To say that the last two weeks have been an incredible period for news would be putting it mildly, by almost anyone's criteria. One of the most interesting stories - well, interesting to me at least - was that indicating the President-elect plans to reorient NASA from its current Low Earth Orbit mission orientation to a new deep-space, long-term human exploration mission. In this, there was nothing really that new. Previous presidents have tried to do this, beginning with the administration of G.H.W. Bush, which was then revived under his son G.W. Bush, and even President Obama made a couple of attempts to reorient NASA; none of the efforts were really successful. However, it should also be remembered that DARPA, or as we affectionately refer to it here (following a suggestion of Mr. J.B.), the Diabolically Apocalyptic Research Projects Agency, announced during the second Obama administration a goal to make the United States "warp capable" in 100 years. So, quietly, even during the "space quiescent" administrations of Bush II and Obama, space has quietly been pushing along. The current President-elect however seems to have more than just a mission-reorientation in mind, but has actually proposed a bureaucratic reshuffling that would transfer low earth orbit oriented missions to other departments of the federal government, thus freeing NASA for the longer-term deep space missions. From a purely political and bureaucratic point of view, this would seem to make some sense.
All that is context, in my high octane speculation playbook, for a few other stories that emerged in the last couple of weeks that indicate that something, indeed, may be "up" with space matters. There's three stories in particular that regular readers here brought to my attention, that I'd like to pass along, together with my usual high octane, or in this case, orbital speculations:
That's quite a list, so let's begin at the first article, and SpaceX's Elon Musk's plans to launch over 4,000 satellites to "bring superfast internet to the world." There are three paragraphs here that draw our attention. According to Arjun Kharpal, author of the CNBN article on Musk's plans, this plan is presented in a filing with the FCC(Federal Communications Commission):
SpaceX – the company on a mission to colonize Mars – outlined plans to put 4,425 satellites into space in a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing from earlier this week.
That's three times the 1,419 satellites that are currently in space, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a not-for-profit group made up of scientists across the world.
Once "fully optimized", the system will be able to provide bandwith of 1 gigabytes per second for users globally. That's over 180 times faster than the current global internet speed average of 5.6 megabytes per second which was recorded in the Akamai State of the Internet report at the end of last year.
Reports earlier this year suggested Google and Fidelity had invested $1 billion into SpaceX to support the satellite project.
As noted, Musk has presented formal filings to the FCC, and has heavyweight backers in the form of Google and Fidelity for high-speed internet development. The question is why? Here I find myself in agreement with former HUD Assistant Secretary Catherine Fitts, in that this built out is in part a massive project designed to preserve US dollar reserve currency status, and this project can be, and I strongly suspect is enhanced by the offer of rebates on internet devices, smart phones, and so on, denominated in dollars. There is, however, a deeper agenda here, and I suspect most regular readers here already see what it is: such a massive build-out also implies building massive redundancy into the international financial clearing systems, which are currently rather centralized, and hence, easily targetable, as much of that system currently flows through SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transfer) in Belgium, and CHIPS (Clearing House Interbank Payments System). Decntralizing such systems, using other database management systems, builds a measure of security into the clearing system that is much needed, especially against potential threats. The question is, why now? Why the push to globalize such systems and to build in redundancy? The short answer is, such moves are only undertaken when long term strategic planning indicates potential conflict on the horizon. Here the question is, with whom?
I suggest the answer is suggested from the space context itself, which brings us to the recent announcements concerning NASA's tests of the EM drive, which produces thrust from microwave reflections and interferometry within a shaped, conical cavity. While I've blogged about this story before, I want to draw the readers' attention to something very interesting that appeared in the second article linked above, by Fiona MacDonald; first, note the numbers:
Last year, NASA's Eagleworks Laboratory got involved to try to independently verify or debunk the EM Drive once and for all. And a new paper on its tests in late 2015 has just been leaked, showing that not only does the EM Drive work - it also generates some pretty impressive thrust.
To be clear, despite rumours that a NASA paper on these tests has passed the peer-review process, the version that's been leaked hasn't been published in an academic journal. So, for now, this is just one group of researchers reporting on their results, without any external verification.
But the paper concludes that, after error measurements have been accounted for, the EM Drive generates force of 1.2 millinewtons per kilowatt in a vacuum.
But that's not what caught my eye. What caught my eye were these statements:
"The test campaign included a null thrust test effort to identify any mundane sources of impulsive thrust, however none were identified," the team, led by Harold White, concluded in the paper.
