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Why the "NASA Tested Space Drive" Is Bad Science

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the not-so-fast dept.

NASA 315

StartsWithABang writes Just over a century ago, N rays were detected by over a hundred researchers and discussed in some three hundred publications, yet there were serious experimental flaws and experimenter biases that were exposed over time. Fast forward to last week, and NASA Tests Microwave Space Drive is front page news. But a quick analysis shows that it isn't theorists who'll need to struggle to explain this phenomenon, but rather the shoddy experimentalists who are making the exact same "bad science" mistakes all over again.

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BLINDED BY SCIENCE !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627181)

Said one Thomas Dolby !!

Re:BLINDED BY SCIENCE !! (2, Funny)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 4 months ago | (#47627239)

More like blinded TO science.

Any 2nd year physics student should be able to laugh this garbage right off a lab bench without even running an experiment. Its truly pathetic.

Re:BLINDED BY SCIENCE !! (5, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | about 4 months ago | (#47627275)

Any 2nd year physics student should be able to laugh this garbage right off a lab bench without even running an experiment.

Any good science student should be aware that our understanding of physics changes over time. Clearly this device is unlikely because it requires a change to the "laws" of physics.

The article explains why any good scientist should be able to laugh this off based on the reported experimental results.

WHO'LL!!!! GREAT SUMMARY!!! IDIOT! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627375)

I cringed when I read the word who'll in the summary. Is this a "News for Nerds" site or idle chitchat? Perhaps if you moron editors would actually edit the summaries to consist of presentable language, people would not be leaving this place like a sinking ship.
 
captcha: garbage

WHO'LL!!!! GREAT SUMMARY!!! IDIOT! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627405)

Who'll know who'll care?

It's correct English.

Re:WHO'LL!!!! GREAT SUMMARY!!! IDIOT! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47628063)

No, it is incorrect English for this summary, you dolt!

BLINDED BY ARROGANCE (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627803)

It's sad how pathetic the pretenders on Slashdot are sometimes. So full of themselves and sure that they are smarter than the next guy.

I know it's appeal to authority, but NASA doesn't employ idiots. And if you had bothered to do even a simply Google search you would have found this [wired.co.uk] which sheds some more light on the situation.

Just to save you the effort, the abstract sucks (most likely written by a public relations flunky), they were very careful in setting up the experiment, it WAS done in a vacuum, there is something there. Note that they didn't explain it, they just report their observations.

But you go ahead and stick with your second year physics student attitude.

Re: BLINDED BY ARROGANCE (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47628015)

Appeal to authority is only a fallacy in a deductive argument, so there's no need to qualify. If appeals to authority were all that bad, people wouldn't go to see doctors when they got sick or to mechanics when their cars broke down. We trust authorities because of a web of beliefs we have about education, certification or licensing, the incentives professionals face to render the best available guidance, etc.

Re: BLINDED BY ARROGANCE (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47628035)

I trust my doctor because I can verify that he knows what he is talking about. Same with my mechanic. If you trust these people blindly because of their "authority", you're a fool.

Re:BLINDED BY ARROGANCE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47628079)

Exactly - The guy who wrote the article certainty doesn't understand 'bad science' if he thinks this experiment was such.

His reasons for it being bad science;
"The results are not robust, in that they are not identically-or-similarly reproducible by different teams."
I believe they made conditions are repeatable as they possibly could, i'm not sure why this claim is made?

"The results are not significant, in that they are not distinguishable from a setup that should give a null result."
The results of science does not make the science bad....????? What an imbecile.

"And even if the results were significant (and they are not), they are too close to the minimum threshold of detection to warrant the claims of “discovery.”
No discovery is being claimed.... Initial experiment has reported interesting effects and further can now be justified.

Bad science? Bad article more like it.

Closed system NOT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47628115)

Just remember, a power (nuclear electric) is the input, microwaves, or whatever else (remember heat exchanger panels voyager) are the output. Yes you must follow conserve rules. But you have free input to give off. It ain't just a closed circle around the microwaves, duh. I'm investing in this.

Re:BLINDED BY SCIENCE !! (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 4 months ago | (#47627879)

Actually, it was Magnus [wikipedia.org] Pyke [youtube.com] who said [wikipedia.org] it. He was a presenter on one of my favourite 70s TV shows, Don't Ask Me. The PBS show Newton's Apple was pretty much an Americanized version of it.

They created a giant electro-magnet??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627199)

it really wants to dock with that nearest metallic object on your lab bench....

Skeptics. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627201)

Have they accounted for the presence of skeptics during the experiments? That is likely the cause of any anomalies.

Space Drive or Global Warming? (0, Troll)

mveloso (325617) | about 4 months ago | (#47627207)

Wait, is this guy talking about space drives or global warming?

FTA:

1. The magnitude of these effects varied tremendously from experiment to experiment.
2. The threshold of measurement—the difference between a detection and a non-detection—was always extremely close to the actual claimed detection.
3. Many attempts at confirming the experiments by some of the leading scientists of the day, including Lord Kelvin, Heinrich Rubens and Robert Wood, all produced null results.
4. And finally, even if you restricted your data sets to the positive the experimental results, their claims were inconsistent with one another. //endtroll

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627281)

Wait, is this guy talking about space drives or global warming skeptics?

