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High Frontier (3rd edition)» Forums » General

Subject: BBC article on negative mass rss

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Bernie Roessler
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I'm posting this here because lots of smart people frequent the HF3 forums. I'm completely ignorant on this but is there any chance this could be developed into some sort of propulsion device?
If so maybe it could be a game "Future" ?

Thanks

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39642992
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Geoff Speare
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I think negative mass propulsion wouldn't be useful since you could only move backwards.
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Billy McBoatface
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That's OK, you just look away from where you're going, and you'll be there soon.

If it truly had negative mass then gravity would repulse it.
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Doug DeMoss
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After reading the article, my first caution is that quantum effects like this are typically only observable at very small scales.

My gut instinct is that rather than truly negative mass, they've generated a force that wasn't expected, and my first suspect would be something like the Casimir effect (referenced in one of the black-side generators): http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Quantum/casimir.html

Alternatively, it could be even simpler - by pushing on the system, they might be setting up a potential comparable to a harmonic oscillator (one of the simplest model systems in quantum mechanics). If you look at the wavefunctions of excited states, they spend more time near the boundaries than in the middle, so if a similar situation is being created, it could appear as if the atoms were being attracted by the object pushing on them. If you're wondering how the heck that works, consider a classical oscillator like a pendulum. Because it stops at each end of its motion, it spends more of its time there.
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Drake Coker
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Another possible solution is that the scientists ran their experiments before having coffee.
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Mike Hoyt

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Rus
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Beorndog wrote:

I'm posting this here because lots of smart people frequent the HF3 forums. I'm completely ignorant on this but is there any chance this could be developed into some sort of propulsion device?
If so maybe it could be a game "Future" ?

Thanks

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39642992


Ultimately "mass" is not real but just a convenient book-keeping method to describe how matter behaves. In highly contrived situations, an object may behave as if it has negative mass. It can also behave as if it has negative temperature (i.e. lower than absolute 0), negative energy, or even imaginary (sqrt(-1)) values. In most of those cases, an alternative explanation exists that does not involve negative or imaginary values of familiar quantities, it's just not as elegant.

So, I think it's misleading to talk about constructing rockets of negative mass. The meaningful question is whether we can contrive a scenario where a rocket behaves as if it has negative mass in some limited sense, e.g. being repelled by Earth's gravity. In order to make use of the effect described by the article in the OP, the contrived scenario requires us to reduce the rocket to a kind of completely featureless soup of particles at absolute zero temperature called the "Bose-Einstein" condensate. Neither the English language nor human imagination can adequately describe what a BEC is, but a rough idea is that it is essentially a state where every atom of the rocket is "spread" over the entire volume of the rocket, and "mixed" with every other atom, having irretrievably destroyed all prior structure and information. Oh, and the slightest disturbance (even looking at it) would kick it out of that state. And, you have to somehow couple the force of gravity in some special way. Then, perhaps, it would get repelled by gravity. So, I would not hold my breath about rockets that "fall" into space because they have negative mass.

That said, the work on BECs and negative mass is still absolutely fascinating. Perhaps the negative mass effect can be demonstrated for more normal states of matter than BEC, but if so, I think it will probably have little to do with the BEC effect we are talking about here.
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Ryan Manes
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rbelikov wrote:
Neither the English language nor human imagination can adequately describe what a BEC is...


I'm stealing this line and using it liberally for the rest of my days.
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