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Will Spacecraft ever Go Faster than the speed of Light?
Various - See Text ^ | 16 FEB 2003 | Various

Posted on 02/16/2003 2:16:44 PM PST by vannrox

Will Spacecraft ever Go Faster than the speed of Light?
Compiled by VANNROX for BlueBay
Source list and references included.
Primary Sources include MSNBC,NASA,Analog, and other online publications.
February 16 2003

 Marc Millis, who manages NASA?s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program, says he?s more interested in ways ?to propel spacecraft farther, faster, more efficiently? than in the grand cosmological questions. ?And my ears perk up more when I hear about new experimental evidence than theories,? he says. There are a number of such theories based on experimental evidence. His top three of interest are:

  1. Photon Tunneling.
    Some experiments have indicated that photons can appear to tunnel through barriers at speeds faster than light, but researchers are still sorting out the quantum physics behind such phenomena.

  2. Neutrino Rest Mass.
    Some experiments have come up with an imaginary number for the rest mass of neutrinos ? a result so baffling that most physicists say the data must be in error. ?If indeed those data are correct, then imaginary mass is a signature characteristic of a tachyon, a faster-than-light particle,? Millis says.
  3. Vacuum Fluctuations.
    Quantum physics dictates that even the vacuum of space contains some energy. In fact, some physicists have said a coffee cup full of empty space contains enough energy to boil away Earth?s oceans. But can that energy be extracted or used to propel spaceships? Millis says the outlook is uncertain: ?Very obviously there?s no free lunch in this scheme, but it does provide new clues from which to search for propulsion breakthroughs.?

Faster-than-light speeds in tunneling experiments: an annotated bibliography

Revision and enlargement of this page are in progress, although currently stalled. I've given up setting concrete dates - a more thorough text is in the process of being written and, say, 70% done (January 2001), and until a more complete overhaul, I'll add some more references in a piecemeal fashion, below.

One central tenet of special relativity theory is that light speed is the greatest speed at which energy, information, signals etc. can be transmitted. In many physics-related internet newsgroups, claims have appeared that recent tunneling experiments show this assumption to be wrong, and that information can indeed be transmitted by speeds faster than that of light - the most prominent example of "information" being a Mozart symphony, having been transmitted with 4.7 times the speed of light. In this document, I've tried to collect the major references on these faster-than-light (FTL)-experiments. If I find the time, I will develop this into a written introduction on the topic of FTL speeds and tunneling, so far it is merely a (possibly incomplete) collection of references. If anyone has relevant additions/comments, I'd appreciate a mail.

Most of the references are to the technical literature, presuming that the reader has at least a basic grasp of physics. However, as usual, those articles have abstracts and conclusions, which give an overview of what the article is about. Some references that are in German are omitted here, but can be found in the german version of this page.

What's this all about, anyway?

In recent years, some physicists have conducted experiments in which faster-than-light (FTL) speeds were measured. On the other hand, Einstein's theory of special relativity gives light speed as the absolute speed limit for matter and information! If information is transmitted faster, then a host of strange effects can be produced, e.g. for some observers it looks like the information was received even before it was sent (how this comes about should be described in elementary literature on special relativity). This violation of causality is very worrysome, and thus special relativity's demand that neither matter nor information should move faster than light is a pretty fundamental one, not at all comparable to the objections some physicists had about faster-than-sound travel in the first half of this century.

So, has special relativity been disproved, now that FTL speeds have been measured? The first problem with this naive conclusion is that, while in special relativity neither information nor energy are allowed to be transmitted faster than light, but that certain velocities in connection with the phenomena of wave transmission may well excede light speed. For instance, the phase velocity of a wave or the group velocity of a wave packet are not in principle restricted below light speed. The speed connected with wave phenomena that, according to special relativity, must never exceed light speed, is the front velocity of the wave or wave packet, which roughly can be seen as the speed of the first little stirring that tells an observer "Hey, there's a wave coming". Detailled examinations of the differences between the velocities useful to describe waves can be found in the classic book

  • Brillouin, L. 1960 Wave Propagation and Group Velocity. NY: Academic Press.

Basic information on quantum tunneling can be found in the introductory quantum theory literature.

Characteristic of the discussion of the FTL/tunneling experiments is that the experimental results are relatively uncontroversial - it is their interpretation that the debate is about. As far as I can see, right now there is a consensus that in neither of the experiments, FTL-front velocities have been measured, and that thus there is no contradiction to Einstein causality or to special relativity's claim that no front speed can exceed light speed. The discussion how much time a particle needs to tunnel through a barrier has been going on since the thirties and still goes on today, as far as I can tell. This discussion is about "real" tunneling experiments, like the ones a Berkeley group around Raymond Chiao has done, as well as experiments with microwaves in waveguides (that do not involve quantum mechanics) like those of Günter Nimtz et al. An overview of the discussion (including lots of further references) can be found in

  • Hauge, E.H. & Støvneng 1989, Review of Modern Physics 61, S. 917--936.

The Berkeley group gives a general overview of their research at

An experiment of theirs, where a single photon tunnelled through a barrier and its tunneling speed (not a signal speed!) was 1.7 times light speed, is described in

  • Steinberg, A.M., Kwiat, P.G. & R.Y. Chiao 1993: "Measurement of the Single-Photon Tunneling Time" in Physical Review Letter 71, S. 708--711
Articles concerned with the propagation of wave packets that happens FTL and is somewhat complicated by the fact that the waves "borrow" some energy from the medium, but does not violate causality, are

  • Chiao, R.Y. 1993: "Superluminal (but causal) propagation of wavepackets in transparent media with inverted atomic populations" in Phys. Rev. A 48, B34.

  • Chiao, R.Y. 1996: "Tachyon-like excitations in inverted two-level media" in Phys. Rev. Lett. 77, 1254.

Aephraim Steinberg, who is a former graduate student of Chiao's, has written two papers especially on the problem of tunneling time, which are available online at

Some other papers of Chiao's Berkeley group are also online, e.g.

Earlier experiments by Günter Nimtz of Cologne University (Universität Kön), with whose experiments most of the later newspaper articles are concerned, have been published as

  • Enders, A. und G. Nimtz 1993, "Evanescent-mode propagation and quantum tunneling" in Phys. Rev. E 48, S. 632-634.

  • Enders, A. und G. Nimtz 1993, J. Phys. I (France) 3, S. 1089

  • Nimtz, G. et al. 1994: "Photonic Tunneling Times"in J. Phys. I (France) 4, 565.
A description of the equivalence between these microwave-experiments and quantum mechanical tunneling is described in

  • Martin, Th. und Landauer, R. 1991: "Time delay of evanescent electromagnetic waves and the analogy to particle tunneling" in Phys. Rev. A 45 , S. 2611-2617.
In reaction to Nimtz' publications, a number of articles appeared which deal with a) why causality is not violated in these experiments, and b) how the results of the experiments come about. These are

  • Deutch, J.M. und F.E. Low 1993: "Barrier Penetration and Superluminal Velocity" in Ann. Phys. (NY) 228, S. 184-202.

  • Hass, K. und P. Busch 1994: "Causality of superluminal barrier traversal" in Phys. Lett. A 185, S. 9-13.

  • Landauer, R. und Th. Martin 1994: "Barrier interaction time in tunneling" in Rev. Mod. Phys. 66, S. 217-228.

  • Azbel, M. Y. 1994: "Superluminal Velocity, Tunneling Traversal Time and Causality" in Solid State Comm. 91, S. 439-441.

Nimtz's reply and general observations on causality and his experiments can be found in

  • Heitmann, W. und G. Nimtz 1994: "On causality proofs of superluminal barrier traversal of frequency band limited wave packets" in Phys. Lett. A 196, S. 154-158.

As far as the more recent experiments of Nimtz are concerned, especially the popular tunneling of parts of Mozart's 40th symphony with 4.7fold light speed, I have not been able to find references to a technical article yet. Heitman/Nimtz 1994 (see above) refer to it as "H. Aichmann and G. Nimtz, to be published", I haven't found it in Physics Abstracts (up to July 1996, I think I should look again soon), though.

the problem of tunneling times is also the topic of some articles I've found in the quantum physics (quant-ph) archive, namely

Supplements: (May 5, 1999 and Jan 29, 2001)

  • Aichmann, H., G. Nimtz and H. Spieker: "Photonische Tunnelzeiten: sunb-- und superluminales Tunneln" in Verhandlungen der Deutschen Physikalischen Gesellschaft 7, 1995, S. 1258.
    I'm listing this brief publication (a conference abstract) despite its being in German as it is the only publication directly referring to the tunneling of the Mozart symphony that I know of. The following article has much more content:

  • Nimtz, G. and W. Heitmann: "Superluminal Photonic Tunneling and Quantum Electronics" in Progress in Quantum Electronics 21(2) (1997), S. 81-108.
    Contains an expose of Nimtz' interpretation of his and other tunneling experiments.

  • Chiao, R.Y. Chiao and A.M. Steinberg: "Tunneling Times and Superluminality" in Progress in Optics XXXVII (1997), S. 345-405.
    Good summary of the "conventional" view why there is no faster-than-light information transfer in these tunneling experiments.

