Generating Thrust in a Vacuum using Zero Point Energy

©Fernando Caracena 2015


Today we are fascinated by rockets because they offer us a means of exploring the Solar System. We were intrigued by them as children through pyrotechnics, to see the rocket ride on a jet of fire and climb rapidly upward to deliver a bursts of color.  Later when we studied physics, we were able to figure out how rockets worked.  Fortunately, that behavior is covered by Newtons Laws of motion: the forward thrust of a rocket results from the opposite reaction of the backward ejection of a strong momentum flux in the form of a hot jet of gas.


At first, rocket science was bypassed by main research efforts, but after the Germans rained down wholesale destruction on England in WWII using rockets designed by Wernher von Braun's group, our military took the rocket to be an important component in its arsenal.  As a result, at the end of the war, they arranged to have von Braun and his group come to the United States to continue their rocket research.  When asked where he got his initial ideas about rocketry, von Braun answer that he owed a lot to our own Robert Goddard, who launched the world's first liquid-fueled rocket in Auburn, Massachusetts on 16 March 1926.

The military apparently fixated on the use of rockets as a weapons, but von Braun really was aiming for the stars. Rockets were apparently the only way of getting around the near vacuum of space. The idea then was that space was nothing, and you cannot push against nothing, so you have to rely on the action-reaction thrust generated by rockets. Seen as the only means of realizing dreams of exploring the planets, to the rocket scientists, rocket science was not an end in itself, but rather, a means t a great end.

At some time, just before the Russians launched Sputnik I, the army decided that it had spent enough on rocket research. It ordered von Braun to get rid of his inventory of rocket hardware--just junk it. Instead of obeying that order, they tagged, crated and saved the rocket hardware in government warehouses. Then the Russians launched Sputnik I, and the order came down direct from the oval office addressed to von Braun that ran something like this: Could you launch an American Satellite now, if not sooner?

So we have witnessed the development of rocket science and space exploration. Sadly, along with it we have also seen a growing nuclear treat, which is extended globally by intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM)s. But, we now have the technology for exploring our solar system.

Unfortunately, rockets are limited by having to carry, not only their own fuel, but also, some kind of propellent. Both these components add considerable weight to the load that must be launched, and most of this load is vented into space, so that the weight of the payload is a mall component of the initial launch weight. This problem is not solved by having a very compact power source, such as for example a nuclear fusion reactor, because there is still the problem of carrying enough propellant mass for generating the thrust.

If there were no need of a propellant, an we had a compact, powerful power generator, then the problem of going to the other planets would be much smaller.

Electrogravitics as a proposed mechanism for generating thrust without carrying a propellant

During World War II (WWII) American pilots flying over Nazi Germany reported flying-saucer-like objects flying up at them from below, which they called "Foo Fighters". Especially toward the close of the war, German scientist were desperate to come up with some technological solution that would turn the tide of the war in their favor. At the close of the war, American armed forces rushed into Germany to capture scientists and their notes on research being conducted them under the Nazi regime.It turned out that they Nazi scientists were indeed conducting research on levitating  discs using electromagnetic fields, and further, that an American, Thomas Townsend Brown, had also been conducting experiments along these lines. Below is a a Wikipedia article that takes an adverse position relative to Brow's research.

Thomas Townsend Brown (March 18, 1905 – October 22, 1985) was an American inventor whose research into odd electrical effects led him to believe he had discovered a connection between strong electric fields and gravity, a type of antigravity effect. For most of his life he attempted to develop devices based on his ideas, trying to promote them for use by industry and the military. He came up with the name "Biefeld-Brown effect" for the phenomenon he had discovered and called the field of study electrogravitics.

Instead of being an antigravity force, what Brown observed has generally been attributed to electrohydrodynamics, the movement of charged particles that transfers their momentum to surrounding neutral particles in air, also called "ionic drift" or "ionic wind".--Wikipedia

It is noteworthy that the person writing the above review discredited the main object of Brown's research,  antigravity, as a mistaken interpretation of the effect of the ionic-wind. Brown was no slouch, in fact he was a trained physicist, and conducted experiments in a vacuum chamber, in which he tried to eliminate the ionic-wind effect. In that effect, the electromagnetic fields used, can ionize atoms of the surrounding medium, and accelerate those ions into a backwards exhaust that provides propulsion. In a perfect vacuum, there are no atoms, and therefore no ionic medium to provide a thrust. Of course, a vacuum is something that one can approach in a laboratory, but it is very difficult getting the last few atoms out of the vacuum chamber. Brown, however, found that as his chamber approached containing a perfect vacuum, his antigravity thrust became stronger. He was able to generate a strong enough effect to levitate metallic discs about a 10 cm. in diameter. Unfortunately, a lot of Brown's research became classified, and thereby removed from public view and debate.

Recent Developments

Whereas it is now commonly recognized by physicists that the vacuum is not nothing, but in fact is a form of energy that permeates the the entire universe, and is associated with the zero point motions of the electromagnetic field, theories are not yet able to account for its measured value. Although, vacuum energy is like the dark energy that is thought to account for  68.3% of the total energy of the universe, which drives cosmic expansion, the magnitudes of the measured energy densities of processes that could constitute dark energy fit the pattern, but not its magnitude. This points at a whole  area of physics that is not developed, where a new Einstein is needed.

