Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Is Gravity Control Propulsion viable? Part 6

Thought I might have some fun, I was thinking on some of the questions Marc Millis asked in his talk on Space Drives and Gravity Control Propulsion and it is useful to address his questions from the point of view of the model currently being worked on to see if there are any major logical inconsistencies with current Physics and if so why and if they can be addressed. Several screen grabs from Marc's talk are shown below to address the questions put forward. Note that I am answering the questions with the modified EMQG model in mind (which at this stage remember is a hypothesis which may have errors) however here we go.

Luke's Landspeeder (from the Star Wars fictional movie) has the ability to levitate above the ground and has some kind of jet engines to propel it forward. Will the frog get squeeshed if the speeder went over it?

No. The frog will become weightless while it is in the speeder's volume of influence on the local spacetime metric so the frog should survive. If the speeder parked above the frog, the frog would just be floating underneath the speeder as if it was in a space station in orbit. As the speeder approaches the frog, part of the frog's body will have weight and the other part will feel weightless which might confuse the frog for a moment (interestingly enough levitating a live frog on Earth has been done in the lab via different means: direct diamagnetic levitation). Note that Luke and C3PO will also feel weightless inside the speeder but a bird flying above the speeder outside the volume of influence will need to fly as normal to stop falling towards the ground.

What will happen to the speeder when it encounters the obstacles forward? It will clear the smaller ones but will crash into the higher ones unless Luke makes an altitude adjustment to the speeder. The GCP field of influence will act on the local spacetime metric causing objects to become weightless within, this may be a problem obstruction wise with loose objects if there are other influences involved such as wind etc. 

Which path will the speeder follow across the cliff? The green path, the speeder will go straight across as if there was no cliff at all. 

When the speeder is parked will it shoot off if pushed? (it appears rigid in the movie when parked). Momentum is conserved, there is no difference pushing the speeder in free space or at ground level when parked, it will drift away slowly, when parked the speeder will have to use an anchor of some kind or turn the vehicle off once on ground.

Ok so here is a list of GCP approaches Marc puts up and I've crossed out the ones which I think are either incorrect or unviable:
  • Zero out gravity of the vehicle? 
  • Zero out surrounding gravity?
  • Antigravity?
  • Force fields on space itself? Yes but depends on what is meant by "force fields" and "space" however this is the closest option which would agree with the model. Although the first two in the list regarding zeroing out gravity can be net effects they are incorrect because we cannot "zero out" the background accelerating virtual fermion field. Note that inertia is also not "zeroed out" in this process.
  • Shield gravity?
  • Ground repulsed?

The problem of providing a gravity earth-like environment in a starship (without relying on spinning structures or linear acceleration) can be reworded as: the flat spacetime metric inside the starship needs to be curved locally since gravity is curved spacetime. This is assuming the starship is in deep space, stopped and far away from a gravity well.

As far as keeping the artificial gravity net acceleration 1g inside the starship constant for the crew, the situation gets complicated if the starship is in orbit around a planet, undergoes manoeuvres ie accelerations, changes in altitude, course corrections etc. Speculating here, a super fast computer would have to evaluate the exterior spacetime metric curvature in real time and compensate the metric curvature inside the starship accordingly all this while taking into account the starship's own accelerations. It should be noted that there is no such thing as a pure flat spacetime metric anywhere in the Universe, however for discussion purposes far away from large masses it is a close approximation.

I haven't looked into this however it is quite feasible if the model allows one to change a curved spacetime metric to a flat metric then following symmetry principles in Physics, a flat spacetime can be curved artificially (not by using mass or energy-density as done by Nature). So in other words an acceleration needs to be imparted to the local virtual fermion particle field to obtain a net effect of curved spacetime which would result in local artificial gravity in the starship equivalent to natural gravity at ground level on Earth.

According to the model, Mach's Principle (and all the variants) is incorrect. Local physics is not determined by the large scale structure of the Universe. The large scale mass distribution of the Universe determines the widescale spacetime metric structure but within the spacetime metric inertia is purely a local quantum effect. The starship in the above slide is not pushing "against the mass of the Universe" but locally. As we'll see the model shows no inconsistencies with the Equivalence Principle which is an important test however other subtle problems are run into which will be explored in the upcoming paper I'm working on titled "A quantum model of spacetime metrics".

All in all an interesting talk by Marc, this is the last post on these GCP part series. The 100 Year Starship Symposium is coming up next month hopefully they'll have videos on the talks as well.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ship spotting Sunday

Well after a few hours flattening spacetime metrics ;-) I went for a walk this early evening and spotted Carnival Spirit in Circular Quay. She's a decent size passenger ship, only departed half an hour or so later after I took the photo.