  • Mitchell, M.W. and R.Y. Chiao: "Causality and negative group delays in a simple bandpass amplifier" in American Journal of Physics 66(1) (1998), S. 14-19.
    Describes a very simple setup with the help of which one can understand how faster-than-light (or even negative) group and "signal"-velocities can occur without any violation of causality and without any faster-than-light information transfer.

  • Diener, G.: "Superluminal group velocities and information transfer" in Physics Letters A223 (1996), S. 327-331.
    General article about the pulse reshaping which, in the conventional interpretation, explains the faster-than-light (or negative) group velocities.

The following references are from the proceedings of the workshop "Superluminal(?) Velocities: Tunneling time, barrier penetration, non-trivial vacua, philosophy of physics", organized by F. W. Hehl, P. Mittelstaedt and G. Nimtz, which took place in Cologne, June 6-10, 1998.

I. Evanescent mode propagation and simulations

  • A.M. Steinberg et al.: "An atom optics experiment to investigate faster-than-light tunneling" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 593-601.

  • M. Büttiker and H. Thomas: "Front propagation in evanescent media" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 602-617.

  • G. Nimtz: "Superluminal signal velocity" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 618-624.

  • A. A. Stahlhofen and H. Druxes: "Observable tachyons in the tunneling regime?" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 625-630.

  • X. Chen and C. Xiong: "Electromagnetic simulation of the evanescent mode" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 631-638.

  • G. Diener: "Energy balance and energy transport velocity in dispersive media" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 639-644.

  • H. D. Dahmen et al.: "Quantile motion of electromagnetic waves in wave guides of varying cross section and dispersive media" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 645-653.

  • E. Capelas de Oliveira and W. A. Rodrigues Jr.:"Superluminal electromagnetic waves in free space" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 654-659.

II. Superluminal quantum phenomena

  • F. E. Low: "Comments on apparent superluminal propagation" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 660-661.

  • C. R. Leavens and R. Sala Mayato: "Are predicted superluminal tunneling times an artifact of using the nonrelativistic Schrödinger equation?" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 662-670.

  • J. G. Muga and J. P. Palao: "Negative time delays in one dimensional absorptive collisions" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 671-678.

  • S. Brouard and J. G. Muga: "Transient increase of high momenta in quantum wave-packet collisions" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 679-686.

  • C. Bracher and M. Kleber: "Minimum tunneling time in quantum motion" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 687-694.

  • D. Kreimer: "Locality, QED and classical electrodynamics" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 695-699.

  • K. Scharnhorst: "The velocities of light in modified QED vacua" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 700-709.

  • P. Mittelstaedt: "Can EPR-correlations be used for the transmission of superluminal signals?" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 710-715.

  • G. C. Hegerfeldt: "Instantaneous spreading and Einstein causality in quantum theory" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 716-725.

  • G. F. Melloy and A. J. Bracken: "The velocity of probability transport in quantum mechanics" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 726-731.

  • H. M. Krenzlin et al.: "Wave packet tunneling" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 732-736.

III. Causality, superluminality and relativity

  • P. Weingartner: "Causality in the natural sciences" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 737-747.

  • U. Schelb: "On the role of a limiting velocity in constructive spacetime axiomatics" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 748-755.

  • V. Gasparian et al.: "On the application of the Kramers-Kronig relations to the interaction time problem" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 756-763.

  • E. Recami et al.: "Superluminal microwave propagation and special relativity" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 764-773.

  • H. Goenner: "Einstein causality and the superluminal velocities of the Cologne microwave experiment" in Annalen der Physik (Leipzig), 7 (1998), S. 774-782.

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Neutrino Physics: Curiouser and Curiouser

by John G. Cramer

Alternate View Column AV-54
Keywords: solar neutrinos SAGE gallium homestake chlorine tritium endpoint imaginary mass

Published in the September-1992 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact Magazine;
This column was written and submitted 2/15/92 and is copyrighted ©1992 by John G. Cramer.
All rights reserved. No part may be reproduced in any form without
the explicit permission of the author.

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New data on the nature of neutrinos has been appearing recently which is very strange indeed. Second generation solar neutrino detectors and neutrino rest-mass measurements are both telling us that this elusive particle is even more peculiar than had been previously supposed.

Wolfgang Pauli first suggested the existence of what we now call the neutrino in order to preserve the law of conservation of energy. Previously, in 1911, James Chadwick had demonstrated that in the radioactive process called beta decay the emitted "beta particle" (now known to be an electron) was emitted with some random amount of its kinetic energy missing. Instead of the expected sharp spike of well-defined kinetic energy, a sample of many such emitted electrons showed that their kinetic energies were distributed over a broad bump-like distribution.

Following the discovery of the missing energy in beta decay many physicists, Niels Bohr among them, were ready to abandon the law of conservation of energy. But Pauli had a better idea: he guessed that the missing energy was being removed by a new particle that was invisible to Chadwick's detectors. We now know that he was correct.

Like the electron the neutrino spins on its axis like a tiny top, but unlike the electron it has no electric charge, little or no mass, it interacts only very weakly with matter, and it always travels at or near the speed of light. A neutrino can pass through light-years of lead without absorption or scattering.

We now know that neutrinos come in several distinct varieties or "flavors". For each of the three charged lepton flavors, electron (e), mu lepton (µ) and tau lepton ( ), there is corresponding neutrino flavor: the electron neutrino ( e), mu neutrino ( µ), and tau neutrino ( ), and each flavor comes in matter and antimatter varieties.

Neutrinos also play an important role in astrophysics. In stars the fusion reactions are fueled by a medium that is essentially all protons. During the fusion process about half of the proton participants are converted into neutrons through weak interaction processes that involve neutrinos. A proton in some nucleus is transformed to a neutron, and at the same time a positron (anti-matter electron) and a neutrino are emitted and share the available energy. The neutrinos produced in such fusion reactions exit the star at the speed of light, carrying their share of the energy away with them.

The result is that all stars are bright sources of energetic neutrinos. About 610 trillion neutrinos produced about 8.3 minutes ago in fusion reactions at the center of our sun are passing through your body in the second it takes to read this line. If it is night outside as you read this, the solar neutrinos are passing through the earth to reach you. There are so many neutrinos streaming in our direction from the sun that it is possible to detect them, even though the chances of detecting any particular neutrino are extremely small.

The first successful experiment to detect neutrinos from the sun was mounted in 1968 in the Homestake gold mine in Lead, South Dakota by Ray Davis and his group from Brookhaven National Laboratory. This experiment, conducted 850 feet below ground level in a 100,000 gallon tank filled with per-chloro-ethylene cleaning solvent, has been in continuous operation for well over two decades and has produced a famous result. Only about 1/3 of the expected number of solar neutrinos are detected. Either the sun is producing only 1/3 of the neutrinos that it should, or else the Homestake detector is somehow missing 2/3 of them. This neutrino deficiency was later confirmed by the Kamiokande II detector in Japan which, although it operates on a different principle, is sensitive to neutrinos in about the same energy range as the Homestake detector.

This puzzling deficiency of solar neutrinos, usually referred to as "the solar neutrino problem", has prompted a second generation of solar neutrino experiments. The first second generation experiment to produce results is SAGE, an acronym for the "Soviet-American Gallium Experiment". The experiment was initiated as a joint venture, with the Soviet scientists providing the deep underground site and about $25 million worth of gallium, while the Americans provided the computers, detection electronics, and other hardware. The breakup of the Soviet Union has created a problem of nomenclature for the SAGE experiment, which is still in progress. The experiment is located within the territorial boundaries of Russia, and so it has been suggested that perhaps the acronym should be changed to "RAGE".

In the SAGE detection system a large quantity of gallium (element 31) is purified and held in underground tanks, waiting for solar neutrinos to transmute the gallium-71 isotope in the tanks to radioactive germanium-71, which has a half life of 11.4 days. A chemical procedure separates the few radioactive germanium atoms from the gallium and transports them to a sensitive detector where their decays are counted.

If the results of the Homestake solar neutrino experiment were puzzling, the SAGE results are shocking: in over a year of counting, the net number of solar neutrinos they have detected, after subtraction of a small background, is zero. In an operating period during which hundreds of neutrinos should have been detected, none are counted.

This null result from SAGE is very difficult to explain. The system is supposed to be detect neutrinos in a lower range of energies that are not accessible for the Homestake and Kamiokande II detectors. The strong implication of the two results is that there is not only a suppression of solar neutrinos, but that it is greater at lower energies than at high.

I will not, because of space limitations, discuss in detail theories that seek to explain these observations. The most plausible explanations use the concept of "neutrino oscillations", in which electron neutrinos are converted into mu neutrinos or tau neutrinos in flight, neutrino flavors that would be unable to transmute gallium to germanium in the SAGE detector.

Other second generation solar neutrino detectors in Italy and Canada are about to go into operation. We can expect new data from these experiments which should provide new insights on the solar neutrino problem.