Into this great turmoil and speculation enters the latest result of experimental science that it is possible to push against the physical vacuum vacuum and thereby gain thrust using space itself as the medium of propulsion. This research reignites hope that someday we may be able to travel to the stars in real time intervals. One article, accessed here gives a general description of the discovery. A second article refers to a copy of the publication.

 What does this mean?

Groucho Marx

There are a few important conclusions that we can form here.

Good science requires a free flow of information

First, that the normal give and take of scientific opinion is delayed and railroaded by the government's hiding a piece of research as 'classified' in the name of national security. Truth proves itself the more closely it is looked act. Hiding something slows the process of testing whether ideas are true or not. Further, the science that is carried on in open daylight, is thereby deprived of deeper access to what has been investigated and is abandoned to speculate blindly and second guess the interpretations and misinterpretation of an experiment. What has been concealed here in hiding the results of antigravity research, may be very important to the development of physics. This touches on a previous point made in a previous blog entry, "The Human Race May be Self-destructing by Cutting off the Flow of Information".

On the ragged frontier of research, Science clutches at every straw

Clarke's Three Laws are three "laws" of prediction formulated by the British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. They are:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.


The frontier of physics research is on the ragged edge, which can appear as Wu Wu Science. For example, I did research on the "Electrodynamics of Vector Bosons" using quantum field theory for my PhD in theoretical physics. What I found was that the photon appeared to be a zero mass state of the same field as a neutral vector boson that partially mediated Weak inter actions and was quite massive. There was a set of Weak interactions that looked like ordinary electromagnetic interactions, but which involved a very heavy spin-1 neutral particle that looked like a heavy photon. This suggested that the Electromagnetic and Weak interactions were two aspects of the same underlying interaction, which now is called the Electro-Weak interaction. After receiving my degree, I went out into the "real world" during the time of the PhD glut. For a while, I continued to research the subject from the perspective of a breakdown in symmetry that split the mass of the original particle into the photon and the massive carrier of the Weak, neutral vector current. The research lead me in the direction of using the Goldstone boson theory  for this purpose.

However by then, my time was up, I had to scramble and live by my wits, and I left the pure research undone to be able to support myself. This story is contained in "The PhD Glut in Physics".

Anyway, physics does not always depend on one person. If someone thinks of a brilliant theory, you can bet that somewhere else on the globe, someone else has thought of the same thing. It turns out that Peter Higgs and others  were able to work out the symmetry breaking mechanism that was able to endow the various particles of physics with their distinctive masses. According to Higgs, empty space is not empty, but rather is filled with a fluid consisting of spinless (scalar) particles in their lowest energy state, which is lower than the vacuum state without the Higgs field. The idea connects with the ideas of the Big bang in cosmology, because when space inflated rapidly just after the Big Bang, although that space contained zero point motions of the electromagnetic field, it was in a zero energy state. At that point nothing in the new space had mass. But, the Higgs field at zero energy was still in an excited state, because there was a lowest state that it could fall into rapidly, resulting in the vacuum's being filled with a sea of Higgs particles.The transition that quickly followed from the Higgs' field being created in an unstable zero energy excited state to a still lower energy state, then drove the release of tremendous amounts of high kinetic energy photons. These high energy photons generated a lot of other types of particles, which interacting with the Higgs sea acquired different masses. Further, some of these particles which mediated the forces the original particles, as a result of their acquiring different masses, caused the one fundamental force to differentiate into the four fundamental forces that we know about today.

In case someone wants to study Higgs boson quantum field dynamics in detail, here is a presentation that outlines such dynamics from the University of Chicago.

The point here is that the best approach at the moment for advancing physics is to look for areas of overlap between the two big areas of physic that have not yet been reconciled: full Relativity Theory and Quantum Theory. Major areas of such overlap concern  Black Hole physics and Cosmology( 2nd ref ) especially through Big Bang Theory ( 2nd ref ). The second reference on  Big Bang Theory shows that so far, there is no real theory of the Big Bang, but rather proposed processes that constitute the ragged edges of existing theories. If these rough edges can somehow be unified into a smooth fabric, physics will arrive at a new earth shattering paradigm, which will shake our concepts of physical reality to the core.

Another example of  Holistic vs Redutionist Ideas in Physics

The idea that a rocket that carries its own propellent is the only way to go in space is an example of the wrong conclusion that follows from a reductionist philosophy. The model that it conjures up is that of an isolated space ship surrounded by nothing, which can gain momentum in a forward direction only as a reaction to a flux of momentum that it can eject by discharging large quantities of momentum rearward from its own supply on-board .  Holistic philosophy is consistent with the model that in a holistic universe there must be a mechanism that allows a space craft to exchange momentum with the rest of the universe, and thereby gain a forward thrust. So far all theories in physics verify the idea that space is not nothing but rather is some form of energy that is filled with energetic, virtual quantum processes. Now there exists experimental evidence that this is possible. Perhaps knowing this, experimentalists should try to duplicate the "Biefeld-Brown effect" from whatever descriptions of it have leaked out from the darkness of its secrete classification, and publish the result openly in the scientific literature. That effect is reported to have been observed to levitate metalic discs of appreciable weight, which were on the order of 10 cm in diameter .





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