Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cool Science and Patenting Propulsion Systems

Check out my guest post over at Jen McConnel's blog on Strength and Realism in Female MCs

I've been having WAY too much fun researching science topics over the last week. In fact, it has become my favorite procrastination past time. At least it's a useful break from revisions. I even had this great conversation on facebook about the Casimir Effect, Alcubierre Warp, light sails, Bussard ramjets, time dilation, etc. Do I want FTL or near light? Continuous travel with speeding up and slowing down, worm holes or some form of jumping? All of it got me pumped to figure out Jaron's ship.

How does it work?
How can I make it work with the timeline I need for books two and three in the series?

Although I won't go into super detail in the novel, I feel I need to know it inside and out. Why? Because its cool, and it will make the events in the book more realistic to me and by default for the reader. I haven't decided 100% which direction I'm going, but I'm leaning toward a combination engine. A slower one, not even close to near light speed, for inside solar systems and a separate one for opening a worm hole for "jumps". I'll let you know when I decide.

Today, I just want to share some of the clips and articles I've been reading and ask you a question.

First, Scientific America had a great article on the Casimir Effect. This post is from June 1998. This is important so bear with me. This is the first of the article:

"To understand the Casimir Effect, one first has to understand something about a vacuum in space as it is viewed in quantum field theory. Far from being empty, modern physics assumes that a vacuum is full of fluctuating electromagnetic waves that can never be completely eliminated, like an ocean with waves that are always present and can never be stopped. These waves come in all possible wavelengths, and their presence implies that empty space contains a certain amount of energy--an energy that we can't tap, but that is always there.

Now, if mirrors are placed facing each other in a vacuum, some of the waves will fit between them, bouncing back and forth, while others will not. As the two mirrors move closer to each other, the longer waves will no longer fit--the result being that the total amount of energy in the vacuum between the plates will be a bit less than the amount elsewhere in the vacuum. Thus, the mirrors will attract each other, just as two objects held together by a stretched spring will move together as the energy stored in the spring decreases.

This effect, that two mirrors in a vacuum will be attracted to each other, is the Casimir Effect. It was first predicted in 1948 by Dutch physicist Hendrick Casimir. Steve K. Lamoreaux, now at Los Alamos National Laboratory, initially measured the tiny force in 1996."

Cool, huh?

Now, let's look at the Alcubierre Warp for a moment. Then we will tie it all together.

This video might be 15 minutes long, but it will be the shortest 15 minutes of your life it's so cool--and easy to understand.
As you saw, (around minute 6:40) Steve Lamoreaux spent 15 years working with the Casimir Effect to create and measure the negative energy needed to create a warp bubble.

WAY cool!

However, the amount measured was so tiny you couldn't do anything with it, but he proved it was possible.

Here is my question for you today.

Having watched the video and read the part from the article about how long the theory of the Casimir Effect has been around, as well as the Alcubierre Warp...What do you think about this headline from February 2014?

Teenager Develops Quantum Space Propulsion System That Doesn't Use Fuel

Feel free to go read it if you want. For some reason it really irritates me and I've been trying to figure out why ever since I read it. Perhaps it's because the article doesn't mention anything about the 66 years of hard work put in by other people? Or maybe it's the audacity of someone patenting a propulsion system that so many other people helped lay the ground work for BEFORE SHE WAS EVEN BORN? (Meaning the work was done before her birth.)

Maybe it is just me judging unfairly, but it feels like someone trying to hijack the money train before it takes off. (Maybe it isn't, but come on.)

Okay, straighten me out!