Futuristic EmDrive Still Works After Latest Round of Tests

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Futuristic EmDrive Still Works After Latest Round of Tests

We're waiting on a peer-reviewed paper, but NASA Eagleworks engineer Paul March confirmed the fuel-less EmDrive works after accounting for errors.

We here at The Escapist are pretty excited about the futuristic EmDrive, even though nobody has a clue how the thing works. In case you missed our previous coverage, the EmDrive is a fuel-less spacecraft propulsion engine that pushes microwaves into a truncated cone to generate thrust. But it's also generated intense controversy, mostly because reaction-less thrust is considered impossible under our modern understanding of physics. All the same, experts continue to claim the EmDrive works as advertised - including Paul March, a NASA Eagleworks engineer who recently shared EmDrive test information on the NASA Spaceflight forums.

The post is filled with technical science-speak (this is literally rocket science), so here's the layman version: One valid EmDrive criticism was that stray magnetic fields might have created the appearance of thrust in error. According to March, NASA's latest round of tests accounted for that by adding a new magnetic damper to the EmDrive. While March can't share the actual data - which is regulated under NASA's press release rules - he could say the EmDrive continued to generate "anomalous thrust" in the new tests.

"I wish I could show you all the pictures I've taken on how we saluted and mitigated the issues raised by our EW Lab's Blue-Ribbon PhD panel and now Potomac-Neuron's paper," March wrote. "However since I still can't show you this supporting data until the EW Lab gets our next peer-reviewed lab paper published, I will tell you that we first built and installed a 2nd generation, closed face magnetic damper that reduced the stray magnetic fields in the vacuum chamber by at least an order of magnitude and any Lorentz force interactions it could produce."

There is still one matter to account for: Despite largely ruling out Lorentz forces, a thermal expansion contamination exists which actually gets worse in a vacuum. That's a problem if we hope to use the EmDrive for space travel, so NASA is developing an advanced analytics tool and an integrated test to address the error. But all the same, NASA engineers speaking favorably about the EmDrive is highly promising for its prospects.

Now if only we could get that peer-reviewed data...

Source: NASA Spaceflight, via Digital Trends

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Yes, but how are our Gellar Field tests going? Lets not have a repeat of Alan Grant and the Event Horizon.

Huh. Well waddaya know.

I didn't expect to hear about this again, actually. But here it is, another device that seems to do an incredibly useful thing with us barely having a clue on how it does so. It's funny how that's not even a rare thing. We don't even really know how a bicycle physically functions. So this thing seems to be our space-bike then. Cool. Now let's wait and see what the peer-reviewed data says.

How does one create a machine that they do not know how it works? I am coming at this from all angles, but thrusting this information upon one so briefly does make one dazed and confused. Or should i say...spaced?

Xsjadoblayde:
How does one create a machine that they do not know how it works? I am coming at this from all angles, but thrusting this information upon one so briefly does make one dazed and confused. Or should i say...spaced?

It's pretty much a Eureka effect mixed with us having an incomplete (to put it mildly) understanding of the science and forces involved. The Greeks invented some really impressive steam engines that they didn't completely understand. Sometimes invention is the slow process of trial and error science and sometimes it's a wondrous cart put before a methodical horse.

From the forum link where this 'news article' and I use the term loosely comes from

"This is a paper explaining why the emdrive thrust is just an error in the experiment design. It could use a bit more rigor in parts, but its point is to demonstrate that a significant source of error exists, not to precisely measure the magnitude, which would require them to have access to the original experiment equipment."

"To reiterate, this paper claims (reasonably) that the measured thrust is an experimental error, and suggests an incorrect calibration of the Lorentz force effect on the setup as the cause of the error."

Yay, passed another test. I have my own theories about why this thing works, but considering I only have a BA (in philosophy, no less), I'll just wait and see what NASA says whenever they figure it out.

This is so cool, though: it could totally change how we do satellites and stuff.

P-89 Scorpion:
From the forum link where this 'news article' and I use the term loosely comes from

"This is a paper explaining why the emdrive thrust is just an error in the experiment design. It could use a bit more rigor in parts, but its point is to demonstrate that a significant source of error exists, not to precisely measure the magnitude, which would require them to have access to the original experiment equipment."

