05 January 2006


Via Monty, a story I think we'd all like to be true.

In short, the USAF and the Dept of Energy are investigating claims that a hyperspace engine may be possible. I'm afraid the physics is beyond me, but here's what the scientists say:

The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.

Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension.

The scientist quoted says that NASA has contacted him as well as the USAF, and also admits that "quite a few physicists" are unconvinced.

Personally, I'd rather hold on to my little thread of hope than take the word of a bunch of eggheads who would rather believe that 90% of the universe is composed of a substance we can't detect than consider the possibility of their theories being wrong.

In fact, I want to go on record right now as saying I don't believe dark matter exists. To me, the whole debate reminds me eerily of the debate surrounding the ether. "Well, we've posited that this substance called 'ether' exists and the planets move in it." "But observations don't fit this theory." "Errr, that's because the observations are flawed. Besides, look at this shiny new addition to the theory that makes everything work!"

The best thing about the ether is, of course, its use in the Lensmen series by Doc Smith. I love when Kimball Kinnison tells his fellow (spacecraft) pilots, "Clear ether!"

Update: I did a little research on Heim theory, but as I suspected, it's beyond me. To summarize, it's a theory of everything, which means it attempts to unify all the forces observed in the universe, which is how a magnetic field could produce a gravitational field as well as an electric field. It's based on "quantized geometrodynamics," which essentially means that space consists of very many very tiny quantized surface elements. Droescher, one of the researchers who wrote the paper, has extended the theory to an extent at which it appears to mesh fairly well with the standard model.

Anyway, the Wikipedia page has a cleanup tag and some NPOV warnings, but I think that's because not enough attention is given to the arguments against the theory. It does give a fairly detailed explanation of the theory, and mentions the paper that gave rise to the Scotsman article.

A google search on "Heim theory" doesn't yield very useful results. Somehow I doubt the impartiality of "heim-theory.com." I checked it out, and the "goals of the research group" page consists mostly of whining that no one takes Heim or, one would presume, them, seriously. There isn't a lot of information on the theory itself.

I'm not sure what other search terms to try. I do get the impression that Heim theory is sort of like Eric Drexler's work: no scientists are willing to take it seriously long enough to debunk it, so it remains out there, undebunked, providing tiny threads of hope for we earthbound souls who dream of wandering under the moons of Mars.

And yes, that Edgar Rice Burroughs reference was completely intentional.


Blogger KMM said...

I would like to go on offical record as saying that I made the comparison of Dark Matter to Ether to you.

But you're definately the only person who's ever taken that comparison whole-heartedly, instead of rolling their eyes and tuning out my ramblings. ;-)

1:40 PM  

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