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EM drive: a new wave of hype

"EM drive" is one of the names for the physically impossible gadgets that violate the third Newton's law. They're able to move without pushing anything else in the opposite direction which is why they can't exist.

People who don't understand basic physics are obsessed with such a gadget. The meme has been around for a long time. On this blog, I wrote about a wave of EM drive hype in early May 2015 and the NASA denouncement a week later.

The hype is back – dozens of writers bring us the gospel about the "proof" of a physics-defying, impossible gadget. It's been "peer-reviewed" so it must be true – and the letters "NASA" can be found on the first page of the paper.




The "peer-reviewed" paper that led to this new wave of hype is

Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio-Frequency Cavity in Vacuum (full HTML paper)
in Aerospace Research Central, a journal that I've never heard of and doesn't look credible. Harold White is signed as the lead author and he's listed along with 6 other authors. The word "NASA" may be found 10 times on the paper's page. 8 of those 10 words "NASA" may be seen in the affiliations; 7 of them say "NASA parkway". The 9th "NASA" says that a pendulum was located in a NASA facility, the 10th "NASA" says that an author thanks NASA.




Needless to say, the 7 times repeated "NASA parkway" is the same trick attempting to "increase the prestige" by parasitic methods that crackpot Joy Christian has employed when he wrote his affiliation as "Oxford" (but forgot to say that his accurate affiliation was a stinky trash bin in a suburb of the town of Oxford).

These inventors' affiliation with NASA is somewhat similar. NASA allowed them to play on their parking lot assuming that they will clean their poos. It's better for NASA to have a physical control over people who are likely to abuse its name.

OK, these "rocket scientists" fill a cavity with some electromagnetic (RF) radiation at the frequency of 1937 MHz. It has some power. They measure the power as well as the "self-driving" force violating the third Newton's law, and the ratio of these two is said to be \[

\frac{F}{P} = 1.2\pm 0.1 \,{\rm mN/kW}

\] If you realize that one watt is one joule per second and one joule is one newton-meter as far as the units go, you may see that the value above is\[

\frac{F}{P} \approx 1.2\times 10^{-6} \,{\rm s/m} \approx 360/c.

\] OK, it has the units of the inverse speed – as they're incapable of noticing – and in the Planck units, it's about \(360\). Great. It has clearly nothing to do with fundamental relativistic physics because the value would have to be of order one.

The force acting without any reaction is clearly equal to zero so whatever is the origin of the force they observe, it's something mundane. The electric or magnetic fields they create may polarize some metallic objects or ferromagnets in the vicinity which exerts an attractive force on the pendulum. Or the power heats some gas which is leaking somewhere, or blowing to the pendulum, or whatever.

If someone is able to figure out what is the cause of the force they measure, it may be interesting. But I can't find enough motivation to spend a minute with this stuff because I am confident that whatever will be the actual reason why they think that they're seeing a reactionless force, it will be dumb.

It's probably more interesting to study the sociological or psychological aspects of this phenomenon. What I find striking about similar crackpots is that on one hand, they want to present themselves as geniuses who are independent from all the institutions, from their group think etc. On the other hand, the approval by some official institutions – e.g. a "peer-reviewed journal" – is clearly believed by them to be the most important argument in favor of their claims. The hypocrisy is truly self-evident.

I am sorry but if this stuff was allowed to be published in a journal, it only means that aside from the 7 men listed as co-authors, there exists at least one additional imbecile who was hired as a "referee". So there are at least 8 imbeciles in the world. What a profound discovery. In reality, there are surely billions.

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