Exploring Our Own Backyard

I’ve grown up with Sci-Fi. I loved Star Wars as a child, and I even have vague memories of being 5 years old and watching Return of the Jedi on the big screen. I wanted to climb into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon with Han and Chewie and shoot through hyperspace. I loved exploring everything from Mars to alternate dimmensions with Robert Heinlein, Orson Scott Card, and Larry Niven. Some of the earliest Sci-Fi I’ve read is by H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote around the turn of the last century. And even he was predated by people like Jules Verne.

Space has called to us throughout our history, as evidenced by Stonehenge and other ancient relics. So what are we doing about it today?

Over the last century, man has learned to fly and even break through the stratosphere. We’ve launched satellites, telescopes, and landed on the moon. But since then, it doesn’t seem like we’ve really done anything huge. Ok, sure, we’re about to send Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber into space, but I’m talking about something productive. Let’s just hope they’re bringing the lightsaber back. I mean, it’s bad enough we can’t keep people from throwing junk on the highways, we don’t need NASA throwing more of it in space. It won’t seem so cute when it rips through the international space station…

But anyway, I’m ready to start seeing some lunar bases get set up, or some manned space flights to Mars. Some of those things might happen in my lifetime, but I’m afraid interstellar flight probably won’t. There’s a lot to explore in our own solar system (right in our own backyard, so to speak). But the big dream is in finding a way to travel to other solar systems.

And really, any kind of space exploration, whether it’s in this solar system or any other, hinges on one thing: speed. As it stands, the rocket propulsion engines that we’re used to seeing simply won’t do the trick. Maybe there’s an answer in nuclear technology. Or maybe it will be something else entirely.

Currently, there are some scientists working on an obscure branch of physics that could really make a difference. Much of the research is based on some theories postulated by Burkhard Heim in the 1950’s. In layman’s terms, the theory revolves around manipulating gravity fields. Heim’s theories are complex, and they have been further progressed by Walter Droscher and Jochem Hauser. Their ideas are pretty wild, but they have a certain logic to them, nonetheless. They’ve suggested an experiment that might help prove their claims:

This will require a huge rotating ring placed above a superconducting coil to create an intense magnetic field. With a large enough current in the coil, and a large enough magnetic field, Dröscher claims the electromagnetic force can reduce the gravitational pull on the ring to the point where it floats free. Dröscher and Häuser say that to completely counter Earth’s pull on a 150-tonne spacecraft a magnetic field of around 25 tesla would be needed. While that’s 500,000 times the strength of Earth’s magnetic field, pulsed magnets briefly reach field strengths up to 80 tesla. And Dröscher and Häuser go further. With a faster-spinning ring and an even stronger magnetic field, gravitophotons would interact with conventional gravity to produce a repulsive anti-gravity force, they suggest.

Dröscher is hazy about the details, but he suggests that a spacecraft fitted with a coil and ring could be propelled into a multidimensional hyperspace. Here the constants of nature could be different, and even the speed of light could be several times faster than we experience. If this happens, it would be possible to reach Mars in less than 3 hours and a star 11 light years away in only 80 days, Dröscher and Häuser say.

Mars in less than 3 hours, and another star in less than 3 months?! Maybe this stuff does sound like Sci-Fi, but I’d say it’s worth checking out! I recommend reading the entire article this came from, it’s pretty interesting stuff.

Along those lines, some scientists in Europe are going to be running some crazy experiments on a massive particle accelerator sometime around November this year. A lot of what they’ll be playing with is in trying to answer questions like “why do things weigh what they weigh?” and “what is dark matter?” Answering questions like these could relate directly to understanding gravitational and magnetic fields.

The experiment they’re working on is the largest and most comlex ever attempted. They’re going to be smashing subatomic particles together at very high speeds, and more or less waiting to see what happens. For all they know they could discover new dimensions of space-time, or even create miniature black holes. Fun!

Anyway, there are two articles about this experiment that I recommend reading. The first one is here, and the second one is here.


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