FTA:

1. The magnitude of these effects varied tremendously from experiment to experiment.
2. The threshold of measurement—the difference between a detection and a non-detection—was always extremely close to the actual claimed detection.
3. Many attempts at confirming the experiments by some of the leading scientists of the day, including Lord Kelvin, Heinrich Rubens and Robert Wood, all produced null results.
4. And finally, even if you restricted your data sets to the positive the experimental results, their claims were inconsistent with one another. //endtroll

FTFY

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627299)

Just because you can't prove global warming is happening doesn't mean that it isn't. The science behind it is settled since over 90% of the scientists voted that it is happening. You can't disagree with it without being anti-science because of that.

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (5, Insightful)

Smallpond (221300) | about 4 months ago | (#47627339)

Sorry. Science doesn't work by votes.

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627403)

It does though.

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627613)

> It does though.

So the earth really was flat for awhile?

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 4 months ago | (#47627679)

So the earth really was flat for awhile?

Would you please list four or five scientists who claimed it was, more recently than about 500 BC when it was measured to 10% precision? Or did you buy that Columbus tale they taught you in fifth grade?

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (2)

Spazmania (174582) | about 4 months ago | (#47627959)

So the earth really was flat for awhile?

Correct! And until the 1600's, the universe revolved around the Earth. And while politicians can't repeal the law of gravity, scientists can! Isn't that cool?

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 4 months ago | (#47628025)

One of Isaac Asimov's short stories told how a guy made a photon pause. It ended the universe as we know it.

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (2)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 4 months ago | (#47628201)

...a guy made a photon pause. It ended the universe as we know it.

Wait, you're saying a photon pause somehow culminated in the PATRIOT act?

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627675)

Except that it doesn't. One single experimenter can formulate an experiment which disproves some previously held notion. One person. The rest is just verification, but the original experimenter is responsible for the shift. Anyone can do the verification. Simply denying that something happened or didn't happen by consensus vote isn't enough to change reality itself.

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (2)

Namarrgon (105036) | about 4 months ago | (#47628043)

The verification is crucial though. What happens when two scientists claim they can verify a hypothesis, and two thousand scientists say they cannot?

Either two thousand scientists have screwed up badly, or just two have. Which is more likely? Lacking the skills, time & equipment to verify it yourself, who are you going to believe?

A single person can come up with a major paradigm shift that overturns our old models - but not when their results can't be reliably verified, and certainly not when their claims require simply ignoring decades of observations to the contrary.

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (4, Informative)

radtea (464814) | about 4 months ago | (#47627415)

Except none of your points applies to climate change.

The effect is robust: there was a whole independent project to determine if the thermodynamically meaningless "global average temperature" is increasing. It is: http://www.bbc.com/news/scienc... [bbc.com]

The threshold of measurement is around 0.5 C for a single station, and we have an effect that is about 1 C over the past 100 years. Not as big a margin as one would like, but difficult to ignore. And growing.

No one has produced any results that show the instrumental temperature record in the past century is not real. There are debates about causes, but the reality of the phenomenon is not in doubt.

Everyone who has looked at the question agrees that there is about a 1.6 W/m**2 addition to the Earth's heat budget from anthropogenic CO2, so clearly when taking the "positive cases" there is still good agreement.

There are large and legitimate areas of disagreement with regard to climate change (far more than the moron, anti-science, "the science is settled crowd" would have you believe) but the basic phenomenon, unlike the EMDrive, is not just consistent with but actually required by the laws of physics.

Finally: the summary is terrible, even by /. standards. The article does not point out any errors in the experiments. Rather it points out that reporters have been lying about the experiments, pure and simple. That is not the fault of the scientists, who honestly reported their null results.

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (1)

richlv (778496) | about 4 months ago | (#47627735)

Finally: the summary is terrible, even by /. standards.

samzenpus. i even bothered to find a way to hide him for my logged-in account, but unfortunately i can't just make him disappear for my anonymous visits, which is how i ended up here

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47628081)

There are large and legitimate areas of disagreement with regard to climate change (far more than the moron, anti-science, "the science is settled crowd" would have you believe) but the basic phenomenon, unlike the EMDrive, is not just consistent with but actually required by the laws of physics.

True, but the kind of warming predicted by basic, known physics is pretty moderate and wouldn't be much of a problem by itself. Furthermore, we don't even know how the regular, massive swings in global temperature happen.

Finally: the summary is terrible, even by /. standards. The article does not point out any errors in the experiments.

That's probably because the article is a sh*tty, sensationalist, and poorly written as the journalism it purports to criticize.

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about 4 months ago | (#47628109)

The threshold of measurement is around 0.5 C for a single station, and we have an effect that is about 1 C over the past 100 years. Not as big a margin as one would like, but difficult to ignore. And growing.

But... that's even smaller than the ratio versus the threshold of measurement the fellow in this article claims implied experimenter bias and bad science.

The "test" performed at NASA was sensitive to a minimum thrust threshold of about 10-to-15 microNewtons, and the "positive result" claimed detection of somewhere between 30-to-50 microNewtons of thrust.

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (2)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 4 months ago | (#47627623)

The difference is that the space drive hypothesis is still falsifiable. NASA needs to adjust the hypothesis description so that both the presence or absence of any quantum thrust is proof of it.

Re:Space Drive or Global Warming? (2)

Spazmania (174582) | about 4 months ago | (#47627989)

The difference is that the space drive hypothesis is still falsifiable.

More than falsifiable. The NASA experiment demonstrated that the hypothesis was false: the control experiment got the same results.

We're left with either an experimental error which, if corrected, would move the result into the error band or we're left with a real effect for which we don't yet have a satisfactory explanation.

N-rays started this way but so did relativity: the Michelson Morley experiments and their predecessors found a real effect of light which had a lot of quack theories explaining it until Einstein came along and figured it out.