An even more puzzling result seems to be coming from several recent attempts to measure the rest mass of the electron neutrino. Why do the three neutrinos species, unlike their charged lepton brothers and their quark cousins, have rest masses that are nearly (or exactly) zero? The standard model of particle physics is silent on this question. Unlike the photon, which must have zero mass because it is the mediating particle of the infinite-range electromagnetic force, there is no fundamental reason why neutrinos should be massless. They just are, as nearly as we can tell from measurement.

The best technique for measuring the neutrino rest mass does so indirectly by examining the energy spectrum of electrons produced in a low-energy nuclear beta decay. The "end-point" or region of the electron energy spectrum where the highest energy electrons are found is most sensitive to the mass of the e-neutrino (or e-anti-neutrino, which should have identical mass). If the neutrino has zero mass, the distribution near the end-point smoothly merges into the baseline. But if the neutrino has a small mass, the distribution at the end-point is chopped off early, producing a "nose" with an abrupt edge at the end of the electron energy distribution.

Measurements performed in this way have indicated that the rest mass-energy of the electron neutrino must be less than about 15 electron-volts. A number of second-generation experiments have recently been initiated to improve this limit by high-precision measurements of the end-point region of the beta decay of tritium, the mass-3 isotope of hydrogen, which because of its 18.6 keV transition energy is the lowest energy beta decay known. The very low energy of the transition enhances the "nose" effect produced by the neutrino mass at the end-point and makes for the most sensitive measurements.

It is not widely appreciated that the end-point technique does not actually measure the mass of the neutrino. Because of the way that the neutrino mass affects the electron energy spectrum, the measured quantity is the square of the neutrino mass.

And this is where the interesting, although statistically shaky, results appear: of the six most recent experimental determinations of neutrino mass, all have given negative values of the mass-squared to within the statics of the measurements. The experimental observation is that in the vicinity of the end point the yield of electrons lies above the zero-mass line, while for neutrinos with non-zero real mass, the electron yield should lie below this line. The measured mass-squared values are negative to an accuracy of several standard deviations in the most recent of these experiments.

These experimenters have been strangely quiet about mass-squared measurements with negative values. If the results had been positive by the same amount, the literature would be filled with claims that a non-zero value for the neutrino mass had been established. But a negative mass-squared is not something that can be easily publicized.

You obtain the measured mass value from a mass-squared measurement by taking the square root of the measured value. However, the square root of a negative number is an imaginary number. Thus the measurements could, in principle, be taken as an indication that the electron neutrino has an imaginary mass.

What are the physical implications of a particle with an imaginary rest mass? Gerald Feinberg of Columbia University has suggested hypothetical imaginary-mass particles which he has christened "tachyons". Tachyons are particles that always travel at velocities greater than the speed of light. Instead of speeding up when they are given more kinetic energy, they slow down so that their speed moves closer to the velocity of light from the high side as they become more energetic. Feinberg argued that since there are no physical laws forbidding the existence of tachyons, they may well exist and should be looked for. This has prompted a number of experimental searches for tachyons which, up to now, have produced no convincing evidence for their existence.

Some theoretical support for the existence of tachyons, however, has come from superstring theories. These "theories of everything" can predict the masses and other properties of fundamental particles. It has been found that some superstring theories predict a family of particles with a lowest-mass member that is "tachyonic", in that it has a negative mass-squared. I should add that such predictions normally lead to the rejection of the theory as "unphysical".

So, are neutrinos tachyons? Probably not. It is far more likely that the negative values found in the neutrino mass-squared measurements originate in some unsuspected experimental effect. Nevertheless, it is interesting to contemplate the possibility that the electron neutrino is a tachyon and to ask whether it is possible in the light of available data.

Supernova 1987A, for example, might be taken as a "test bed" for the tachyonic neutrino hypothesis because both the light and the neutrinos from the explosion had to cover 160,000 light years to travel from the Large Magellanic Cloud to our detectors on earth. We could view SN-1987A as a 160,000 year race between photons and neutrinos, with the fastest particles reaching the finish line first.

In fact, the neutrinos were observed to arrive 18 hours before the photons. However, this is attributed to stellar dynamics rather than FTL neutrinos. The neutrinos can leave the exploding star at once, while the photons must wait until the explosive shock wave travels from the core of the collapsing star to its surface. The more important fact is that there was a 12 second time spread between the arrival of the first detected neutrinos and the last and the apparent grouping of the arriving neutrinos in "clumps" (possibly the result of poor statistics). This could be (but has not yet been) used to place an upper limit on how "tachyonic" the electron neutrino could be.

And so, in summary, the neutrino mysteries continue. Is the electron neutrino a tachyon? Does it change its flavor in transit from the sun to the earth? Watch this column for future late-breaking developments in neutrino physics. The only thing that is clear at the moment is that we do not have the final word on this most peculiar and enigmatic of fundamental particles.

Warp Drive, When?

Some Emerging Possibilities

The following section has a brief description of some ideas that have been suggested over the years for interstellar travel, ideas based on the sciences that do exist today.

Lists of Some Intriguing Emerging Physics

Science and technology are continuing to evolve. In just the last few years, there have been new, intriguing developments in the scientific literature. Although it is still too soon to know whether any of these developments can lead to the desired propulsion breakthroughs, they do provide new clues that did not exist just a few short years ago. A snapshot of just some of the possibilities is listed below:

  • 2001 BPP-Sponsored Papers presented at the BPP Sessions of the July 2001 Joint Propulsion Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. (intended for technical audiences) [This link will take you out of the WDW site and into the BPP Project site.]
  • 1996 Eberlein: Theory suggesting that the laboratory observed effect of sonoluminescence is extraction of virtual photons from the electromagnetic zero point fluctuations.
  • 1994 Alcubierre: Theory for a faster-than-light "warp drive" consistent with general relativity.

Lists of some preparatory propulsion research

These emerging ideas are all related in some way to the physics goals for practical interstellar travel; controlling gravitational or inertial forces, traveling faster-than-light, and taking advantage of the energy in the space vacuum. Even though the physics has not yet matured to where "space drives" or "warp drives" can be engineered, individuals throughout the aerospace community and across the globe have been tracking these and other emerging clues. Most of this work has been fueled purely from the enthusiasm, talent, and vision of these individuals, but on occasion, there has been small support from their parent organizations.

Surveys & Workshops:



General Relativity

This is a snap shot of how gravity and electromagnetism are known to be linked. In the formalism of general relativity this coupling is described in terms of how mass warps the spacetime against which electromagnetism is measured. In simple terms this has the consequence that gravity appears to bend light, red-shift light (the stretching squiggles), and slow time. These observations and the general relativistic formalism that describes them are experimentally supported.

Although gravity?s effects on electromagnetism and spacetime have been observed, the reverse possibility, of using electromagnetism to affect gravity, inertia, or spacetime is unknown.

"Grand Unification Theories"


The mainstream approach to better understand this connection is through energetic particle smashing. Physicists noticed that when they collided subatomic particles together they figured out how the "weak force" and electromagnetism were really linked. They cranked up the collision energy and learned of that this new "Electro-Weak" theory could be linked to the "strong nuclear force". SO.... just crank up the power some more, and maybe we?d understand gravity too. Unfortunately, the collision energies needed are not technologically feasible, even with the Super Conductor Super Collider that got canceled, but its still a thought.

Vacuum Fluctuations of Quantum Physics

"Zero Point Energy"

Zero Point Energy (ZPE), or vacuum fluctuation energy are terms used to describe the random electromagnetic oscillations that are left in a vacuum after all other energy has been removed. If you remove all the energy from a space, take out all the matter, all the heat, all the light... everything -- you will find that there is still some energy left. One way to explain this is from the uncertainty principle from quantum physics that implies that it is impossible to have an absolutely zero energy condition.

For light waves in space, the same condition holds. For every possible color of light, that includes the ones we can?t see, there is a non-zero amount of that light. Add up the energy for all those different frequencies of light and the amount of energy in a given space is enormous, even mind boggling, ranging from 10^36 to 10^70 Joules/m3.

In simplistic terms it has been said that there is enough energy in the volume the size of a coffee cup to boil away Earth?s oceans. - that?s one strong cup of coffee! For a while a lot of physics thought that concept was too hard to swallow. This vacuum energy is more widely accepted today.

What evidence shows that it exists?

First predicted in 1948, the vacuum energy has been linked to a number of experimental observations. Examples include the Casimir effect, Van der Waal forces, the Lamb-Retherford Shift, explanations of the Planck blackbody radiation spectrum, the stability of the ground state of the hydrogen atom from radiative collapse, and the effect of cavities to inhibit or enhance the spontaneous emission from excited atoms.

The Casimir Effect:

The most straight-forward evidence for vacuum energy is the Casimir effect. Get two metal plates close enough together and this vacuum energy will push them together. This is because the plates block out the light waves that are too big to fit between the plates. Eventually you have more waves bouncing on the outside than from the inside, the plates will get pushed together from this difference in light pressure. This effect has been experimentally demonstrated.

Can we tap into this energy?

It is doubtful that this can be tapped, and if it could be tapped, it is unknown what the secondary consequences would be. Remember that this is our lowest energy point. To get energy out, you presumably need to be at a lower energy state. Theoretical methods have been suggested to take advantage of the Casimir effect to extract energy (let the plates collapse and do work in the process) since the region inside the Casimir cavity can be interpreted as being at a lower energy state. Such concepts are only at the point of theoretical exercises at this point.

