Author Topic: Useful Skepticism  (Read 8900 times)

Offline SteveD

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Useful Skepticism
« on: 11/24/2015 03:58 pm »
I hope the EMDrive works, but wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't.  If it doesn't, I wouldn't mind being the guy who discovers how the "magic trick" works.  Among my posts here and on reddit, many of which I'm sure are more clueless than helpful, include a critique of rfmwguys early tests, pointing to thermal lift.  Unlike many of the "skeptics" here and on reddit, instead of simply blathering on about thermal effects I put some numbers to it and suggested a testing setup (measuring downward thrust) to help reduce the thermal noise.  Might a I suggest a couple attributes of useful skepticism:

1.  Be exact.  Don't say that there is an amorphous "problem" with a test.  Point to an exact issue taking place at a certain time.

2.  Put numbers to it.  I keep seeing posters talk about "noise."  What noise?  What are the expected values for it?  If you think a test result is really thermal expansion then start with how much energy was used, the thermal expansion rate of copper, and what a signal from thermal expansion should look like.  Does there come a period of time when the copper has expanded as much as it's going to and any further thrust must be something else?  What is that period of time?

3.  Be knowledgeable.  Are posters, perhaps, waiting for more data because their are other experimental results that would tend to rule out your purported source of error.  Thrust has been measured in EMDrives horizontally and vertically in atmosphere and horizontally in vacuum.  Don't come in and say that the EMDrive must be false because a single experiment could, potentially, be from a certain source of error unless every setup suffers from the same problem.  Honestly, I'm skeptical about the EMDrive effect, but expect that if it's an error then there is a paper here about how multiple -- different -- sources of error came together to give a consistent false reading.

4.  Be useful.  If you have a problem with the design of an experiment outline -- with specificity -- how it should be fixed (keeping in mind the low budgets of many of the DIY tests).  If you think ambient temperature, humidity, and pressure needed to be monitored better than it was in the experiment suggest, for example, that the tester look to see if he could get a cheap weather station in tie it into the DAQ he's using instead of simply taking a reading at the beginning of the test (though honestly, I suspect simply taking a beginning and ending value to make sure that there were not any large changes might be enough).

Things that are not useful skepticism:

1.  Saying that the EMDrive does not work because there is not yet a generally accepted theory of how it works.  Yes, we know this.  This is why builders are making the thing and trying to figure out how to poke it with the correct stick to get data.  There are other odds and ends of physics that do not have a generally accepted explanation yet, they just are not as high profile and intuitively useful as the EMDrive.

2.  Suggesting that all the experimental results to date are null because they did not produce pounds of thrust.  While not conclusive, the reported results to date do seem to exist that something - might - be going on.  Don't try to redefine everything as a null result unless you have a detailed understanding of the tests and can point clearly at quantifiable issues with them.  By the criteria used by many of the trolls utilizing this strategy Ion engines don't work either.

3.  Claiming the EMDrive is a free energy device.  Before you do this, go look at the monograph on Dr. Woodward's website explaining why the most common (and incorrect) version of this claim would render any simple machine a free energy device. 

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #1 on: 11/24/2015 11:48 pm »
3. Is perfectly valid. If we're going to start developing new physics (which EM Drive clearly relies on), there's no particular reason why it couldn't produce "free" energy (even if that energy comes from pushing/pulling from distant starfield or some other handwavy justification). I and others who actually know some freshman undergraduate physics don't buy Woodward's handwaving away of this.

If EM Drive works, then it is possible to extract energy from it. A direct consequence of physics.

...Woodward doesn't go far enough. Embrace the ability to extract energy from it!

...but I know why he tries to avoid that consequence of EM Drive. It's a sociological/psychological reason: It's because "free energy" and "perpetual motion machine" will immediately turn off a lot of people to the idea.
« Last Edit: 11/25/2015 12:47 am by Robotbeat »
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Offline dustinthewind

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #2 on: 11/26/2015 08:05 pm »
I noticed this is similar in subject to posts in the EM drive, wayyy back, and just recently in the Woodward drives.  There are worries about energy conversations in systems that don't use reaction mass to speed up. 

