EmGate Wars Continue After Publication of Peer-Reviewed EmDrive Paper

On July 27 Hacked reported that new experimental results on the controversial, “impossible” EmDrive, essentially confirm that the mysterious effect is real. Despite many experimental confirmation from reputable sources, the EmDrive (Electro Magnetic Drive), proposed by aerospace engineer Roger Shawyer, has caused and continues to provoke heated Internet wars marked by considerable animosity. Predictably, the EmGate wars continue even though Shawyer’s paper is now published in a prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Shawyer’s paper, titled “Second generation EmDrive propulsion applied to SSTO launcher and interstellar probe,” has been published on July 10 in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Astronautica (the paper will appear in Volume 116, November–December 2015, Pages 166–174 of the print edition of the journal), with a 5 minute audio/slide presentation with the same title, updated to include the latest test data from the University of Dresden in Germany. The presentation notes:

Published Test Data of eight EmDrive thrusters from five independent sources in four countries confirm EmDrive theory.

The updated audio-visual presentation is not peer-reviewed, which could cause the wrong impression that the paper itself is not peer-reviewed. But Shawyer’s paper has been peer-reviewed like all papers accepted for publication in Acta Astronautica, the prestigious journal of the International Academy of Astronautics, published by Elsevier Press.

“Shawyer spent years having his technology ridiculed by the international space science research community and being called a fraud,” notes International Business Times. The EmDrive proposal was predictably scorned by the smug scientific establishment for allegedly violating the laws of physics, including the conservation of momentum, but Shawyer claims that the measured result – the conversion of electrical energy to thrust without the need to expel any propellant – isn’t incompatible with fundamental physical laws.

The EmDrive Effect is Confirmed by Current Experimental Evidence

EmDriveNow that smug scientists are forced to abandon their ad-hominem attacks based on Shawyer’s lack of peer reviewed articles, they are complaining that the last experimental confirmation of the EmDrive effect, by Martin Tajmar at Dresden University, is not yet peer reviewed. When Tajmar’s work will appear in a peer reviewed journal, they will think of something else to say – smugness is not easily defeated.

Some critics say that Tajmar’s results don’t “confirm” the EmDrive. In some cases, their “arguments” don’t seem very scientific. “My insight is that the EMDrive is complete crap and a waste of time,” CalTech physicist Sean Carroll told io9. “Right there in the abstract this paper says, ‘Our test campaign can not confirm or refute the claims of the EMDrive’, so I’m not sure what the news is. I’m going to spend my time thinking about ideas that don’t violate conservation of momentum.”

Carrol conveniently forgot to quote the next sentence in the abstract, which reads:

Nevertheless, we do observe thrusts close to the magnitude of the actual predictions after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena.

More scientific objections note that Tajmar might have overlooked other possible sources of measurement errors, and new experiments could invalidate his results. But isn’t that always the case?

Physics is an experimental science. Researchers experiment in the laboratory, and at times their experiments produce results that seem at odds with currently accepted theoretical frameworks. In such cases, the experiments should be carefully analyzed and repeated by other teams in other laboratories, to make sure that there are no experimental errors. This is exactly what’s happening now, and the EmDrive effect is confirmed by current experimental evidence.

Further research might uncover experimental errors in the measurements of Tajmar’s and other teams. Otherwise, further studies might reveal that the conflict between theory and experimental results is only apparent and the missing momentum is hidden somewhere for the scientists to find, without requiring new physics. Or, perhaps, EmDrive studies might produce new physics and a Nobel. We don’t presently know how things will turn out, but one thing is certain: in physics, when theory and experiment disagree, experiment always wins, not smug “authorities.”

In science, there is always healthy disagreement between researchers, and that’s precisely how science advances. In this sense, the EmDrive controversy is nothing new. But the peculiar aspect of the EmGate wars is the high level of animosity and “religious” fanaticism demonstrated by some smug scientists and politically motivated “intellectuals” who have never seen a scientific lab. Perhaps the EmGate wars should be seen in the context of a wider cultural war on imagination. In the paper, Shawyer mentions the awesome, world-changing implications of the EmDrive.

Second generation EmDrive offers the best solution for low cost access to space, and for a near term interstellar mission.

Images from Roger Shawyer and Shutterstock.

Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.