts of microwave power to give it that little nudge. If that's accurate, then depending on how directionally focused those microwaves are when they come out, that yields up to 67 micronewtons of thrust. What a coincidence.

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Response to paulkienitz (Reply #104)

Wed Aug 6, 2014, 07:05 AM

105. I just saw that xkcd

I'm not sure where Randall got the 20 kW figure (I guess it may depend on which experiment he's talking about) and others in the xkcd forum are similarly confused. I have to say that if it's as simple as a microwave radiation pressure there's no reason their writing would be as opaque as it is. And the explanations I have seen of the devices don't really incorporate a "nozzle" of any kind for microwaves to to exit; they seem to be closed resonators.



For me the bottom line remains what the mouseover text hints at:

I don't understand the things you do, and you therefore may represent an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma.

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Response to caraher (Reply #105)

Wed Aug 6, 2014, 12:57 PM

107. if 20KW is going in, it must come out somewhere

or the thing would glow red hot before long.

But then, maybe Randall has a completely bogus wattage figure.

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Response to paulkienitz (Reply #107)

Wed Aug 6, 2014, 06:58 PM

108. True

Though with the designs I've seen, it should be going out basically in all directions equally (or nearly so).

This reminds me of all the efforts to explain the Pioneer anomaly... in that case, the question was what might result in a small thrust over a long period of time. Which in turn reminds me that I thought it had been resolved but I don't remember how... except that it was not by modifying gravitational theory!

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 04:04 PM

41. Awesome!

[font color="navy" face="Verdana"]A mind-bending new reality ... to say nothing of all the possible applications!



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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 05:12 PM

46. Hmm...and what happens to the spaceship and crew that enter parts of the void

 

with none of these particles? Start rowing to the nearest negative-mass photons station?

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Response to Rex (Reply #46)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 06:26 PM

48. Well it also runs on diesel. Or banana peels and coffee grounds, obviously.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #48)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 09:44 PM

52. Good I have an endless supply of material then.

 

Still, does that mean it is conditionally perpetually motion-lly depending-lly on material-ish or can I pee in it too? Endless fuel! I think that fixes waste management issues too. Hate to be a mechanic on one of those things.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #48)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 10:27 AM

62. blahahaaahahaa!

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Response to Rex (Reply #46)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 09:12 AM

58. Correct me if I'm wrong, but these particles are pretty much everywhere in the universe.

You could go to any location, turn this gadget on, and it would find these particles and use them.

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Response to backscatter712 (Reply #58)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 11:36 PM

81. As far as we know, we haven't actually mapped out a lot of space yet.

 

So might not be everywhere. This universe seems to like to do things scientists don't like.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 10:31 AM

64. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 10:48 AM

65. You still need to generate the electricity to run the reactor

 


So you would need some power source (or fuel).


I can see how this could work, there are actually a number of possibilities besides the one listed in the article. For instance, it could be creating a field which neutrinos interact with. It may even be tapping into another universe through micro black holes and the equal and opposite reaction to the momentum created in this universe is actually in the other one. Either of these things would not break the law of conservation of momentum.

I am pretty optimistic about this one (and I tend to be skeptical).



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Response to Motown_Johnny (Reply #65)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 11:18 AM

66. If any of that is true, such technology would resemble that formerly


consigned to the realm of "magic," though, yes?

I think this one's interesting, because if it's real, it's a bit of a case of our reach exceeding our grasp. Something amazing seems to be happening, but if it is, we don't know for certain HOW.



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Response to DirkGently (Reply #66)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 02:59 PM

67. I guess it depends on how you define "magic".

 


I would consider it more like the next logical step in an ongoing progression.


We have learned how to create energy by manipulating things on the atomic level (nuclear) so now learning how to create energy by manipulating things on the quantum level is not that surprising to me.


This reactor could easily be the modern day equivalent of when Madame Curie discovered radioactivity (which she later died from exposure to). People didn't really understand that for a while either. History may be repeating itself.




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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 03:08 PM

68. God-fucking-dammit, it is NOT woo coming true, and its not a perpetual motion machine...

those are proven to NOT work.