The article is flat-out wrong. (5, Insightful)

cbhacking (979169) | about 4 months ago | (#47628123)

Oh for fuck's sake... Time to debunk this shit, again.
TFA got it wrong as well, so I suppose I can't blame you people for getting it wrong too, but please try doing a little more research?

A little background: The EmDrive was invented by a guy named Shawyer. It was tested by NASA, among others, and found to produce about 91 microNewtons. (I'll address the 30-50 that TFA talks about too.) That's way less than the Chinese found, but NASA was also testing it at much lower power and say they are planning to test a higher-power version.

The article mentions "... and a third person, Guido Fetta, have built three separate versions of the EmDrive". This is wrong, at least according to Fetta. Fetta invented what he calls a "Cannae Drive" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EmDrive#Cannae_drive) which resembles an EmDrive but supposedly works on a different principle. In particular, Fetta believes that his drive requires radial slots in the chamber to operate. To test this, two versions of the Cannae Drive were (also, separately from the EmDrive test) tested by NASA: one with and one without the slots. Those tests both produced the same thrust (30-50 microN, about half what the EmDrive produced), which disproves Fetta's theory as to how the Cannae Drive is supposed to work.... and nothing else.

The null test device that everybody is so dismissedly claiming claiming disproves the EmDrive wasn't even supposed to be an EmDrive! Fetta, inventor of the Cannae Drive, was disproven. Shawyer, inventor of the EmDrive, was actually vindicated because according to his theory, the Cannae Drive (slots or no) is basically an inefficiently-shaped EmDrive.

I don't know why this is so hard for people to understand.

BullShit (1)

kiphat (809902) | about 4 months ago | (#47627223)

Jeez, 100 years later, and you don't think that current day scientists account for, and try to eliminate voodoo science these days? This is just plain FUD. Get over yourselves!

Re:BullShit (2)

s.petry (762400) | about 4 months ago | (#47627343)

Read TFA and this [discovermagazine.com] one. If you believe that "science" has become altruistic and above corruption, you simply have not been paying attention to science. Sure, there is some good science, but there are always crap programs as well. Many of which are performed at the direction of our Government. You know, the same people that won't fund NASA but can waste money trying to figure out if you are a sociopath by your tweets (and that's not the worst waste of science funding, just an easy target).

Re:BullShit (1)

mbone (558574) | about 4 months ago | (#47627453)

Sturgeon's law : 90% of everything is crap.

Re:BullShit (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 4 months ago | (#47627617)

Sturgeon's law : 90% of everything is crap.

Does that apply to Sturgeon's Law itself too?

Some great quotes on statistics... (2)

s.petry (762400) | about 4 months ago | (#47627731)

"In earlier times, they had no statistics, and so they had to fall back on lies". -- Stephen Leacock

"Statistics: the mathematical theory of ignorance." -- Morris Kline

"Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable." - Mark Twain

"Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything." - Gregg Easterbrook

And of course..

"42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot." -- Steven Wright

Re:BullShit (3, Funny)

Delirium Tremens (214596) | about 4 months ago | (#47627467)

You sound like a potential sociopath. Just as a precaution, can you share with us your Twitter information?

Re:BullShit (3, Insightful)

s.petry (762400) | about 4 months ago | (#47627697)

I can't be a sociopath, I don't have a Twitter account.

Re:BullShit (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 4 months ago | (#47627743)

You know, the same people that won't fund NASA but can waste money trying to figure out if you are a sociopath by your tweets (and that's not the worst waste of science funding, just an easy target).

But think of all the untapped political and economic talent this program could find!

Re:BullShit (2)

kiphat (809902) | about 4 months ago | (#47627787)

I get your point. But the objective of science is to test a theory. And when your experiments get results, then you test it again to ensure you get the same results. Rinse/Repeat. And then you publish, in a hope that the scientific community accepts your results. This is what happened in this case. NASA saw a hint of credibility in the results of another teams work. They performed the experiment themselves, and got similar , though not as impressive, results. They published. Now it's up to others to either prove or disprove those results. Either deem the experiment valid or invalid by running the experiments yourself, or, with all due respect, shut the fuck up.

Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627227)

I was SO hoping that this was true!

One step closer to sci-fi type of space propulsion - maybe relativistic speeds!

I feel so crushed!

Re:Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627717)

Yes, the reported MILLINEWTON thrust was surely the missing link to warp drive.

We *know* space is mostly empty with nothing but hostile dead rocks here and there. What's the appeal?

Re:Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! .... (2)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 4 months ago | (#47627903)

If they would have used an Oscillation Overthruster they would have got better results.

Re:Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! .... (2)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 4 months ago | (#47628157)

What's that watermelon doing there?

Usually when an article is plugged on many major.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627237)

News outlets like this is because it is being obfuscated. There probably really is something to this. But I doubt it will be implemented by anyone outside of the elite.

The NASA experiment is nothing like N-rays (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627241)

The NASA science is just fine: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-08/07/10-qs-about-nasa-impossible-drive

Re:The NASA experiment is nothing like N-rays (5, Insightful)

cbhacking (979169) | about 4 months ago | (#47628167)

Thank you. The Fucking "Article" in the summary gets it so wrong I want to find the moron who wrote it and force him to actually read the paper that he gets almost completely wrong.

Error 1) The Cannae Drive and the EmDrive are not the same thing, at least according to the inventor of the Cannae Drive. Every result that the article talks about for the EmDrive was actually from NASA testing the Cannae Drive.

