Space has been in the news a lot lately. Last week for example I blogged about NASA's ion propulsion experiments and about the fact that NASA is apparently staking a lot on their development and use in deep space exploration manned missions. Well they should, for as I and others have pointed out many times, chemical rockets are simply not adequate for a sustained human presence in deep space. They're about as useful as a canoe for shipping goods across the Pacific Ocean.
In that respect, I've also pointed out that NASA and DARPA both have made the investigation of "space warp" technologies a part of their long-term research projects and goals. Now there's this "little" story that, oddly enough, was reported in Russia's Sputnik online magazine, which Mr. V.T. spotted and kindly passed along:
The essence of the experiment consisted of creating a super-cooled liquid, and pulsing it with lasers:
It’s exactly what it sounds like: give a normal object a push and it’ll accelerate away from the force of your hand. Give this negative-mass fluid a shove and it does the opposite, accelerating towards the force pushing on it.
Negative mass has nothing to do with disappointing Bioware RPGs, but rather was predicted by the work of general relativity physicist Hermann Bondi, who in 1957 published a paper that argued that negative mass was just as possible as negative electric charges. Although strange, there was no reason that negative mass could not exist because it did not violate the conservation of energy or momentum.
The team was led by Michael Forbes, a WSU assistant professor of physics and astronomy. First, they synthesized a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), a form of matter that is created by cooling a low density gas to ultra-low temperatures. BECs are superfluids, meaning that they behave like ordinary liquids except that when stirred, they never stop moving. BECs have many strange properties and are key in the creation of other exotic forms of matter.
The BEC was created from rubidium atoms, and was then trapped in a web of lasers. A second set of lasers then agitated the BEC, causing it to rush out of the web as though it had negative mass. "Once you push, it accelerates backwards," said Forbes in a statement. "It looks like the rubidium hits an invisible wall."
It was the last statement in the article that caught my eye, however, not the results of the experiment itself, and that statement is, as one might guess, the subject for today's high octane speculation:
Although the experiment is an exciting first step, not everyone is sold on it helping us answer fundamental questions about the universe. Martin McCall, a professor of theoretical optics at Imperial College London, praised the WSU team for the successful synthesis, but told The Guardian that he doubts it will have practical applications.
No practical applications!?!? In a world where NASA and DARPA want the USA to be "warp capable" in a century? On the contrary, I strongly suspect that what we're looking at is precisely an experiment - a "first step" in a technology tree - to create the exotic forms of matter that would be needed to make that space-warping goal a reality. In other words, we're looking at a part of that black projects world in the guise of a "purely theoretical " experiment whose implications - so we're told - have to do with "cosmological physics" and neutron stars and nothing more. And the key here is that the editors at Sputnik are signalizing that they suspect this as well:
Some models of the universe explain the existence of phenomena like gravity and dark energy through the concept of negative mass. Wormholes, hypothetical tunnels in spacetime, may also exist through negative matter. Negative mass would carry negative energy, which could be used to create an Alcubierre warp drive, an engine which contracts space in front of it and expands space behind it to (theoretically) allow for travel far faster than the speed of light.
Now, the editors of Sputnik will also know about NASA's Dr. Harold White, and his recalculations of Alcubierre's warp paper, and his conclusion that the factor of mass-energy conversion needed to create such a warp was smaller than Alcubiuerre's original calculation, small enough, in fact, to make it feasible that it might be achievable by human technology in the not-to distant future. In fact, it was White's recalculation that led to NASA's and DARPA's "warp drive goal." So Sputnik might just be signaling that it suspects what I suspect, namely, that experiments like this one are really in aid of that project, for if in fact what these scientists have demonstrated is a negative mass effect, and therefore that they successfully created it, then it doesn't take much imagination to see all sorts of possibilities.
To put it country simple, it's as if the Russians are saying: "We know what you're really up to, and it's not just about studying neutron stars."
See you on the flip side...