Its a device to basically create an Ion drive without the need to supply the propellent(noble gasses), but you still have to supply it with electricity. Its still revolutionary, and if everything is as NASA says, it could provide us with a new class of reactionless, or as close to possible reactionless drives. If it can be scaled up properly, it can possibly drastically reduce the mass of spacecraft, and hence their cost, especially in the inner solar system.

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #68)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 03:47 PM

71. It has most certainly been categorized as "woo" by many people.

If you look at the articles, you'll see there is not even clear agreement on what is producing the supposedly measured thrust. It is *speculated* that particles may be "spontaneously appearing" in the drive chamber. There is no proof of that, nor any precedence.

That is precisely the sort of science / speculative blend of notion that draws militant skeptics out to try to shout things down, with their gull-like mindless clucking about "woo." This "type" of idea for a drive is routinely dismissed by mirthless empiricists as nonsense.

And they still could be right about this one.

But they could be wrong.

Interesting, no?

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #71)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 07:05 AM

82. Bullshit, if someone was claiming the quantum consciousness was driving the device...

through psychic energy, THAT claim would be woo, stuff that is unproven or on the edge of our knowledge is NOT woo. Woo peddlers know exactly what the answer is, and its the one answer that is impossible to verify, test, and/or has been conclusively disproven. Stop abusing the English language please.

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #82)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 12:08 PM

83. Nope. "“Alright!” they said. “We’ll test your stupid drive that won’t work.”

No, it's pretty plain that rigid skeptics have consistently shot this particular idea down with their usual wooden-headed interpretation of the way knowledge and discovery works.

It's right there in the article, and any quick Google on any of these types of drives will prove it.

Once again, because this particular thing has not been "proven" according to the most traditional scientific step-by-step methods, it has been decried as "woo" by many, who may nor may not be proven wrong.

There have been speculations that usable energy might be extracted using this energy as a source using something called the Casimir effect, but this is almost certainly pseudoscience, as it would require using an extremely large collector device similar in some ways to an electronic capacitor, but much larger and thinner, with a vacuum dielectric; there is no knowledge currently extant that can allow the creation of such a collector cell, and even if it was possible, the zero point energy in an area the size of the earth is so small as to be fairly useless. [1]


http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Zero-point_energy

"Woo" as used by skeptics is also of course a made-up slang term that has precious little to do with "The English language" as you put it.

Interesting that you insist the definition of "woo" applies only to things so far out of bounds as to be literally impossible to test. That is not at all the way the term is used by many, who apply it to plenty of possible or even likely ideas with the same kind of zealous scorn.

I guess the idea is that you can call anything you want "bullshit" until someone smarter makes a leap, at which point you can say "We always knew that," right?

It's a hallmark of the half-smart, if you ask me. People with no spark of creativity or imagination get very angry with any idea that isn't plodding, pedestrian, and generally understood before it's even examined.

That's the actual "bullshit" don't you think?

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #71)

Tue Aug 5, 2014, 03:36 PM

102. I have little doubt that the people working on it are "mirthless empiricists".

 

These are scientists and engineers, not people taping random items together and seeing if they do something.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 03:44 PM

70. We've known of this phenomenon for a long time as zero-point energy or the Casimir effect

The term "quantum vacuum virtual plasma" has also been used. This is exciting stuff.

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Response to derby378 (Reply #70)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 03:50 PM

72. Has it ever been demonstrated in a practical environment?


That seems to be the "gap" in this story. There is a way this could be happening, but it sounds it can only be "proven" by elimination, i.e., nothing else can explain what's going on, unless the testing is just flawed and they're fooling themselves.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #72)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 04:42 PM

73. I believe it has, on a very small scale

The idea has been discussed since the 1940s, but the first evidence was produced in 1997:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect

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Response to derby378 (Reply #70)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 12:16 PM

85. Skeptics generally call the Casimir effect "woo" do they not?

There have been speculations that usable energy might be extracted using this energy as a source using something called the Casimir effect, but this is almost certainly pseudoscience, as it would require using an extremely large collector device similar in some ways to an electronic capacitor, but much larger and thinner, with a vacuum dielectric; there is no knowledge currently extant that can allow the creation of such a collector cell, and even if it was possible, the zero point energy in an area the size of the earth is so small as to be fairly useless. [1]


http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Zero-point_energy

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #85)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 05:56 PM

90. The Casimir effect is not considered woo, but some of the claims associated with it are

This is not uncommon in the realm of scientific observation. Some Texas gardener in the late 1800s learned about the germ theory of disease and started marketing a "Microbe Killer" as a supposed cure-all for diseases. The Microbe Killer consisted of at least 99% water and was a big hunk of woo and quackery.