Carnival Spirit getting ready to depart Circular Quay. Photo: CI.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Comments on Starship Congress 2013

I hope that video streaming for future interstellar conferences will be standard as I suspect many people outside the US can't attend. Some comments which came to mind after watching the videos:

  • Not much was said about the space radiation problem for humans (it is estimated a human can only survive up to 2 to 3 years in space in a standard spacecraft). This problem will have to be solved before long human deep space missions are considered. Otherwise probes will continue to do most exploring for us for the foreseeable future. Even a trip to Mars several months long poses a radiation health issue for the crew. The passive and active shield systems for the spacecraft will have to protect at least the human habitat in the spacecraft from dangerous space radiation and bring it down to at least 30mSv/year (workplace maximum radiation dose standard). At sea level, cosmic radiation exposure is 0.3mSv/year, at an altitude of 3Km it is 1.2mSv/year in Europe. There is a rundown on the problem discussed here. For any future manned interstellar mission (including deep solar system) this is a high priority research topic.
  • As mentioned previously in this blog, it is unlikely interstellar travel will kickoff unless a replacement for chemical rockets is found to place hardware from ground to Low Earth Orbit. The expected large amount of hardware required for interstellar missions will make the cost too prohibitive. So although it is interesting to discuss interstellar missions which most likely won't happen for at least another 50-100 years, unless the more pressing problems are solved first, it is unlikely there will be interstellar missions for a very long time. Space Drives or Gravity Control Propulsion would be a game changer, this should be another high priority research topic. Even if a space elevator is built here on Earth, it doesn't solve the problem for Low Planetary Orbit to ground and vice versa transfers on other planets.
  • Warp Drives and Wormholes: as mentioned previously these are allowed in General Relativity only but denied by Quantum Physics. Experiments related to these will continue to yield negative results. General Relativity is a classical model of the background dynamic quantum vacuum which works very well at describing Nature however the research so far hasn't shown how Quantum Physics would allow warp drives and wormholes to be physically possible.


Update: There's an interesting wiki article as well on the space radiation issue worth a read: Health threat from cosmic rays.

Update: The Space Elevator Conference is on at the moment in Seattle. Last time I checked the state of the art fabrication process could only make carbon nano tube fibres a few centimetres long in the lab. These fibres need to be yarned into a cable long enough to reach geosynchronous orbit for the space elevator tether. A steel cable doesn't have enough tensile strength and at a length of 35786 Km will just break. Interesting to keep an eye where they are up to. To me this is Plan B if Space Drives or GCP turn out to be unviable because space elevators require a considerable amount of infrastructure to work while a hypothetical GCP enabled ship would not and would be free to manoeuvre around a planet (a big advantage). Also keep an eye out for the Skylon Project (Plan C), cargo transport is limited but the vehicle itself is quite neat and is really a big improvement over the Space Shuttle if they can get it working. The space elevator and the Skylon Project (not quite) are currently the only viable alternatives to chemical rockets regarding getting hardware into orbit from Earth that are feasible. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Starship Congress 2013

Starship Congress 2013 is on at the moment in Dallas. There was an interesting talk by Marc Millis on Day 3 regarding Space Drives.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Is Gravity Control Propulsion viable? Part 5

Continuing on from the previous post with the EMQG model, we need to dissect the fermion family of virtual particles of the accelerating quantum vacuum and establish which virtual particles are contributing to spacetime curvature (gravity). More specifically, the interactions between the accelerating charged virtual fermion particles and the real fermion particles in a test mass is the result of the effect we perceive as gravity, we'll need to look at this in detail. Since there is interaction, not surprisingly real fermion particles can also influence the average motion of virtual fermion particles for a particular reference frame, we observe this as vacuum dragging effects mentioned in the previous post however these effects are much weaker than the gravitational effects due to the much lower mass of the virtual fermion particles, all this loosely translates from GR as spacetime tells mass how to move and mass tells spacetime how to curve. It is suspected that the cross section of real fermion particles in a test mass presented to the accelerating virtual particle field (spacetime) plays some part in this process together with the motion of quarks within nuclei and energy density.

For GCP to be useful for propulsion purposes, one aim is to be able to impart a 100% weight reduction on a test mass at ground level. Note from a GR point of view since gravity is curved spacetime, we need to give a certain volume a flat spacetime metric within a curved spacetime metric as shown below.

