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NASA Science Technology

German Scientists Confirm NASA's Controversial EM Drive 518

MarkWhittington writes: Hacked Magazine reported that a group of German scientists believe that they have confirmed that the EM Drive, the propulsion device that uses microwaves rather than rocket fuel, provides thrust. The experimental results are being presented at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics' Propulsion and Energy Forum in Orlando by Martin Tajmar, a professor and chair for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology. Tajmar has an interest in exotic propulsion methods, including one concept using "negative matter."
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German Scientists Confirm NASA's Controversial EM Drive

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  • by moosehooey ( 953907 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @05:30PM (#50193031)

    Maybe this will be one that turns out not to be a scam...

    • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @05:39PM (#50193103)

      Well NADA is an unlikely source for scams and it doesn't fit the pattern. The science behind it is openly shared without any secret sauce claims. The physics are uncontroversial.
      The only thing there could be scam in is whether our engineering can really cash in on it.

      At it's best its also not claimed to provide much thrust. You can't leave earth with it. But once you do even a tiny bit of thrust goes a long way. It's not even the only known way to get thrust without fuel - solar sails do that too.

      I never got why so many people are so sceptical of this one. Engineering scams are nothing new but this breaks every pattern and the science is genuinely sound.

      • Even if it only works as well as the experiments, it can make satellites smaller and longer-lasting.

      • I second that.
        The /. crowd in our days calls everything new a scam ... pretty retarded!

        • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @05:58PM (#50193255)
          Skepticism is healthy, and when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. However, this is being repeatedly validated by multiple credible sources, which means that it should be accepted. If the crowd here is skeptical, it's only because we've see so much junk science over the years that has been latched onto and all the damage such things do. Look at the anti-vaccination movement, which has resulted in an increase in cases of diseases that were practically non-existent for decades.

          Everything that's generally accepted today went through similar amounts of skepticism at some point and was borne out by repeated studies to prove its validity. Anything less and you've got something more akin to a religion and articles of faith.
          • by roca ( 43122 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @06:07PM (#50193355) Homepage

            Neither Newton's nor Einstein's theory of gravitation were greeted with "extreme skepticism" by the general community.

            • by delt0r ( 999393 ) on Tuesday July 28, 2015 @05:28AM (#50195559)
              That is because they both explained previous results they already had. While this new thing violates 400 years of experiments and results.
            • It's worth noting that there's a big difference between those theories and this engine. With this engine, they're putting forward a piece of technology and saying, "We don't know how this works, but we're claiming it does." In the case of Newton and Einstein, they put forward a mathematical model that was internally consistent, and the question was whether it applied to reality.

              So in one case, they're putting forward a technology without a real explanation as to how it works, and in the other case, they're putting forward a coherent theory that seems to explain phenomena that we have witnessed. Also, both Newton and Einstein's theories had the benefit of providing a clean explanation to phenomena that we were having a lot of trouble explaining.

          • by delt0r ( 999393 )
            No it has not been repeatedly validated. It has not been peer reviewed even once. It has not been properly published because like this. They report findings in a magazine. Experiments soo sloppy you should ignore them even if they were testing credible science. They are not, so the standards should be much much much higher.

            I mean do you really think the laws of physics are different in different places? Cus that has to be true for this to be true.

            Conservation of energy? This is a over unity device if
        • by garyisabusyguy ( 732330 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @05:59PM (#50193275)

          It's because we are tired from telling all them damn kids at reddit to get offa our lawn

        • by martas ( 1439879 )
          Well, I for one never thought it was a scam, I just thought it was extremely likely to be another "faster than light neutrino" -- some missed detail in experimental design. I still think that's pretty likely, though decreasingly so.
      • by Megol ( 3135005 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @05:47PM (#50193149)

        Eh... The physics mechanisms proposed ARE very controversial! The classic physics mechanism simply shouldn't work and the quantum physics proposal are far off speculations that aren't likely to be true.

        But the amount of experimental verification from separate sources indicates that either there is some factor they all forgot or that there are new physics at play. I hope for the last alternative :)

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Sorry, your post is complete nonsense.

          EM dive "theory" is a "forward theory".

          Some guy thought: "it should work like that", and now experiments are confirming: "it seems to work like that.

          There is no The classic physics mechanism simply shouldn't work.

          Actually the drive works exactly according classic physics ... as state before (in other posts): I have no clue why the /. crowd disagrees.

          However I'm looking forward for a formula showing that the EM drive can't work.