With such large amount of energy, why is it so hard to notice?

Imagine, for example, if you lived on a large plateau, so large that you didn?t know you were 1000 ft up. From your point of view, your ground is at zero height. As long as your not near the edge of your 1000 ft plateau, you won?t fall off, and you will never know that your zero is really 1000. It?s kind of the same way with this vacuum energy. It is essentially our zero reference point.

What about propulsion implications?

The vacuum fluctuations have also been theorized by Haisch, Rueda, and Puthoff to cause gravity and inertia. Those particular gravity theories are still up for debate. Even if the theories are correct, in their present form they do not provide a means to use electromagnetic means to induce propulsive forces. It has also been suggested by Millis that any asymmetric interactions with the vacuum energy might provide a propulsion effect.

1994 Workshop on Faster-Than-Light Travel

In May 1994, Gary Bennett of NASA Headquarters (now retired), convened a workshop to examine the emerging physics and issues associated with faster-than-light travel. The workshop, euphemistically titled "Advanced Quantum/Relativity Theory Propulsion Workshop," was held at NASA?s Jet Propulsion Lab. Using the "Horizon Mission Methodology" from John Anderson of NASA Headquarters to kick off the discussions, the workshop examined theories of wormholes, tachyons, the Casimir effect, quantum paradoxes, and the physics of additional space dimensions. The participants concluded that there are enough unexplored paths to suggest future research even though faster-than-light travel is beyond our current sciences. Some of these paths include searching for astronomical evidence of wormholes and wormholes with negative mass entrances (searches now underway), experimentally determining if the speed of light is higher inside a Casimir cavity, and determining if recent data indicating that the neutrino has imaginary mass can be credibly interpreted as evidence for tachyon-like properties, where tachyons are hypothesized faster-than-light particles.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: alcubierredrive; explore; fast; faster; ftl; fusion; future; haroldgwhite; haroldsonnywhite; light; lightspeed; nasa; planets; podkletnov; science; solar; sonoluminescence; space; than; timedialation; travel
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To: vannrox
Your neutrino sources are rather dated. They figured out where the missing solar neutrinos are. The "missing" ones change flavor on the way to earth. IIRC, some experiments show a very small positive (not complex) mass for neutrinos as well. Maybe ping Physicist?
41 posted on 02/16/2003 4:20:57 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: ffusco
The speed of light actually changes every year,IE they get a better estimation of the speed.Is this true?
42 posted on 02/16/2003 4:21:53 PM PST by luv2ndamend
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To: Fractal Trader
AnalogScience Fiction & Fact Magazine
"The Alternate View" columns
of John G. Cramer
Subject Index

