July 28, 2015

Improbability Drive?

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes explains to us this news of researchers independently confirming the viability of the EM Drive,  a revolutionary propellant-less drive...

Here is a news article on the discovery which is cause for skepticism as it seems to a few things wrong in the title. For instance this (whatever it is...IF it is) is certainly not a rocket....and the moon in four hours seems HIGHLY unlikely given that the thing is giving thrust like an arc jet or ion thruster.

Here is a post with lots of links to papers and articles that indicate that this device (and other similar widgets) certainly appear to be producing tiny amounts of thrust. 


This is still interesting however, as the engine requires no reaction mass so if it really works it could keep accelerating as long as it has power, which given a nuclear power-plant could be for an awfully long time. A notational 950 day Saturn mission with 180 day stays at both Titan and Enceladus is included to give some idea of what that means.Even tiny acceleration adds up over time and this device is estimated to have seven times the thrust per kilowat of a hall thruster...without the need for propellant.  

The problem is that no one seems to have any idea how it works. The inventors claims to but their theories are based on...not physics.

This could be big, It could be a breakthrough. It could be bunk.
Time will tell, but this story is certainly tantalizing.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 08:14 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
Post contains 260 words, total size 3 kb.

1 Shawyer's claims have been repeatedly debunked; he keeps redefining his terms and moving the goalposts.  He waits a couple of years for the news cycles to reset, then floats his idea with different words.

Of course, it's also true that until the instrumentation to observe galactic distances reached a minimum level of sophistication, one could prove that the Earth was stationary, as well.

Posted by: Ben at Tue Jul 28 20:54:02 2015 (S4UJw)

2 Yep, unfortunately, pure bunk.  If it were that easy to violate conservation of momentum, we'd have noticed, what with everything in the universe busily disintegrating.

So from that perspective I guess it's fortunate that this thing can't possibly work.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tue Jul 28 23:39:01 2015 (PiXy!)

3 I simply don't know.  Multiple teams seem to be getting SOMETHING, but of course it cannot possibly be what the various inventors say it is, since as Pixy points out, we still seem to exist.
Reaching into my bag of special pleading the only thing I can come up with is that the thrust from the microwaves is something akin to a photon rocket but using an unknown mechanism that doesn't require enough microwaves to melt Los Angeles to get the observed effects  ( NOTE: magical thinking in red needs work)
It seems vanishingly unlikely, but there is enough unaccounted for thrust that NASA is setting up at least three more separate tests so they seem to think that it warrants some study (though in fairness they might be trying to find out why their perpetual motion debunker is out of calibration)

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Wed Jul 29 09:29:14 2015 (ohzj1)


Conservation of Energy was once one of the rock bottom foundations of physics, but when we looked a lot closer at quantum effects we discovered that it isn't actually absolute. It's possible to violate Conservation of Energy for short durations, and that turns out to be how electric fields work.

Conservation of Momentum is another foundation, but this may be another case where quantum effects have exceptions.

I think it unlikely that this is real, but I'll suspend judgment until someone legitimate actually tests it. That's the Way of Science.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Wed Jul 29 14:51:26 2015 (+rSRq)

5 I don't believe it's real, but I would be happy to be proved wrong.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at Thu Jul 30 05:31:06 2015 (qxzj1)

6 My understanding is that this guy claimed that NASA was endorsing his research, when as it happens, NASA was only providing a vacuum chamber for him to test his device in. A vacuum chamber that he *didn't pump down* before claiming to measure piconewtons (a ridiculously small measure, even for an ion drive) of thrust.

At that thrust level, they could be measuring anything. It could be differential heating of the air around the thruster, it could be some sort of inductive magnetic pressure in his lines. I don't buy it.

Posted by: EccentricOrbit at Sun Aug 2 14:08:43 2015 (GtPd7)

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