Feb 2, 1998

Lecture series to cover Physicsfor the Third Millennium

Lecture series to cover
Physics for the Third Millennium

February 2, 1998: "Spooky action at a distance," antimatter, and the dividing line between physics and fantasy are on the syllabus for a series of lectures about Physics for the Third Millennium at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Feb. 9-12.

Those topics often raise the hackles of serious physicists, and with good reason. As one lecturer notes in his syllabus, "the Internet is now full of ... fiction masquerading as fact." The Physics for the Third Millennium lectures are rooted in established physics and explore areas that we don't understand. And that is where the lecturers will discuss possibilities that might be leveraged in the future to make space exploration easier.

Marshall is NASA's lead center for developing new space transportation technologies, noted lecture coordinator John M. Horack of Marshall's Space Sciences Laboratory.

"Most of that work is rooted in rockets that have known capabilities and limitations," Koczor said. "The purpose of these lectures is to look at cutting edge physics that might revolutionize space transportation - perhaps not in our children's or grandchildren's lifetimes, but eventually. We're bringing in some of the best scientists in these fields and letting them explain their work to our people in hopes of maybe lighting a fire and getting some experiments started."

Attendance is open to pre-registered Marshall scientists and engineers. Topics scheduled for the lecture series include:

Monday, Feb. 9, 9-12
Quantum Nonlocality - Nature's Faster-Than-Light Linkages. Dr. John Cramer, University of Washington, Seattle. Physicists in Switzerland recently demonstrated what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance" wherein two photons are separated and a change in one is reflected by a change in the other several miles away. These linkages between quantum subsystems can operate faster than light and even backwards in time. Examples of nonlocal effects will be discussed, and a hypothetical mechanism of nonlocality will be presented in terms of the transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics.

electron-positron pair creation from a photon
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 9-12
Physics of Antimatter. Dr. Gerald A. Smith, Pennsylvania State University. Antimatter is like the universal solvent: it eats through everything. Yet recent developments in electromagnetic devices called Penning traps allow the storage of small quantities of antiprotons. This opens the possibility that antimatter could be manufactured and stored for use as fuel by deep-space rockets. (At right, the tracks left by an electron and positron [anti-electron] created from a photon.)

Tuesday, Feb. 10, 1-4
Warp Drives and Wormholes: What's Physics, What's Fantasy? Dr. Matt Visser, Physics Department, Washington University in Saint Louis. Wormholes and warp drives are two of the stranger theoretical concepts being discussed by the general relativity community. Visser will try to separate fact from fantasy and give a clear description of the engineering difficulties involved in building these.

Wednesday, Feb. 11, 9-12
Visualizing Relativistic Space-Time Dynamics and Kinematics. Dr. William G. Harter, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark. Harter will show several methods to visualize space-time mechanics of particles and waves. Two computer animation programs: RelativIt and WaveIt will help clarify key concepts.

Wednesday, Feb. 11, 1-4
Experimental Tests of General Relativity. G. M. Keiser, Stanford University
Stanford Calif. Keiser, Stanford's chief scientist on Gravity Probe B, will review the experimental tests of General Relativity with particular emphasis on experiments which have been or can be performed in space, such as measurement of the gravitational deflection of light, the Shapiro time delay, and advance of the perihelion of Mercury. Proposed gravitational wave observatories in space will not only open a gravitational window to the universe but will also give insights into the nature of gravitation.

Thursday, Feb. 12, 9-12
Possible Revolutionary Technologies Based on the Zero-Point Field of the Quantum Vacuum. Dr. Bernhard Haisch, Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, Palo Alto, CA. According to a 1994 theory, inertia - the property that keeps matter at rest or in motion until acted upon by an outside force - may be an electromagnetic phenomenon implying that it may be susceptible to manipulation and modification. "Revolutionary technological possibilities" may follow if this effect can be proven and exploited on a larger scale.

Thursday, Feb. 12, 1-4
Breakthrough Propulsion Physics and the Horizon Mission Methodology. Dr. Marc G. Millis, NASA Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio. Millis will cover the NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics program designed to make measurable and credible advances in physics for breakthroughs in space propulsion. Topics covered by the program include experiments and theories regarding the coupling of gravity and electromagnetism, vacuum fluctuation energy, warp drives and wormholes, and superluminal quantum tunneling.

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Author: Dave Dooling
Curator: Bryan Walls
NASA Official: John M. Horack