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Response to derby378 (Reply #90)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 06:46 PM

91. Namely "useable energy," right. So wouldn't this be that?

Again, it might not in fact be anything. But the thing that it might be is basically the thing considered let's-say-pseudoscience-because-'woo'-is-so-annoying.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #91)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 06:53 PM

92. It depends on the specific claim

Zero-point energy might be strong enough to cause the universe to expand forever, which is what resulted in some spurious claims that we could tap it for all of our energy needs. The drive in question reportedly uses a specific approach to utilizing zero-point energy or quark vacuum virtual plasma or whatever we wind up calling it, and this approach is subject to review, investigation, and possible replication by an outside agency. Same goes for any other scientific claim.

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Response to derby378 (Reply #90)

Tue Aug 5, 2014, 03:12 PM

99. The only people I've ever heard talk about the Casimir effect are woo-peddlers

UFO enthusiasts and the like

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 05:00 PM

75. (1) There is no adequate theory

"... the mysterious drive actually worked even when they modified it in such a way it shouldn’t have produced any thrust ..."

This means nobody is sure that they are measuring

(2) The tiny forces were measured with a torsion balance

"... The torsion balance they used to test the thrust was sensitive enough to detect a thrust of less than ten micronewtons, but the drive actually produced 30 to 50 micronewtons ..."

So it looks like a measurement of an attraction or a repulsion, not a measurement of thrust

(3) The results don't accord with classical physics

... "Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon ..." ...

This suggests something like the Casimir effect may be involved

(4) So we've got a device that generates some very tiny force. The inventor has some theory about how the force is produced, but the inventor's theory is wrong because a modified device produces a tiny force even when the inventor's theory says it won't. The device doesn't seem to be explicable on the basis of classical physics, so known or unknown quantum effects are involved. The inventor propose using the device to propel spacecraft. But before one rushes to build such craft, it would most appropriate to attempt to understand the actual physics involved in the device. The Casimir effect, for exactly, operates only at very short distances and seems unlikely to produce any usable thrust. Moreover, as a general rule, quantum effects tend to merge into classical physics in large systems, so one often can't expect quantum effects at small scales to be reproducible at larger scales

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #75)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 12:13 PM

84. Precisely why this story lies on the boundary of what skeptics call "woo."


It could be an as-yet-not-understood demonstration of a theoretical phenomenon, or it could be a measuring error. Or something else.

Whatever it is, this NASA test is not a standard step-by-step exploration of an already-understood mechanism.

It is a leap, either into thin, empty air, or into some very interesting unknown.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 05:09 PM

76. Not perpetual motion

FFS not perpetual motion - only an apparently reactionless thruster

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 06:56 PM

93. It may be woo after all.

http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/08/dont-buy-stock-in-impossible-space-drives-just-yet/

TL;DR: NASA tested the drive in their labs, but also created a control version of the drive that's deliberately fixed to not work. Both the alleged-to-work version and deliberately-made-to-not-work version created the same extremely minute amount of force on the sensitive instrument that's supposed to measure thrust.

In other words, there's probably something other than actual thrust creating the "thrust" measured on the instrument.

Well, if it actually did work, it would be really cool. But goes to show that skepticism of extraordinary claims is usually warranted.

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Response to backscatter712 (Reply #93)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 07:02 PM

94. Skepticism. Not arch contempt for anything unlikely or unusual.


That's the difference as I see it. Plenty of things that begin as unlikely or odd or even "unthinkable" make it right into the practical realm.

People who pursue those things aren't crazy or stupid until the precise moment they turn out to be right.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #94)

Tue Aug 5, 2014, 03:08 PM

98. This universe likes to do things that pisses off scientists.

 

Plenty of room for the impossible.

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Response to DirkGently (Original post)

Wed Aug 6, 2014, 07:12 AM

106. With a flux capacitor, powered by cold fusion, the possibilities are limitless (nt)

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