Error 2) The difference between the test and "null" devices was that one of them had slots on it (believed to be required for the Cannae Drive) and the other did not. According to Fetta (the inventor of the Cannae Drive, not just another person who built an EmDrive to test out), these slots are required. According to Shawyer (the guy who actually invented the EmDrive), they are not required. Looks like the EmDrive guy was right: they weren't required. This is addressed in Q2 of your fine link.

Error 3) TFA never mentions this, but NASA Eagleworks *ALSO* tested Shawyer's version of the drive. It was over 3 times as efficient, producing about 91 microNewtons of thrust from 17 Watts of power (the Cannae Drive got 40uN from 27W). They didn't have a "null" device for that one, aside from a resistive dummy load... which produced no thrust when energized. Also, the tested drives produced no thrust when *not* energized.

I really wish people would stop parroting the false claims in TFA.

Stupid errors in "refutation" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627267)

The result from NASA may or may not be real. However, this refutation is bad science writing and bad science.

There are two glaring errors in it:

  • The claim that the "null" experiment should not have a result. The null experiment is badly named; it would create thrust according to one hypothesis as to how this thrust is supposed to be generated, and not create trust according to another hypothesis. There is was a separate reference that should not produce thrust under either hypothesis; and that did not create trust.
  • That it creates thrust without having energy escape. This has not been claimed anywhere else; the emDrive is using energy to create the thrust and the energy is obviously escaping. (It is also, as far as I can read it, using lots more energy than it creates thrust.)

Apart from these two actual errors in description, the only "evidence" the author has is "This looks sort of similar to cases where science has gone wrong in the past".

That *is* clearly a warning sign, but it is not actually sufficient to say "This is wrong".

Re:Stupid errors in "refutation" (3, Informative)

cbhacking (979169) | about 4 months ago | (#47628177)

Bigger stupid one: the "null" device wasn't even supposed to be an EmDrive. It was supposed to be a Cannae Drive, which has a similar design but was invented by a completely different person and (supposedly) operates on different principles. The inventor of the Cannae Drive claimed that the difference between the null and actual test devices would mean there were different results. He was wrong, as shown experimentally.

The actual inventor of the EmDrive (whose device was also tested by NASA, months ago, and was produced twice the thrust on 60% as much power) says that the Cannae Drive is just an inefficient EmDrive in either null or "real" configuration. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... [wikipedia.org]

ridiculous (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627279)

The dogmatic scientists are at it again. Prove that the casimir effect has a relativistic effect in real world application and they spout off saying it's bad science. Next, you're gonna say, "Tesla had no impact on society".

Re:ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627357)

The casimir effect goes against their fundamental understanding of physics, so yes, it's most definitely wrong. People that think they're smart don't like to think they're wrong.

Re:ridiculous (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627629)

> The casimir effect goes against their fundamental understanding of physics

Fitting existing models, is not the bar for correctness. Many observations are unexplained, some paradoxical experiments are repeatable.

Is it really "impossible"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627297)

One serious question I have about all this. The device isn't claimed to get energy from nowhere, or to be a perpetual motion machine. The device is claimed to consume electrical power and produce some small amount of thrust.

Is that theoretically impossible? The only way we know of right now to produce momentum is to push on something, or throw something away (like rocket exhaust).

When a falling object hits the ground and stops moving, if I am not mistaken the momentum is converted to waste heat. Would it be correct to say that heat is the motion of molecules, and thus the momentum doesn't disappear but is simply randomized? Or is that incorrect and momentum can be converted to a different form of energy?

P.S. I would like this drive to be a real thing, but I am not very hopeful.

Re:Is it really "impossible"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627479)

No, the momentum is transferred to the Earth, which recoils in its orbit very slightly, but coherently. Much of the *energy* is converted to heat, but that's a different issue altogether.

Re:Is it really "impossible"? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47627723)

nonsense, the ground is too elastic.

Re:Is it really "impossible"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627873)

That has nothing to do with anything. The combined momentum of Earth + falling object is wholly unchanged by the collision, no matter what the elasticity of the ground is. All the elasticity changes is whether the ball bounces back up or goes splat -- i.e. the efficiency of the conversion of kinetic energy to heat.

Re:Is it really "impossible"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627773)

A little reading on Kinetic Energy is in order before you open your pie hole again.

Re:Is it really "impossible"? (5, Insightful)

penguinoid (724646) | about 4 months ago | (#47627667)

No, it is perfectly possible (and well understood) that you can produce thrust using pure energy with no mass. Just put a lightbulb and a reflector on your ship; as long as you can power the lightbulb you will produce thrust. The problem with this is that it is ridiculously inefficient, and since your power generation is not massless, this is roughly equivalent to using pathetically bad fuel.

Also, don't confuse energy and momentum. They are separate things, and both are conserved independently of each other.

The trick to making a good spaceship engine is converting energy efficiently into ship momentum. As far as we know this means creating high-momentum exhaust; conservation of momentum then means your ship gains momentum in the opposite direction. However, the problem is that to create high-momentum exhaust you either need high mass (and this means your ship carries, and has to accelerate, tones of fuel), or you create high-velocity exhaust (which due to the kinetic energy formula means you use a lot more energy).

If you could find a way to skip the whole exhaust thing and transfer momentum directly into something not on your ship, you would have a space engine far superior to any we know of. The idea with this research was to transfer it into the quantum vacuum something-or-other. This would be analogous to how an airplane transfers momentum to the atmosphere or a boat to the water or a car to the land. In theory this could work and even be more efficient than using light as your exhaust.

