Doubtful News readers may remember the 2014 story of a research group that had built a device to create thrust without propellant. The 2014 experiment was taken to task for performing their experiments in a non-vacuum chamber, and this potential weakness was even noted in the conference paper on the experiments (paywalled).
Is NASA about to crack interstellar travel? (Atlanta Journal-Constitution):
One explanation other physicists came up with last year was that the air around the EmDrive must have been interfering with Eagleworks’ measurements, so this time they measured it in a vacuum. Guess what? It still seems to be working.
So we have a new paper? Well… not quite.
The source cited by news sources on this story is this forum discussion. The forum, at NASAspaceflight.com, is not affiliated with NASA, but this doesn’t stop some news sites, like Daily Times Gazette, from conflating the two:
NASA has, once again, successfully created a breakthrough in space travels with their new electromagnetic (EM) propulsion drive that could act as a “remote” which assists journeys within the solar system.[…]In NASA’s official page (NASASpaceFlight.com), the drive will enable the transport of a spacecraft to the moon in just a couple of hours and a visit to the Red Planet – Mars, may take only 70 days.
Just so we’re clear, NASA’s official site is Nasa.gov, and is not affiliated with the research group, its claims, nor the discussion forum in question.
As we are often reminded concerning extraordinary claims, “science by press conference” (Wikipedia) isn’t really science. I can’t imagine “science by Internet forum” would fare much better.
The group’s proposed mechanism for propulsion involves interactions with virtual particles in vacuum space. I suspect it’s more likely along the functional lines of a radiometer (Wikipedia), which also functions under a partial vacuum, but I’d be happy to be wrong.
That all said, a working reaction-less propulsive drive would open new avenues in physics. It would change the world(s)! So what would convince skeptics? First, the Eagleworks group could submit their data once more for peer review. Once the results and (equally importantly) methodologies are published, it would be up to the scientific community to evaluate the idea and attempt to replicate it. Then we could move forward. And outward. And every which way, really.
- Expert Says Purported NASA EM Drive Isn’t Plausible (Highlight Press)
- Is NASA Moving Toward a Hyperspace Drive? (Discovery News)
- No, NASA Did Not Accidentally Invent Warp Drive (Forbes)