One classical system that comes to mind is a swing.  Also I remember this same subject came up in the EM drive section and I pointed out a device that may qualify as a classical system of this type.  The video is on YouTube here: .  I don't think it is over unity but it certainly doesn't appear to use reaction mass to speed up.  How it works is like a swing.  When the mass wants to swing out to the largest radius you just twist the weights against the force of the mass.  When the mass is coming in to the center you can reverse the twist and assist against the force pulling it out and the energy transfers to the system as a whole.  Basically F(x).dx=E .  This is angular velocity rather than linear but the argument is that there is this break even speed where the energy you put in becomes more than you put in.  My argument is if this is true then you might be able to argue the same for this device.  explaining this systems conservation of energy may be instructive in similar systems, though in this case it is mechanical instead of electro-magnetic.
« Last Edit: 11/27/2015 10:50 am by dustinthewind »

Offline ppnl

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #3 on: 11/27/2015 04:37 pm »

dustinthewind,

What do you mean it "...doesn't appear to use reaction mass to speed up."?

The guy obviously grabs it and twists it with his hand. That means that as the device spins up it changes the rotation of the earth. Action/reaction and conservation of momentum is preserved. This would be made obvious if he were to do this while standing on a table that was free to rotate. Then you could see the table start to rotate in one direction as the device rotates in the other. The whole system is just storing energy in counter rotating flywheels that accelerate by reacting against each other.

Offline ppnl

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #4 on: 11/27/2015 05:25 pm »

Things that are not useful skepticism:

1.  Saying that the EMDrive does not work because there is not yet a generally accepted theory of how it works.  Yes, we know this.  This is why builders are making the thing and trying to figure out how to poke it with the correct stick to get data.  There are other odds and ends of physics that do not have a generally accepted explanation yet, they just are not as high profile and intuitively useful as the EMDrive.

2.  Suggesting that all the experimental results to date are null because they did not produce pounds of thrust.  While not conclusive, the reported results to date do seem to exist that something - might - be going on.  Don't try to redefine everything as a null result unless you have a detailed understanding of the tests and can point clearly at quantifiable issues with them.  By the criteria used by many of the trolls utilizing this strategy Ion engines don't work either.

3.  Claiming the EMDrive is a free energy device.  Before you do this, go look at the monograph on Dr. Woodward's website explaining why the most common (and incorrect) version of this claim would render any simple machine a free energy device.

1) I would not say that it does not work because there is no generally accepted theory on how it works. But I would say that the fact that it violates so much of what we think we know has a powerful effect on my Bayesian priors. If you say you have a horse in your garage then I have no particular reason to doubt you but still may need to see it to believe. But if you claim to have a unicorn in your garage then even seeing is not enough. I will need x-rays, blood tests and genetic analysis. And these things must be done by independent parties.

2) See above problem with Bayesian priors. Pounds of thrust is just one way to address my Bayesian priors. The words "seem" and "might" just don't cut it.

3) You will have to link to what you are talking about. My understanding is that the Mach effect drive appears to violate COM locally but may  preserves it globally. If you are not careful about how you do that you may violate COE, COM and maybe even transmit information faster than light.

Shaywer OTOH seems to violate COE, COM and all logic. So yeah. Free energy at the very least. Also 3=2 and cats and dogs will live together.

Offline dustinthewind

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #5 on: 11/27/2015 10:12 pm »

dustinthewind,

What do you mean it "...doesn't appear to use reaction mass to speed up."?

The guy obviously grabs it and twists it with his hand. That means that as the device spins up it changes the rotation of the earth. Action/reaction and conservation of momentum is preserved. This would be made obvious if he were to do this while standing on a table that was free to rotate. Then you could see the table start to rotate in one direction as the device rotates in the other. The whole system is just storing energy in counter rotating flywheels that accelerate by reacting against each other.