One aim for GCP is to be able to impart a flat spacetime metric around a test
mass within a curved spacetime gravity well. Images: CI.

The test mass of course needs to be totally enclosed in the flat spacetime volume. Another aim for GCP is to be able to move this imparted flat spacetime metric with the test mass within the gravity well (from ground to orbit for eg). Note from a GR point of view there is no difference in the metric far away from Earth's gravity well, the imparted flat spacetime metric within the gravity well or at the center of Earth taking an ideal spherical model of Earth and excluding gravitational influences from the Sun, Milky Way etc for discussion purposes. According to the modified EMQG model for this flat spacetime to happen in the gravity well there can be no interaction allowed between the test mass and the downward accelerated virtual fermion particle field (spacetime). So in summary for GCP to be viable there are two requirements that must be met from a GR point of view:

  1. To be able to impart a flat spacetime metric around a test mass within a curved spacetime gravity well.
  2. To be able to move this imparted flat spacetime metric with the test mass within a gravity well.
To be clear here we are not warping the spacetime metric to render it flat as it might be interpreted when looking at the graph, this has nothing to do with "Alcubierre's warp drive" which although appears viable when looked at within GR only has been shown in this paper for eg to be unviable when quantum effects are also taken into account. The net effect of the flat spacetime is not the result of any "warping" of the spacetime metric.

The good news for GCP in principle charged virtual fermion particles can be deflected via magnetic fields however the bad news is we cannot do so for neutral uncharged particles. If we look at the fermion class of particles below however we are in luck as the only family of fermion particles that are neutral are the neutrinos:

Fermion particles (anti-matter equivalent not shown have same mass but opposite electric charge).
Image: The Standard Model
Do we need to concern ourselves with the neutrinos? It appears no. Remembering we are dealing with virtual not real particles, the current accepted model specifies that the three family of real neutrinos have a tiny mass and are electrically neutral weakly interacting particles. The virtual neutrinos (yet to be confirmed) are expected to have an insignificant mass and appear not to be involved in the EMQG gravity process we are looking at. A large number of neutrinos come from our Sun and pass right through Earth without ever interacting with a single atom in it. The radioactive isotopes of calcium and potassium in the bones of a human body for eg emit some 400 neutrinos per second and travel throughout the Universe even if lightyears of lead were hypothetically laid in their path.

Since the electron neutrino, muon neutrino, tau neutrino and their anti-matter counterparts are the only virtual fermion particles that are electrically neutral and appear not to contribute to spacetime curvature (as per the modified EMQG model), the following is proposed:

All accelerating virtual fermion particles that contribute 
to gravity have a non-zero electric charge. 

We need to make a few remarks on virtual particles before we go on further, after all the model relies heavily on them. Virtual particles can be regarded as very short lived excitations of the background fluctuating quantum vacuum that can act as interaction mediators but don't quite have enough energy to become real particles themselves (however sometimes they do break free to become real particles if given enough energy). Their existence is so short lived they cannot be directly observed (hence the term virtual) however they make their presence known to us by various effects they cause to real particles which we can observe such as vacuum polarisationCasimir effectHawking radiationLamb shiftspontaneous emission of photonsradioactive decay etc. They always come in pairs ie the virtual particle and its counterpart virtual anti-particle both with equal but opposite electric charge. The pair of virtual particles then annihilate giving back the energy borrowed from the quantum vacuum during their short lived existence. In some situations for eg in the presence of a strong electric field exceeding the critical value of \(E_{c}=\frac{m_{e}^{2}c^{3}}{e\hbar}=1.3EV/m\) (a prediction from the Dirac equation) or at a black hole event horizon via Hawking radiation, the virtual electron-positron pairs are prevented from recombining and the system pair is boosted by energy to become real electron and positron free particles. This "pair creation" process is the result of transformation of energy into matter via the quantum vacuum.
A visualisation of a virtual particle / anti-particle pair, not free particles hence called virtual.
Note that Nature does not allow us to distinguish or observe virtual particles. Image: unknown

Electric charge for virtual particles is conserved (otherwise the vacuum's net electric charge would not be neutral and there would be vacuum polarisation) and because of the Heisenberg indeterminacy relation for virtual particles we have \(\Delta E\Delta t < \frac{\hbar}{2}\) (for real particles \(\Delta E\Delta t\geq\frac{\hbar}{2}\) applies) ie in Nature:

Actions or changes smaller than \(\hbar=1.06\cdot10^{-34}Js\) cannot be observed. 

