A really good read for some truth behind the supposed science….

02 Aug 2014 admin In G+ Posts

A really good read for some truth behind the supposed science….

Reshared post from +John Baez

The incredible shrinking force

Around 2000, a guy named Roger Shawyer claimed he could bounce microwaves inside a fancy-shaped can and get them to  push the can forwards, without anything leaving the can. 

This would violate conservation of momentum.  It's like sitting inside a car and making it roll forwards by pushing on the steering wheel.  Standard physics doesn't allow this.  He didn't claim to be using anything other than standard physics. 

So: ho hum, just another guy with a really bad idea.  I get emails like this all the time.

But in 2001, his company got a £45,000 grant from the British government to study this idea.  He built his machine and claimed that with 850 watts of power he could get a force of 0.016 newtons.   That's a bit less than the force of gravity from a penny pushing down on your hand.  It could easily be an experimental error.

Why would people want a machine that uses lots of power to create a pathetically feeble force?   Because – here's the great piece of salesmanship – if it existed, you could use it to build a reactionless drive!  If you had a spaceship with huge amounts of power to spare – like, say, a nuclear reactor – you could use this gizmo to push your spaceship forwards without anything spewing out the back end. 

Again, this is about as plausible as powering a spaceship by having the crew push on it from the inside.   But if you don't know physics, it sounds very exciting. 

The story goes on.  And on.  And on.  It won't die.  In 2012, some Chinese physicists claimed they could get a force of 0.720 newtons from a power of 2,500 watts using some version of Shawyer's device. 

And now NASA is studying it!

They're claiming to see a force one thousandth as big as the Chinese – probably because they are doing the experiment one thousand times more accurately.  And still, some people are excited about this. 

The new device comes with new improved mumbo-jumbo.  Shawyer claimed that thanks to special relativity, classical electromagnetism can violate conservation of momentum.  I took those courses in college, I know that's bullshit.  Now the NASA scientists say:

"Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma."

This is bullshit too – but now it's grad school bullshit.  "Quantum vacuum virtual plasma" is something you'd say if you failed a course in quantum field theory and then smoked too much weed.  There's no such thing as "virtual plasma".   If you want to report experimental results that seem to violate the known laws of physics, fine.  But it doesn't help your credibility to make up goofy pseudo-explanations.

I expect that in 10 years the device will be using quantum gravity and producing even less force. 

For an article written by a severely optimistic blogger, see:


For the NASA report see:

• David Brady, Harold White, Paul March, James Lawrence and Frank Davies, Anomalous thrust production from an RF test device measured on a low-thrust torsion pendulum, 50th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference, http://arc.aiaa.org/doi/abs/10.2514/6.2014-4029.

Unfortunately only the abstract is free here.

Comments: 5

  1. Patrick Léger 2 Aug 2014 Reply

    Sweet thx for the post.  After reading a previous post I was curious about the tech.  Thanks +Brent Burzycki As always, great posts!

  2. Brent Burzycki 2 Aug 2014 Reply

    Wish it was true… But not..

  3. William Remski 3 Aug 2014 Reply

    Whatever force you would get from microwave impingement (and it would be very small) on the larger end plate would be exactly balanced by the force vector on the tapered walls of the container pointing down. Why not just post graphics of overbalanced wheels?

    Also, after reading your post, I find it incredible that NASA takes this nonsense seriously enough to do an experiment. I guess you don't even need a high school level physics course to get a job there.

  4. Brent Burzycki 3 Aug 2014 Reply

    +William Remski not my post per say – this was from +John Baez – but over the past day I have seen posts from this will save the world to this is all bull – and I am siding with the bull side at this time – sadly… as it would be great to get something from nothing…

  5. William Remski 3 Aug 2014 Reply

    Well, +Brent Burzycki, by the same logic as this device uses I should be able to fill an empty container with one big end and one little end with compressed air, to say 100 psi. Say the big end was 10 in^2 and the little end was 9 in^2. The resulting force on the container would be 1000 – 900 lbs, or 100 lbs, all for just having a container with one end bigger than the other. (a topological impossibility in a closed container)

    Of course this so-called device is pure bullshit. I would file this thing with the free energy devices that use a motor to spin a generator and that supposedly make more energy than they consume. If you want thrust from photons all you have to do is shoot them out the back of your space vehicle, but the thrust from such a device is so low it would take impossible power levels to even generate a dyne of force.

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