"To reiterate, this paper claims (reasonably) that the measured thrust is an experimental error, and suggests an incorrect calibration of the Lorentz force effect on the setup as the cause of the error."

You are quoting someone in the forums who briefly summarized a paper suggesting the EmDrive's thrust is actually a technical error.

Paul March (the NASA engineer I referenced) responded to the comment by saying NASA already addressed those concerns, and the only reason more people don't know about it is because the peer-review process is intolerably slow.

So unless Paul March is a liar, or future tests overturn his points, everything should be in order here.

Or is there some other point you're trying to make?

P-89 Scorpion:
From the forum link where this 'news article' and I use the term loosely comes from

"This is a paper explaining why the emdrive thrust is just an error in the experiment design. It could use a bit more rigor in parts, but its point is to demonstrate that a significant source of error exists, not to precisely measure the magnitude, which would require them to have access to the original experiment equipment."

"To reiterate, this paper claims (reasonably) that the measured thrust is an experimental error, and suggests an incorrect calibration of the Lorentz force effect on the setup as the cause of the error."

You... you do realize the bits that this article quotes are replying to what you quoted, to refute what that person said?

Or are you so eager to support your own view on the subject you'll take whatever quotes you can get out of context and twist them to support yourself?

Edit: Ninja'd by author.

how much thrust are we talking about here? how big is that thing(the picture doesn't have anything next to it to put it into scale) and much force does it supposedly generate?

Gorrath:

It's pretty much a Eureka effect mixed with us having an incomplete (to put it mildly) understanding of the science and forces involved. The Greeks invented some really impressive steam engines that they didn't completely understand. Sometimes invention is the slow process of trial and error science and sometimes it's a wondrous cart put before a methodical horse.

Ah yes, i see what you mean. Whatever was this device originally intended for? Actually i'll do the looking instead of asking *taptaptap* ...it was made...to be an Emdrive?! Hmm this appears to have a complex scientific history of varying uncertainty. Well it sure is an exciting prospect to watch unfold. I hope i don't have to unlearn all that physics they gave me. Wonder if you can get a course refund if that happens. Hmm...

"Now if only we could get that peer-reviewed data..."
Well, since *I* at least am not a rocket scientist I'd say 'get that peer reviewed conclusion paragraph they release for the press' ;)

Still sceptical though. This would break thermo-dynamics and that seems... a little too huge, for my tastes.
But who knows? Free energy is of course great, especially when it's not fossil fuel based.

whatever55:
how much thrust are we talking about here?

Negligible. Nobody's using this unexplained anomaly to go anywhere without several orders of magnitude more to explain. It's worth noting that the experiment conclusively disproved the hypotheses that caused the device to be built in the first place.

So the remaining problem is thermal expansion contaminating the results? That's pretty cool. I didn't think I'd hear about this again but for once we're seeing a clear timeline on something:

2003 - Shawyer Releases it.
2009 - Chinese team publishes positive results.
2013/2014 - NASA also tests the drive and publishes positive findings.
2015 - NASA tests again to rule out Lorentz forces and is still successful.

Next we need the peer review test and the second test that deals with thermal expansion.

The theory that the "propellant" could be virtual particles is hugely exciting.

whatever55:
how much thrust are we talking about here? how big is that thing(the picture doesn't have anything next to it to put it into scale) and much force does it supposedly generate?

Pyrian:
Negligible. Nobody's using this unexplained anomaly to go anywhere without several orders of magnitude more to explain. It's worth noting that the experiment conclusively disproved the hypotheses that caused the device to be built in the first place.

In fairness, these tests are purposely being conducted at low power/thrust. Scientists are just trying to figure out how this thing works, not Kerbal Space Program it to a starship to see what happens.

That in mind, reports from earlier this year predicted that if everything works as advertised, and we put a version of it on a two-to-six person spaceship, it could reach the moon within four hours and reach neighboring star systems in about a century. Not Star Trek light speed figures, but not too shabby either.

Xsjadoblayde:
How does one create a machine that they do not know how it works? I am coming at this from all angles, but thrusting this information upon one so briefly does make one dazed and confused. Or should i say...spaced?

Aliens give us the technology without explaining it, and then have our scientists bullshit an answer to the public.
...Or I have no idea.

Souplex:
Aliens give us the technology without explaining it, and then have our scientists bullshit an answer to the public.
...Or I have no idea.

