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Make the Kessel run in less than twelve par-secs!
January 9, 2006 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Hyperdrive and a possible Unified Theory. New Scientist article about a paper and proposal to NASA outlining development parameters and possiblities for a faster-than-light anti-gravity propulsion system, based on some rather interesting physics theories originated by a guy named Heim. You mean you've never heard of the Millenium Falcon? (via)
posted by zoogleplex (70 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm trying to read the paper, but of course my math isn't quite up to it all. I'm getting the gist of it though. The theory which Heim started and the authors have expanded would define our universe as a 12-dimensional space-time, where the vector interactions of the various dimensions are what creates matter and energy and all the relations between. The theory apparently explains "dark energy" quite neatly by defining it as a sixth fundamental force created by the dimensional interactions - among other theoretical earthquakes like completely reconciling General Relativity and Quantum Theory.

Oh, and besides possibly redefining physics as we know it, these guys seem to have figured out how to actually build a gravitic hyperdrive on the side, and figure we can start testing it within 5 years.

*head asplodes*

Lunch on Mars, anyone?
posted by zoogleplex at 3:18 PM on January 9, 2006


This is ridiculously cool! I hope it's real.
posted by knave at 3:19 PM on January 9, 2006


Hot damn! But how soon until our dreams are once again shattered by science when this proves wrong?
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:19 PM on January 9, 2006


Unique it certainly is. If the experiment gets the go-ahead and works, it could reveal new interactions between the fundamental forces of nature that would change the future of space travel.

And if it sits there like a rock it won't...
posted by Artw at 3:20 PM on January 9, 2006


I predict "sits there like a rock."
posted by Justinian at 3:30 PM on January 9, 2006


I predict it opens a gateway to a hellish 6th dimension, unleashing hordes of ravenous demons bent of the utter anihilation of our universe.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:38 PM on January 9, 2006


Can I do the countdown?
posted by brownpau at 3:43 PM on January 9, 2006


I think The Diety, who has a strong interest in us getting off this planet and exploring the larger Universe, has realized that we are stuck on dead-ends and needed a big hint.

So She went back in Time and created Heim and his theories. Heim being a recluse and all was necessary in order to minimize the impact of the time-disruption.

Time to proceed to the next level!
posted by vacapinta at 3:48 PM on January 9, 2006


I change my prediction to Baby Balrog's gateway to a hellish 6th dimension.
posted by Justinian at 3:52 PM on January 9, 2006


Make that 7th.
posted by Justinian at 3:52 PM on January 9, 2006


Diety? Right. And how do we know it's not some evil super-computer at the end of time that wants to eat our souls?
posted by Artw at 3:53 PM on January 9, 2006


ARTW:

I'd hope it'd be smarter than that - why would it shoot for an advanced case of malnutrition? Man, talk about binging on junk food...
posted by JB71 at 4:07 PM on January 9, 2006


yes! I ran across this a few days ago and still can't get over how cool it is. who knows really, right? but to have a possible test engine ready in 5 years? that rocks my boat.
posted by freudianslipper at 4:10 PM on January 9, 2006


If it helps me get to work in less than 12 parsecs sign me up!
posted by longbaugh at 4:14 PM on January 9, 2006


a faster-than-light anti-gravity propulsion system

I don't understand. Why would I want a second one of those? The first one already takes up both bays in my garage, and believe me it sucks down the kilowatt-hours like a mother.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:15 PM on January 9, 2006


Nifty idea. I've seen variants of it.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:18 PM on January 9, 2006


It's a very cool idea. I'd be very surprised if we ever heard about it again, though.
posted by teece at 4:23 PM on January 9, 2006


It's the elegance of the theory that makes me so interested. It's got that beauty that Einstein's "thought experiments" and the bases of quantum theory both have, but purports to reconcile the differences and provide clear explanations for things that both the prior theories gloss over. Personally I think the possibility of achieving a real Unified Field Theory is far more important than building a hyperdrive, although the latter is pretty gawshdarned awesome.

This seems to be getting attention and will probably be rather thoroughly peer-reviewed beyond that which allowed it to be published (cf. cold fusion), so we'll know soon enough if these theories are flawed. The possibilities are most interesting, to say the least!

Here's a link to the actual PDF paper outlining the propulsion idea, so you can download it and dig into the guts of it on your own, as I'm doing.