"Thrust data from forward, reverse, and null suggests that the system is consistently performing with a thrust to power ratio of 1.2 ± 0.1 millinewtons per kilowatt."(Emphasis added)
Yes, you read that correctly, the NASA team testing the EM drive and performing these tests was led by Dr. Harold White, that's Dr. Harold "Sonny" White, of NASA's warp drive project fame. Readers here will recall my previous blogs about Dr. White, for it was Dr. White who, by reworking the metric of Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre's 1990s warp drive paper, came up with the breathtaking conclusion that the vast mass-energy conversion needed in Alcubierre's paper - a mass-energy conversion factor on the scale of the planet Jupiter, and hence impractical as a potential human technology - was far too large, and that the actual mass-energy conversion factor was much smaller, and conceivably within reach to human science in, say, a hundred years or so. It was because of Dr. White's reworking of that paper that DARPA came out with its 100 year warp drive goal in the first place, and additionally, that NASA placed White in charge of designing the initial proof of concept experiments for his re-working of Alcubierre's metric. All this places his participation in the EM drive tests into a different light, for what is being suggested is that the EM drive may have some very minor space-warping properties. Now, this isn't a big surprise to those of us who have been following the work of the late Gabriel Kron, the Hungarian electronics engineering genius who first told us that all electrical devices, no matter how simple, can be derived from the generalized equations of electromagnetism by specific applications of tensor calculus and hyper-dimensional operators. In essence, what Kron was saying was that all devices of an electric nature are both hyper-dimensional, and produce minute modifications of the lattice of space-time. In short, space warps.
Which brings us to the... oh, by the way, did you notice the date of Ms. MacDonald's article? Nov. 7, 2016, a day before the US general election, which has given us a President-elect who's talking about deep solar system manned explorations, and oh, who, by the way, had an uncle who was a Professor at MIT, John Trump, who according to some internet stories was tasked with looking at the late papers of Nikola Tesla.... Talk about things that make you go "Hmmmm...." At the minimum, the presence of this particular technologically-inclined Trump in the stump of the Trump tree means that the current President-elect, unlike almost all previous presidents, may have a unique family insight into technological history, and perhaps even into some very secretive aspects of it, a definite advantage over his predecessors.
Which brings us to the third article about a small "start up" company in Nebraska that has been doing simple warp-field tests, using (here it comes) interferometry, electrical tri-poles, and measurement by laser red-shift effects. You'll note that the context here is Einstein's general relativity, and this requires some basic explanation. In the theory of General Relativity, large masses such as stars or planets literally "warp" the lattice structure of space time, in a fashion similar to placing a large bowling ball or medical ball on a trampoline that one has drawn a grid work of squares on. Placing the ball on the trampoline compresses that lattice work by appearing to stretch it in the region immediately surrounding the ball. This is of course a two dimensional representation, so one has to imagine an infinite series of such planes each in touch with a point on the ball, and you get the idea. The trouble is, in General Relativity, it can work in both directions: a large mass can distort that local lattice work, or a distorted local lattice work can create the effect of the presence of a large mass, i.e., gravity. What's interesting here is that physicists appear to be discovering, through careful manipulation of such effects electromagnetically, which physicists, including Einstein, long suspected, namely, that there's some relationship between gravity and electromagnetism. What I find intriguing about these experiments is twofold: First, the unified field theories of the 1920s and early 1930s, beginning with Kaluza-Klein, predicted a fourth spatial dimension that was "curled up" in dimensions of the quantum length or harmonics thereof, i.e., in very small spaces, as it were. These experiments appear to be suggesting something similar, for they are measuring very small displacements or warping effects, yet, to my knowledge, no one has yet attempted to connect these results to some of those interwar theories. Secondly, as I pointed out in Secrets of the Unified Field, a common objection of modern physics to these early unified field theory attempts is to point our their incompleteness, since they only "unify" two of the four fundamental forces, namely gravitation and electromagnetism, leaving out the strong and weak forces of quantum mechanics. But as I pointed out in that book, an incomplete theory is not necessarily an unengineerable theory. After all, Newton's theory of gravitation is incomplete in the formal sense, but nevertheless was and is engineerable, and had a great deal to do with the foundations of the industrial age. If these experiments, and particularly that of the Nebraska start-up company are indeed legitimate, and I strongly suspect they are, then this is a hint that those interwar theories, incomplete though they may be, hold some profound engineering clues. Certainly Gabriel Kron understood them to be so.
What I found intriguing with the third article is the fact that this small start-up "space warp" company has even filed for a patent, which is currently pending. And that suggests more engineerable technologies could come down the pike. Indeed, as that third article suggests, and as the second avers, what happens when one dramatically scales up the power, or the magnetic fields in which all of this is performed? Given the breathtaking implications of these three articles when considered together, and against the larger backdrop in which they were announced, I can't help but think that those experiments have already been performed. We just haven't been clued into the results yet.
See you on the flip side...