SSE Talks


Advanced Propulsion and Conservation Laws
June 10, 2010 at 11:50 AM MST | Y. DOBYNS


York Dobyns


Any vehicle that propels itself through space using internal fuel reserves faces the rocket paradox: the more efficient the drive in terms of thrust per unit mass expended, the less efficient it is in terms of thrust per unit energy expended. Unfortunately Newton's Third Law enforces the rocket paradox for any self-contained system of propulsion. For a self-contained vehicle to be capable of large velocity changes without astronomical energy expenditures, it would seem necessary to find a drive system which is somehow not constrained by the law of action and reaction. Unfortunately, any such system would inherently violate both conservation of momentum and conservation of energy. While no violation of these laws has ever been observed, and classical theory indicates that they are direct mathematical consequences (via Noether's Theorem) of fundamental symmetries, energy and momentum conservation have not actually been shown to hold for General Relativity itself. Competing non-relativistic theories, on the other hand, while they may be amenable to the Noether construction, may admit of nonlocal interactions which could produce apparent local nonconservation. While the above reasoning shows that non-Newtonian propulsion may be possible, none of the hypothetical phenomena that might enable such processes have actually been confirmed by experiment. Even those candidates that are most plausible on theoretical grounds are far beyond our current technical reach. Bearing these caveats in mind, there are several such prospects that seem worth further scrutiny. These include manipulation of inertial mass; manipulation of gravitational mass; interaction with tachyonic states; nonlocal (nonrelativistic) interactions; and electromagnetic storage of momentum.


York Dobyns is a physicist (Ph.D. Princeton 1987) who spent 19 years as part of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research program.




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