Over the past whole year, there's been a lot of excitement about the electromagnetic propulsion drive, also known as EM Drive - a logically impossible engine that's challenged almost everyone's prospects by continuing to stand up to experimental study. The EM drive is so thrilling because it yields enormous amounts of propulsion that could hypothetically blast us to Mars in only 70 days, without the need for dense and costly rocket fuel. Instead, it's actually propelled forward by microwaves bouncing back and forth inside a sealed off chamber, and this is what makes the EM drive so powerful, and at the same time so debatable.
Image: A Hall ion thruster. Credit: NASA/JPL

As effective as this kind of propulsion may sound, it challenges one of the essential concepts of physics - the conservation of momentum, which states that for anything to be propelled forward, some kind of propellant must be pushed out in the opposite direction. For that reason, the drive was generally laughed at and overlooked when it was designed by English scientist Roger Shawyer in the early 2000s. But a few years later, a group of Chinese researchers decided to construct their own version, and to everyone's amazement, it really worked. Then an American inventor did the something just like that, and convinced NASA's Eagleworks Laboratories, supervised by Harold 'Sonny' White, to give it a try. And they admitted that it actually works. Now Martin Tajmar, a well-known professor and chairman for Space Systems at Dresden University of Technology in Germany, has worked with his own EM Drive, and has once again revealed that it produces thrust - although for reasons he can't clarify yet.

Tajmar offered his outcomes at the 2015 American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics' Propulsion and Energy Forum and Exposition in Florida on 27th of July, and you can read his entire paper here. He has a long history of experimentally testing (and exposing) revolutionary propulsion systems, so his outcomes are a big deal for those looking for outside confirmation of the EM Drive.

Most importantly, his system produced a parallel amount of thrust as was initially forecast by Shawyer, which is more than a few thousand times greater than a typical photon rocket. 

So where does all of this leave us with the EM Drive? While it's fun to speculate about just how revolutionary it could be for humanity, what we really need now are results published in a peer-reviewed journal - which is something that Shawyer claims he is just a few months away from doing, as David Hambling reports for Wired.

So it might turn out that we need to modify some of our laws of physics in order to clarify how the drive actually works. But if that opens up the opportunity of human travel throughout the entire Solar System - and, more significantly, beyond - then it's a sacrifice we're certainly willing to make. 
This post was written by Umer Abrar. To contact the author of this post, write to mirzavadoodulbaig@gmail.com or add/follow him on facebook :

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  1. Somewhat exiting, yes. But it is not physics though.

    Fairytales are sometimes nice, but this has been going on for too long now.

  2. We'll see. I admit that I don't understand the science well enough to take sides here, but do not assume that science knows everything--it is a very risky bet. If the scientific model is properly followed, the variables nailed down, and the results duplicated, then we will have all have learned something new.

  3. "...which states that for anything to be propelled forward, some kind of propellant must be pushed out in the opposite direction."

    Wait, is this really the thing that was holding people back and labeling this "impossible"? Thats fucking retarded.

    We don't even know what the most elementary forces in the universe are (higgs-boson, darkmatter, conciousness) and people are ready to just accept this "rule" as the absolute truth. Disgraceful.
    Big ups and kudos to the dude who figured out the EM drive, we really need more open minded folks like that.

  4. Agreed! Science should never be beholden to any dogmatic beliefs of an establishment and even when an establishment flirts with claiming to know an absolute truth, the establishment should still encourage and celebrate their "truth" being challenged, at least when it is being challenged in new ways. I'm not saying that we should expect scientists to consider any and all pseudoscience, but just because something works in an unexpected way or someone is trying to do science that will likely will fail due to it not following prevailing theories, it doesn't mean that scientists shouldn't take automatically discount any evidence that comes out of those things. With nearly every great discovery came someone that had to overthrow the establishment and be considered as silly while doing so.

    If the EM drive's capabilities are true, it would just mean that Science is in need of it's million and one recalibration, which of course is what makes Science so great about discovering things and making us better able to see reality for what it is.

  5. You know that little gadget you can buy in a toy store that looks like a light bulb that has 4 vanes in it revolving around a common axis in the evacuated bulb? one side of each vane painted silver, the other black? If you put it in the sunlight the vanes begin to spin. The scientific explanation was that the light pushed against the silver side and was absorbed by the black side. Great. Only it spun in the wrong direction. Took them a couple of years to figure it out. But there it was. The best way to do science is to see what happens and then figure out why, not deny it's happening because it goes against your theory.

  6. Expect to see the 2040 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to the team that explains why this works. 3-4 years to explain it, then 20 years for it to become non-controversial enough to get the prize.

  7. 'Spect they could test it remotely in space from the ISS? If it works it's still going slow enough to catch and if they fly it like a quad copter yet out of range of danger...

    1. They have thrusters on the ISS to help keep it in orbit, and to avoid collisions with space junk. I suppose they could just attach a couple small ones in parallel with the existing thrusters and see if they can do the same job. 1:1 testing - the best!