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Physics / Speculative physics

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message 1: by Rion (last edited Jul 30, 2014 01:10AM) (new)

Rion  (orion1) | 87 comments So I've been coming across some very interesting articles lately and thought it would be great to have a place in this group where we can share interesting articles and books on Physics and Speculative physics.

Examples:
(view spoiler)


message 2: by Rion (last edited Jul 30, 2014 01:11AM) (new)

Rion  (orion1) | 87 comments I'll start off the discussion by asking everyone if they think all the hype pertaining to the supposed warp drive they are working on is a publicity stunt?

Ask a Mathematician / Ask a Physicist

NASA's Warp Drive Project - NASA Claims that Faster than Light (FTL) Travel is Possible


message 3: by Rob (new)

Rob Rowntree | 22 comments I think it's obvious to any serious reader/viewer that this tech while theoretically interesting is so far beyond our current scientific level that it might as well be SF.

Travel to the stars will take time, a lot of time. With current tech we are looking at thousands of years. Generation ships, light sails, nuclear pulse engines, or a combination of those.

I guess with the right money and effort we could accelerate a light sail package to a good fraction of light speed. That might be the way to go, send a small probe to Tau Ceti or something.

But your NASA warp drive is way off.


message 4: by Bob (new)

Bob Lee (boblee333) | 36 comments The problem with this type of drive is that you need some type of as yet undiscovered matter that has negative mass to create the wave.

Don't forget that NASA has an education mission also, and so some of these types of presentation are to excite kids to get involved in space and science subjects.


message 5: by Bob (new)

Bob Lee (boblee333) | 36 comments A couple of years ago I saw an interesting proposal to use quantum effects to eliminate the need for rocket fuel. I think this was the article-> http://gizmodo.com/5914102/awesome-te...

The best analogy in the article that I read (not the one above which is all I could find at the moment) equated it to the fact that a submarine doesn't carry the water that it pushes on to move, but uses the water around it. Similarly, this would use the small pushes generated by the Casimir effect.

Who knows if this is valid, but it's an interesting idea.


message 6: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) Speaking of NASA, I heard the other day that the NASA discussion at COMIC-CON in San Diego was the most popular.


message 7: by Marcha (new)

Marcha Fox (marchafox) | 2 comments I think we may be closer than most people think. Once they unlock the secrets of gravity there's no telling what technologies will spring from that. If you can manipulate gravity you can also control time according to Einstein's theory of general relativity. Just look at how far we've come in a hundred years, from the Wright Brothers to space exploration. Once a major breakthrough occurs things can progress very quickly.


message 8: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 265 comments Rion wrote: "I'll start off the discussion by asking everyone if they think all the hype pertaining to the supposed warp drive they are working on is a publicity stunt?..."

It's not a publicity stunt because it's real physics, but it's a LONG way off (unless exotic matter is found soon--don't hold your breath).

AND...it could be very dangerous:
http://www.universetoday.com/93882/wa...

I've used that concpt (that warp drives would be better for FTL weapons than FTL spacecraft) in two related books so far, one novella and one free short story.

Science doesn't always turn out the way we'd like it to. ];P


message 9: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 265 comments Bob wrote: "The best analogy in the article that I read (not the one above which is all I could find at the moment) equated it to the fact that a submarine doesn't carry the water that it pushes on to move, but uses the water around it. Similarly, this would use the small pushes generated by the Casimir effect..."

That's actually a very good analogy. What it doesn't say (but which is inherit in the analogy) is that a submarine also uses huge amounts of energy to push the water around it, which makes it move.

I'm betting that Casimir effect engine idea is a hoax. People into the whole Tesla/free energy idea always toss out the old Casimir effect idea. But my bet is that any system trying to use it will end up being an energy sink, rather than an energy surplus.


message 10: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 265 comments On a similar subject...this is a very interesting book by a non-nutter: The Hunt for Zero Point: Inside the Classified World of Antigravity Technology

There are some flaws in it, but it's still an interesting read. Don't get scared off if you're interested in these ideas, the writer tries to take a neutral view of the whole subject. Like I say, he fails a bit in that sometimes, but in the end he doesn't come down on one side or the other of whether any of this stuff is true.

Great source book for writing ideas, though.


message 11: by Rion (last edited Aug 01, 2014 04:46AM) (new)

Rion  (orion1) | 87 comments I agree, Micah in regards to great technological advances not always coincide with political or socioeconomic maturation. It's quite evident to me that the human race has some growing up to do before we even want to think of playing with technology that could destroy entire planets or more. This fits quite nicely within the Fermi paradox analyses. It is a bit hard to ignore that astrologists have not been able to observe any signs of technologically space fairing life. My preferred theory is the Zoo hypothesis prominent in Star trek, but this lack of observation tends to point more towards the idea that sentient life is rare enough that the theory of Relativity of simultaneity probably plays a huge factor in the lack of observations of things like Dyson Spheres or very large planetary size environments/biospheres. Theoretically we should be able to observe such signs of life with our current technology if they existed at some point, somewhere in the milky way. Lots of great ideas and possibilities for authors to exploit. Great responses so far everyone.


message 12: by Micah (last edited Aug 01, 2014 06:40AM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 265 comments Here's a really good article on the Fermi Paradox:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-bu...