      • by suutar ( 1860506 )

        as far as I know the skepticism started when early reports included the word "reactionless". I doubt anyone would have a problem with "microwave-emitting thruster"; lord knows we've heard enough about photon drives for that to make sense. But the early reports I recall were more like "microwave-induced magic", where the microwaves weren't supposed to leave the unit, just generate more thrust bouncing off one end than the other.

      • I never got why so many people are so sceptical of this one.

        I think some of the skepticism is not as to whether this might be an engine that produces some small amount of thrust. I mean, a little skepticism is a healthy response for any new scientific discovery, and it's not inappropriate to ask for proof. Since the thrust we're talking about is so small, the margin of error is large, and proving that it really works takes a bit of doing. I don't assume that it works, but I also don't really disbelieve it if NASA scientists say it does.

        However, when this was rep

      • by ericloewe ( 2129490 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @06:32PM (#50193577)

        The physics are most certainly NOT uncontroversial.

        If this thing were to truly work, it would have insane implications to some basic assumptions about the universe - namely about the very laws of physics themselves.

        This device working means that the laws of physics do vary by translation, which goes against every single other observation ever made. The science behind it is most certainly not clearly sound. Skepticism is the only logical option for this thing.

        • The physics are most certainly NOT uncontroversial.

          If this thing were to truly work, it would have insane implications to some basic assumptions about the universe - namely about the very laws of physics themselves.

          This device working means that the laws of physics do vary by translation, which goes against every single other observation ever made. The science behind it is most certainly not clearly sound. Skepticism is the only logical option for this thing.

          IMO, as someone with a background in science, scepticism is the only logical option for science. I'm sceptical of all scientific results. Thats how progress is made, by not taking things at face value.

      • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @07:53PM (#50194045) Journal

        People are so sceptical of this one because if true the implications are universe-shaking. It would completely overturn not just modern physics but all of physics since Newton. The claim is that the device violates conservation of momentum. Then via Noether's theorem [wikipedia.org] this implies that the laws of physics are not independent of location in space. (Alternatively, the device is creating a beam of hard to detect particles via some completely unknown but low energy mechanism.)

        Also, the device was first designed using a provably incorrect analysis - an analysis using standard physics determined that the device would produce thrust without reaction mass, violating conservation of momentum. As all the standard physics used in the analysis conserves momentum, the analysis must be incorrect. If someone adds up many even numbers and comes up with an odd total, we know they have made a mistake, even without examining their calculations to find out where. This case is exactly analogous. So if this device really does violate momentum conservation, it is a complete and utter fluke, and not by design.

        • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @08:20PM (#50194161) Journal

          Looking at this another way:

          When LHC were looking for the Higgs boson - a particle entirely expected by modern physics - they required a five sigma signal before they were satisfied that they had really found something.

          This is a result not only entirely unexpected, but contradictory to almost all known physics. A two sigma (NASA) and three sigma (Germany) signal is not remotely enough to be convincing. At best it is convincing enough for someone to spend the money to further and better test it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Beck_Neard ( 3612467 )

        > The science behind it is openly shared without any secret sauce claims.

        There is no 'science behind it'. At best there's some experimental data which is probably measurement error or a mundane effect that isn't being considered.

        > the science is genuinely sound.

        Actually, the claim of "thrust without reaction mass" is not only unsound, it's so far off the scientific deep end that it boggles the mind. You may not need to carry any propellant for this engine to work, but you sure as heck need to carry

      • by delt0r ( 999393 )
        There is ZERO science behind this. NONE. They have no viable working theory as to why it would even work. EM theory is very well tested and developed. It predicts no thrust. Momentum is conserved, relativity is fine and energy is conserved (all 3 must be false if this works). The last 400 years of experiments were not accidents.
    • "Maybe this will be one that turns out not to be a scam..."

      It won't be a scam. It will be some tiny bit of unaccounted for noise in the experiment.

  • Excellent news! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by areusche ( 1297613 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @05:42PM (#50193119)
    This is the type of news I want to see more of. Between all of the pointless social narcissism platforms and SJW Bs this is enlightening news. I am excited to see what discoveries will be made. And if it turns out to be bunk, well who cares that's science!
  • by pwnyxpress ( 2597273 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @05:42PM (#50193121)
    I don't understand how carrying and burning all of those microwaves would be better than rocket fuel, especially with the production cost of making the microwaves.
    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      Depends on how much pressure it takes to compress them into a liquid.

      Irony: Liquid Microwaves that won't cook yer Hotdog.

  • Not quite. (Score:5, Informative)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @05:43PM (#50193129)

    "Our test campaign can not confirm or refute the claims of the EMDrive but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the measurements methods used so far."

