Starts With A Bang

How physics falls apart if the EMdrive works (Synopsis)

An EMdrive prototype, as seen in a testing chamber at NASA Eagleworks. Image credit: H. White et al., AIAA 2016.

“The law of the conservation of momentum is the basis of the static thrust equation, the law of the conservation of energy is the basis of the dynamic thrust equation. Provided these two fundamental laws of physics are satisfied, there is no reason why the forces inside the resonator should sum to zero.” -Roger Shawyer, clearly misunderstanding the theory of forces

So it’s official: the NASA Eagleworks test of the EMdrive, an engine that claims to produce thrust with no reaction to correspond to its action, has passed peer review and is now published. If there’s truly no reaction at all, then a slew of laws of physics are violated, and our fundamental foundations of what we understand about the Universe are undercut.

Different frames of reference, including different positions and motions, would see different laws of physics if the conservation of momentum is invalid. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Krea under c.c.a.-s.a.-3.0.

It’s potentially the biggest discovery in physics since Newton came along. But it’s also potentially no different than the faster-than-light neutrinos, the BICEP2 results, the new particle at 750 GeV at the LHC or other spurious results that turned out to have legitimate experimental causes that weren’t new physics.

This sure does look like a real effect, but is it really due to a reactionless engine? Image credit: H. White et al., “Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio-Frequency Cavity in Vacuum”, AIAA 2016.

Still, it could be the case that the experiments are right and that there is new physics, and that’s why we do the science in the first place.