I tend to believe that the reason we have no proof of aliens or alien visitation here on Earth is that intelligent life on Earth has been around for so short a time that even if aliens had visited us, it's highly unlikely they'd happen to show up during humankind's existence.

And as to why we haven't picked up their signals...well, there are probably several reasons:
1) They don't want to be seen 'cause it's a mean old universe out there (see The Forge of God and particularly its sequel, Anvil of Stars).
2) They are likely to be something very different from what we associate with intelligent life. For example, why do we assume intelligent technological species will always end up broadcasting information? Perhaps their physiology is such that they don't even think of that.

Basically we're trying to make assumptions based on too limited a data set.


message 13: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 265 comments Oh...and Dyson Spheres would be REALLY difficult to detect since they're designed to capture 100% of a star's energy.

They also seem highly unlikely to me.


message 14: by Bob (new)

Bob Lee (boblee333) | 36 comments Micah wrote: "Oh...and Dyson Spheres would be REALLY difficult to detect since they're designed to capture 100% of a star's energy.

They also seem highly unlikely to me."


Micah...I think I read that Dyson Spheres would radiate infrared from their outsides, otherwise the energy from their sun would keep getting absorbed by the sphere and bake them eventually. Out infrared telescopes would spot them. But I agree that they seem highly unlikely.

I'm rereading Niven's Ringworld right now after reviewing a graphic novel version of it that just came out a month ago. I like the concept of a Ring better than a Dyson sphere. It makes a lot of sense to me.


message 15: by Marcha (new)

Marcha Fox (marchafox) | 2 comments OK, I admit it, I'm an "Ancient Aliens" fan. If nothing else they bring up some very thought provoking questions regarding how ancient pyramids and various other structures that used huge blocks of stone were built, i.e. how were ancient people with only primitive tools able to move them, etc. Engineer, Chris Dunn, has numerous speculations along those lines. Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt: Advanced Engineering in the Temples of the Pharaohs

I love Werner Heisenberg's quote: “It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet. These lines may have their roots in quite different parts of human cultures, in different times or different cultural environments or different religious traditions: hence if they actually meet, that is, if they are at least so much related to each other that a real interaction can take place, then one may hope that new and interesting developments may follow.”

In other words, engineers and physicists need to get together with archeologists to figure these things out. What one discipline may recognize immediately another may miss. Ancient Vedic texts and such also contain some very interesting stories as well as drawings that aren't easily explained. Were myths entirely products of their imagination or based on what they saw?

There are more questions than answers. Conventional academia will always suppress these "crazy ideas" to protect their own interests. How many times have the "experts" been wrong over the centuries?

I think the fun part of science fiction is using any and all of this as a premise and going with it, whether or not it turns out to be true or proven. It's satisfying to think how much of the technology we have today, both good and bad, originated in science fiction. Scientists provide the ideas and plant the seed, then writers use their imagination to run with them. After that, engineers who read SF as kids and later get fired up to bring it into manifestation. Nice synergistic relationship. How cool is that?


message 16: by Bob (new)

Bob Lee (boblee333) | 36 comments Here's an article about a fuelless drive that supposedly NASA tested -> http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/1/5959...

It states that it seems to violate 'conservation of momentum' but last year I saw a Mythbusters show where they did something I was sure wouldn't work. They made a boat move by blowing their ownb sail with an on-board fan. 2 minute 48 second video-> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKXMTz...


message 17: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 265 comments Bob wrote: "Here's an article about a fuelless drive that supposedly NASA tested -> http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/1/5959......"

Here's more detail on that: http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/08/full...


message 18: by Bob (new)

Bob Lee (boblee333) | 36 comments Micah wrote: "Bob wrote: "Here's an article about a fuelless drive that supposedly NASA tested -> http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/1/5959......"

Here's more detail o..."


Thanks, Micah. Phil Plait in his Bad Astronomy blog does a pretty good job of pointing out some of the problems with the tests that were done at http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astron...

I personally think the inventor is throwing in some hand waving and obfuscation. I bet that if you just bounce microwaves (or photons) off a plate that you would get a thrust ala the Mythbusters sail experiment. But you would get the same effect by just spitting the photons out the back. A very very tiny thrust.


message 19: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) Marcha wrote: "OK, I admit it, I'm an "Ancient Aliens" fan. If nothing else they bring up some very thought provoking questions regarding how ancient pyramids and various other structures that used huge blocks o..."