I mean that thee is no propellant expelled.  It doesn't lose mass to increase its velocity.  (like other propellant-less systems) It could use a motor instead of a hand and a force sensitive computer to do the torquing and the power could come from solar panels.  A similar idea was proposed with the EM drive and it was stated that if the EM drive could increase the spin that at a particular velocity it would become over unity I think either because it wasn't expelling mass or it was claimed a constant force of thrust.  There were arguments against there being a constant force for thrust.  Such an old post on the EM drive thread I am not sure where to find it again.  Later arguments more recent were that for a photon drive (laser) that it becomes over unity at the speed of light.  This device would obviously provide more torque than a laser.  I would agree it is just a power storage device and doubt that it would become over-unity.  Obviously it should take 4 times the energy to double the velocity at lower velocities.  1/2m(2*v)^2=4*E.  So why not the same for a rotating EM drive if it works? 

Offline simonbp

Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #6 on: 11/29/2015 04:43 am »
All scepticism is useful. If you claim to have "new physics", don't be angry when it is held to the standards of y'know, PHYSICS.

The EMDrive is a free energy device. And almost certainly a phoney-baloney one.

Offline Star One

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Useful Skepticism
« Reply #7 on: 11/29/2015 08:31 am »
All scepticism is useful. If you claim to have "new physics", don't be angry when it is held to the standards of y'know, PHYSICS.

The EMDrive is a free energy device. And almost certainly a phoney-baloney one.

The FAQ in the thread is your friend when it comes to such accusations.
« Last Edit: 11/29/2015 08:41 am by Star One »

Offline guckyfan

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #8 on: 11/29/2015 09:58 am »
The EMDrive is a free energy device.

No it isn't. It may tap into a new as yet unused energy reservoir.

A valve that opens the waterflow from a dam into a turbine/generator set is not a free energy device if it takes less energy to operate than the generator produces.

Offline ppnl

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #9 on: 11/30/2015 06:34 am »

I mean that thee is no propellant expelled.

The earth itself is the propellant. Because you are dealing with angular momentum here the earth isn't expelled but only spun up in the opposite direction by a very small amount.


It doesn't lose mass to increase its velocity.  (like other propellant-less systems) It could use a motor instead of a hand and a force sensitive computer to do the torquing and the power could come from solar panels.

Only if you mechanically connect the motor to the ground. Without that connection it cannot push against the earth (Its propellant) and the motor will end up rotating around the grip handle in the other direction. The device itself will spin but only slowly because most of the energy will be pumped into the electric motor spinning the other way. [/quote]


A similar idea was proposed with the EM drive and it was stated that if the EM drive could increase the spin that at a particular velocity it would become over unity I think either because it wasn't expelling mass or it was claimed a constant force of thrust.



But what are you pushing against? Unless you can point to something you are pushing against you seem to be violating conservation of momentum. Well maybe there is something that it is reacting against but you have to be careful how you do it or like Shawyer you will break all logic. Cats liveing with dogs... do you really want to see the horror?



There were arguments against there being a constant force for thrust.

Not sure which device you are talking about here. Constant force should always produce constant acceleration. But you need ever increasing power to to provide constant force. For example consider a car engine producing constant power. The faster the car goes the slower it will accelerate until its acceleration becomes undetectable.


Such an old post on the EM drive thread I am not sure where to find it again.  Later arguments more recent were that for a photon drive (laser) that it becomes over unity at the speed of light.  This device would obviously provide more torque than a laser.  I would agree it is just a power storage device and doubt that it would become over-unity.  Obviously it should take 4 times the energy to double the velocity at lower velocities.  1/2m(2*v)^2=4*E.  So why not the same for a rotating EM drive if it works?

In order to see if it is over unity we have to know what it is using for propellant. If constant power produces constant acceleration then it is over unity no matter how you look at it. Even if you require the power to increase to provide constant acceleration You still have a problem with Galilean relativity. In order to see how much power is needed to accelerate we need to know the relative motion of you and the thing you are pushing against (your propellant) is.

