The Chinese are building an "impossible" space drive

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chinese-space-drive.jpgThere’s a school of thought in Science, not widely subscribed to, that says “if it looks impossible, keep trying to do it until it works”. That’s the attitude China are taking towards perpetual motion, and they reckon they’ve cracked it. It’s an electromagnetic drive, which converts electromagnetic energy into thrust via microwaves. That’s a picture of it, up there.

To say that the principle behind it is controversial would be seriously understating matters. An article on the process in New Scientist enticed a barrage of criticism, with people saying it isn’t possible, or that they’d done their sums wrong, or that the article should simply not have been published.

The inventor of the process, a Brit called Robert Shawyer, still stands behind his work. He doesn’t claim it actually generates perpetual motion, or that it violates the conservation of momentum, but simply that “different reference frames” apply to the device.

The Chinese government, however, are interested in the technology, even though British research grants have dried up. The idea of a thruster which uses no fuel except an electricity supply excites them. They’re “currently manufacturing” a thruster which works on this principle. Good luck to them. If it works, it’ll help them catch up with the USA, who are currently blowing all their space cash on Welsh rappers.

EMDrive (via Wired)

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Duncan Geere