Menu of Subjects

[Each underlined column title is a link to that column; click on the title to go there.]
Group 1 - Cutting Edge Science
The Alternate View
Column Title
Subject of Column Analog
The Other 40 Dimensions Klein-Kaluza compactification 04/85 AltVw06
Light in Reverse Gear I Optical reversal with a 4-Wave mixer  06/85 AltVw07
Light in Reverse Gear II Advanced radiation 08/85 AltVw08
Antimatter in a Trap Penning ion trapping 12/85 AltVw10
Super Atoms and Super Fields Positrons from Z>173 atoms 13/86 AltVw17
Warm Superconductors Ceramic BaYCuO superconductors 10/87 AltVw22
Report on NanoCon 1 NanoCon I - The 1st Nanotechnology Conference 10/89 AltVw35
Harnessing the Butterfly 
- The Steering of Chaos
Using chaos for control 03/92 AltVw51
Bose-Einstein Condensation: 
A New Form of Matter
Thousands of atoms in the same quantum state 03/96 AltVw77
The "Real World" and The Standard Model Effect on the universe of varying force strengths and quark masses 05/96 AltVw78
Burn Up the Nuclear Waste Particle accelerators for waste "burnup" 07/96 AltVw79
The Atom Laser A laser that emits coherent atoms instead of coherent light 07/97 AltVw85
Planet of the Geezers Telomeres and the reversal of human aging 02/98 AltVw88
What We Don't Understand The major unsolved problems of contemporary physics. 07-08/99 AltVw96
A Century of Physics Highlights of the Centennial Meeting of the American Physical Society 10/99 AltVw97
Our Millimeter-Size Universe Superstring theory suggests that gravity is weak because its extra-dimensional loops are a millimeter in diameter. 12/99 AltVw98
"Interaction-Free" Quantum 
Measurements and Imaging
Quantum measurements that can produce an image of an object without the interaction of a single photon. 09/00 AltVw101
The "Rare Earth" Hypothesis A new book argues that complex life must be very rare in our galaxy. 11/00 AltVw102
Decoding the Ribosome Nature's nanotechnology "assembler", the ribosome, has been decoded and its structure revealed. 05/01 AltVw106
Carbon Nanotubes, A Miracle Material Carbon nanotubes can be conductors or semiconductors, super-strong materials, and could make possible a "skyhook". 12/01 AltVw109
Group 2 - Quantum Mechanics
The Alternate View
Column Title
Subject of Column Analog
Other Universes II Everett-Wheeler interpretation of QM 11/84 AltVw03
The Quantum Handshake The Transactional Interpretation of QM 11/86 AltVw16
Watching The Quantum Jump Exciting single atoms in a trap 05/88 AltVw26
Paradoxes and FTL Communication The Calcutta QM Paradox  09/88 AltVw28
Einsteins' Spooks & Bell's Theorem The EPR paradox & nonlocality 01/90 AltVw37
Quantum Time Travel Time tricks with quantum mechanics 04/91 AltVw45
Quantum Telephones to Other Universes, to Times Past Non-linear quantum mechanics and communication 10/91 AltVw48
The Quantum Physics of Teleportation Transporting a complete quantum state 12/93 AltVw62
Tunneling through the Lightspeed Barrier Quantum tunneling and transit time 12/95 AltVw75
Bose-Einstein Condensation: A New Form of Matter Thousands of atoms in the same quantum state 03/96 AltVw77
Space Drives, Phased Arrays, and Interferometry Amplitude and intensity interferometry 01/97 AltVw82
The Atom Laser A laser that emits coherent atoms instead of coherent light 07/97 AltVw85
The Quantum Eraser Erasing quantum interference retroactively 06/98 AltVw90
"Interaction-Free" Quantum 
Measurements and Imaging
Quantum measurements that can "see in the dark", producing an image of an object without the interaction of a single photon. 06/00 AltVw101
Faster-than-Light Laser Pulses? Superluminal laser pulses with negative velocities that get there before they start. 03/01 AltVw105
Supernova in a Bose-Einstein Bottle Repulsion is changed to attraction in a Bose-Einstein condensate, with amazing and mysterious results. 10/01 AltVw108
Quantum Computing, 5 Qubits and Counting Quantum computing has made a step forward, with a 5 qubit computer that factors 15 into primes.  What's next? 06/02 AltVw112
Group 3 - Neutrinos
The Alternate View
Column Title
Subject of Column Analog
Neutrinos and WIMPs The Solar Neutrino Problem 05/86 AltVw13
Heavy Neutrinos: Who Ordered That? Reports of a 17 kilovolt neutrino 12/91 AltVw49
Neutrino Physics: Curiouser and Curiouser SAGE neutrino detector results 09/92 AltVw54
Neutrinos, Ripples, and Time Loops Tachyonic neutrinos, cosmic string effects 02/93 AltVw57
Massive Neutrinos The Japanese Super-Kamiokande detector discovers that mu-neutrinos have mass. 01/99 AltVw93
Group 4 - Cosmology and Astrophysics
The Alternate View
Column Title
Subject of Column Analog
Antimatter in the Universe The possibility of antimatter galaxies 08/79 Analog-1
Other Universes I GUTs cosmology  09/84 AltVw02
In The Fullness of Time The universe in the far future 10/85 AltVw09
Children of the Swan Cygnus X-3 cosmic ray particles 03/86 AltVw12
SN1987A - Supernova Astrophysics Grows Up Supernovae, neutrinos, and gravitational collapse 12/87 AltVw23
Supernova Duds and Toothpaste Neutrinos and fluorine nucleosynthesis 02/89 AltVw31
The Mouse that Boomed Fast object seen with radio-astronomy 08/89 AltVw34
Cosmic Voids and Great Walls The large-scale structure of the universe 08/91 AltVw47
Searching for MACHOs (massive compact halo objects) The gravitational lensing of brown dwarfs 05/94 AltVw65
Stretch Marks on the Universe - Quantized Redshift Puzzle of clustered galactic red-shifts 11/94 AltVw68
GRS1915+105: The Fastest Fireball in the Galaxy A quasar-like object in our galaxy 04/95 AltVw71
"Texas" in Munich, Part 1: The Constants of the Universe Closing in on the universe's parameters 08/95 AltVw73
"Texas" in Munich, Part 2: Gamma Ray Bursts The gamma ray burst puzzle 10/95 AltVw74
Ultra-Energetic Cosmic Rays and Gamma Ray Bursts Correlation between cosmic rays and gamma bursts? 01/96 AltVw76
Using DNA to Search for WIMPs Breaking DNA strands to detect weakly interacting particles 09/98 AltVw91
`The Music of the (Neutron) Spheres Audio-modulated X-rays and neutron star masses 11/98 AltVw92
Before the Big Bang Pre-Big-Bang cosmology from superstring theory 03/99 AltVw94
Our Runaway Universe and Einstein's Cosmological Constant The discovery that the universe is accelerating in its expansion and that the vacuum has energy 05/99 AltVw95
Our Millimeter-Size Universe Superstring theory suggests that gravity is weak because its extra-dimensional loops are a millimeter in diameter. 12/99 AltVw98
BOOMERanG and the Sound of the Big Bang Measurements of small angle fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background pin down the Big Bang 01/01 AltVw104
Brane Bashing: An Alternative to the Big Bang? Was the universe created by extradimensional "branes" clapping together, with no Big Bang? 04/02 AltVw111
Group 5 - Gravity and General Relativity
The Alternate View
Column Title
Subject of Column Analog
Antigravity I: Negative Mass The gravitation of negative mass 07/86 AltVw14
Artificial Gravity: Which way is Up? Centrifugal gravity on space stations 02/87 AltVw18
Spiral Galaxies and Antigravity Beams Gravity waves from cosmic strings 01/88 AltVw24
The Rainbows of Gravity Einstein's ring and gravitational lensing 11/88 AltVw29
Falling through to Pelucidar Shadow matter and gravitation 04/89 AltVw32
The Twin Paradox Revisited Special relativity and time dilation 03/90 AltVw38
Centrifugal Forces and Black Holes Light-like orbits near a black hole 11/92 AltVw55
The Force of the Tide Gravitational tidal forces 01/94 AltVw63
The Alcubierre Warp Drive A warp-drive s olution to Einstein's equations 11/96 AltVw81
Antigravity Sightings  Woodward's Mach's Principle space drive 03/97 AltVw83
The Krasnikov Tube: A Subway to the Stars A solution to Einstein's equations in the form of a time-shortcut tube 09/97 AltVw86
Gravity Waves and LIGO The NSF's new gravity wave detectors 04/98 AltVw89
The Micro-Warp Drive An improvement on the Alcubierre Drive that makes the warp-bubble large on the inside and microscopic on the outside 02/00 AltVw99
General Relativity without 
Black Holes
The Yilmaz variant of General Relativity, which predicts that black holes do not exist. 04/00 AltVw100
Group 6 - Wormholes
The Alternate View
Column Title
Subject of Column Analog
Wormholes and Time Machines General relativity and FTL travel 06/89 AltVw33
Wormholes II: Getting There in No Time Wormholes as starships 05/90 AltVw39
Natural Wormholes: Squeezing the Vacuum Negative mass from squeezed vacuum 07/92 AltVw53
NASA Goes FTL - Part 1: Wormhole Physics JPL relativity/quantum workshop report 1 13/94 AltVw69
New Improved Wormholes Making wormholes without negative mass 11/00 AltVw103
Group 7 - Mega-Projects
The Alternate View
Column Title
Subject of Column Analog
The Coming of the SSC The Superconducting Supercollider Project 03/88 AltVw25
Mega-Projects & -Problems; The Hubble in Trouble NASA'a problems with the HST 02/91 AltVw44
RHIC: Big Bangs in the Lab Heavy-ion collider project at Brookhaven 06/91 AltVw46
CERN and the LHC The large hadronic collider project 05/92 AltVw52
DUMAND: Neutrinos from Beneath the Ocean Large underwater neutrino detector 06/93 AltVw59
Beauty and the B-Factory B mesons and matter: proposed accelerator to make B-mesons 09/94 AltVw67
CERN in Transition The new 33 TeV lead beams 06/95 AltVw72
The Decline and Fall of the SSC The killing of the DOE's Superconducting Super Collider Project  05/97 AltVw84
Gravity Waves and LIGO The NSF's new gravity wave detector 04/98 AltVw89
The Next Big Accelerator The "next linear collider" is being proposed by US, German, and Japanese groups as the next step in particle physics. 02/02 AltVw110
Group 8 - Space Drives
The Alternate View
Column Title
Subject of Column Analog
The Dark Side of the Force of Gravity The Dark Matter Problem 02/85 AltVw05
Strings and Things Cosmic strings 04/87 AltVw19
Laser Propulsion and the Four P's Laser-sustained propulsion 08/87 AltVw21
FTL Photons The Casimir Effect and the speed of light 13/90 AltVw43
Nuke Your Way to the Stars Continuously detonating nuclear rocket 13/92 AltVw56
The Tachyon Drive: Vex=¥and Eex= 0. Using tachyons as reaction fuel 10/93 AltVw61
NASA Goes FTL - Part 2: Cracks in Nature's FTL Armor JPL relativity/quantum workshop report 2 02/95 AltVw70
The Alcubierre Warp Drive A warp-drive solution to Einstein's equations 11/96 AltVw81
Space Drives, Phased Arrays, and Interferometry  Amplitude and intensity interferometry 01/97 AltVw82
Antigravity Sightings  Woodward's Mach's Principle space drive 03/97 AltVw83
The Krasnikov Tube: A Subway to the Stars A solution to Einstein's equations in the form of a time-shortcut tube 09/97 AltVw86
The Micro-Warp Drive An improvement on the Alcubierre Drive that makes the warp-bubble large on the inside and microscopic on the outside. 02/00 AltVw99
Group 9 - Evolution and Catastrophe
The Alternate View
Column Title
Subject of Column Analog
The Pump of Evolution The Fermi Paradox and catastrophes 01/86 AltVw11
Dinosaur Breath Cretaceous air trapped in amber 07/88 AltVw27
Killer Asteroids and You Earth-orbit-crossing asteroids 01/92 AltVw50
The "Rare Earth" Hypothesis A new book by an astronomer and a geophysicist argues that complex life must be very rare in our galaxy and our universe.  We may be alone. 09/00 AltVw102
Group 10 - Communications and Virtual Reality
The Alternate View
Column Title
Subject of Column Analog
Telepresence: Reach Out and Grab Someone Robotics and telepresence 07/90 AltVw40
A Visit to Virtual Seattle Virtual reality  11/90 AltVw42
The Bandwidth Revolution: Internet and WorldWideWeb The coming of the Web 03/94 AltVw64
News from CyberSpace: Virtual Reality and HyperText Report on two conferences 07/94 AltVw66
Group 11 - Flashes in the Pan - Things That Didn't Work
The Alternate View
Column Title
Subject of Column Analog
New Phenomena Magnetic monopoles, "anomalons", free quarks? 02/83 Analog-3
Again Monopoles Magnetic monopole detection at Stanford (?) 09/83 Analog-4
When Proton Meets Monopole Monopole catalysis and proton decay 07/84 AltVw01
Antigravity II: A Fifth Force? Hypercharge and hyperforce 09/86 AltVw15
Recent Results Review of past AV columns 06/87 AltVw20
Cold Fusion, Pro-fusion, and Con-fusion Pons & Fleischman and cold fusion? 12/89 AltVw36
The Rise and Fall of Gyro-Gravity Spin-modification of gravity? 09/90 AltVw41
Inside the Quark Preons and quark sub-structure 09/96 AltVw80
Breaking the Standard Model Evidence from DESY for a new particle: the leptoquark 11/97 AltVw87
Group 12 - Science Policy
The Alternate View
Column Title
Subject of Column Analog
The Territoriality of Space Exploration Guest Editorial: Should the USA have claimed the Moon as territory? 11/81 Analog-2
The Alternate Who???? 1st Alternate View column - Introduction of the author 07/84 AltVw00
The Retarding of Science AARSE - American Association for the Retardation of Science and Engineering (satire) 13/84 AltVw04
Dyson on Space Freeman Dyson's views on the space program  13/88 AltVw30
Science and SF in Japan Report on a trip to Japan 04/93 AltVw58
Science Policy: The Parable of the King and the Grain The politics of scientific decisions 08/93 AltVw60
CERN in Transition The new 33 TeV lead beams 06/95 AltVw72
2001, Then and Now How and why the year 2001 as depicted in the Stanley Kubrick film differs from the the reality of the year 2001? 07/01 AltVw107

Note 1: Month "13" in the issue list above indicates the Mid-December issue of Analog.
Note 2: The "Alternate" of the column title refers to the fact that they appear in alternate issues of Analog, originally alternating with columns by the late G. Harry Stine and more recently with columns by Jeffery D. Kooistra .
Note 3: Recent columns may not be provided with links because they have not yet appeared in Analog, which holds first serial rights for their publication. 

43 posted on 02/16/2003 4:24:09 PM PST by vannrox (The Preamble to the Bill of Rights - without it, our Bill of Rights is meaningless!)
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To: Physicist; AFPhys
I think I read that as an object approaches the speed of light, it increases in mass. Supposedly one reaches infinite mass at c.

