So you’re into sci fi? But what about sci fact? Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction…
Each month our very own Voyager Science Queen* will bring you interesting, quirky and downright bizarre tasty morsels from the world of science. And its all completely, totally, 100% true!
We’ve all heard that saying ‘it’s not hard, it isn’t rocket science’. This infers that rocket science is complex and complicated, and you have to be very bright to understand it. Nineteen year old Aisha Mustafa, a physics student from Egypt’s Sohag University, has come up with a theory for a new type of fuel-less space-propulsion system using an esoteric physics concept … the Casimir Effect. So, Aisha has come up with a type of rocket science even more complex than balancing a rocket on a controlled explosion.The Casimir Effect is based around the string theory in Quantum Physics; that there is really no such thing as a vacuum and every point in space is an oscillating field, flashing through a range of ‘vibrations’ that we understand as ‘space’, ‘time’, and ‘matter’. If you want a more complex explanation that that … you will probably need to start studying for your Ph.D. in Physics. From my own limited understanding, one of the implications of the Casimir Effect it that it supports the concept of the breakdown of the laws of causality – and causality is where one thing causes something else to happen, one event after another in a logical progression. To me, this is the point where Physics is synonymous with Philosophy.
So, how does Aisha’s design work? Aisha uses shaped silicon plates – similar to the ones used in solar-power cells – placed close together but not touching. The Casimir Effect is the repulsion/attraction that the ‘vibrations’ – quantum particles, matter/anti-matter foam or whatever you want to call it – creates between these plates. In the vacuum of space, this should create a force that would ‘pull’ or ‘push’, creating the basic thrust of propulsion system. This system works in a vacuum because is no particles of matter to interfere with the creation of this force.
Now, think of the benefits of a fuel-less propulsion system. It can run forever without the need for input from another energy source; in fact, the further it gets into the depths of space the better it should run! How this might dramatically improve humanity’s ambitions for exploration of the universe, with probes or ships that can propel themselves for eternity. If that thought can’t excite, I don’t know what else can.
*The Voyager Science Queen is also known as Lynne Lumsden Green- find out who she is in About Our Contributors!