Some of NASA’s recent tests with the electromagnetic space propulsion drive, often referred to as the EM Drive, have shown that the new technology may defy not one, but two fundamental laws of physics. The EM Drive, already considered controversial as it flies in the face of our basic understanding of how space travel works, may now potentially harbor a ‘warp bubble’ which could allow faster than light travel.
While the potential of faster than light travel is certainly exciting, the EM Drive itself is an important and potentially revolutionary piece of technology. The EM Drive could drastically cut the cost of sending satellites and eventually larger objects into space, which would open up the possibility of sending large solar arrays into space and harvesting vast amounts of solar power. The EM Drive is also far more environmentally friendly than the explosive rockets currently used to launch most everything into space.
According to an April 30 report by the International Business Times, the idea for the EM Drive was originally conceived of by British scientist Roger Shawyer. Although Shawyer’s ideas were initially the subject of a good deal of skepticism from much of the scientific community, several experiments performed over the last few years, including the recent ones by NASA, have gone a long way towards validating his design.
After testing the device for a while, NASA finally announced on April 29 that they believe the EM Drive actually works. The NASA team was working at the Johnson Space Center, and is the first to successfully test the electromagnetic propulsion drive in a hard vacuum.
“Thrust measurements of the EmDrive defy classical physics’ expectations that such a closed cavity should be unusable for space propulsion because of the law of conservation of momentum,” said several of NASA researchers on the website NASA Space Flight.
On paper, the EM Drive should not function; this is because it defies one of the fundamentals of physics, the law of conservation of momentum. According to this law of physics, objects flying through space need to propel something outwards in order to move forwards. However, the EM Drive is based on a theory of special relativity which suggests that electrical energy can be converted directly into thrust, allowing the drive to skip the whole part about needing a propellant. The EM Drive functions by converting electricity into microwaves within the cavity of the device which push against the inside walls of the drive forcing it forwards.
If the EM Drive wasn’t bending the law of physics enough already, several of the researchers who tested the technology for NASA believe they might have stumbled upon a ‘warp bubble’ in the drive. The ‘warp bubble’ was discovered when the researchers fired lasers through the device, and found that the particles in the lasers were sped up beyond the speed of light.
While Star Trek’s Enterprise and Star War’s Millenium Falcon were propelled to distant galaxies by speedy warp drives, the actual theory for faster than light travel revolves around the idea of a ‘warp bubble’ that forms around a spaceship and allows it to slip through space-time. The hypothetical drive based on the ‘warp bubble,’ often called the Alcubierre drive after its creator, Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre, theorizes that faster than light travel could be possible if space was contracted in front of a spacecraft and expanded behind it. This would allow the craft to move through space at faster than light speeds without contradicting Einstein.
Although the existence of the ‘warp bubble’ has not been verified, and were first posted by researchers on the forum at NASA Space Flight website, the implications of the find could be a huge first step for space travel. A poster on the forum said that the science currently looks promising for the discovery as “the math behind the warp bubble apparently matches the interference pattern found in the Em Drive.” Hopefully with a little more testing NASA will be on its way towards cooking up a warp drive of its very own.