And if theorized faster-than-light particles called tachyons exist, why haven't we ever detected Cerenkov radiation in a vacuum?
44 posted on 02/16/2003 4:25:33 PM PST by petuniasevan (Free Republic of Katzenellenbogen at
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To: vannrox
I would really rather have a halodeck,(sp)now that would have possibilties!!
45 posted on 02/16/2003 4:29:05 PM PST by oregon conservative (I'm in Oregon, shields up and phasers on stun!)
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To: vannrox; All
Sorry to bring all you starry-eyed dreamers down to earth, but the real limiting factor in all of this will be economics. Any travel even approaching -- not to mention exceeding -- the speed of light will require enormous amounts of energy. Last I checked energy still cost money. Even if we finally get fusion reactors, energy will not be "free". The economic fact of life is that resources are not infinite, and thus they do have a cost. There is no such thing as a free lunch. So the question thus becomes: what economic benefit will be gained by tooling around the universe to pay for the enormous quantities of energy that will need to be allocated for this project?
46 posted on 02/16/2003 4:31:15 PM PST by Stefan Stackhouse
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To: petuniasevan
I think I read that as an object approaches the speed of light, it increases in mass. Supposedly one reaches infinite mass at c.

Well, no, because then photons would have infinite mass, but they don't.

And if theorized faster-than-light particles called tachyons exist, why haven't we ever detected Cerenkov radiation in a vacuum?

Because tachyons do not have an electromagnetic charge. Similarly, many neutrinos pass through the air in your room every second at a speed faster than the local speed of light, yet they do no emit Cerenkov radiation.

47 posted on 02/16/2003 4:34:56 PM PST by Physicist
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To: petuniasevan

Early X-Planes

At the end of World War II, the United States operated some of the most advanced aircraft in the world, such as the B-29. But the pace of change during the war had been so fast that it became clear to many top scientists and military leaders that unless the United States actively sponsored advanced aeronautics research, it could quickly fall behind. As a result, in 1945 the U.S. Army Air Forces (which became the U.S. Air Force in 1947) and the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, or NACA, began the first of a series of experimental aircraft projects, many of which were designed to develop technology for high-speed flight.

These soon became known as X-planes. While prototype and experimental aircraft were not new, the X-planes were significant because they were solely intended to develop technology in general, not lead to operational aircraft. The first aircraft produced by the joint team was the XS-1. The "S" stood for supersonic and was dropped early in the program. The X-1 was the first crewed vehicle to break the sound barrier. It was built by Bell Aircraft Company. Its fuselage was modeled on a 50-caliber bullet because that was the one shape that aerodynamics experts knew did not tumble at supersonic speeds. It had straight, very thin wings. It was powered by a rocket engine and dropped from the belly of a B-29 bomber. Its first flight was in January 1946. On October 14, 1947, the X-1, piloted by Captain Charles (Chuck) Yeager reached a speed of 700 miles per hour (1,127 kilometers per hour) while at 45,000 feet (13,716 meters), breaking the sound barrier. The X-1 proved that an aircraft could be controlled at speeds faster than the speed of sound, Mach 1. It led to several aerodynamic advances that were quickly incorporated into U.S. fighter aircraft designs.

The X-1 actually had a conventional tail with elevators for pitching the nose up and down. However, at high speeds, a shockwave formed on the tail surfaces near the hinge for the elevators, rendering them useless. But the X-1 also had a system for raising and lowering the entire tail a few degrees to adjust the trim of the airplane in flight (to enable it to fly level). Yeager and the X-1 flight engineers proposed using this system instead of the elevators at high speeds to control the airplane. It worked and this lesson was secretly incorporated into American fighter planes at the time, giving the United States a technological edge over Soviet, French, and British aircraft for several years. Today, all supersonic aircraft use all-moving tail surfaces. After the success of the X-1 program, the Air Force and NACA teamed up again to develop the second generation X-1, which was intended to fly at twice the speed of sound, or Mach 2. Four aircraft were planned. The X-1A had its first flight on July 24, 1951. It and its sister craft the X-1B established new speed records, eventually reaching a speed of Mach 2.44 (1,650 miles per hour) (2,655 kilometers per hour) and an altitude of 90,440 feet (27,566 meters).

The Bell X-1E soon followed these earlier aircraft with its first flight in December 1955. Although it did not achieve speeds or altitudes as high as the X-1A or X-1B, the X-1E proved that an extremely thin wing could be used on supersonic aircraft. This research led to the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter interceptor aircraft. (The X-1C was canceled before completion. The X-1D was destroyed before it could make its first powered flight.)

In June 1952, the Bell X-2 had its first flight. The X-2 was equipped with a pointier nose and more powerful rocket engine than its predecessors. It was designed to reach speeds in excess of Mach 3 (2,094 miles per hour). At such high speeds, the friction from air brushing against the aircraft heats its skin to high temperatures. The X-2, therefore, had to be made of advanced lightweight heat-resistant steel alloy. The X-2 reached a record altitude of 125,907 feet (38,376 meters). Research on the X-2, including new construction techniques, contributed to the development of advanced materials for high-speed aircraft such as the XB-70 bomber and the SR-71 spyplane. The Douglas X-3, which first flew in 1952, was not as successful as its predecessors. Unlike the earlier aircraft, it was not rocket-powered or dropped from the belly of a bomber, but instead took off from the ground like a conventional aircraft with jet engines. It had a short, thin wing that did not generate much lift except at high speeds. This meant that it did not lift off from the runway until it was traveling very fast, which caused its tires to overheat. As a result, several tire companies developed high temperature materials for aircraft tires.

Even the failure of an X-plane to achieve its goals was useful. The Northrop X-4, which flew from 1948 to 1953, proved that tailless aircraft were unsuitable for high-speed subsonic flight (under Mach 1). Other X-planes were developed to conduct various flight research. Some, such as the X-15, developed soon after the earlier X planes, were very successful whereas others demonstrated that certain technologies were essentially dead-ends The X-planes that did fly were usually equipped with multiple recording instruments, some of which radioed their data to the ground. They often flew numerous flights, each one methodically advancing the flight envelope and providing insight into advanced aerodynamics, engines and materials. Most X-planes have been developed by either the NACA or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in partnership with the military, usually the U.S. Air Force. Later on, the "X" designation was used in different ways. In one case, the designation was used to mislead people into thinking that a secret spyplane project (the X-16) was actually an experimental aircraft. In other cases, the X designation has been applied to early prototype versions of operational aircraft. But initially, the title "X-plane" indicated that an airplane was built solely to demonstrate and improve aviation technology.

The Speed of Sound and Mach Numbers

The Mach number (M) refers to the method of measuring airspeed that was developed by the Austrian physicist Ernst Mach. It is used to indicate flight velocities in high-speed flight and is related to the speed of sound. The actual speed of sound varies depending on the altitude above sea level because sound travels at slightly different speeds at different temperatures, and the temperature varies according to altitude. At sea level, the speed of sound is about 761 miles per hour (1,225 kilometers per hour). At 20,000 feet (6,096 meters), the speed of sound is 660 miles per hour (1,062 kilometers per hour).

If an aircraft is traveling at one half the speed of sound, it is said to be traveling at Mach 0.5. A speed of Mach 2 is twice the speed of sound. Because the speed of sound varies, a particular speed at sea level expressed as a Mach number would be faster than the same speed at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters), which would be faster than the same speed at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters). In other words, Mach 2 at sea level is a greater number of miles per hour (or kilometers per hour) than Mach 2 at 30,000 feet, which is a greater number of miles per hour than Mach 2 at 40,000 feet. When an aircraft reaches Mach 1, it is said to "break the sound barrier." The following breakdowns have been generally accepted to classify speeds:

M less than 0.8 subsonic
M = 0.8 to 1.2 transonic
M - 1.2 to 5.0 supersonic
M greater than 5.0 hypersonic

A "critical Mach number" is the speed of an aircraft (below Mach 1) when the air flowing over some area of the airfoil has reached the speed of sound. For instance, if the air flowing over a wing reaches Mach 1 when the wing is only moving at Mach 0.8, then the wing's critical Mach number is 0.8.

48 posted on 02/16/2003 4:38:55 PM PST by vannrox (The Preamble to the Bill of Rights - without it, our Bill of Rights is meaningless!)
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To: pabianice
49 posted on 02/16/2003 4:42:30 PM PST by buffer
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To: petuniasevan

Designing the X-1

Powering | Controlling | Safety | Flying
Breaking the Sound Barrier | Reverberations

Goodlin: I guess one could say that the X-1 was a bullet with wings on it. It was a very small aircraft. It was only 31 feet long and had a 28-foot wingspan. However, it was built extremely rugged and it was possible to withstand enormous forces. The Bell X-1 was really designed the way it was because the designers at Bell examined a 50-caliber bullet flying at supersonic speed. And it was a very stable bullet aerodynamically speaking. And so they decided to build the X-1 in the form of a bullet with wings. And that is what the X-1 really turned out to be. It was only 31 feet long, it had a 28-foot wingspan. But the fuselage was shaped like a bullet.