We should also consider carbon dating Shawyer, just to rule out the possiblity he's from the future.

Fanghawk:
In fairness, these tests are purposely being conducted at low power/thrust.

Nah. It's not easily scalable. If it were, they'd be more than happy to scale it up to the point where the effect couldn't be mistaken for tiny fluctuations of various obscure effects. Depending on what's really going on, it is fairly likely that it cannot be scaled up - quantum effects often don't.

Fanghawk:
That in mind, reports from earlier this year predicted that if everything works as advertised, and we put a version of it on a two-to-six person spaceship, it could reach the moon within four hours and reach neighboring star systems in about a century.

But things already don't work as advertised. The open question is why it works at all.

Xsjadoblayde:
How does one create a machine that they do not know how it works? I am coming at this from all angles, but thrusting this information upon one so briefly does make one dazed and confused. Or should i say...spaced?

Honestly, it's not hard for me to see how something like that is possible. Personally, when I was doing a bachelor's in science, I had such bad teachers who didn't explain shit, that the only way to pass was to think your way out of it using pure math. I passed several courses using nothing but math even though I didn't understand the processes behind anything in the slightest.

In this case, it's probably just a case of our understanding being incomplete. If it still passes the final tests that is.

Souplex:
Aliens give us the technology without explaining it, and then have our scientists bullshit an answer to the public.
...Or I have no idea.

You may have hit the conspiring nail on the head right there! I feel the sudden desire to give you all my money and belongings for more answers and a ride in whatever sweet technology you happen to be sporting in a barely guarded barnhouse. It won't be like last time, i promise!

Fdzzaigl:

Honestly, it's not hard for me to see how something like that is possible. Personally, when I was doing a bachelor's in science, I had such bad teachers who didn't explain shit, that the only way to pass was to think your way out of it using pure math. I passed several courses using nothing but math even though I didn't understand the processes behind anything in the slightest.

In this case, it's probably just a case of our understanding being incomplete. If it still passes the final tests that is.

That happened to me with English classes. I had to talk my way out of most lessons. You don't want to hear about the physical education workaround ;)

Just curious, but is this perhaps just something similar to the "solar sails" form of propulsion? That the light pressure itself is causing the thrust?

Xsjadoblayde:
How does one create a machine that they do not know how it works? I am coming at this from all angles, but thrusting this information upon one so briefly does make one dazed and confused. Or should i say...spaced?

You've been quoted a fair few times now, but I'll do so again to repeat what I've said already; we've actually done that a few times already. We don't even 100% understand how bicycles manage to balance themselves, yet we use them all the time. The same with magnets.

So this thing could be using zero-point energy to produce thrust... I'm not sure if that's absurdly cool or absolutely terrifying.

Cowabungaa:

You've been quoted a fair few times now, but I'll do so again to repeat what I've said already; we've actually done that a few times already. We don't even 100% understand how bicycles manage to balance themselves, yet we use them all the time. The same with magnets.

But i always thought it was because i was brilliant at balancing on them, oh and the others too of course! Are you telling me that supernatural forces really just giving me safety wheels? They (and by that i mean me) told me i was a big boy then! Liars, dirty scoundrel liars! Interesting though, worth a trawl through some internets to find out more. They cannot lie to me again, can they? Haha!

Cowabungaa:
We don't even really know how a bicycle physically functions.

Yeah, we do. The fact that there are additional complexities to how a bike balances beyond what was traditionally thought and that we haven't yet shown if the newer understanding of the physics behind it is comprehensive does not mean we "don't know" how it works.

Happyninja42:
Just curious, but is this perhaps just something similar to the "solar sails" form of propulsion? That the light pressure itself is causing the thrust?

They are trying to eliminate outside interference. It is in an evacuated environment with thermal cameras and magnetic shielding. I'd assume they'd minimize light sources too but even if they didn't, the "thrust" exhibited was much larger than any photon propulsion (despite the "thrust" itself being incredibly minute). I'd still peg this to some sort of environmental contamination.

If this is proven to work (if they rule out whatever a thermal contamination is) this will be a new window for physics.

I doubt we are even close to know everything about the basic bricks of the universe.

Dach:

Cowabungaa:
We don't even really know how a bicycle physically functions.

