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Re: starship-design: Zero point energy: Power source

kyle writes:
 > Steve VanDevender wrote:
 > > kyle writes:
 > >  > FTL doesn't necessarily violate physics.
 > > 
 > > If you say this, then you don't understand FTL or physics well enough
 > > yet.  Find and read a copy of _Spacetime Physics_ by Taylor and
 > > Wheeler.
 > The fact of the matter is, no one knows physics well enough.

We know physics well enough to do a great many things.

I am serious when I say that you should read _Spacetime Physics_.  It is
easily accessible to anyone who knows basic algebra and is the best
introduction to relativistic physics I have seen.

 > Particle physics not apply to macroscopic objects?

Quantum effects apply only at the quantum scale.  The pseudo-FTL effects
you are apparently referring to, such as quantum tunneling, apply only
on the quantum scale to quantum-sized particles.  The probability of a
macroscopic object undergoing quantum tunneling is literally so close to
zero as to be impossible in our universe.

 > All great discoveries were done by people willing to stick out their necks,
 > and try the unknown. If we can't risk this, we can't walk in their footsteps.

I'll say this one more time, and please pay attention:

The reason we are not designing an FTL ship is that there is no
understood, practical, demonstrated means of going FTL.  It doesn't
matter that we might, or might not, discover FTL in the future.

This isn't about whether you should or should not believe that FTL is
possible.  This is about not having a known method of FTL travel
available now, and no reason to believe, based on knowledge available to
us now, that FTL will be possible in 2050.  The purpose of this list is
to discuss _practical_ starship designs, one where every element can be
justified using knowledge we have now or that we can reasonably expect
to have by 2050, based on what we do know now.

I would love to have FTL, but there's a difference between wanting
something to be possible and knowing it to be possible.

 > > If it's not true, then demonstrate FTL on a macroscopic object.
 > I'm serious when I say: I'm working on it.

Good luck.  If you find it, we'll all be very excited.

 > > Estimate based on what?  We can estimate the parameters of a reaction
 > > drive or sail system that can bring a ship to relativistic speeds based
 > > on physics and the known properties of matter.  If you don't have a
 > > working theory of FTL, then it's pretty hard to make the same kinds of
 > > estimates.
 > There could be unknowns even for relativistic travel. Let me ask all of you:
 > Has anybody sped an object up to relativistic velocities in deep space? A
 > MACROSCOPIC object? That is unknown physics right there.
 > > It's not possible now, so we're not going to design a ship using
 > > something we don't know will work.  That's basic engineering.
 > We don't know if relativistic propulsion is possible using what we know
 > now.

We see quasars receding from us at very high fractions of C.  We see
matter spinning around galactic cores and being ejected in galactic jets
at substantial fractions of C.  We see neutron stars spinning at
substantial fractions of C.  All of these material objects show behavior
predicted exactly by relativistic physics.

More importantly, relativistic physics, as we now know it, does not in
any way prohibit a material object from traveling at any speed less than
C, but does prevent anything from traveling faster than that.  Based on
physics we know now, and that has been amply demonstrated by experiment
and observation, relativistic space travel _is_ possible.

 > > Space travel is dangerous, period, whether you use FTL or not.  Who's to
 > > say that FTL wouldn't be more dangerous than sublight travel, or that
 > > going FTL will make you immune from collisions?  Even imaginary FTL
 > > drives in fiction are often risky (Larry Niven's "hyperspace" being a
 > > classic exampe; get too close to a mass in hyperspace and you're gone).
 > > 
 > > As much as anything, our universe seems to be constructed on the
 > > principle "you don't get something for nothing."  If it's really
 > > possible to extract "zero-point energy" or go faster than light or do
 > > other things we don't know how to do now then they will probably come
 > > with a high price tag.
 > Then explain to me how the Department of energy, Motorola,
 > International Nuclear agency, and scores of others are interested in
 > an amatuer scientist, I cannot remember his name, who was on national
 > television (Good Morning America to be precise) who built a device
 > that can take in energy and produce up to 100,000 times as much
 > energy as is input into it.

I'm sure they're interested on the off-chance it might be true, but it
will have to be experimentally verified by others before it will be
accepted as true.  Remember "cold fusion"?  (Perhaps not, you were only
about 7 at the time.)  Two chemists claimed that they could obtain more
energy by electrolyzing water with a platinum electrode than they put
in.  Many, many other scientists tried to verify this and couldn't.  As
a result, nobody believes now that "cold fusion" is really possible by
that means.

 > I wonder if perhaps I should not have said that I am 14. It seems to
 > have ruined my chances of anyone listening to me. I do not mean to be
 > rude, but I am not just some dumb kid who has a "star-trek
 > fantasy". I am a scientist, and a dedicated one. In the words of Carl
 > Sagan: "The suppresion of uncomfortable ideas may be common, but it
 > is not the path to knowledge."

If you want to criticize current scientific theories, then the only way
to be taken seriously is to do so from a position of knowledge.  Many
people criticize theories because they don't understand them, or think
that they've come up with something better, but unless they can
demonstrate that the existing theory is inadequate by constructing and
running an experiment that produces an effect it doesn't predict, and
their theory does, then no one will believe them.

And, to repeat myself one more time, this is not about whether you
should believe that FTL is possible or not.  It's simply that we're
interested in starship designs that don't have blank boxes saying
"insert FTL drive here", unless that drive can be explained and
demonstrated in reality.