Strangest (possible) physics advance in a long time… Cannae Drive
This news was hitting a few outlets yesterday, but really got traction starting a couple of hours ago. I’ve been reading about it since yesterday and if turns out to be reproducible, this will be one of the most interesting physics applications of my lifetime.
NASA has just released a study – FIXED LINK to another copy of the study – that indicated they have successfully tested a potential propulsive engine technology that is not predicted by classical physics, but that might be predicted by quantum physics. They don’t really understand how it works, but there is a theory.
Basically, they spin a disk that traps and then pushes against the (theoretically possible) particles that quantum physics predicts are spontaneously popping into existence and out of existence throughout the universe at all times.
They’re calling this a “virtual quantum plasma” and some people are calling the device a “quantum vacuum plasma thruster” (QVPT).
This is ghost physics. Yep – pretty much “perpetual motion machine” physics, where conservation of energy and momentum go out the window.
Weird stuff. Except that in tests at the Johnson Space Center, NASA says they have evidence that this thruster actually works…
Why is this a big deal for NASA and space transportation?
Rocketry 101: To move in one direction, you’ve got to throw mass in the other direction and you’ve got to carry that mass with you.
In traditional rocket propulsion, you’re exploding air and fuel to throw a big hot gas out behind you and move forward.
Ion thrusters currently in testing use electricity to accelerate particles really fast to throw out the door behind you, but are doing basically the same thing.
The QVPT is different. If it works, you could scale it up and create thrust without carrying mass with you. The implications for satellites and space travel are enormous. Without the need to carry and dispose of mass, which is required by all propulsion systems that operate under the rules of classical Newtonian physics, you can theoretically travel forever and travel light, so long as you’ve got a power source. Solar and nuclear are obvious power sources that last, for all practical purposes, forever.
With a QVPT drive, you could continue accelerating your vehicle long past the point that a conventional rocket or an ion thruster would have run out of fuel.
Here is the company developing the drive: Cannae Drive – Home.
There are now lots of articles out at this new report. Here are a few interesting ones:
- NASA tests ‘impossible’ no-fuel quantum space engine – and it actually works | ExtremeTech.
- NASA tested an impossible space engine and it somehow worked | The Verge.
- Nasa validates ‘impossible’ space drive (Wired UK).
I can imagine dozens of potential applications, beyond space travel. I’m staying tuned for development of this technology.
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