Smedleyman, there's another line of investigation out there which is similar called Loop Quantum Theory, which the authors say works well with their Heim Quantum Theory.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:23 PM on January 9, 2006


Hiems wikipedia page and associated talk pages indicate a fair degree of controversey...
posted by Artw at 4:24 PM on January 9, 2006


But this one, Dröscher insists, is different.... And he and Häuser have suggested an experiment to prove it. This will require a huge rotating ring placed above a superconducting coil to create an intense magnetic field.
posted by rob511 at 4:29 PM on January 9, 2006


If it helps me get to work in less than 12 parsecs sign me up!

What? You want to live 230082000000000 miles from home? That's over 39 lightyears!
posted by loquacious at 4:29 PM on January 9, 2006


I'm sure the extra-dimensional star beings are not too happy about this discovery.
posted by odinsdream at 4:29 PM on January 9, 2006


Even if its bogus, the story of Hiem is priceless. This is mad scientist incarnate, pales Victor Frankenstein.
posted by stbalbach at 4:30 PM on January 9, 2006


So, what if we find our way into dimensions 4, 5, 6, etc, and find out that the speed of light is *slower* in there than it is out here?
posted by Ken McE at 4:36 PM on January 9, 2006


Yeah, well my incomprehensible model of physics comes with plush seats and air conditioning.
posted by Citizen Premier at 4:44 PM on January 9, 2006


Waitaminute... I've already read this... The Genesis Machine, James Hogan. Multidimensional energy states, resolution of relativity/quantum/unified field theories, propulsion mechanism, the works. Of course, it does have an overly-militarized nation losing ground to emerging third-world powers, so it's clearly fiction. Regardless, I'll be interested to see what pans out with this.
The actual article, not the sci-fi book.
posted by sysinfo at 4:45 PM on January 9, 2006


Just make sure they send a poet.
posted by knave at 4:46 PM on January 9, 2006


So, rotating ring, eh? Hence the familiar flying saucer we all know and love?
posted by greatgefilte at 4:53 PM on January 9, 2006


What about that successful prediction of particle masses. eh?

That alone is enough to make Heim's thoughts worth a deeper study.

but not by me...
posted by stirfry at 5:02 PM on January 9, 2006


You know, the first time I read this, it set off all sorts of bullshit alarms. I'm still kinda waiting for some people to weigh in against this, as it seems almost too good to be true.
posted by Freen at 5:04 PM on January 9, 2006


An explosion in the laboratory caused by the mishandling of unstable compounds left him with a debilitating handicap. The accident left him without hands and seriously deaf and blind when he was 19.

Hang on, isn't that the book version of Dr. No?
posted by Artw at 5:04 PM on January 9, 2006


This sounds similar to the Podkletnov Effect in which the "...gravitational-shielding effect is an approximately 2% reduction in weight of any object placed in a linear column above a spinning, calibrated superconductor." The original paper got accepted in the British Journal of Physics - D but was later withdrawn, and Podkletnov fired, after the popular press got wind of it. Nice Wired article here.

While being similar to Loop Quantum Theory, what is intriguing about Heim Quantum Theory is that it apparently correctly predicts the mass of subatomic particles from first principles (such as charge, etc.), something that no other physical theory has been able to accomplish. Next stop; free energy.
posted by Nquire at 5:15 PM on January 9, 2006


I looked at the first few pages of the paper now and my BS detector is strongly tingling... but who knows if I'd have said the same thing if I'd seen Einstein's work before it was generally accepted.

More study is needed. There would seem to be a large number of testable claims here -- for example that there are two more fundamental forces.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:44 PM on January 9, 2006


Podkletnov is one of those mysteries... either a fruitcake or he stumbled upon something very interesting. I was actually peripherally (via usenet) involved with Schnurer's attempt to replicate... wasn't too impressed with Schnurer's lab skills, and nothing really came of that.

Anyhoo, this guy said he saw one of these scoot ~8 miles in ~3 seconds, in his words, "like the Millenium Falcon".

