More Things in Heaven and Earth

There’s an interesting pair of articles that might interest you. In the first from Wired David Hambling reports on an apparently successful test by NASA of an impossible space drive:

The Nasa team based at the Johnson Space Centre gave its paper the title “Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF [radio frequency] Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum”. The five researchers spent six days setting up test equipment followed by two days of experiments with various configurations. These tests included using a “null drive” similar to the live version but modified so it would not work, and using a device which would produce the same load on the apparatus to establish whether the effect might be produced by some effect unrelated to the actual drive. They also turned the drive around the other way to check whether that had any effect.

Back in the 90s, Nasa tested what was claimed to be an antigravity device based on spinning superconducting discs. That was reported to give good test results, until researchers realised that interference from the device was affecting their measuring instruments. They have probably learned a lot since then.

The torsion balance they used to test the thrust was sensitive enough to detect a thrust of less than ten micronewtons, but the drive actually produced 30 to 50 micronewtons — less than a thousandth of the Chinese results, but emphatically a positive result, in spite of the law of conservation of momentum:

“Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma.”

Not so fast says Steven Novella of NeuroLogica:

The bottom line is that I just don’t believe it. I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. I don’t necessarily think the results of NASA’s test are untrue, just that I don’t think they have “validated” that the propellantless drive is what proponents say it is.

My reaction is identical to the claim made in 2011 that a team of researchers found that neutrinos travel faster than light. I didn’t believe those results either. The researchers were very careful, they rigorously reviewed every aspect of their experiment, and only announced the results when they were confident they ruled out all error. The physics community didn’t believe it, but they did their due diligence. After further analysis, it was found that the results were an error – an artifact introduced in the experimental setup. Initial skepticism was vindicated.

The claims made for a machine that can provide thrust without propellant is as unlikely and at variance with the laws of physics as neutrinos traveling faster than light or free energy machines. Sure, it’s always possible that our understanding of the universe is incomplete in a way that allows for one of these phenomena to be true, but our current understanding calls for extreme initial skepticism. Such a stance has a very good history to support it.

I find the whole thing a very fun idea. If it’s true and this impossible drive actually works, not only will it revolutionize satellite and space station design, it could have a major impact on deep space exploration with ripples into our basic understanding of the universe. If it isn’t true and it doesn’t work, it will certainly impel some re-thinking of how we go about designing experiments.

117 comments… add one
  • Guarneri Link

    “After further analysis, it was found that the results were an error – an artifact introduced in the experimental setup. ”

    The graveyard of so many theories.

  • It’s particularly a factor when the effects you’re trying to measure are quite small.

  • That’s my last word. On this subject.

  • Here.

  • We do some pretty good work down here. Faulkner just talks.

  • They were feral. As am I.

  • Where y’all think I come from?

    Come on now. Cooperate with me audience.

  • Ain’t that fun?

  • Snotwads.

  • Indianans. Phhhut!

  • How’s that?

  • Not a bad life work, if I say so myself.

  • That’s right. We women all sensitive and shit.

  • Let’s have some music from the Mamou Playboys:

  • I figure someone calls this “adaptation.”

  • Or “Stockholm Syndrome.” Take your pick.

  • Who the hell ever knew I’d become a 57-year-old white woman rapper?

  • Where y’all come from?

  • Bringing in the the rhythms from Texas, this is my line:

    “Yes, I will. Yes, I was.”

  • I can play some air guitar.

    Then we would go to ballad.

  • All you can really do, hon, is wake up alive.

  • Yes I will, yes, I won’t now,
    I have a cold and lonely heart,
    Don’t come to me now,
    It’s tearing me apart.

  • Boredom doesn’t get much traction with me at all. What y’all got?

  • What the hell have you ever DONE?

  • A girl only do what she have to do, then we meet for a hamburger steak cookoff. I just might be able to beat Edna.

    This is what we call the New South.

  • You can write history, but I do journalism.

  • You po’ pitiful wretches.

  • Granted, this takes a considerable amount of practice.

  • Like 50 years.

  • August 8. Try it.

  • And that’s my report today, Dr. Schuler.

  • I think we’ll be fine. But Another Someone must be aware.

  • On my best behavior, I do raise hell.

  • Michael and I were children of the 60’s. Drew was overprotected.

  • So, how’s your sister, Drew?

  • Sorry about that, Mr. Schuler. Maybe I should stop beating the gates.

  • Andy Link


    Measuring small things was what I thought of too – lots of room for error and inadvertent mistakes there.

  • TastyBits Link

    @Janis Gore

    Are you doing OK?

  • I’m leveling out. The obituary is about done, the service is arranged, the reception is planned, the cats are taken care of. The antiques are scheduled to be inventoried.

    My CPA brother is an invaluable help to me now.

  • The rent is paid.

  • Today my weight is 111 plus.

  • TastyBits Link

    @Janis Gore

    My taxes are still a mess from Katrina. I take no deductions to make sure I do not owe them anything.

    We had a house and business to rebuild, and my wife never kept track of anything with the business. Before it finally went under, I poured more money into it than it made, but I am still trying to find all the paperwork for it.

  • So, I guess I shouldn’t ask you about Vanguard EFTs?

    Anyone else?

  • TastyBits Link

    @Janis Gore

    I may be in and out (mentally and physically), but I think about you.

    If you are taking something, be careful. These are powerful drugs, but they are tossed out like mind candy. My doctor is a psychiatrist, and she has taken the time (months/years) to get the right mix and doses.