Imagine an electric car coasting across a flat plain at some unknown velocity. How could you tell how fast you were going? Simple, feed some set amount of power into your motor and measure how much you accelerate. But what if you are going backwards? Now to decelerate (just accelerating in a different direction) you just feed the rotation of your tires backward to use your motor as a generator and get power.

If that thing that the emdrive or whatever is pushing against is moving really fast then it will not be of much use as a drive because it would require far to much power. It maybe useful as an energy source and until you identify what it is reacting against it will appear to be an over unity device.   

Offline ppnl

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #10 on: 11/30/2015 06:42 am »
The EMDrive is a free energy device.

No it isn't. It may tap into a new as yet unused energy reservoir.

A valve that opens the waterflow from a dam into a turbine/generator set is not a free energy device if it takes less energy to operate than the generator produces.

That is true. But that will require fundamentally new physics. The entire body of physical knowledge places serious constraints on any such new physics. But in principle it could be done.

But my Bayesian priors...

Offline JasonAW3

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #11 on: 12/03/2015 07:16 pm »
3. Is perfectly valid. If we're going to start developing new physics (which EM Drive clearly relies on), there's no particular reason why it couldn't produce "free" energy (even if that energy comes from pushing/pulling from distant starfield or some other handwavy justification). I and others who actually know some freshman undergraduate physics don't buy Woodward's handwaving away of this.

If EM Drive works, then it is possible to extract energy from it. A direct consequence of physics.

...Woodward doesn't go far enough. Embrace the ability to extract energy from it!

...but I know why he tries to avoid that consequence of EM Drive. It's a sociological/psychological reason: It's because "free energy" and "perpetual motion machine" will immediately turn off a lot of people to the idea.

I'm not really sure that I can agree with your statement about having to invent new physics.  This could be a result of know quantum physics interacting on the general physics scale.

My God!  It's full of universes!

Offline ppnl

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #12 on: 12/03/2015 08:49 pm »
3. Is perfectly valid. If we're going to start developing new physics (which EM Drive clearly relies on), there's no particular reason why it couldn't produce "free" energy (even if that energy comes from pushing/pulling from distant starfield or some other handwavy justification). I and others who actually know some freshman undergraduate physics don't buy Woodward's handwaving away of this.

If EM Drive works, then it is possible to extract energy from it. A direct consequence of physics.

...Woodward doesn't go far enough. Embrace the ability to extract energy from it!

...but I know why he tries to avoid that consequence of EM Drive. It's a sociological/psychological reason: It's because "free energy" and "perpetual motion machine" will immediately turn off a lot of people to the idea.

I'm not really sure that I can agree with your statement about having to invent new physics.  This could be a result of know quantum physics interacting on the general physics scale.

We would have to know what it does before we can decide what is needed to explain it.

1) If it has thrust without propellant then it violates COM and needs new physics.

2) If it gives constant thrust with constant power then it violates COE and needs new physics.

3) If it violates Galilean relativity then it will need new physics. Lets not even talk about special or general relativity for now.

4) "Quantum physics interacting on the general physics scale" makes no sense because general physics is made of quantum physics. They are only divided in your head and the limits of your understanding.

"Quantum" isn't a magic word that makes everything possible. Quantum mechanics gives us a deeper understanding of why some things are impossible. Maybe there is a deeper theory that will change that but that is new physics.

Trying to get past this without new physics is like trying to square the circle or trisect the angle without new tools beyond the compass and straightedge.

Offline KelvinZero

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #13 on: 12/03/2015 10:45 pm »
This link claims energy conservation is well defined within quantum mechanics.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_energy#Quantum_theory
Energy at each fixed time can in principle be exactly measured without any trade-off in precision forced by the time-energy uncertainty relations. Thus the conservation of energy in time is a well defined concept even in quantum mechanics.

Im to lazy to do the years of study that would justify doubting the general scientific consensus. They are probably not idiots. :)

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #14 on: 12/05/2015 01:08 pm »
How it works is like a swing.

It may be that the analogy of the swing is appropriate for some sense of understanding, within a great many limitations.  The tire swing on a tree works because there is "action at a distance"; the rope connects the swing to a tree.  The Woodward  drive may also depend on "action at a distance" in that it purports to connect to the rest of the universe via inertia.