'course, everyone knows that such advanced technology is impossible -- no matter whose physics -- so Officer Barton was either drunk, mentally disturbed, overly excited about the possibility of being the fourth observer (third cop) that night of the UFO cruising over the Illinois countryside, or an outright liar/hoaxer. :)
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:48 PM on January 9, 2006


---> longbaugh's joke










---> loquacious' head
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:53 PM on January 9, 2006


Call me a credulous fool, but is anyone else struck by the similarity of these ideas with the claims made by UFOlogists about the propulsion systems of flying saucers? The fact that Heim was German, developing his ideas in the 1950s, also fits with conspiracy theorist's claims about the failed experiments of the Nazis to create such a propulsion system.
posted by Tarn at 6:01 PM on January 9, 2006


I'll believe it when oil and coal stock prices start to go up rapidly, proving those who know the secret are getting ready to dump their shares.

Oh, wait ....
posted by hank at 6:03 PM on January 9, 2006


Doh! "conspiracy theorists'"--putting apostrophes in the wrong place will result in a successful experiment in propulsion when a grammar Nazi puts a boot in my ass
posted by Tarn at 6:04 PM on January 9, 2006


"If it helps me get to work in less than 12 parsecs sign me up!

What? You want to live 230082000000000 miles from home? That's over 39 lightyears!"


I always found it humorous that Lucas misused "parsec," which is a measure of distance (parallax of one arc second as viewed from Earth, 3.26 light years), as a measure of time. If you read the novelization of SW, Alan Dean Foster changed it to "less than twelve standard time-parts," which makes more sense, tho it's a bit unwieldy...

Yes, the accurate prediction of the particle masses seems to be the key eye-opener here. Neither General Relativity nor Quantum Theory offers any way to do this, they both sort of take matter for granted with no investigation as to what it really is.

There may be major problems with this, especially as it applies to the hyperdrive, but coming out of left field with math that fits a fundamental observed property of matter is a big flag that says "INVESTIGATE IMMEDIATELY."

Any research physicist MeFites wanna get on this? I'll bring coffee!
posted by zoogleplex at 6:11 PM on January 9, 2006


"The fact that Heim was German, developing his ideas in the 1950s, also fits with conspiracy theorist's claims about the failed experiments of the Nazis to create such a propulsion system."

There's also the possibility that description (possibly distorted) of Heim's research is what fed the imaginations of the conspiracy theorists who came up with that story. Heim apparently published several books in German, so that might be plausible.

As I said, this seems to be under peer review, so if it's BS, we'll know pretty quickly.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:19 PM on January 9, 2006


"They've gone to plaid!"
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:28 PM on January 9, 2006


Interesting that it may (emphasis may) turn out that two of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century suffered from massive physical disabilities...

...Next time someone accuses me of living in my head like it's a bad thing, I will smile mysteriously and say, "Yeah" because I will probably be thinking of something and not listening.
posted by Hogshead at 7:30 PM on January 9, 2006


Zoogleplex, how many arc seconds is parallax in the 7th dimension viewed from earth?
posted by parallax7d at 8:26 PM on January 9, 2006


gravitic hyperdrive on the side, and figure we can start testing it within 5 years.

This is... unlikely.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:13 PM on January 9, 2006


Well, stranger things have happened.

parallax7d: I have no idea! Read the paper, do the math! :)
posted by zoogleplex at 9:22 PM on January 9, 2006


JOHN BIGBOOTIE

Maybe the government can contract out this hyperdrive to Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems?
posted by nervestaple at 9:26 PM on January 9, 2006


Something that looks like this? or this? cool 4d animations
posted by hortense at 9:49 PM on January 9, 2006


Well, stranger things have happened.

They have? Stranger things have happened than creating a working prototype of a purely theoretical faster-than-light propulsion system in 5 years?

We are probably 15 years away from getting away from gasoline engines, and that is probably absurdly optimistic. Hyperdrives in 5 years is truly a flight of fancy.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:55 PM on January 9, 2006


"They have? Stranger things have happened than creating a working prototype of a purely theoretical faster-than-light propulsion system in 5 years?"


That asshole who owned the Texas Rangers somehow became Preznit, didn't he?
posted by stenseng at 10:04 PM on January 9, 2006


Yeah, you've got a point, ynoxas. I was being flip.

Actually I don't believe they're claiming a working prototype in 5 years. More like an experiment which demonstrates the effect is valid. It doesn't seem like it would be particularly difficult or expensive to get a small version working that demonstrates the "first stage" reactionless acceleration effect.