Yeah, we do. The fact that there are additional complexities to how a bike balances beyond what was traditionally thought and that we haven't yet shown if the newer understanding of the physics behind it is comprehensive does not mean we "don't know" how it works.

Well, with that I mean that we don't really know what's vital to a bike's balance. We know certain factors come into play, sure, but we can take those away (like they did with that weird-ass 'bike' at the TU Delft, leave it to the Dutch to study bikes alright) and still have the weirdest thing we know happen to it.

Hence why I say; we don't really (or 100%, as I wrote in a different post) understand how it works. Which is sorta funny, considering it's not exactly a super fancy machine. Fitting with my point that this wouldn't be the first time we'd build a machine that we'd know works but we wouldn't really know how it does so.

Of course, the scale is quite a bit of difference. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable putting some kind of scaled up version (if that'd end up being possible) on a spaceship if I didn't know why it'd does what it'd does. With a bike the worst that could happen is you'd take a bit of a tumble.

...In warhammer 40k techpriests use technology that far surpasses their understanding of it, which leads them to interact with old technology with a religious method, praising the machine spirit for its workings. The explanation being that while all theory of higher technology has been lost, the methods of using and manufacturing exist, and so they are able to use what they cannot fundamentally understand.

But perhaps it's not so, maybe nobody never understood technology in the first place, and the just went:"Forget it. I don't know how it works, but it works, so lets just roll with it." And it only escalated from there. It's only a matter of time for a warp drive now!

looks like this device is starting to consistently prove itself in every test. while there still are kinks to work out it seems, but if we manage to have zero energy thrust here and find a way to scale it this could be an actual perpetuum mobile. the amount of things that would disprove..... i dread to think about it.

NASA engineer this, NASA engineer that... while technically true, until results are replicated by Glenn or JPL, it's highly misleading. Some dudes at Eagleworks do not represent NASA.

Happyninja42:
Just curious, but is this perhaps just something similar to the "solar sails" form of propulsion? That the light pressure itself is causing the thrust?

Solar Sails work by being pushed forward by light. Basically, a photon hits the reflective service and bounces off. This imparts momentum. In this scenario, the photon is the propellant and does not challenge traditional physics. It's a very cost effect manner of traveling within a solar system and works surprisingly a lot like regular sailing does but where we use wind here they use light up there.

The EMDrive is emiting microwaves from itself and that is somehow generating thrust and we're not entirely sure how. The best guess is that it is somehow creating/emitting virtual particles and those are serving as the propellant. But we really don't know and until thermal expansion is ruled out we don't have to really start doing the hardest math of figuring out what would essentially be a new physical property requiring new math to work out.

I was wrong, the thermal expansion isn't a problem, the thrust is above the heat errors which means that removing all heat contamination should still leave thrust regardless. Looks like now they just intend to reduce the thermal contamination so they can take a better look at what's going on and widen the gap between heat error and thrust. This was actually already true of the first test they ran and I just forgot that they had accounted for heat contamination but the shock was that there was thrust beyond the expected measurements of heat error.

New information from the EagleWorks forum:

According to Paul M. (a lead engineer on the project) they expect the peer reviewed paper to come out in the first half of next year.

Also, their tests do appear to have accounted for thermal expansion and they have also tested this with an aluminum frustum instead of copper and they "May" have still observed thrust but Paul cannot say any more than that.

Strazdas:
looks like this device is starting to consistently prove itself in every test. while there still are kinks to work out it seems, but if we manage to have zero energy thrust here and find a way to scale it this could be an actual perpetuum mobile. the amount of things that would disprove..... i dread to think about it.

It would still require energy in the form of a battery or solar panels or hell, a full-scale nuclear facility on the vehicle. The source of that energy would not be perpetual even if we ended up having some sort of super efficient fusion reactor at some point. This is functionally no different than say a solar powered car where the "perpetual motion" considerations are involved in that it is not perpetual motion.

Czann:
If this is proven to work (if they rule out whatever a thermal contamination is) this will be a new window for physics.

I doubt we are even close to know everything about the basic bricks of the universe.

If I'm reading their words carefully, they have already ruled out thermal expansion. The thrust being generated is above the movement caused by expansion. They just want to reduce thermal expansion to have a cleaner experiment. That's very exciting if I'm reading them right. Now it's just about fine tuning the experiment, repeating the results, getting more funding and then scaling up.