    If you (of anybody) has a sleepless night, read up on these drugs. They alter brain chemistry. For people whose brains do not work properly, they are a gift from God, and that is not hyperbole.

  • I’m taking 20 mgs. of Citalopram daily. As the doctor prescribed.

  • This weirdness won’t last. It’s been a horrible two years.

  • I was a happy, productive person when my husband was alive.

  • There’s just so damned much to do.

  • I had a nervous breakdown when my father died around ’90. I went to a mental hospital. It’s a passing phase.

    Watch a fiercely strong man diminish to nothing from bone cancer over four years. It do something to you.

  • He was laying a roof for his mother-in-law when he had the first indicator. A backache. He was 72.

  • He died at 78.

  • It’s hard, Dave. It’s hard.

  • michael reynolds Link


    My single biggest concern when it comes to dying is my wife. Yes, my kids will miss me, but they’re nearly adults, they’ll absorb it and move on. But my wife, well, that’s different. 35 years together, so far, more than half her life, virtually all of her adult life. Not that I’m a day at the beach, God knows, but I worry about the sudden silence that would descend on her life if the kids are off at college or, by that point, have families of their own. She’s too wise to impose herself on them. She’ll have no one to talk to, no one to argue with.

    Frankly, it kind of takes the fun out of death.

    Of course if she goes first, I’ll be fine. I’ll go right out and get a trophy wife who will count the days til I croak.

    Kidding about that last.

  • Don’t worry about me financially. I’m not a destitute widda woman. I miss the man.

  • Now, I need a probate lawyer in Mississippi. You have one? Call me.

    I have a call in to my veterinarian brother-in-law, who has a brother, who is a lawyer in Jackson. We’ll find something.

  • I have what you could call an old-girl network.


  • I a oil heiress.


  • I’ll go right out and get a trophy wife who will count the days til I croak.

    I already have my trophy wife. Like George Gobel, I sometimes introduce her as “my first wife”.

  • You didn’t get a starter wife? Where y’all at, man? Not a starter mansion?

    Y’all suck.

  • Ray Wylie Hubbard and I be from Dallas, Texas.

  • Life is pretty funny, ain’t it

  • steve Link

    Life is incredibly funny, if you pay attention.


  • My sister, Patricia, is absolutely brilliant at it.

  • She’s an oil heiress, too.

    Bwahha ha ha!

  • We’re tough as nails and go sixteen rails before we’re through,
    But I have a lover and it ain’t my mother, I’m faithful,
    Who are you?

  • We will split something from 6 to 8 thousand a month. Enough for either of us to live on modestly.

  • So, do you know why I am insane?

  • Thank you, now.

  • Steve, I did the best I could.

  • How much fucking medicine are you supposed to know as a layman?

  • I am not a shaman. I can’t touch you and make you well. Not if you have dioxin in your system.

  • You know why MD Anderson has such a great facility in Houston? Monsanto funds it . Because they’ve caused it.

    These are not despicable people. Science changes.

  • It’s a goddamn big universe we live in.

  • Hell, Dave, I don’t even have my boots on.

  • It does put things in context, though, doesn’t it?

  • I need a little silver star for my lapel.


    Now where’s that martini, dirty, with an anchovy stuffed olive.


  • Between my and my cowgirl boots, and my glamorous sister, y’all don’t have much room to run anymore, do you?

  • Oil heiresses. Isn’t that the silliest thing you’ve ever heard?

  • But not silly enough that I won’t fight for it. Where’s the goddamn probate lawyer in Mississippi? Or all y’all all hunched up over this ridiculous McDaniels election?

    The will is good, my power of attorney is good.

  • Personally, IRS, I think you should eat it. This man served his country WHEN HE DID NOT HAVE TO. George W Bush, Dick Cheney, come forward. You won’t even miss the money.

  • And if find one single repercussion over this in our revenues, I’ll get the ACLU all over you. You’ll be squirming.

    That’s my stand. And I won’t back down.

  • Send that up your channels, Mr.Dave. I want some results.

  • Now, does this really qualify as standing? Lawyers? Legally?

  • This could turn into a real problem. I don’t think Exxon likes me much.

  • The meek will not inherit the earth. Regardless of what anyone says.

    Or it won’t be worth living here, anyway.

  • I have to disengage now. Thank you, Dave, and all your readers for indulging me. The blog is the addictive drug. Sucks, don’t it.

  • Well, hell, the obvious solution is to go to Monsanto, isn’t it? I genuinely love men, the way some men love women, but I don’t need to get in their pants.

  • They were willing to offer a bone marrow transplant for five hundred.

  • Thousand.

  • Hell, I can settle for less. I’m not a Baron. ( That’s a Dallas in-joke.)

  • Pretty impressive, Dr. Martin Newcombe was. He got that on the record.

  • Evidence. Evidence, evidence. That’s what my lawyers say. And they’re trained by Loyola. Try arguing with a Jesuit.

  • OK. Betty and I will go together and this will all be settled in short order.

  • Thank you all again for your patience and tolerance. You’re healers too, you know . But what a load of shit you go through.

  • Betty and I would still like to see Aunt Dorothy anyway.

    Ahem, we don’t kill two birds with one stone in my house.

    I a oil heiress. Bwahahahahahahaha! Outrageous.

    Makes your sides ache, doesn’t it?

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