I hope it works!
posted by zoogleplex at 10:35 PM on January 9, 2006


But can it make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:47 PM on January 9, 2006


NASA was looking at the (alleged) "Podkletnov effect" in the late 90s, actually, some people at one of NASA's labs were.

More (a LOT more) on this here, specifically Podkletnov's papers from the 1990s.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:13 AM on January 10, 2006


I'll believe it when I see it.
posted by moonbiter at 1:38 AM on January 10, 2006


I think you have to take anything in New Scientist with a brick sized piece of salt.

I'm not a scientist, but I have the feeling that if a Physics professor was caught reading it in his office, he would quickly stuff it under some papers - the equivalent of the National Enquirer for the science field. A bit harsh? - maybe.

Still - this kind of idea makes me and any other SF freak giddy with hope. We have to get off of this small blue marble sometime.

"The world's a big blue marble when you see it from out there ..." What's that from? It just popped into my head. Some kid show in the seventies rattling around my decrotted brain cells.
posted by Dag Maggot at 2:22 AM on January 10, 2006


I always found it humorous that Lucas misused "parsec," which is a measure of distance

I always thought it was a joke about Hans' character, ie saying he completed a 20 mile race in 10 miles and using it as a boast.
posted by effwerd at 3:41 AM on January 10, 2006


"when the first of [Heim's] books came to the attention of a retired Austrian patent officer called Walter Dröscher, that the hyperspace propulsion idea came back to life."
What is it with Teutonic patent officers?
Is this some tremendous overlooked natural resource?
Should we be milking it?
Quantumilk?

All these extra dimensions make me giddy. Or it may be gas.
posted by NinjaPirate at 4:28 AM on January 10, 2006


Dag Maggot--that would be "Big Blue Marble," a kids' show from the seventies.
posted by EarBucket at 4:29 AM on January 10, 2006


Argh. Not that one, this one.
posted by EarBucket at 4:31 AM on January 10, 2006


Yeah - that must be it EarBucket thanks - funny I only remember the song really, and just those lines. Would have made a good AskMe question.
posted by Dag Maggot at 4:56 AM on January 10, 2006


Its full of paradoxes, such as:

"He lost both his forearms, along with 90 per cent of his hearing and eyesight."

"And he developed a photographic memory"


Any story involving a scientist who works at Sandia National Labs on a device known as the Z Machine is worth reading. I bet Nicholas Cage stars in the movie.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:51 AM on January 10, 2006


effwerd,

Here's a discussion of that "Kessel run" and how/why Han Solo could've phrased his boast correctly.
posted by alumshubby at 7:37 AM on January 10, 2006


Still seems simpler to me to think that Lucas, being as he is a complete muttonhead, just didn't know what a parsec was, or thought that it was a SECOND!!!! IN!!! SPAAAAAAACE!!!!!.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:15 AM on January 10, 2006


Fools, Star Wars takes place a long, long, time ago. Back then, the term parsec was used and meant the exact way that Han phrased it. Yeesh.



....

On a slightly more serious note, I hate hearing about FTL engines, only because they always end up breaking my heart. Ah well.
posted by Atreides at 8:31 AM on January 10, 2006


I want someone to build a Tipler cylinder and send me back in time so I can fix George's largest, most glaring error (no, not the parsec thing - I was thinking more along the lines of Greedo shooting first).
posted by longbaugh at 8:43 AM on January 10, 2006


On the Star Wars question, watch Obi-Wan's face when Han says that. He's clearly trying to bullshit the local yokels, and the Jedi's having none of it.
posted by EarBucket at 9:10 AM on January 10, 2006


You Star Wars apologists disgust me.

Actually, I'm kidding. It's Star Trek apologists that disgust me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:39 AM on January 10, 2006


If they manage to construct a ship that moves through six-dimensional space via translation and rotation, can we name it "Gay Deceiver" and give Heinlein a nod for a change?
posted by FormlessOne at 2:38 PM on January 10, 2006


FormlessOne: I tell you three times.
posted by Goofyy at 2:27 AM on January 11, 2006


Bounce!
posted by FormlessOne at 11:07 PM on January 11, 2006


Aha - Kaluza-Klein (shortly after Einstein published his General Relativity paper)a five dimensional generalization of the two (three) forces. Magnetism is the electric force under a lorentz transform, which means it is the electric force with a space-time distortion thrown in.


hmm
posted by Smedleyman at 10:07 AM on January 12, 2006


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