Another case, perhaps? (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 4 months ago | (#47628223)

The trick to making a good spaceship engine is converting energy efficiently into ship momentum. As far as we know this means creating high-momentum exhaust;

If one considers gravity in our nominal 3d space, isn't it correct to say that gravity imparts momentum without anything comparable to "high momentum exhaust"?

Serious question -- the physics are beyond me, but the curiosity isn't. :)

Re:Is it really "impossible"? (5, Interesting)

ultranova (717540) | about 4 months ago | (#47627775)

When a falling object hits the ground and stops moving, if I am not mistaken the momentum is converted to waste heat.

You are mistaken. Energy is converted to waste heat (which is a form of energy, so total energy is unchanged). Momentum is unchanged - some of it is simply transferred to Earth.

Conservation of momentum is just as fundamental a principle as conservation of energy. That doesn't mean that a drive that requires no fuel is impossible - because you can convert energy to matter - it just means that it has to dump the counterforce somewhere to keep momentum accounts balanced.

Oh come on!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627307)

After growing up dreaming about space, only to be depressed by reality as I studied physics, grant me one or two days to be excited about renewed dreams of flying to the stars in my lifetime....

Re:Oh come on!!! (2)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 4 months ago | (#47627325)

Unfortunately, it could only get you to one star in your lifetime, and we have a pretty decent view of it from here.

Re:Oh come on!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627337)

no worries, this debunker didn't make a good case. More bullshit to feed the Fox News croud

Obligatory XKCD reference (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627317)

http://xkcd.com/1404/

Re:Obligatory XKCD reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627477)

is there an xkcd on obligatory references to xkcd?

Don't have to go back 100 years (5, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about 4 months ago | (#47627329)

25 years ago there was desktop cold fusion. A lot of people wanted it, there were conferences on it, probably at least a hundred million was invested in it over a year or two. but it was bogus. The hypothesis was sound, it was no completely unreasonable, but the experiments showing a positive results on the hypothesis were flawed. It is not that cold fusion does not exist as something that might happen, it is that we have not shown it happens. I don't want to muddle the situation, but there is a clear line between what can happen and does happen in the lab. Theoretical people have told me that their models are necessarily not connected with reality. They are math, and the math sometimes tells us what is going on, sometimes fools us, and sometimes is just bonkers. What differentiates all this is good experimental science, which is really hard to do. I mean really hard, and for the most part does not lead to a theory, but only data that can be collected by math. This is why even though Galileo did a lot of good research, it was 100 years before the math caught up and we were able to do what we now classify as as science.It is why electromagnetic, the speed of light, quantum mechanics, and what is to follow is going to drop out the math. Which is to say we have a very complex interactions. Virtual particles drop out the math. The math says that they must exist, but inherently can't do anything useful. This is in the same way that photons can be coupled so they may seem to act faster than the speed of light(maybe, until we get distances longer than the earth-moon system we cannot really know) but no one expects information to be communicated faster than the speed of light. The end result is that if you have an experiment that violates the math, you have to be very sure it is a good experiment, and the consensus is quickly building that this is not. There is a certain responsibility to being an experimentalist. One can't just willy nilly say there are 40 dimensions of energy is created from the aether. On can be sloppy with conclusions, as Einstein was with the photoelectric effect, or Milikin in his oil drop experiment, but one does have a responsibility to do ones best to control systematic errors, and not jump to conclusions when one does not fully understand those errors. Unless, of course, like the two cited authors you are lucky enough to be accidentally correct.

Re:Don't have to go back 100 years (4, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 4 months ago | (#47627417)

Not to mention that ColdFusion tended to exhibit a lot of remotely exploitable bugs.

A little behind the times (5, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | about 4 months ago | (#47627331)

I thought that this take was pretty appropriate when all we had to go on was the conference abstract. Now, however, the full paper [libertariannews.org] (still not peer reviewed) is out, and it is much better. I still think it is wrong, but I do not think it is bad science, and it will have to be refuted experimentally.

Comments

* the "null thruster" is something of a red herring from the abstract. Reading the paper, they have a true "null load," which shows no thrust, while the "null thruster" was a mod of a Cannae drive, and so more of a test of drive theory than the experimental setup, and, in any event, they tested several types of drives.

* they did pretty much all of the things you would like to see (such as reversing the direction and making sure the thrust reverses).

* they seem to have done a thoughtful and careful job, including testing in vacuum.

So, I still think they are likely wrong, but this ups the ante. In my opinion, you can't just say "this is obviously wrong." I bet there will be a bunch of attempts to replicate it in labs all over the place.

I find the theories here (and I have now read several in some depth) to be bad, either wrong, or handwavy, or both*. I would discount them entirely. In the unlikely event that this effect is real (and I mean, some non-standard physics effect), then the theory is likely to be something different than any of the proposals, The experiment's the thing, and the game now has to be disproving the Eagleworks results. Only once a bunch of people have failed to do that (or one person has done it) is there much else to say.

* On pushing on virtual particles or quantum spacetime or whatever. These are 1 GHz photons, more or less. Such pushing would cause a _vacuum_ dispersion. Vacuum dispersion limits are set by timing of high energy photons from Gamma ray bursts across cosmic distances [arxiv.org] . These tests use ~ 100 MeV photons over ~10^10 light years, and so are many orders of magnitude tighter than the NASA Eagleworks results. This in my opinion rules out any photon - vacuum interaction as the cause of these anomalous thrusts.

Re: A little behind the times (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627363)

New discoveries are cool. Then they go through the science wringer. If it works it will be explained why. If it doesn't we will learn something valuable about why the effect appears despite attempts to exclude externalities.

This is exciting, especially if you are a nerd that loves science. Plain and simple.