I just wish that one guy would get the aliens to help with his hairpiece...


message 20: by Bob (new)

Bob Lee (boblee333) | 36 comments Kirsten wrote: "Marcha wrote: "OK, I admit it, I'm an "Ancient Aliens" fan. If nothing else they bring up some very thought provoking questions regarding how ancient pyramids and various other structures that use..."

You know, I think that is Giorgio's real hair. It's only the alien anti-gravity rays being beamed from the pyramids to his head that make it stand up that way!


message 21: by Outis (new)

Outis A famous hard SF author seems to have noticed the latest nonsense: http://gregegan.customer.netspace.net...

About FTL, for the benefot of people who haven't heard that 100 times, there's no technonology you can make up to work your way around the main problem: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?...


message 22: by L. (new)

L. Meadow (meadow337) | 5 comments Well can't an FTL drive, just be CALLED FTL because that is effective end result but not necessarily how it actually works? Ursula L'Guin's concept of 'wrinkles' is a scientifically valid 'work around'.


message 23: by Outis (last edited Aug 09, 2014 02:01PM) (new)

Outis As explained many times, it's not a matter of the drive, of how it works, of it beign valid or whatever else along those lines. The problem isn't with what makes FTL possible but with the effect of FTL. It's a matter of consequences, of internal consistency.
For those who don't want to read, redux: FTL, relativity, causality... you only get to choose two. If you want FTL that stands up to minimal scrutiny, you need to make up fantasy physics (easiest to start from 19th century physics and work from there) or simply give up common-sense causality (think Dune).

As to the wrinkles, I tried looking them up. Maybe you were thinking about someone else? There's a book by a different author called A Wrinkle in Time.
"Einstein said people couldn't travel faster than light, so I generally let my people travel only nearly as fast as light." -Ursula K. Le Guin


message 24: by L. (new)

L. Meadow (meadow337) | 5 comments Yeah I'm a writer not a physicist. If I do ever write that kind of sci-fi so long as the internal logic is consistent ... does it matter if it is not consistent with what we know presently? Isn't that kind of the point of sci-fi to go where 'man has not gone before' if not in reality at least in our imaginations?


message 25: by Micah (last edited Aug 09, 2014 03:33PM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 265 comments Outis wrote: "The problem isn't with what makes FTL possible but with the effect of FTL. It's a matter of consequences, of internal consistency.
For those who don't want to read, redux:FTL, relativity, causality... you only get to choose two..."


Hmm. You state that as an absolute fact, but I think it's just as speculative as FTL is. Causality, for example, or rather chronology protection is at this point only a conjecture. Sure, it's a conjecture posed by Stephen Hawking, and it may well be correct, but it's still only conjecture, not proven fact.

The whole time paradox thing is based on a straight-line conceptualization of time in which what is in the past is a fixed, known quantity. Go back in time and kill your father and you have a paradox because you can't have existed in order to kill your father.

However, multiple timeline concepts of time remove the paradox. Killing your father in the past doesn't cause a paradox because it simple generates a new timeline. Your own timeline remains consistent. No paradox.

As for relativity, that too isn't an issue as long as you're not talking about moving FTL within the local frame of reference. So called warp drives don't do that, they compress space in front of you and expanding space behind. Within the local frame of reference you're not breaking the speed limit at all. It's only when seen from an external frame of reference that you appear to be moving FTL. Relativistic effects do not apply.

Of course, as pointed out in this thread before, warp drives could be deadly things to play around with and there are huge hurdles to overcome that might well never be overcome (negative mass? how do you do that, then?)...but we are talking speculation here, not rock solid proven science.


message 26: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 265 comments ...Actually I can't recall a use of FTL in the past 20 years or more in the books I've read that has ships moving FTL within the local frame of reference. All of them use some mechanism to exit conventional space (hyperspace, worm holes, warp drive, etc.).


message 27: by Bob (new)

Bob Lee (boblee333) | 36 comments I think most of the FTL drives I've seen in recent SF use the Alcubierre drive concept, so that the ship is in a normal space bubble. (ex. it was used in Baxter's Ark

When you read a book, do you want the author to explain in detail the FTL drive, or just go with some cool sounding explanation? (ex. using zero point energy to create a wormhole, and quantum weirdness to direct its exit location).

In general, I used to like a detailed explanation, but it seems like they all are the same these days, and so I think I'd rather read just some cool sounding idea.


message 28: by Diana (new)

Diana (diana_zm) | 21 comments "When you read a book, do you want the author to explain in detail the FTL drive, or just go with some cool sounding explanation? (ex. using zero point energy to create a wormhole, and quantum weirdness to direct its exit location). "

Right now I am reading a series (the Honor Harrington series by David Weber (the first book on the series is On Basilisk Station), and I frequently find myself thinking that a little less explanation on exactly how the hyperdrive, the wedges, the sails, the missiles, the lasers and the grasers work would greatly contribute to move the story along...

