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Transportation Science

Hyperdrive Propulsion Could Be Tested At the LHC 322

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-can't-believe-i-used-the-transportation-topic dept.
KentuckyFC writes "In 1924, the influential German mathematician David Hilbert calculated that a stationary mass should repel a particle moving towards or away from it at more than half the speed of light (as seen by a distant inertial observer). Now an American physicist has pointed out that the equal and opposite effect should also hold true: that a relativistic particle should repel a stationary mass. This, he says, could form the basis of a 'hypervelocity propulsion drive' for accelerating spacecraft to a good fraction of the speed of light. The idea is that the repulsion allows the relativistic particle to deliver a specific impulse that is greater than its specific momentum, an effect that is analogous to the elastic collision of a heavy mass with a much lighter, stationary mass, from which the lighter mass rebounds with about twice the speed of the heavy mass. Unlike other exotic hyperdrive proposals, this one can be tested using the world's largest particle accelerator, the LHC, which will generate beams of particles with the required energy (abstract). Placing a test mass next to the beam line and measuring the forces on it as the particles pass by should confirm the theory — or scupper it entirely."
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Hyperdrive Propulsion Could Be Tested At the LHC

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  • ! hyperdrive (Score:5, Informative)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @09:16AM (#29680739)

    I think most/all of us take the term "hyperdrive" to imply FTL speeds.

    This technology doesn't claim to achieve that.

  • by Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @09:17AM (#29680741)

    It could be tested at the LHC if it ever manages to stay working for more than a month at a time, that is. :(

    • by Goffee71 (628501) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @09:31AM (#29680949) Homepage
      It hasn't "worked" fully at all, yet. But it is one of the more complex science instruments on the planet, not a Toyota Pickup truck at the garage. Give them time and it'll do its job... unless some twelve-year old Chinese prodigy figures out a way to do the same stuff in his lunch box.
      • by jbezorg (1263978)

        It hasn't "worked" fully at all, yet. But it is one of the more complex science instruments on the planet, not a Toyota Pickup truck at the garage. Give them time and it'll do its job... unless some twelve-year old Chinese prodigy figures out a way to do the same stuff in his lunch box.

        Who would be immediately lynched by the scientific community because no one likes a smart ass.

        • by Goffee71 (628501)
          Or at least seriously wedgied.

          Still, as is traditional, I - for one - would welcome our slightly limping, lunch-box particle-accelerator wielding, junior overlords.
          • by jbezorg (1263978)
            So, do you think there is hot tea in that Chinese prodigy's lunch box? Great source of relativistic particles and Brownian motion.
      • by lymond01 (314120)

        But it is one of the more complex science instruments on the planet, not a Delorean at the garage.

        Hey, Doc managed it with just 1.21 GW.

  • One thing... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Random2 (1412773) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @09:18AM (#29680757) Journal

    "calculated that a stationary mass should repel a particle moving towards or away from it at more than half the speed of light"

    So, how do I slow down while going half he speed of light?

    I see the advent of a new industry: space crash landings

    • One More Thing... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by popo (107611) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @09:42AM (#29681085) Homepage

      While testing this on the ground, just make sure you're not actually moving the Earth...

    • Anything you're moving towards should push you away, so you'll slow down automatically when you get close to anything.
      • by aicrules (819392)
        Slow down/crash into/be bumped off course? I'm pretty sure you'd still be going fast enough to be screwed if you were heading straight at something.
    • by EatHam (597465)

      "calculated that a stationary mass should repel a particle moving towards or away from it at more than half the speed of light"

      So, how do I slow down while going half he speed of light?

      According to what you have in quotes, approaching a stationary mass ought to do the job.

  • With something so simple as to elastic collision, who would have thunk it?

    Theoretically it makes sense, and what's cool about it is that it can be done with today's technology.

    Pretty cool.

    Next thing you know we'll have Romulans visiting. I'm liking all of this already..

  • There's a hyperdriven black hole careering all around Northern Europe? That's a hot mess waiting to happen.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by DoofusOfDeath (636671)

      There's a hyperdriven black hole careering all around Northern Europe? That's a hot mess waiting to happen.

      It's like that childrens' book, "If you give a black hold a continent..."

  • by jabuzz (182671) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @09:26AM (#29680871) Homepage

    Apart from being a potential nifty space drive, it would also provide a new test of General Relativity. This is far more likely to get it done as a real experiment at the LHC, than a new space drive.

  • by Flowstone (1638793) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @09:33AM (#29680967)
    First we have the means to power the thing in the works. http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/10/08/0316200/Design-Starting-For-Matter-Antimatter-Collider [slashdot.org]

    And now they're getting the theory down for building it.

    Its only a matter of time (pun intended) till this plays out and turns into the world's first hyperdrive.

  • power (Score:2, Funny)

    by Alien Being (18488)

    Has that thing got a Hemi in it?

  • Reminds me of Elite (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lxs (131946) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @09:44AM (#29681099)

    Where hyperspeed was possible unless there were ships or asteroids nearby. In that case you became "mass locked" So it turns out that more than just a gimmick to skip the boring bits of the game, mass does indeed interfere with fast moving objects.

  • This sounds more like an "impulse drive" to me. I'm growing more convinced every day that Gene Roddenberry came to us from the future.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @10:32AM (#29681697) Journal
    OK. Me first. Got dibs on Andromeda. Poor chaps what will they do when they discover that we had filed the plans to build a highway through them and taped it to the underside of a sink in an unused bath room in a dark basement guarded by leopards?
  • by lseltzer (311306) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @10:33AM (#29681717)

    Zephram Cochrane?

    • by cashman73 (855518)
      We better keep an eye out for a Borg invasion coming from 300 years in the future to try and destabilize the LHC.
  • So hey, physics dudes... would this work? A space ship that's black on one side and white on the other. The white side reflects light, the black side absorbs it... besides being warmer than the white side would it slowly begin to move? Maybe a millimeter a century or so? :) Long range probes I guess.

    • by VoidCrow (836595)
      The black side would get 1 kick per photon, the reflective side 2 kicks per photon. Net result, 1 kick. A better idea would be a mirror sail that transmits light on one face, and reflects it on the other.
  • "thereby achieving speeds greater than the driving particle's speed"

    I'm pretty sure Hilbert didn't include that statement.

  • Placing a test mass next to the beam line and measuring the forces on it as the particles pass by should confirm the theory â" or scupper it entirely.

    ...or launch the test mass into the wall of the LHC at half the speed of light.

  • by Tekfactory (937086) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @11:52AM (#29682795) Homepage

    The Scientist's name is Felber, therefore the small fraction of light speed drive would likely be known as the Felber Drive.

    If that doesn't sound sexy enough for you try the Hilbert-Felber Drive.

    If you really want it to be metal, stick an umlaut in there somewhere.

  • by kelseymh (1652715) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:24PM (#29685351)
    A colleague of mine asked if I thought this was possible or hokum. The authors own "paper" (unpublished preprint, linked above) contains a rather lot of self-references to other unpublished preprints, usually a sign of some level of crack-pottedness. Also, his own numbers in the abstract for this idea (an acceleration of 3 nm/s^2 for 2 ns) make this completely unworkable. That corresponds to a displacement of a test mass of 1.5 x 10^-35 m. The most sensitive displacement detectors are the laser gravitational wave observatories, each of which are a pair of perpendicular 10km Fabry-Perot cavities. These detectors have a sensitivity of about 10^-18 m. That's seventeen orders of magnitude difference. On an amusing note, that displacement is actually the same order of magnitude as the "Planck length". I can't help but wonder whether the author engaged in some silly numerology in order to get it to work out that way.

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