Re:A little behind the times (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 4 months ago | (#47627513)

In my opinion, you can't just say "this is obviously wrong."

Yes you can: it's obviously wrong. Read the paper from the inventors [emdrive.com] on how the engine is supposed to work. It's a series of novice-level mistakes about physical principles and mechanisms. The entire idea is completely fucking batshit from the very beginning. The very fact that somebody actually got funding to build one of these absurd snake-oil devices indicates very little except that something is very, very wrong with the funding process. NASA is infamous for this kind of loony bullshit, and they really need to stop. It makes them look like morons.

Re:A little behind the times (5, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | about 4 months ago | (#47627563)

In my opinion, you can't just say "this is obviously wrong."

Yes you can: it's obviously wrong. Read the paper from the inventors [emdrive.com] on how the engine is supposed to work. It's a series of novice-level mistakes about physical principles and mechanisms. The entire idea is completely fucking batshit from the very beginning. The very fact that somebody actually got funding to build one of these absurd snake-oil devices indicates very little except that something is very, very wrong with the funding process. NASA is infamous for this kind of loony bullshit, and they really need to stop. It makes them look like morons.

I agree that the theory (or, at least, that theory) is obviously wrong. Cool, but from experimentalist standpoint, irrelevant. This paper, and the chinese paper, do not appear to the written by charlatans, they claim positive results, and so this will have to confirmed or denied by experiment. I have seen some very bad experimental NASA studies of new physics (*cough*warp drive*cough*), but this one doesn't appear to be so. If you see an obvious flaw in the full paper, please post it and I will publicize it.

I would advise in general that you don't hyperventilate so much. This process will work out just as it should; I have no doubt that in a year there will be a dozen tests of this and we will likely know for sure one way or the other; in the meantime, I would take a $ 200 bet [xkcd.com] that the standard model will still prevail when this is over.

Re:A little behind the times (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 4 months ago | (#47627583)

If you see an obvious flaw in the full paper, please post it and I will publicize it.

I have a better idea: how about I ignore the whole sordid, over-hyped clusterfuck and go do something useful with my time? The Emfdrive company will go under like a submarine in short order, and we won't have to worry about them anyway.

Re: A little behind the times (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47628083)

Why so angry? As previously stated, future experiments will either validate or invalidate the results, and a year from now the whole thing will probably be forgotten (or we'll all be walking around on mars!).

In any case, what's up with all the vitriolic cursing stupidity I see on Slashdot these days? Can't we all be calm and collected, and converse civilly with one another?

Re: A little behind the times (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47628135)

Do what? Masturbate? Watch hentai anime? Do a star trek marathon? It's not like you have anything meaningful to do, nerd.

Re:A little behind the times (5, Informative)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | about 4 months ago | (#47627521)

* they did pretty much all of the things you would like to see (such as reversing the direction and making sure the thrust reverses).

* they seem to have done a thoughtful and careful job, including testing in vacuum.

So, I still think they are likely wrong, but this ups the ante. In my opinion, you can't just say "this is obviously wrong."

Sure I can. Was the apparatus temperature controlled during the vacuum test? Was it tested in all orientations (not just backwards) to remove any gyroscopic weirdness from the rotation of the earth (think Michelson-Morley experiment). Was there EM coupling between the cavity, the torsion balance, and the chamber that could manifest as an anomalous torque, not thrust (that is, did they just make a big brushless motor)? Does the instrument register a thrust when the cavity is radiating but is bolted to the chamber floor and not the balance? Is there no thrust when it's oriented orthogonally? Does it still work if the power supply is electrically isolated from the vacuum chamber without a common return (ie did they build an electron gun)?

Re:A little behind the times (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627991)

they did pretty much all of the things you would like to see (such as reversing the direction and making sure the thrust reverses).

* they seem to have done a thoughtful and careful job, including testing in vacuum.

So, I still think they are likely wrong, but this ups the ante. In my opinion, you can't just say "this is obviously wrong."

Sure I can. Was the... Was it... Does it...

That your comment got modded 5:informative is hilarious. How about you RTFM and not phrase your comment in the form of questions? This was NASA. If NASA believed any of those alternate explanations you cited, do you think they'd be stupid enough to damage their reputations by presenting this absent those prominent criticisms? I admit, my respect for the U.S. govt is pretty low, like wow, really low. But still, you're theory of NASA incompetence I find more staggeringly unlikely than a device which superficially breaks the 'law' of conservation of momentum. And of course the stated theory suggests that it is not really a violation of that law, but an effect when dealing with subatomic particles that were not part of the cruder models used when originating the verbiage of such old 'laws'. I want to believe... :)

Hmm... (1)

Loopy (41728) | about 4 months ago | (#47627349)

It is important and necessary to independently verify and reproduce these results, meaning that if you detail the setup and methods, anyone else can achieve these results for themselves with the proper equipment

Interesting. I wonder what other popular and controversial "science" is missing this particular step.

Re:Hmm... (1)

pla (258480) | about 4 months ago | (#47627437)

Interesting. I wonder what other popular and controversial "science" is missing this particular step.

Well, in this case, NASA's version of this experiment lacks exactly that. They deliberately used a different design from that used (with reproduceable results) by both the British and the Chinese.

Yes, Kudos to NASA for going to the trouble of setting up an actual "null" hypothesis test - Except, how about they try the experiment as documented before they go tweaking the conditions in unknown ways? Yes, they thought they built a zero-thrust version of the setup... Except, that presumes that Shawyer actually has the correct theory behind his understanding of the effect. He can have the underlying physics completely wrong, yet still have discovered one of the most important effects ever.