Looks like another group is working on a cubesat for the drive. That would be exciting too.

Pyrian:

Fanghawk:
In fairness, these tests are purposely being conducted at low power/thrust.

Nah. It's not easily scalable. If it were, they'd be more than happy to scale it up to the point where the effect couldn't be mistaken for tiny fluctuations of various obscure effects. Depending on what's really going on, it is fairly likely that it cannot be scaled up - quantum effects often don't.

That's not necessarily true. Not only does scaling up require money to do so but it isn't necessary at this stage of testing yet. They've currently got a setup where the thrust is above the heat error. This means that they can fine tune testing at a very low cost. As one person on the forum said, "It's foolish to scale it up in power when you have the equipment to still detect levels of thrust."

Once they've figured out how to best test this and how to negate the other factors, that's when they scale. Also, their funding is limited until they finish the appropriate channels of R&D for NASA's satisfaction.

Lightknight:

Pyrian:

Fanghawk:
In fairness, these tests are purposely being conducted at low power/thrust.

Nah. It's not easily scalable. If it were, they'd be more than happy to scale it up to the point where the effect couldn't be mistaken for tiny fluctuations of various obscure effects. Depending on what's really going on, it is fairly likely that it cannot be scaled up - quantum effects often don't.

That's not necessarily true.

That's why I used the words "fairly likely" instead of "absolutely certainly".

Lightknight:
Not only does scaling up require money to do so but it isn't necessary at this stage of testing yet. They've currently got a setup where the thrust is above the heat error.

It's absolutely necessary, because right now the best hypothesis remains that they missed something somewhere. It's simply too easy for such minor effects to get into any experiment by some form of contamination. Remember FTL neutrinos? Sonoluminescent cold fusion? The dustbin of science is chock full of this sort of thing.

Lightknight:
Once they've figured out how to best test this and how to negate the other factors, that's when they scale.

Or, you eliminate both of those problems BY scaling. Significant thrust is easy to test and doesn't require negating things that are very difficult to negate.

Pyrian:

Lightknight:

Pyrian:
Nah. It's not easily scalable. If it were, they'd be more than happy to scale it up to the point where the effect couldn't be mistaken for tiny fluctuations of various obscure effects. Depending on what's really going on, it is fairly likely that it cannot be scaled up - quantum effects often don't.

That's not necessarily true.

That's why I used the words "fairly likely" instead of "absolutely certainly".

Lightknight:
Not only does scaling up require money to do so but it isn't necessary at this stage of testing yet. They've currently got a setup where the thrust is above the heat error.

It's absolutely necessary, because right now the best hypothesis remains that they missed something somewhere. It's simply too easy for such minor effects to get into any experiment by some form of contamination. Remember FTL neutrinos? Sonoluminescent cold fusion? The dustbin of science is chock full of this sort of thing.

Lightknight:
Once they've figured out how to best test this and how to negate the other factors, that's when they scale.

Or, you eliminate both of those problems BY scaling. Significant thrust is easy to test and doesn't require negating things that are very difficult to negate.

But, and I can't stress this enough, money money money moonnney, money. It will be expensive to scale. Right now they can fine tune the test in preparation for an expensive scaled test. They can rule out the outliers and exceptions to the point where NASA will pour really money their way.

Given limited resources this is how you proceed. This is standard R&D procedure in NASA. This latest test may provide NASA with the information they need to ramp up the cash. Or they may want something more. We'll have to see.

Lightknight:

Strazdas:
looks like this device is starting to consistently prove itself in every test. while there still are kinks to work out it seems, but if we manage to have zero energy thrust here and find a way to scale it this could be an actual perpetuum mobile. the amount of things that would disprove..... i dread to think about it.

It would still require energy in the form of a battery or solar panels or hell, a full-scale nuclear facility on the vehicle. The source of that energy would not be perpetual even if we ended up having some sort of super efficient fusion reactor at some point. This is functionally no different than say a solar powered car where the "perpetual motion" considerations are involved in that it is not perpetual motion.

Perhaps i am mistaken, but isnt this generating a zero-energy thrust? wouldnt converting that thrust into energy would mean that this is basically creating more energy than its spending, thus could run perpetually without additional energy once started? Maybe i just misunderstood what this does....

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