Thursday, June 11th, 2009 – Old Angle Tavern, Cleveland, Ohio
Marc Millis had two main ideas he discussed in his presentation to the Glenn Academy 2009. The first was how to successfully conduct revolutionary research without going over the edge of feasibility and science. He spoke about the difference between evolutionary discoveries and revolutionary ones explaining that revolutions change the way things are made and our world is observed.
He instructed us to go after the “Important Problems” when doing revolutionary research. Ideas have to be new and manageable, and the researcher must be self-critical and rigorous. He spoke of how in doing new research, one becomes a pioneer and must establish credibility to stay away from the lunatic fringe. He also gave guidelines as to how to delve into such problems, including breaking the problem into smaller pieces and making physical operations and appropriate comparisons.
Millis also discussed his revolutionary research he has been conducting with and outside of NASA. He presented current interstellar ideas using current propulsion techniques to illustrate how current technologies are not going to permit interstellar travel. Some examples were using a rocket that is 100 times better than our current rockets; the mass of propellant needed to reach our nearest star equals the mass of the sun. This showed that we need to start with physics to get new propulsion techniques. He spoke of how science fiction can be used as inspiration but also spoke of the pros and cons of taking on these assignments.
He then presented us with some current ideas about interstellar travel. The first, space drives, use something in space to make space push on the spacecraft. He also discussed inertial frames and thrusting against quantum vacuums. He then went into warp drive concepts which compress space time in front of an object and expand it behind the object. This idea moves space time itself and not the spacecraft. Wormholes, which bend space time, were also discussed. The problems with these ideas are that they require too much energy. Energy generation was then discussed, encompassing Sono-fusion, dark matter, and dark energy. These are the concepts that will help propel our race into unexplored boundaries.