Re:Hmm... (2)

cbhacking (979169) | about 4 months ago | (#47628199)

Sadly, you're actually wrong even though you're right. Shawyer never said that the "null" device wouldn't produce thrust. That was the claim of a guy named Guido Fetta, who invented something he calls the Cannae Drive (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EmDrive#Cannae_drive). Shawyer just said that the Cannae Drive is an inefficient EmDrive, with or without the slots which distinguished the "null" device from the "real" one.

Oh, and when NASA tested the actual EmDrive (which was months ago), it actually produced more than twice the thrust on just over half the power. Every result that TFA "reports" for the EmDrive is actually from the Cannae Drive test, not the EmDrive test at all! The author of that piece of dross needs to be hit with a clue-by-four...

Note that I'm not saying the EmDrive is "real". I'm definitely not saying Shawyer has a valid explanation for how it works either, even if it does. However, the experiments so far disproved nothing except Fetta's theory of the Cannae Drive; arguably, it actually provided *support* for Shawyer.

Author really knows his "bad science" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627353)

He made three key points:
-The thrust from all 3 experiments varied by 500%. -Duh, the Chinese used kilowatts and Nasa used watts of energy.
-The thrust measured 30-50n was too close to the min tolerance 10-15n of the instrument. -3x-5x the min is "too close"?
-OMG the control showed the same thrust as the actual drive! -Not true. But hardly surprising given the wording of the abstract. You would think he would read the paper before tearing holes in it.

Don't get me wrong. I think the drive probably doesn't work. But this article is written by someone who is gleefully uninformed.

Re:Author really knows his "bad science" (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 4 months ago | (#47627541)

Regardless of the author's misinformation/FUD campaign, this seems pretty damn easy to test. Throw the suspected best implementation(s) up on some micro-sats and see what they push. The British guy, plus two independently verified alternative implementations all showing something weird going on ought to be enough to merit a proper and definitive experiment or two.

Review != accept (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 4 months ago | (#47627395)

Just over a century ago, N rays were detected by over a hundred researchers and discussed in some three hundred publications

And just over two hundred years ago, the French Academy of Sciences steadfastly refused to believe that rocks could fall from space, with an abundance of supporting evidence to demonstrate that these "meteorites" had clearly come from weather conditions right here on Earth picking up rocks and flinging them about.

Funny thing about (good) science - It doesn't simply dismiss new ideas simply because they disagree with existing theories. Oh, but for the first time in human history we have it right? Yeah, about that unified theory of quantum gravity, Doctor...

Experiment not the problem (5, Insightful)

pr0t0 (216378) | about 4 months ago | (#47627399)

It's the reporting. This wasn't a peer reviewed scientific discovery, and it didn't claim to be. It was just a paper that laid out how the experiment was done, and what the results were, nothing more. Just because IFL Science, like every other tech/science site, picks up the story and hints at trips to Mars in a matter of weeks, doesn't mean that's what the experimenters were claiming.

This is how science works. You do experiments, you post your methods and results. Other scientists may do the same. If there is enough evidence that something may be at work, you do more. If you end up showing that everything we thought we knew about the universe was wrong, THEN YOU START CHANGING THE TEXTBOOKS.

The law of conservation of momentum, like all scientific laws, comes with the caveat that our understanding of how the universe works is correct. They are not immutable. Given reproduceability, predictability, and strong empirical evidence, it probably is correct; but that doesn't mean it may not need "tweaking" in the face of new evidence. It could also be that no scientific principles are being broken here, it's just there's something else at play we don't understand.

People who claim otherwise are really just religious zealots in a lab coat.

Re:Experiment not the problem (2)

Mr_Nitro (1174707) | about 4 months ago | (#47628141)

that Sir is so good!!!! I am so fed up of IFLS websites with their zealots approach... science and expecially physics is _experiment based_ if they send the bloody drive in space and it moves... then as you said we change the goddamn textbooks. I am so fed up of these new armchair crusaders.....if someone is smart or lucky enough to come up with a crazy but working experiment he doesn't necessarily have to be able to explain the whole theory behind it, that could be someone else job. Sorry zealots but reality wins...always.

Re:Experiment not the problem (2)

cbhacking (979169) | about 4 months ago | (#47628213)

Thank you. The hilarious thing is that this time, the zealots aren't even reading the report before "debunking" it. TFA (and, to be fair, lots of other sources) confused the recent NASA experiments on the Cannae Drive for experiments on the EmDrive. These are similar devices, but are invented by different people and their inventors claim different explanations for how they work. The actual inventor of the EmDrive (whose device was also tested, and produced more than twice as much thrust as the ~40 from the Cannae Drive as mentioned in TFA) is arguably vindicated by the result; having built something "different" but of basically the same design, it *also* produced thrust!

Oh, and that "null" device? That was the lack of a supposedly-required feature on the Cannae Drive, without which it supposedly is inoperative. The *actual* EmDrive has never required any such modification (radial slots on the chamber). Shawyer (inventor of the EmDrive) is probably also wrong about how it works and or even whether it does... but not for the reasons that all the idiots - most of whom *don't* even have lab coats - are claiming.

A good article refuting the claims of things like TFA (found by somebody else but worth reading): http://www.wired.co.uk/news/ar... [wired.co.uk] . A more powerful test device is already in development and will be tried out at multiple labs on multiple apparatus. *THEN* we will see whether to change the textbooks...