Beeler: The fuselage was shaped like a bullet, and the next thing we saw it had straight wings at about the mid-section and then the tail was elevated high, and there was a reason for all of this. The bullet shape was because of munitions research done many years before. The straight wing, we advocated that basically because of flight tests we did with a World War II fighter. The tail was high -- we wanted that to wave in the wake from the turbulence from the wing. And then I remember one comment said, "Yeah, that looks great -- how about the pilot?" And he didn't have a bubble canopy anymore. He couldn't see to the rear. And he had this high slope, aerodynamically it was perfect, but he was stuck behind that. And the next thing is well, how does he get out? Well, by this door. And no seat ejection. And then if he climbs out successfully, and there is a wing right behind him that could make hamburger out of him, and if that didn't do it, it would take up and hit in to the tail. So that was kind of a joking type of a thing. But aerodynamically, particularly if it was going to be rocket-powered, it looked the most aerodynamically clean configuration I think that we could come up with.

Powering the X-1
Yeager: Basically the X-1 was a pure rocket. It burned liquid oxygen and a mixture of five parts alcohol to one part water. You know, we'd been fooling around with jets. Jets engines didn't have the thrust to push the airplane into the region of the speed of sound or beyond.

Beeler: Personally I had some reservations about a rocket, when you see them operate. Because it's like a small explosion. But it would get you to the area of interest a heck of a lot quicker and I'm not sure that we knew that much about a jet engine -- the time to get there and all the aerodynamic problems of getting the air to the engine. The rocket appeared to be the simplest.

Goodlin: Well, I first operated the rocket engine in a special test cell at the Bell facility at Niagara Falls. And I must say that it was a very unnerving experience because the rocket engine made such an ungodly noise and shook the whole building to its foundations. And that was the most worrying thing about the entire X-1 program was the rocket engine. I wasn't worried about the air frame, but the rocket engine with its volatile fuels, which were liquid oxygen and ethyl alcohol, gave one some concern.

NOVA: What was your concern?

Goodlin: That we would have an explosion in the rocket engine.

Controlling the X-1
Hear Beeler
via RealAudio
Beeler: Well, when you reach the -- near the speed of sound, you develop what we call a shock wave. And behind that shock we call it a dead water region. In other words anything that tried to operate behind the shock would become extremely ineffective -- almost no effectiveness at all. And this occurred in some of the fighter airplanes when they dove at very high speeds from World War II, and we knew it would happen on the X-1 and it did. But we had a backup in which we had installed an adjustable tail plane in which we could use that, you might say, as an emergency device in which it would give the pilot longitudinal control. And it worked.

Hear Yeager
via RealAudio
Yeager: When we got the airplane up to 94 percent of the speed of sound and I'm sitting out there and I decided to turn the airplane I pulled back on the control cock, nothing happened, the airplane just went the way it was headed. And I said, man, we've got a problem. So I raked the rockets off, and jettisoned the liquid oxygen and alcohol and came down and landed and we got the engineers together and we had a little heart to heart talk. I said, "We've got a problem -- because the airplane may pitch up or pitch down. I've lost the ability to control it."

Safety and the X-1
Hear Goodlin
via RealAudio
Goodlin: As a matter of fact I was unhappy about the X-1 from the escape potential because it was very badly designed from that standpoint. The entrance hatch was on the side directly in front of a very sharp wing. And I felt that if one had to bail out of the airplane in an emergency, if one didn't hit the wing, one would hit the horizontal tail surface, and therefore I thought it was a very dangerous airplane.

Hear Yeager
via RealAudio
Yeager: Colonel Boyd, you know, sort of evaluated everything and ended up calling me in and said, you know, if you get the X-1 program we... pay attention and fly safe and don't bust your fanny. And I said, "Yes sir." And that was about the end of it. And then about a month later, after I'd been assigned to the X-1 program he called me back in and said, "You know, we've got a problem." He said, "I wanted a pilot who had no dependents." I said, "Hey, Colonel Boyd," I said, "I, yeah, I'm married and I, I've got a little boy, and I, I think that makes me more careful." And that worked out. He said, "Well, OK, be careful."

Hear Goodlin
via RealAudio
Goodlin: I can't imagine why they got to the point of building the airplane without having proper escape provisions. I don't know how that ever happened, but I was not involved in designing the airplane.

NOVA: Isn't that a sign that the, the project is being made more important than the lives of the pilots who are being asked to test it out?

Goodlin: Of course. But this happens all the time in the military-industrial complex.

NOVA: So did it make you feel almost like a pawn in the game?

Goodlin: Well, I think at that stage in my life I wasn't thinking about analyzing the military-industrial complex. Today I do. But at that time I was just a, a very eager adventurer, and I loved flying. And being involved in the hottest aviation project in the world causes one to overlook the basic fundamentals, such as pilot safety.

NOVA: What about the dangers in flying this plane?

Hear Yeager
via RealAudio
Yeager: That's immaterial. Duty above all else. See, if you have no control over the outcome of something, forget it. I've learned that in combat. You know, you know somebody's going to get killed, you just hope it isn't you. But you've got a mission to fly and you fly. And the same way with the X-1. When I was assigned to the X-1 and, and was flying it I gave no thought to the outcome of whether the airplane would blow up or something would happen to me. It wasn't my job to think about that. It was my job to do the flying.

Flying the X-1
Hear Goodlin
via RealAudio
Goodlin: Well, it was a very exciting experience as you know. The X-1 was carried aloft in the bomb bay of a B-29. And the procedure of going down the ladder and crawling into the X-1 at 8,000 feet and then sealing the door and being carried still higher to 28,000 feet, it was rather exciting, you know. I had no apprehension about it because we had no rocket fuel on board. And so when we got to altitude and went through the normal procedure of countdown and here I was in a very tiny cockpit and it was very dark, and all of a sudden when the X-1 was released from the B-29 I was in bright sunlight and I could hear nothing, it was so silent. And it took my eyes awhile to become accustomed to the daylight. And of course as one was without any power it was necessary to immediately examine where our position was in relation to the airport because one had to always stay within the landing distance, or gliding distance of the lake bed -- and at the same time put the aircraft through the maneuvers, stall tests and the stability and control tests. And it was all very exciting but it went off extremely well. And I landed on the lake bed without any difficulty.

It was a very delightful airplane to fly, as a matter of fact. It had the, the handling characteristics of a fighter plane. And it was very agile. I had no complaints about the flying qualities of the airplane at all. The serious points on the X-1 were the rocket engine and those escape provisions.

Hear Yeager
via RealAudio
Yeager: Since the airplane was liquid rocket powered it only had two and a half minutes of power under full thrust. And consequently we decided to drop it from a B-29 mother-ship to conserve fuel. And that's the way every flight, with the exception of one, was launched from a B-29 or a 35... at around 25,000 feet. After drop, clear of the B-29 you'd fire off one, two or three or four chambers of the rocket motor. They were not throttle-able. You could just select the chambers either on or off, and you ran it until it ran out of fuel. And then you dead sticked into, into Roger's Dry Lake.

Hear Goodlin
via RealAudio
Goodlin: So then when the drop took place, one would sort of count to ten and hit the rocket engine control. And we had four positions on the rocket engine for each rocket chamber. And to fire up one rocket. And of course the first time I did it, it was like being hit in the back with a lead boot. And the aircraft accelerated very, very rapidly. And of course as one increased the thrust by adding more rocket positions -- actuating more rocket positions -- well, the aircraft could go very fast indeed, and quickly leave behind the B-29 and the chase plane. And of course the first time I did that, why shortly after I accelerated, the fire warning light came on. And that caused the adrenaline to flow. And so I immediately shut off the rocket motor and called Dick Frost on the radio, who was flying the chase plane, and asked him if he could see any fire -- that my fire warning light had come on. And of course he was way behind me and said he couldn't see any evidence of fire. But after I had slowed down, why he could pull up behind me and he could still see no evidence of fire, but my fire warning light was still on. So I dumped the rest of the fuel and went back to the landing area and set the airplane down. And sure enough we had sustained a rather serious fire in the engine compartment.

NOVA: When the fire warning light came on, describe your feelings.

Goodlin: Well, it's a rather hopeless feeling because one can't see behind from the X-1 cockpit. And so one can only assume the worst, that there's a fire raging there. And so all I could do was wait until Frost could pull up behind and tell me that there was no, absolutely no fire visible. But obviously one thinks all sorts of things, and of course I was concerned because of the lack of escape provisions in the airplane.

Breaking the Sound Barrier
Hear Yeager
via RealAudio
Yeager: The flight, October 14, fell on a Tuesday. And I think Glennis, my wife and I, were over at Pancho's having dinner, and we went horseback riding. I ended up breaking a couple of ribs when the horse hit a fence and tumbled. And when Monday come along, I got Jack Ridley and said, I've got a problem, I've got a couple of broken ribs, I can't -- I don't think I can close the door with my right side, my right arm, and he, that's when he got the broomstick and I stuck it in with my left arm and closed it. And once we found that out, as far as getting into the airplane -- it was very, oh, painful, because you have to bend up double to slide in. Once I got in it was no problem.

