• Nick Cook

The EmDrive – Next Stop the Stars

(Article Originally Published 29/1/2016)

"Space is big. The whole point of the frontier is that we go there to do new things in new places - not one place, and not one thing, but all of the above."

- Rick Tumlinson


I don’t know about you, but when I watched the film Interstellar, for someone who grew up during the space race, it pulled at my wannabe astronaut’s soul. However, until now, journeying to the stars is something that we have only been able to do in science fiction. However, thanks to NASA’s Eagleworks team’s work, there’s a chance that one day we may be able to achieve this long-held dream. Enter stage left, the EmDrive.

As we all know, light speed is meant to be the speed limit. After all, Einstein told us it was impossible to exceed. However, someone needs to tell the scientists working on the EmDrive, this.


The EmDrive, invented by English researcher Roger Shawye, is a microwave chamber that bounces waves back and forth to produce thrust. However, a strange thing is that it appears to produce more thrust than it should. But how can that be possible?

NASA’s Eagleworks team fired a laser into the EmDrive’s resonance chamber and some of those beams appeared to have travelled faster than the speed of light. Hence the excitement, because if it’s not a statistical anomaly, it would seem that the device is creating a warp field or bubble.


To really whet our appetites, NASA produced some gorgeous 3D renders with more than a hint of Star Trek to them. The idea is that the warp bubble distorts space-time in front of the ship, which then expands back to normal behind the ship. In other words, it’s not that spaceship is actually breaking the faster than light rule, it’s actually that space-time is moving inside the warp bubble faster than the speed of light.

However, the jury is still out whether a warp drive is actually possible.


Meanwhile, the Eagleworks team wrote that the EmDrive, "is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon.” So it seems to work but they’re not really sure why. One theory is that it’s possibly something to do with quantum vacuum fluctuations that spontaneously create particles in space and it’s these that the EmDrive turns into thrust.


Regardless, currently, the amount of thrust produced is tiny, but scaled up it would potentially be able to carry astronauts huge distances in short periods of time. And that, as we all know, would be a game-changer.


Arthur C. Clarke predicted that humanity would invent the Star Drive by the year 2100, a near-light speed propulsion system, and famously wrote, “and then history begins.”


I wish the Eagleworks team, and the other scientific teams around the world, working on the EmDrive, every success in their endeavours. No pressure or anything, but the long-term future of humanity is probably resting on your shoulders.


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