I am not saying that I don´t like the series (it is actually very good) or that it is not interesting to see how much thought and detail the author put into his FLT travel, but honestly, most of it is just really over my head, and I believe I would like it a lot better if most of those details were just glazed over.

The Vorkosigan saga we have just been reading is an excellet example of how you can have great books in which FTL is definitely present, without really having to get into the technical detail of how it works to really enjoy the stories.


message 29: by L. (new)

L. Meadow (meadow337) | 5 comments Given that the science would be hugely made up I think less is more, but still needs to be just enough to be believable.


message 30: by Micah (last edited Aug 11, 2014 06:31AM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 265 comments As with most things it really depends on the story.

If the story is solidly in the Hard SF category (like Kim Stanely Robinson's Mars trilogy, or a lot of Clarke's work, etc.) where a huge part of the story is serious extrapolation of modern science and scientific thought, then anything as fanciful as FTL should be explained in detail.

But stories that are more action/plot/character driven, or are just pure entertainment...then details can be a hindrance. Star Wars doesn't need to make scientific sense.

My personal preference is for books that straddle the two, like Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space stories. He doesn't use FTL, but he does use handwavium Conjoiner drives to get significantly close to light speed, without explaining them. He's not one to let strict adherance to science get in the way of the story, but he tries as hard as is reasonable to keep things real throughout most of his work.


message 31: by Outis (new)

Outis Revelation Space isn't supposed to be plausible and has stuff that's even less plausible stuff than these drives.
Still, while he doesn't explain in detail how the drives work, it's not a case of an authors dropping some convient plot device into a story without giving any thought about the consequences.
He spends quite a few words explaining how the drives have come about, why everyone doesn't have one, why they're used this way and not that way and so on. It's not an afterthought but is central to the story.

The lack of thought about what one could do with such spaceships and about the implications introducing a this type of technology in a setting is what makes most stories featuring interstallar travel ludicrous, not the technical explanations (or lack therof).
Unfortunately, FTL is evidently hard to think about and so stories featuring FTL while purporting to be something other than comedy or fantasy tend to be more ludicrous than most.


message 32: by Rion (new)

Rion  (orion1) | 87 comments Science "Fiction". It's pretty clear that there will be fictional elements that can only be based on unproven theories or completely made up fantasy in the genre. Our science is in it's infancy. It will take us a while longer to understand such things as exotic matter enough to apply their potential to any future aspirations of FTL. That being said, it's not insane to think it's possible or even plausible that we will figure it out at some point. Provided we can develop such technology without destroying ourselves or this universe first. There are a lot of factors we will have to survive to give us enough time to develop such technology actually. We are wolflings unfortunately, and as such I think Brin's usage of the, It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself paradox, is a very real test for sentient life. Along with many of the other hypothetical Fermi paradox theories.


message 33: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) Diana wrote: ""When you read a book, do you want the author to explain in detail the FTL drive, or just go with some cool sounding explanation? (ex. using zero point energy to create a wormhole, and quantum weir..."

Actually, one of the reasons I like the series is the WAY Weber discusses the science. He puts it in there in a way that doesn't detract from the plot and adds to the history. In fact, after ON BASILISK STATION, it's not gone into as bad. Unlike Greg Bear's EON, which went WAY over my head... I also like that the technology doesn't seem that speculative.


message 34: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 265 comments Did any of you see this article? Pretty mind blowing...
http://www.wired.com/2014/08/multiverse/

Radical New Theory Could Kill the Multiverse Hypothesis:
Though galaxies look larger than atoms and elephants appear to outweigh ants, some physicists have begun to suspect that size differences are illusory. Perhaps the fundamental description of the universe does not include the concepts of “mass” and “length,” implying that at its core, nature lacks a sense of scale.

This little-explored idea, known as scale symmetry, constitutes a radical departure from long-standing assumptions about how elementary particles acquire their properties. But it has recently emerged as a common theme of numerous talks and papers by respected particle physicists. With their field stuck at a nasty impasse, the researchers have returned to the master equations that describe the known particles and their interactions, and are asking: What happens when you erase the terms in the equations having to do with mass and length?

Nature, at the deepest level, may not differentiate between scales. With scale symmetry, physicists start with a basic equation that sets forth a massless collection of particles, each a unique confluence of characteristics such as whether it is matter or antimatter and has positive or negative electric charge. As these particles attract and repel one another and the effects of their interactions cascade like dominoes through the calculations, scale symmetry “breaks,” and masses and lengths spontaneously arise.



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