Thursday, May 23, 2013

When NASA 'Went Black'

What happened two months ago would, by leaving some details out, make for a rousing tale of conspiracy, intrigue, and maybe even shape-shifting, space-alien lizard men.

I don't need that kind of trouble at my particular judgment, and that's another topic.

NASA, Warp Drive, and a Vanishing Website

NASA has a pretty good website: including sections on 'next generation' propulsion technologies; and some 'after the next generation' tech.

I'd archived two documents about exotic space propulsion systems from NASA back in March. The next morning, as I recall, almost the entire website 'went black.' The most I could find was the occasional polite notice that the information was no longer available.

It wasn't my fault. Someone had hacked into United States government databases. The Information Technology folks couldn't tell exactly how much had been filched, and apparently someone higher in the administrative food chain (finally) realized that some of the data probably shouldn't be shared with everyone.

About freedom of information, transparency, and all that: I think it would be nice if everybody would be nice; I'm convinced that not everybody is nice; letting citizens know what our government doing is usually a good idea; but it's not a good idea to let everybody know details that could get American armed forces - or civilians - killed.

Happily, when the NASA website opened again, the 'warp drive' documents were still there.

More accurately, they discuss some exotic and hypothetical propulsion technologies. There's also a pretty good discussion of the White-Juday warp field interferometer: which, if built, might change the shape of space in a sphere about one centimeter across: by about 1 part in 10,000,000. If we can make the necessary technology work, and If the underlying assumptions about space-time are valid: we have equipment that could measure the change.

That's the good news. The bad news is that a one-in-ten-million perturbation isn't much: and there's not much we can fit into something the size of a large marble. Still, it's a start.
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