    What more do I need to say?

  • This is really amazing and hopefully it is turning into a window into parts of our universe that we've never imagined.

    But, reading the articles, I think we're a long way off from understanding what this phenomena is and how to exploit it practically. Going back over the previous articles, the measured force was for 50 uN from 50W of power - this doesn't seem like a very practical application as yet; the claims of round trips to Mars in less than a year are very exaggerated.

    On that point, I thought we could

  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @05:52PM (#50193203) Journal

    I'm very hopeful this works. It's easy to be cynical, so I won't say "meh it's all bullshit!" Still, I won't be convinced until I see it provide thrust in a vacuum, away from Earth's magnetic field. It's still far, far too likely it's pushing off something terrestrial. So I'll give them a healthy "go, team, go!"

    That said, quoth the article:

    "This is the first time that someone with a well-equipped lab and a strong background in tracking experimental error has been involved, rather than engineers who may be unconsciously influenced by a desire to see it work," notes Wired referring to Tajmar's work.

    I don't know about that. He is a real professor at a real university, but he also has filed for a patent on a gravity generator [wikipedia.org], using a process no one has duplicated. Somebody who thinks they've got a gravity generator, but gosh just can't prove it to everybody else, is definitely somebody who may be "unconsciously influenced by a desire to see it work."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 27, 2015 @05:53PM (#50193211)

    In the conclusion section:

    The nature of the thrusts observed is still unclear. Additional tests need to be carried out to study the magnetic
    interaction of the power feeding lines used for the liquid metal contacts. Our test campaign can not confirm or refute
    the claims of the EMDrive but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the measurements methods
    used so far. Nevertheless, we do observe thrusts close to the magnitude of the actual predictions after eliminating
    many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena. Next steps include better
    magnetic shielding, further vacuum tests and improved EMDrive models with higher Q factors and electronics that
    allow tuning for optimal operation. As a worst case we may find how to effectively shield thrust balances from
    magnetic fields.

  • If somebody still has the article on their screen, please post a text copy-paste.

    • Scientists Confirm 'Impossible' EM Drive Propulsion

      Science News, Space / July 27, 2015 / by Giulio Prisco/

      Later today, July 27, German scientists will present new experimental results on the controversial, "impossible" EM Drive, at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics' Propulsion and Energy Forum in Orlando. The presentation is titled "Direct Thrust Measurements of an EmDrive and Evaluation of Possible Side-Effects."

      Presenter Martin Tajmar is a professor and chair for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology, interested in space propulsion systems and breakthrough propulsion physics.

      A Revolutionary Development for Space Travel

      The EM Drive (Electro Magnetic Drive) uses electromagnetic microwave cavities to directly convert electrical energy to thrust without the need to expel any propellant. First proposed by Satellite Propulsion Research [emdrive.com], a research company based in the UK founded by aerospace engineer Roger Shawyer, the EM Drive concept was predictably scorned by much of the mainstream research community for allegedly violating the laws of physics, including the conservation of momentum.

      However, NASA Eagleworks – an advanced propulsion research group led by Dr. Harold G. “Sonny” White at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) – investigated the EM Drive [nasaspaceflight.com] and presented encouraging test results in 2014 at the 50th Joint Propulsion Conference.

      White proposes that the EM Drive’s thrust is due to virtual particles in the quantum vacuum that behave like propellant ions in magneto-hydrodynamical propulsion systems, extracting "fuel" from the very fabric of space-time and eliminating the need to carry propellant. While a number of scientists criticize White's theoretical model, others feel that he is at least pointing to the right direction. The NASASpaceFlight [nasaspaceflight.com] website and forums have emerged as unofficial news source and discussion space for all things related to the EM Drive and related breakthrough space propulsion proposals such as the Cannae Drive [cannae.com].

      Shawyer has often been dismissed by the research establishment for not having peer-reviewed scientific publications, but White and Tajmar have impeccable credentials that put them beyond cheap dismissal and scorn. Physics is an experimental science, and the fact that the EM Drive works is confirmed in the lab. "This is the first time that someone with a well-equipped lab and a strong background in tracking experimental error has been involved, rather than engineers who may be unconsciously influenced by a desire to see it work," notes [wired.co.uk] Wired referring to Tajmar's work.

      Hacked has obtained a copy of Tajmar's Propulsion and Energy Forum paper, co-authored by G. Fiedler.

      "Our measurements reveal thrusts as expected from previous claims after carefully studying thermal and electromagnetic interferences," note the researchers. "If true, this could certainly revolutionize space travel."

      “The nature of the thrusts observed is still unclear.”