Bad Science (1)

hackus (159037) | about 4 months ago | (#47627499)

In otherwards, you can't make billions off of the infrastructure storing liquid hydrogen, billions off launch pad construction and maint contracts and most of all, nothing can go boom sp, instead of having to buy insurance and possibly building TWO in case of launch failure, there just isn't any good money....I mean good science in that or any idea that doesn't use rockets.

Rockets=The Chinese were doing it long before we were and somehow nobody gets it that it is old hat.

Does this mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627503)

... we might get an actual hoverboard before 2015?

just stick one on a Cygnus supply vessel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627505)

Orbital Sciences has a Cygnus supply vessel to supply ISS. Why not just stick on of those devices on a Cygnus, and see how long it takes to deorbit. An accurate test.

Hawaii SURROUNDED by water as first cyclone hits (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627507)

No where to run.
No where to hide.
Got your britches.
Up your hide.
BURMA SHAVE!

Bad Science Reporting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627539)

How many times have I read as a 'matter of fact' that curved (or warped) spacetime is responsible for gravity in online articles and made for TV science specials?

what exactly is this "bad science"? (5, Insightful)

silfen (3720385) | about 4 months ago | (#47627567)

How to fool the world with bad science

What does that even mean? The Chinese reported some result, NASA tried to reproduce it, and didn't get very convincing results. Any halfway reasonable person looks at what was reported in the press and says "hey, nothing really to see here, they didn't really prove or disprove anything", to which one might add "how nice that people try some new and crazy stuff occasionally".

Which part of that chain of events is supposed to constitute "bad science"? Who exactly is supposed to have been fooled? Which step along the way does Siegel consider "bad science" and why?

Instead of making a rational argument for the cost/benefit of this particular experiment, Siegel goes off on some tangent about N-rays, supposedly illustrating the foolishness of some experiments. But there are many other cases where weird observations and experiments that most people thought never could work opened up entirely new areas in physics and biology. If one can learn anything from the history of science, it's that you should sometimes try crazy and foolish experiments because occasionally, they yield a big payoff.

the impossible space engine that runs off of microwave power reflected inside a cavity

Nobody knows whether reactionless drives are "impossible" or not; anybody who makes definitive statements one way or the other is a charlatan at this point, including Siegel.

Sure, it violates the known laws of physics,

The known laws of physics violate the known laws of physics, because they are not only incomplete but internally inconsistent. Somewhere along the line, you will have to do experiments whose results might violate the known laws of physics if you want to make progress.

On the contrary, this is bad science because: The results are not robust, in that they are not identically-or-similarly reproducible by different teams.

I still don't know what that "this" is that Siegel is referring to. How do you know that the results aren't reproducible or robust if you don't try to reproduce them?

Siegel has the kind of dull mind that we don't want to teach our next generation of scientists or kids, and it is disturbing that guys like him are actually active in science education. Kids: try stupid things that violate known physics. Try things that sticks-in-the-mud like Siegel tell you don't work. And try to reproduce other people's experiments, both the ones that everybody believes and the ones nobody else could get to work.

Cold_emDrive_Fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627611)

Seems the NASA quantum-naughts are on to something !

Did the "revelation" occur after or before Colorado legalized weed !

Ah. The NASA "emDrive" will be "smoking" for years to cum. ;-)

Pretty easy to test (1)

HangingChad (677530) | about 4 months ago | (#47627713)

Just put a payload experiment in orbit and see if you can drive it around. If the scientists running the experiments accounted for the motion of waves on a beach five miles away, I'm pretty certain that makes it worth a payload slot. We could dick around down here for years arguing about whether the results are valid or not, or we could put one up there and try it.

Sounds like the perfect cubesat experiment.

Yep. (2)

Sir Holo (531007) | about 4 months ago | (#47627757)

Yes, N-rays were a false pursuit. (See book "Diamond Dealers and Feather Merchants")

Cold fusion also. The palladium was soaking up hydrogen, which the original experimenters (Pons & Fleischmann?) misinterpreted as demonstrating room-temperature cold fusion.

The public needs understand that un-refereed reports are not fact. Further, even refereed journal articles are not fact. It is only after others reproduce experiments and find confirming results that we get closer to "fact." Even then, it's just "confirmed theory."

Why the popular press loves to breathlessly report on recent journal articles as "fact" only confuses the matter.

Re:Yep. (1)

Horshu (2754893) | about 4 months ago | (#47627973)

"Why the popular press loves to breathlessly report on recent journal articles as "fact" only confuses the matter." I take it you don't believe that a 13 year old girl will revolutionize battery power with her science fair project?

Bad science? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47627767)

How about all the Space Nutter fantasies like Space Elevators and Mars colonies?

Where's the skepticism?

Science needs experimental data (1)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about 4 months ago | (#47627835)

To scientifically prove/disprove something you need experimental data, which is exactly what NASA seems to be doing in this case. The results are less than stellar but as long as they are not burning any significant amount of money whats the issue? If we really want to know if this thing works or not just put it in a small cubesat and piggyback it on another satellite launch, if it can change its orbit then we know it works, if it can't we know its useless. Again no significant amount of resources should be expended and the inventors shouldn't profit in any way until the effect is proven, but sometimes the most astounding discoveries start out as a little unexplained quirk that someone plays around with.

Bad Science IS NASA's Main Game (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47628159)

Bad science wins 100's of billions of dollars world wide.

That is now the Game To Beat at NASA Facilities.

Oh ! Not to worry. NASA will never return to the Moon, let alone put a "Man" on an asteroid nor Phobos or Demos or Mars.

That, is ended. The U.S.A. is in the same position as Portugal and Span in the year 1512.

The long slide has started.

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