Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Engage The Hyperdrive: To Mars And Back In Six Hours?

A smarter man than this writer once said that human flights to Mars will happen when we have a really good reason to justify the expense of getting there, or we have a propulsion system that lets us go there for no reason at all. If this story (here) in the New Scientist is accurate we may one day have something just as good: a hyperspace drive that could take humans to Mars in three hours. Even if such a drive were very expensive to operate, the extremely short travel time would more than justify the cost. The Heliosphere from the Sun to Jupiter would become as small as the Earth is today at airplane speeds.

The article makes it clear that such a drive is not close to being tested much less built. The physics that suggests such a drive is possible is not yet accepted or understood. But there are aspects to this story that give hope. The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics has taken notice of the theory.
"What's more, the US military has begun to cast its eyes over the hyperdrive concept, and a space propulsion researcher at the US Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories has said he would be interested in putting the idea to the test. And despite the bafflement of most physicists at the theory that supposedly underpins it, Pavlos Mikellides, an aerospace engineer at the Arizona State University in Tempe who reviewed the winning paper, stands by the committee's choice. 'Even though such features have been explored before, this particular approach is quite unique,' he says."

And then there's this.
"At the moment, the main reason for taking the proposal seriously must be Heim theory's uncannily successful prediction of particle masses. Maybe, just maybe, Heim theory really does have something to contribute to modern physics. 'As far as I understand it, Heim theory is ingenious,' says Hans Theodor Auerbach, a theoretical physicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich who worked with Heim. 'I think that physics will take this direction in the future.'

It may be a long while before we find out if he's right. In its present design, Dröscher and Häuser's experiment requires a magnetic coil several metres in diameter capable of sustaining an enormous current density. Most engineers say that this is not feasible with existing materials and technology, but Roger Lenard, a space propulsion researcher at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico thinks it might just be possible. Sandia runs an X-ray generator known as the Z machine which 'could probably generate the necessary field intensities and gradients.'

For now, though, Lenard considers the theory too shaky to justify the use of the Z machine. 'I would be very interested in getting Sandia interested if we could get a more perspicacious introduction to the mathematics behind the proposed experiment,' he says. 'Even if the results are negative, that, in my mind, is a successful experiment.'"
As the egghead captain of the Enterprise, Jean Luc Picard, would say: "Make it so!"



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