      "Additional tests need to be carried out to study the magnetic interaction of the power feeding lines used for the liquid metal contacts," conclude the researchers. "Nevertheless, we do observe thrusts close to the magnitude of the actual predictions after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena. Next steps include better magnetic shielding, further vacuum tests and improved EMDrive models with higher Q factors and electronics that allow tuning for optimal operation."

      Contrary to sensationalist reports published by the sensationalist press, the EM Drive is not a "warp drive" for faster than

  • ah, Tajmar eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @06:03PM (#50193305)

    Tajmar made a lot of hoopla over ten years ago about making gravitomagnetic waves orders of magnitude more powerful than GR predicted; some were claiming we were on our way to artificial gravity or a warp drive by his bold claims. Of course, his experiments could never be duplicated. Since then, he's been trying to make waves (ha!) with other dubious claims of making gravity effects by electromagnetic means and such.

    Take anything he claims "confirmed" with a one hundred pound bag pinch of salt.

  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @06:09PM (#50193367) Homepage

    Just thinking about this, how expensive would it be to create a small, simple satellite, with solar cells, some large LiPoly batteries, a transponder and an EM drive that fires up every time there is enough juice in the batteries to run it for a few minutes?

    Sticking with the 50nN thrust level for 50W of input and assuming that a 1kg LiPol battery has 260Whr available (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_polymer_battery), that is approximately 5hr of running time and assuming that the satellite is 5kg, there will be a 10nm/s^2 acceleration.

    5 hours is 18,000s so there should be a delta-V imparted on the satellite of 1.8(10^-4)m/s which is tiny (I did say this is a pretty useless drive at the current time right now) but should be measurable or at least noticeable to its relative position to a control satellite that was launched along with it.

  • by DrJimbo ( 594231 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @07:10PM (#50193805)

    Here [aiaa.org] is the first page of the actual paper, including the abstract which says:

    Our test campaign can not confirm or refute the claims of the EMDrive but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the measurement methods used so far.

    So the /. title says pretty much the exact opposite of what the actual paper says.

    I am still extremely skeptical that there is any actual effect. They powered their device with a 700 watt magnatron and measured plus or minus 20 micro-newtons of thrust. To put this in perspective, one Newton is roughly the weight of an apple near the surface of the Earth. If the thrust scales linearally with input power then you would need 50,000 x 700 Watts = 35 Megawatts to levitate a single apple. Of course the inventor claims that the thrust to power ratio is highly non-linear so at these higher power levels you would get a lot more thrust. I have not seen any sensible theoretical model that explains why this would be so.

    If you are using hundreds of watts to produce a handful of micro-newtons then it is extremely likely there is no actual effect and what is being measured is just some form of noise. This is especially true when the so-called effect violates a primary law of physics.

  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @08:33PM (#50194221)

    There was a similar set of claims roughly 60 years ago for the "Dean Drive" a "reactionless drive" that did not seem to use propellant. To casual review, and letting it push your hand, it seemed to work, and a great campaign for research and to ignore the sceptics of the time was headed by John W. Campbell, the editor of Analog magazine. Analog was, and remains, a science fiction magazine specializing in hard science and science fiction based on it, and it had many real scientists as readers and contributors, so the Dean Drive received quite a lot of attention.

    The Dean Drive has since been pretty thoroughly debunked as an "oscillation thruster", a device that relies on tuned "slipping" on the floor it rests on to creep forward and even to provide a modest thrust, _pushing against the floor_. The designer was never willing to allow a full "pendulum" test, or careful testing outside of his own workshop, and there seem to be dozens more of similarly patented "reactonless drives". The ones that work at all also seem to be "isicllation thrusters", pushing against the floor or the mehanism in which they are mounted.

  • Yeah for EM Drive! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drwho ( 4190 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @08:42PM (#50194257) Homepage Journal

    I've been following this invention for years; since the first announcements from Shawyer through his being trashed by various physicists and wanna-bees, through his redemption through work in China and NASA. It used to be very difficult to get information, but since the burst of activity on the NASA Space flight forums, there's now too much information to digest, especially for someone like me who only has an undergrad level of schooling in it. If you want lots of details and discussion, check it out - but please don't post unless you really know what you're talking about, as there's already been a hell of a lot of noise. http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37642.0

  • by NicknameUnavailable ( 4134147 ) on Monday July 27, 2015 @10:57PM (#50194719)
    It was created by an independent inventor in the UK. It is insulting to all of science to act as though a large organization like NASA is capable of breakthrough physics when literally all breakthrough physics has come from individuals.

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