Carry on.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #15 on: 12/05/2015 01:23 pm »
3. Is perfectly valid. If we're going to start developing new physics (which EM Drive clearly relies on), there's no particular reason why it couldn't produce "free" energy (even if that energy comes from pushing/pulling from distant starfield or some other handwavy justification). I and others who actually know some freshman undergraduate physics don't buy Woodward's handwaving away of this.

If EM Drive works, then it is possible to extract energy from it. A direct consequence of physics.

...Woodward doesn't go far enough. Embrace the ability to extract energy from it!

...but I know why he tries to avoid that consequence of EM Drive. It's a sociological/psychological reason: It's because "free energy" and "perpetual motion machine" will immediately turn off a lot of people to the idea.

I'm not really sure that I can agree with your statement about having to invent new physics.  This could be a result of know quantum physics interacting on the general physics scale.
Quantum mechanics isn't magic that you can use to wave away conservation of momentum, etc. Quantum mechanics definitely still obeys conservation of momentum.

...BTW, it's super common for people to treat "quantum" as synonymous with "magic, but sciency." Quantum consciousness, quantum philosophy, etc.
« Last Edit: 12/05/2015 01:25 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #16 on: 12/05/2015 01:24 pm »
How it works is like a swing.

It may be that the analogy of the swing is appropriate for some sense of understanding, within a great many limitations.  The tire swing on a tree works because there is "action at a distance"; the rope connects the swing to a tree.  The Woodward  drive may also depend on "action at a distance" in that it purports to connect to the rest of the universe via inertia.

Carry on.
Yes, some new effect that directly connects to distant objects would preserve conservation of momentum, but it definitely WOULD count as new physics.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline MP99

Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #17 on: 12/05/2015 02:18 pm »
We would have to know what it does before we can decide what is needed to explain it.

1) If it has thrust without propellant then it violates COM and needs new physics.

Was confused by this until I realised you meant momentum rather than mass.

Cheers, Martin

Online HMXHMX

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #18 on: 12/05/2015 04:37 pm »
How it works is like a swing.

It may be that the analogy of the swing is appropriate for some sense of understanding, within a great many limitations.  The tire swing on a tree works because there is "action at a distance"; the rope connects the swing to a tree.  The Woodward  drive may also depend on "action at a distance" in that it purports to connect to the rest of the universe via inertia.

Carry on.
Yes, some new effect that directly connects to distant objects would preserve conservation of momentum, but it definitely WOULD count as new physics.

It depends a great deal on definitions of "new" since Hoyle-Narlicker gravity, Wheeler-Feynman absorber theory and Cramer's Transactional Interpretation of quantum theory provide the path to understanding COM as a "whole universe box" per Mach's Principle as suggested by Sciama (and now Woodward and Fearn).  So I'd respectfully argue (as a simple minded rocket engineer, not a physicist) that there seems to be an adequate and consistent theoretical basis for COM in putative propellantless propulsion devices.

Offline Paul451

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #19 on: 12/05/2015 08:52 pm »
3.  Claiming the EMDrive is a free energy device.  Before you do this, go look at the monograph on Dr. Woodward's website explaining why the most common (and incorrect) version of this claim would render any simple machine a free energy device.

People have looked at Woodward's response, and have repeatedly pointed out (both directly and to people paraphrasing Woodward's argument) that he has failed to understand the basic physics of the problem.

You completely ignore those people (myself included) and simply restate Woodward's claims as if they were proven facts. He "explains why", not "He claims". "Would render", not "supposedly renders".



If anyone is curious:

The first part of Woodward's argument is valid (although he uses an overcomplicated was of deriving the core argument: E-in ∝ ∆V, E-out ∝ ∆Vē). But where he makes his first major mistake is in assuming that what he calls "the Figure of Merit" (which is just force/power), is constant in all other propulsion devices.

