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Tue Oct 15, 2019, 03:05 AM

NASA Engineer Claims 'Helical Engine' Concept Could Reach 99% The Speed of Light


When it comes to space, there's a problem with our human drive to go all the places and see all the things. A big problem. It's, well, space. It's way too big. Even travelling at the maximum speed the Universe allows, it would take us years to reach our nearest neighbouring star.

But another human drive is finding solutions to big problems. And that's what NASA engineer David Burns has been doing in his spare time. He's produced an engine concept that, he says, could theoretically accelerate to 99 percent of the speed of light - all without using propellant.

He's posted it to the NASA Technical Reports Server under the heading "Helical Engine", and, on paper, it works by exploiting the way mass can change at relativistic speeds - those close to the speed of light in a vacuum. It has not yet been reviewed by an expert.

Understandably this paper has caused buzz approaching levels seen in the early days of the EM Drive. And yes, even some headlines claiming the engine could 'violate the laws of physics'.

But while this concept is fascinating, it's definitely not going to break physics anytime soon.

As a thought experiment to explain his concept, Burns describes a box with a weight inside, threaded on a line, with a spring at each end bouncing the weight back and forth. In a vacuum - such as space - the effect of this would be to wiggle the entire box, with the weight seeming to stand still, like a gif stabilised around the weight.


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Reply NASA Engineer Claims 'Helical Engine' Concept Could Reach 99% The Speed of Light (Original post)
Judi Lynn Oct 2019 OP
caraher Oct 2019 #1
Disaffected Oct 26 #2

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 08:46 PM

1. The PowerPoint Burns produced has the real takeaway on the last slide

Basic concept is unproven
• Has not been reviewed by subject matter experts
• Math errors may exist!

The "paper" (really just a talk he gave, reviewed by nobody)includes the following cryptic, dubious bullet points:

• “Conservation of Momentum” for concept is not well understood
• Several paths exist for momentum conservation

The whole project pretty obviously founders on the principle of conservation of momentum.

I've seen a lot of really bad technical papers come out of NASA conferences on speculative propulsion schemes. Add this to the list.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sat Oct 26, 2019, 10:36 PM

2. Phooey, it has about as much veracity

as one of those mechanical or magnet contraptions touted as being perpetual motion machines.

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