(TMU) – The concept of interstellar travel has fascinated the human race for thousands of years. Discoveries made in the last century, however, have both bolstered and dampened that fascination. While the number of habitable star systems available for visitation has grown exponentially, the distance between these systems has grown more bleakly, mathematically daunting.
If we sent our fastest space probe to the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, it would take tens of thousands of years to arrive. While galaxies look like homogenous swirls of star clusters, the reality is we are looking at it from a vast, intergalactic scale; the extraordinary distances between stars still make crewed interstellar travel a dubious proposition that many scientists believe won’t be possible for centuries if at all.
However, in recent years, a number of technological models of propulsion – such as light sails pushed by lasers, ion thrusters, fusion engines, wormholes, and even hydrogen bombs – have made the concept of an interstellar probe that can travel a certain percentage of the speed of light increasingly possible.
The newest and perhaps the strangest theory is by Jim Woodward, a physics professor emeritus at Fullerton, who has proposed a Mach-effect gravitational assist (MEGA) drive. Woodward has actually been developing his model for decades but has only recently found a rapt audience. He posits that his drive could slowly accelerate with the help of a propulsion system based not on combustible fuel but rather electricity.
Based on a controversial sub-component to Einstein’s general relativity, Mach’s principle holds that inertia is directly tied to gravity and that this correlation, in theory, clears the way for “propellantless propulsion.” The thrust is generated by a stack of piezoelectric crystals, which store small amounts of energy and vibrate when electrified. These tens of thousands of vibrations per second eventually synchronize in small volumes and that synchronicity produces physical momentum.
The crystals, or “gizmos” as Woodward calls them, produce changes in mass, or “Mach effects,” that slowly but surely accelerate to incredible speeds. One of Woodward’s collaborators described the motion as “rowing a boat on the ocean of spacetime.”
The interior of the ship would probably need a nuclear reactor on-board to sustain electricity for the decades-long journey but, on its face, the theory seems to suggest that a starship could reach near the speed of light and deliver a crew across the interstellar gulf within a human lifetime.
For many years, Woodward’s thruster was considered absurdly improbable, but in recent years, tweaking and redesigning has gradually brought it around to something resembling respectable in the scientific community, so much so that he has received a grant and a slot in NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. Woodward, who at 80 is a survivor of stage IV lung cancer as well as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has also invested about $200,000 of his own money into testing the MEGA thrusters.
His idea still has plenty of critics.
Mike McCulloch, a physicist at the University of Plymouth, says, “In my opinion there is no merit to Woodward’s theory. I think the experimental results are more interesting than the theory.”
Others, like Woodword’s own collaborator, physicist Hal Fearn, says that his doubts have been tempered by lab results. “I haven’t been able to disprove it, and believe me, I’ve been trying to disprove it for the last 10 years.”
While the MEGA drive is still considered fringe physics and the odds against it working still high – anywhere from 10-1 to 10 million-one – it is just these kinds of moonshot ideas that sometimes catapult humans to new heights.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.