Sympathetic Stupid

Monday, January 16, 2006

Heim Likes Manouevres

Anyone want a unified field theory which enables anti-gravity and faster-than-light hyperdrive propulsion?

Ladies and gentlemen, Heim Theory!

There's a bit of buzz around this in the wake of a recent New Scientist article with a positive bent. The theory makes the standard impressive promises, like faster-than-light travel without needing any fuel. In the near future, a return trip to Mars in three hours. (Right now it's a ruinously expensive six months one way.) Later, trips to other solar systems and even galaxies.

Unsurprisingly, the eponymous Burkhard Heim was a reclusive genius who refused to publish on the theory until it was finished. Slightly less conventional is the fact that he had no hands and was 90% deaf and blind, thanks to an explosives accident. The past tense, of course, is because he died in 001 - taking his theory with him? No! Never fear! A retired Austrian patent officer, Walter Droescher, has been running with the idea since 1980, in a futile battle against the criminally complacent world of established physics theory.

You couldn't sell this plot.

In the ruck of lunatic fringe theories, however, this one stands out. For a start, it recently won a prize from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, sparking the current interest in the work. More importantly, the theory actually makes testable predictions - as opposed to just vague, un-verifiable promises. (Yeah, I'm talking to you, creationists.)

So it's another unified field theory, attempting to fit neatly together the two huge and seriously weird shaped jigsaw pieces that are quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity. Relativity gives us four dimensions, and Heim's theory adds four dimensions to that. This is good because when these dimensions interact they can produce some pretty funky forces. One is gravitophoton force which can "accelerate a material body without the need for a propellant". I imagine the oil price won't matter so much in the future, then.

The second is even more rad. Quintessence (no, I'm not kidding) allows transition into a "parallel space" where you can achieve "superluminal speed". That's parallel universes and faster-than-light travel! Though I'm sure they come with all the attendant problems as detailed in sci-fi, like crashing into things when you can't see them and discovering horrible things with tentacles and faces like Kerry Packer's cold, dead bum hiding in the cracks between the dimensions.

Which is all moot if it's bullshit. The internet consensus seems to be that there could be something in this, mainly because it gets good results on the predictions tested thus far. In fact the best part is that there's an experiment which can be done which should be a test. If they can find someone to pay for it, it's as simple (!) as getting a big magnet and pumping up the field until something happens or doesn't happen. So let's hope. Cause I want to go to Mars.