Hear Yeager
via RealAudio
Yeager: We didn't -- we had no idea anything was going to happen. There was some indication on the previous Friday's flight that we had a very large error in our Mach meter. Otherwise we were indicating about 9.3, or .94 Mach number which was 94 percent of the speed of sound. There's some indication when NACA reduced the data from our instrumentation in the airplane that we're going a lot faster than indicated. And there was some, a little bit of excitement that said, hell, we, it looks like we've, we've been up to about 99 percent of the speed of sound. And we still are in buffeting and the airplane is shaking quite a bit. You know, they weren't sure, because you, you're in an area where very little is known. They had no wind tunnel data, nothing, and everything was trial and error. And there was some indication that we had been going faster than we had thought. But we had no idea what was going to happen on the next flight. And when we got the airplane up to oh, about 96 percent of the speed of sound indicated, that was almost Mach 1. And when we went a little faster the Mach meter went off the scale. And ah, when it did all the buffeting smoothed out, because of the supersonic flow of the whole airplane. And even I knew we had gotten above the speed of sound. And I let it accelerate on out to about 1.06 or 1.07, seven percent above the speed of sound, and the airplane flew quite well. And I got some elevator effectiveness back, but not very much.

Hear Beeler
via RealAudio
Beeler: And then, The best I remember now, we knew the rocket was on, and we really didn't get anything back from Chuck. You'd have to look at the telemeter data if we did. But as far as us listening, the next thing is that Chuck says, I think he did make a remark on his longitudinal control, I forgot. But the next thing my Mach meter jumped. And then at that time we got a bang. And personally, I have to say, I didn't know anything about bangs. I didn't know anything about it. Someone may say they knew about it from gunshots and that sort of thing, but to people around there, we got a bang.

Hear Yeager
via RealAudio
Yeager: Your emotions on something like that -- you're too busy staying on top of the dome regulators and watching the chamber pressures and doing everything you're supposed to. And you might say I was a little bit disappointed it didn't blow up. That's about the only way to say -- hell, it's a piece of cake.

Hear Yeager
via RealAudio
Yeager: A lot of the news media were digging, you know, and I'm sure the intelligence people from the Soviet Union and the French and the British were all digging. Then after about seven months, you know, we satisfied their digging. We released the fact that we had flown faster than the speed of sound. That, you know, that satisfied their digging. What they didn't know was how we had done it.

Hear Beeler
via RealAudio
Beeler: When Chuck made that supersonic flight it opened up a big wide door and everybody could jump in with all these applications. And that was one -- that probably is the biggest impact as far as the world economy -- people in one world type of thing.

Hear Yeager
via RealAudio
Yeager: Obviously the reason we kept it classified was to keep the rest of the world from finding out about a flying tail that's necessary to control the airplane through the speed of sound. It resulted in a kill ratio of 10 to 1 between the F-86 and the MiG 15. That one simple thing, of putting a flying tail on the F-86, because we knew that it would dive to the region of the speed of sound, and it pitted it against the MiG 15 in Korea, in 1951, '52, and '53, and we had a kill ratio of 10 to one. And when I flew the MiG 15 over there for the first time I was amazed, because it was a good airplane, just like the Hawker-Hunter was or the MD-452, that Dassault built for the French air force, but it didn't have a flying tail on it.

50 posted on 02/16/2003 4:47:43 PM PST by vannrox (The Preamble to the Bill of Rights - without it, our Bill of Rights is meaningless!)
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To: Physicist
Wouldn't there be a problem with "space junk?" It's mind-boggling to think of even a tiny piece of dust slamming into a spaceship at speeds even close to 186,000mps!
51 posted on 02/16/2003 4:49:36 PM PST by scott7278 (Peace had it's chance, now it's bombs away!)
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To: vannrox
I, for one, would not want to become a tunneling photon until my kids are in college :^D
52 posted on 02/16/2003 4:55:38 PM PST by a_Turk (Ready? Set? Wait!!)
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To: vannrox
What a terrific effort, vannrox. VERY interesting; greatly appreciated.

It's been decades since I was purported to be a physics major in college, but I can only guess that such a compendium would be invaluable to many, many current students of physics.

Bookmarked and bumped.

[As an aside, I certainly cannot prove it, but I remain convinced that we will eventually find ways to achieve FTL speeds and somehow keep Einstein's work intact. Don't ask me how.........just a gut feeling.:) ]

53 posted on 02/16/2003 4:56:54 PM PST by RightOnline
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"Speed is a function of distance traveled in unit time, where background time is considered to be invariant. If every mass is a complex of temporal and spatial quantity, then the possibility of 'different' temporal variable for differerent masses is very possible and is, in fact, the blaise explanation of neutrinos and their 'rest mass'. Put another way, if the universe of our experience is a volumetric/present realm, the masses within that realm may have present, past, or future temporal orientation, combined with linear, planar, and/or volumetric spatial orientation.

"Taking a thought excursion, if one could 'view' the spacetime continuum in which our world exists, from outside that realm, what would be 'observed' would be a volumetric/past-->future realm, in which exist linear, planar, and volumetric spatial phenomena ... so, why not past, present and future temporal phenomena, also, within the realm 'observed'?"

Beats me.

I think you should read Julian Barbour's The End of Time and explain it to me when you're done. I read it twice and it's blinking well baffling, mate.


ADJECTIVE: 1. Uninterested because of frequent exposure or indulgence.
2. Unconcerned; nonchalant: had a blasé attitude about housecleaning.
3. Very sophisticated. ETYMOLOGY: French, from past participle of blaser, to cloy, from French dialectal, to be chronically hung over, probably from Middle Dutch blsen, to blow up, swell.

54 posted on 02/16/2003 5:15:57 PM PST by boris
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To: boris
How did you make that little mark over the 'se'? ... Explian The End Of Time to you! I couldn't explain Prigogine's End Of Certainty to someone, so the time thingy would be out of the question. [I can't achieve Pioncare resonance for the job. ... I know, I need a little dash up there over the name, but ...]
55 posted on 02/16/2003 5:27:09 PM PST by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote Life Support for others.)
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To: Stefan Stackhouse
"Sorry to bring all you starry-eyed dreamers down to earth, but the real limiting factor in all of this will be economics. Any travel even approaching -- not to mention exceeding -- the speed of light will require enormous amounts of energy. Last I checked energy still cost money. Even if we finally get fusion reactors, energy will not be "free". The economic fact of life is that resources are not infinite, and thus they do have a cost. There is no such thing as a free lunch. So the question thus becomes: what economic benefit will be gained by tooling around the universe to pay for the enormous quantities of energy that will need to be allocated for this project?"

Comment 1: If the human race does not destroy itself or encounter a cosmic catastrophe such as an asteroid, we will have to pack our bags and relocate eventually anyhow (or our descendants will). The Sun cooks everything in about 8 billion years.

Comment 2: "If any of these schemes were feasible, intelligent ETs would have reduced them to practise millions of years ago. We do not observe their traffic; hence either there are no intelligent ETs or none of these schemes are feasible."

Comment 3: Robert Bussard, in Acta Astronautica, described a fusion ramjet operating using the interstellar medium as propellant (rare hydrogen atoms) which potentially can reach very high fractions of "C". Nobody knows how to build a fusion engine--yet.

Comment 4: Neglecting Einstein, a kilogram of mass at "c" has 4.89 times ten to the 17th power joules of kinetic energy. It turns out that one "gee" acceleration is 1.03 light years per square year. If one could accelerate at one "gee" for one year, one would be "near" light speed and 1/2 light year from earth. A year is about 3.15 times ten to the seventh seconds. Thus the kilogram would require about 1500 megawatts delivered continuously for one year at 100% efficiency and directed into propulsive power to reach near "c". To account for various inefficiencies, call it 2000 megawatts. Roughly the output of two large terrestrial generating plants--per kilogram.

If one plans to take the propulsion along for the ride, the problem is to reduce these power plants to a small fraction of a kilogram in mass and volume. (Otherwise there is no room for payload, crew, structure). Scale up as necessary until you hit "Enterprise". Something like compressing the Sun into a small space.

Human beings are not (yet) able to deal with these energies, powers, durations.

Comment 5: One question I have saved up for the Almighty is: "Why the heck did you put everything so bleeping far apart?" It is almost as if the Universe is designed to prevent travel/contact/exploration...


56 posted on 02/16/2003 5:28:05 PM PST by boris
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To: RadioAstronomer
Ping-a-ling ... thought you might find this thread of interest. Stunning links herein
57 posted on 02/16/2003 5:28:48 PM PST by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote Life Support for others.)
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To: vannrox
That's so very three dimensional.
58 posted on 02/16/2003 5:29:36 PM PST by TheHound
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To: luv2ndamend
I'm not a physicist but I imagine that all measurements are getting more precise.
59 posted on 02/16/2003 5:37:13 PM PST by ffusco (Omni Gaul Delenda Est!)
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To: vannrox
None of the articles which you have listed reflect any of my interests and knowledge. I would respectfully suggest that you explore other avenues of investigation than a cousin of "Omni" magazine. Even google on the keywords which I mentioned would get you much further than this balderdash which you have suggested.
60 posted on 02/16/2003 5:37:17 PM PST by Fractal Trader
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