German Scientists Just Tested NASA’s EM Drive… Does It Work Now?


The idea of being able to get around space
as easily as we get around in our cars is a dream many have grasped at, but none have
achieved so far (although not for lack of trying: Elon, I’m looking at you). We’ve covered the so-called impossible drive
several times on this channel. And according to some recent updates, it looks
like it might really be impossible. The impossible drive, also known as the EM
drive, was originally conceptualized in the early 2000s. It’s a hypothetical form of space travel
that wouldn’t require any fuel. The drive works–again, hypothetically–by
bouncing microwaves around a conical metal chamber. Conventionally, you’d need to push against
the matter around you to move anywhere–that’s how physics, as defined by Newton’s third
law of motion, works. You know, like the conventional rocket thrusters
we have, that’s how they work. This drive, were it to really function, would
break our fundamental understanding of Newtonian physics. And for a hot second there, it looked like
we may have measured the drive working- In 2016 a team of NASA researchers detected a
tiny amount of thrust while testing the drive in a vacuum, although they were hesitant to
attribute that thrust to anything except experimental error. And it turns out they may have been right. Research in this area has been largely underfunded
up until this point because, as the name of the technology states, most people think it’s
quite literally impossible. But a research team in Germany just conducted
an experiment with some seriously sick resources, like an extreme vacuum and specialized shielding. If the EM drive worked, it would mean that
space travel would be significantly cheaper and faster and more efficient…so who won? Physics? Or the impossible? Definitely physics. Physics still wins. These latest, most sophisticated tests conclude
that the tiny amount of thrust that NASA’s team detected in 2016 was most likely due
to interaction of the metal drive with the earth’s magnetic field. Even though more teams around the world will
probably continue to verify this work by conducting tests of their own, it would seem that for
the most part, this spells RIP for the EM drive dream. But, just to cover all their space bases,
the team also looked into a different kind of drive called the Mach Effect thruster,
whose concept assumes that if a mass vibrates enough, it interacts gravitationally with
the rest of the universe. This drive, made out of a stack of piezoelectric
crystals attached to a mass of brass (which is fun to say), showed a little more promise
in tests from the German lab. The researchers still concluded that any thrust
detected from these tests is most likely interference, or noise from the rest of the physical world
interacting with the set up. So, that’s our latest update on the state
of the EM drive. A little disappointing that we won’t all
be jetting around space on vibrating crystals, but the researchers make a good point at the
end of their paper, saying that these experiments were highly educational in that they required
very demanding experimental conditions, and this will help them in testing further potentially-transformative
space drives. Ah, humans. Ever hopeful, experimenting our way into the
future. Check out our previous videos on the EM drive
here, and subscribe to Seeker for all your space travel news. And hey, fun fact, the metal used to shield
the Em drive in this experiment is called mu metal, which creates a region containing
only a TINY fraction of the Earth’s magnetic field. And there was STILL interference. Damn. I’m Maren, thanks for watching Seeker.