|EmDrive, illustration by Elvis Popovic|
Shawyer claims the EmDrive converts electric power into thrust, without the need for any propellant by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container. He has built a number of demonstration systems, but critics reject his relativity-based theory and insist that, according to the law of conservation of momentum, it cannot work. (wired.co.uk, “NASA Validates Impossible Space Drive,” July 31, 2014, David Hambling.)
|EmDrive, Image: SPR Ltd.|
Fortunately, an American, Guido Fetta, had a similar propulsion system that was pitched to NASA and they finally ran the tests on the Cannae drive. NASA’s test of the engine they called “impossible” showed that not only does it work, but it would allow humans to travel freely about the solar system without the necessity of carrying a liquid propellant.
The Nasa paper projects a ‘conservative’ manned mission to Mars from Earth orbit, with a 90-ton spacecraft driven by the new technology. Using a 2-megawatt nuclear power source, it can develop 800 newtons (180 pounds) of thrust. The entire mission would take eight months, including a 70-day stay on Mars. (wired.co.uk, “10 Questions about NASA’s ‘impossible’ Space Drive Answered“, Aug. 7, 2014, David Hambling.)
What the what?
As far as we know anyway, we are the only ones asking questions like “Were we created or are we a cosmic accident?” and “Why are we here?” and “What came before us? Before our universe was born?” and “What happens to us when we die?”
It is interesting to me that these questions are approached by humans in two apparently opposed ways: Through science and through faith.
Science looks to the very large using infrared, microwave and radio telescopes, trying to peer ever further back in time to see how it all began. And science also looks to the very small by smashing tiny particles (not even whole atoms mind you but mere pieces of atoms) into each other and observing the aftermath. They have said they want to find the ‘God particle.’
Faith, by definition, does not require a formula or visual proof.
I am fascinated by both ideas and am frequently saddened by the rancor on both sides. Sometimes even violent conflict. Ask Galileo about that. Don’t we, as a species, have room for both? Can’t we have science and faith?
To each his own path of discovery.
To each his own form of faith.
Last week I sat in my garden and noticed something amazing. Spring blew a warm kiss over the high desert I call home and the season’s bounty has begun. And as I walked around my yard I noticed a single poppy had poked her head out of the dry, rocky ground.
A singular pleasure. A beautiful miracle.
The life we are surrounded by every day is neither micro nor macro in nature. It is neither as large as a galaxy nor is it as small as a particle. Yet within a single flower lives a universe of beauty to explore.
“You won’t find faith or hope down a telescope,
And the mere existence of us – of these bags of water and bones that we call home – a lifetime of wonder to explore.
“Take my hand and lead me to salvation
Take my love for love is everlasting
And remember the truth that once was spoken
To love another person is to see the face of God.”
From Les Miserables, The Epilogue
Do you ask big questions from time to time? What inspires you? Do you seek answers “out there” or within? Have you ever had a moment when it all seemed clear to you?