Whereas the entire point raising by skeptics about what makes reactionless thrusters so fundamentally different, is that they are the only form of propulsion that would have a constant F/P. In every other type of classical machine, F/P either varies with velocity relative to its propulsive medium, or is limited by on-board propellant.

-- Constant F/P is what makes MET/etc fundamentally different. That's why they'd be free-energy devices. That's the entire argument. --

(Woodward's second major mistake is then trying to come up with a mathematical work-around by splitting velocity into micro-intervals, resetting the frame-of-reference after each interval; but then summing linearly across the kinetic energy. You simply cannot sum energy linearly from a changing frame of reference. It makes no physical sense.

His third major mistake is no realising that even his interval method fails once velocity exceeds P/F for the device, force in newtons, power in watts. (Or "1/FoM" in Woodward's nomenclature.)  Beyond V=P/F, E-out exceeds E-in instantaneously, not cumulatively.)

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #20 on: 12/06/2015 01:05 am »
How it works is like a swing.

It may be that the analogy of the swing is appropriate for some sense of understanding, within a great many limitations.  The tire swing on a tree works because there is "action at a distance"; the rope connects the swing to a tree.  The Woodward  drive may also depend on "action at a distance" in that it purports to connect to the rest of the universe via inertia.

Carry on.
Yes, some new effect that directly connects to distant objects would preserve conservation of momentum, but it definitely WOULD count as new physics.

It depends a great deal on definitions of "new" since Hoyle-Narlicker gravity, Wheeler-Feynman absorber theory and Cramer's Transactional Interpretation of quantum theory provide the path to understanding COM as a "whole universe box" per Mach's Principle as suggested by Sciama (and now Woodward and Fearn).  So I'd respectfully argue (as a simple minded rocket engineer, not a physicist) that there seems to be an adequate and consistent theoretical basis for COM in putative propellantless propulsion devices.
As a physicist, I disagree. Other than these purported devices, there's no prior evidence that apparent COM can be violated (or worked around) in this manner. The theoretical basis is not mainstream.

If someone proved this worked, then a Nobel Prize would be awarded.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #21 on: 12/06/2015 01:08 am »
BTW, I firmly believe the path to legitimacy for any such devices (if they really work) lies firmly on experiment, not in trying to prove it via theory.

Of course, I'm an experimental physicist, so there's that. :)
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Online HMXHMX

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #22 on: 12/06/2015 03:44 am »
BTW, I firmly believe the path to legitimacy for any such devices (if they really work) lies firmly on experiment, not in trying to prove it via theory.

Of course, I'm an experimental physicist, so there's that. :)

We agree on that point!  :)

Online HMXHMX

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Re: Useful Skepticism
« Reply #23 on: 12/06/2015 03:48 am »
How it works is like a swing.

It may be that the analogy of the swing is appropriate for some sense of understanding, within a great many limitations.  The tire swing on a tree works because there is "action at a distance"; the rope connects the swing to a tree.  The Woodward  drive may also depend on "action at a distance" in that it purports to connect to the rest of the universe via inertia.

Carry on.
Yes, some new effect that directly connects to distant objects would preserve conservation of momentum, but it definitely WOULD count as new physics.

It depends a great deal on definitions of "new" since Hoyle-Narlicker gravity, Wheeler-Feynman absorber theory and Cramer's Transactional Interpretation of quantum theory provide the path to understanding COM as a "whole universe box" per Mach's Principle as suggested by Sciama (and now Woodward and Fearn).  So I'd respectfully argue (as a simple minded rocket engineer, not a physicist) that there seems to be an adequate and consistent theoretical basis for COM in putative propellantless propulsion devices.
As a physicist, I disagree. Other than these purported devices, there's no prior evidence that apparent COM can be violated (or worked around) in this manner. The theoretical basis is not mainstream.

If someone proved this worked, then a Nobel Prize would be awarded.

I don't know but that "mainstream" just means what can generate grant funding via consensus.  But that's probably a cynical point of view from 45 years in the aerospace business.

And I'd note that Albert never got a Nobel Prize for GRT.  ;)

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