James F. Woodward

James F. Woodward

California State University Fullerton

Title: Advanced propulsion in the era of wormhole physics: is it space-drive time yet?


J.F. Woodward completed a Ph.D. in history (of science) at the University of Denver in 1972 after obtaining bachelors and masters degrees in physics at Middlebury College and New York University in the 1960s. Retired in 2005, he is emeritus professor of history and adjunct professor of physics at California State University Fullerton where he continues to do experimental work on advanced propulsion and the enigmatic sciences (gravity manipulation). Noting that inertia in general relativity is a gravitational phenomenon where local objects are seemingly instantaneously coupled to distant matter in the universe, he has elaborated a way that transient phenomena can be used to perform said manipulation. This, and other material related to this talk, can be found in his recent book: Making Starships and Stargates: the Science of Interstellar Propulsion.


Kip Thorne and several graduate students ushered in the era of wormhole physics in 1988 by reverse engineering, at Carl Sagan’s request, the needed conditions to travel to and from the center of the Galaxy 26,000 lightyears distant in little or no time. The requirement turned out to be “wormholes”, spacetime structures predicted by general relativity theory. Six years later, Miguel Alcubierre constructed the “warp drive” “metric” of general relativity that shows what is needed to zip around spacetime, seemingly at speeds faster than the speed of light. The requirement is a Jupiter mass of negative rest mass (“exotic”) matter. Before Thorne did his work a small collection of people worked on schemes to make lightspeed (and faster) travel possible. And after Thorne and Alcubierre, that collection of people has worked toward the goal of realizing the conditions dictated by general relativity for “hyperspeed” travel, be it through wormholes or encased in warp bubbles. “Advanced” propulsion is often taken to encompass all propulsion schemes more advanced than chemical rockets. Really advanced propulsion, however, is that enabling interstellar travel in short times, and that demands wormholes and/or warp bubbles. The stepping stone to such schemes is often figuring out how to accelerate a vessel without ejecting large amounts of propellant – so-called “field” propulsion. These schemes – wormholes, warp drives, and field propulsion – all involve gravity “manipulation”, whereas all other advanced propulsion schemes do not. In this talk I will recount some of the activities known to me of the collection of people working on gravity manipulation in the past decade or two. It is a tale of trial and error. Lots of error. But perhaps space-drive time is at hand.

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