All of Quantum Physics comes from this simple statement, Nature's "behind the scene clockwork" is directly hidden to us behind \(\hbar\). Virtual particle mass also differs from their real particle counterparts which depends on how long in time they exist (the longer they exist, the less massive they can be and vice versa) and they do not obey the energy-momentum relation as real particles do ie for virtual particles \(E^{2}\neq m^{2}c^{2}+p^{2}c^{2}\) hence in some instances virtual particles can move faster than light (which real particles cannot) and since they are unobservable this doesn't contradict Special Relativity.

We need to look at next which accelerating charged virtual fermion particles are interacting with the nuclei (protons and neutrons) of a test mass to cause the effect we perceive as gravity. We can discount an interaction acting on the electron cloud surrounding nuclei for this effect. Most matter in the Universe is in the form of nuclei stripped bare of their electron cloud (ionized) for eg matter inside stars, cosmic rays, intergalactic matter mostly made of protons etc, your run in the mill atom with an electron cloud is not the most common form of matter in the Universe. On Earth we are somewhat shielded by an atmosphere and magnetic field that prevents most matter on its surface from being ionized. A neat experiment also settles the issue: Bouncing Neutrons in the Gravitational Field. It was shown in the experiment that slow neutrons bounced off a reflecting surface in a gravitational field alone like a ball bouncing off a table.

Bouncing neutrons in the gravitational field. Image: Scherer

It is interesting to note that the neutron states were found to be quantised which is expected however the experiment says nothing if the background gravitational field is quantised or not because no transition of a neutron between two states was observed, if it was, this would be a strong case for the graviton model and we can throw the modified EMQG model in the bin. Although neutrons are electrically neutral they do have a small magnetic moment since each neutron is made of charged quarks namely 1 up quark and 2 down quarks (udd or +2/3 -1/3 -1/3 = 0). A proton is made of 2 up quarks and 1 down quark (uud or +2/3 +2/3 -1/3 = +1).

So far the model can explain all of General Relativity but we still lack a detailed description of the interactions between the nuclei and the accelerated charged virtual fermion particle field, the model does explain photon behaviour in a gravitational field though. We need to look at how the virtual Quarks and Leptons interact with nuclei to explain GR effects on a test mass. We are getting into Quantum Chromodynamics here which is not straightforward physics especially since current QCD says nothing on the properties of spacetime and how it behaves in curved spacetime. As mentioned previously the EMQG model also does not explain the root cause of the downward acceleration of the virtual fermion particle field. It is suspected that the individual quark makeup of a nuclei isn't a major factor in the interaction involved but it is the motion of quarks within the nuclei that play a major role (as confirmed by GR it is any energy density that causes spacetime curvature). How the strong nuclear interactions for quarks within a nuclei with their exchange of virtual gluons that keep them together relates to the accelerated charged virtual fermion particle field is another area being looked at.

We will also need to demonstrate that suppressing the virtual fermion field around a test mass can indeed affect gravitational effects. Physics being an experimental science, some things cannot be worked out with pencil and paper alone, the experiment will need to be carried out to test this for a range of magnetic field intensities upto 100 Tesla (current state of the art). We can treat the virtual fermion particle field as a "virtual charged fluid" for all intents and purposes. Note that accelerated real charges produce a magnetic field, this is not observed for the virtual field case. A tightly collimated magnetic bottle should do the trick and we'll use a superconductor sphere to exclude the magnetic field which houses a test mass within.

A proposed experiment to test the modified EMQG model. A test mass is placed inside the spherical hollow superconductor. The magnetic bottle has to be tightly collimated at both extremeties. Circular vacuum polarisation is predicted to occur within the magnetic field envelope. Image: CI

The difficulty in the experiment will lie in how well the collimation at the extremeties can be achieved at the expected high magnetic field intensities. It is unlikely that this experiment would prevent all charged virtual fermion particles from interacting with the test mass inside the superconductor sphere, if this were to occur, according to the model, a 100% weight reduction will occur for the test mass. What we wish to happen here is a change of the nearly linear downward accelerated motion of the charged virtual fermion particle field to a circular one. The net effect of this is the same as having a flat spacetime metric within a curved gravity well as mentioned previously. Note that looking at the side view of the envelope, the magnetic field can be made to go into or out of the screen with the same result for the test mass.

We'll leave the finer technicalities of this model for a paper currently being worked on. The challenging part of this model is to come up with viable physics for the interaction of nuclei with charged virtual fermions which doesn't contradict known working physics models.

Answering the original question which started these post series is Gravity Control Propulsion viable? At this stage the answer is still no. If the model doesn't end up in the bin and shows some promising results, maybe.