Wednesday, April 20, 2016

EmDrive Possible Theoretical Underpinning

I've been following the unusual Roger Shawyer EmDrive, an on-the-face-of-it wacky notion that microwaves introduced into a tapered cavity can produce thrust without reaction mass or directional radiation. Also known as an RF resonant cavity thruster​, it appears to create thrust by violating laws of physics.

Now comes word of a possible theoretical basis in the article, "The Curious Link Between the Fly-By Anomaly and the “Impossible” EmDrive Thruster​" on the MIT review. Maybe the EmDrive is linked to some curious anomalies seen in spacecraft as they flyby the Earth.

Or maybe not. Maybe it turns out to be a bust. Even then, the ride will have been interesting. Mr. Shawyer has been very forthcoming with his machine and has openly asked people to look at what is going on and help explain why it works (he doesn't claim to know) or show where his measurements are going wrong.

And that is what real science is about, openly sharing your results and misgivings, telling people what you think is going on or admitting you don't know, putting it all out there and asking for confirmation or repudiation. But all based on the facts, not opinions, not hopes or dreams, not based on the way you wished the world worked, but on the way it really does.

Personally, I'm hoping that this thing holds up, and not just for the spaceflight possibilities it could open up. Just think what it would be like for a generation of physicists and scientists to explore the ramification of a new theoretical basis for momentum. Just when we thought we had it all figured out, a new wrinkle would be very exciting.

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