Frequently Asked Questions
What about UFOs?
There is an expression that engineers use: "signal to noise ratio." It refers to the difficulty of getting the real signal, say a voice over the telephone, to stand out and be heard above all the noise and clutter that is also on the line. On the subject of UFOs the signal to noise ratio is so abysmal, that it does no good to listen.
That whole subject is really irrelevant to our own human quest to travel to space. If we humans are going to figure out how to build space vehicles, then WE have to build our own
space vehicles. It doesn't matter if it has or has not been done by someone else.
Its been suggested that we might have something to learn by studying UFO stories. I disagree. First there is this signal to noise ratio problem. Even if the stories are correct, they are only as useful as science fiction. Science fiction can be useful to give you some mental picture to get you started thinking about the real
issues, but it is no more useful than that. Even if UFOs were completely real, which is doubtful, and even if I had a film of one in front of me, it wouldn't be of much help.
For example, if someone in the previous century saw a film of a 747 flying past, it would not tell them how to build a jet engine, what fuel to use, or what materials to make it out of. Yes, the wings are a clue, but just that, a clue. To do real
work, to really determine how to build the next generations of vehicles, we need our own information. There are plenty of possibilities for credible approaches emerging from our own scientific literature. It would be a waste of our limited time to go chasing down mere hearsay.
What is the U.S. government doing to investigate UFOs?
No branch of the United States Government is currently involved with or responsible for investigations into the possibility of alien life on other planets or for investigating Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO's). The U.S. Air Force (USAF) and NASA have had intermittent, independent investigations of the possibility of alien life on other planets; however, none of these has produced factual evidence that life exists on other planets, nor that UFO's are related to aliens.
Under Project Blue Book (1947 to 1969), the Air Force investigated UFO's; then in 1977, NASA was asked to examine the possibility of resuming UFO investigations. After studying all of the facts available, it was determined that nothing would be gained by further investigation, since there was an absence of tangible evidence.
During several space missions, NASA astronauts have reported phenomena not immediately explainable; however, in every instance NASA determined that the observations could not be termed "abnormal" in the space environment.
The 1947 to 1969 USAF investigations studied UFO's under Project Blue Book. The project, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was terminated December 17, 1969. Of the total of 12,618 sightings reported to Project Blue Book, 701 remain "unidentified."
The decision to discontinue UFO investigations was based on an evaluation of a report prepared by the University of Colorado entitled, "Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects;" a review of the University of Colorado's report by the National Academy of Sciences; previous UFO studies; and Air Force experience investigating UFO reports during the 1940s, '50s and '60s.
As a result of experience, investigations, and studies since 1948, the conclusions of Project Blue Book were: (1) no UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force was ever a threat to our national security; (2) there was no evidence submitted to, or discovered by, the Air Force that sightings categorized as "unidentified" represented technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge; and (3) there was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as "unidentified" were extraterrestrial vehicles.
With the termination of Project Blue Book, the USAF regulation establishing and controlling the program for investigating and analyzing UFO's was rescinded. Documentation regarding the former Project Blue Book investigation was permanently transferred to the Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Service, in Washington, DC 20408, and is available for public review and analysis.
Since the termination of Project Blue Book, nothing has occurred that would support a resumption of UFO investigations by the USAF or NASA. Given the current environment of steadily decreasing defense and space budgets, it is unlikely that the Air Force or NASA will become involved in this type of costly project in the foreseeable future.
Since neither NASA nor the Air Force is engaged in day-to-day UFO research, neither one reviews UFO-related articles intended for publication, evaluates UFO-type spacecraft drawings, or accepts accounts of UFO sightings or applications for employment in the field of aerial phenomena investigation.
UFO Points of Contact
How Accurate is science fiction to predict future?
- News media requiring Project Blue Book files should contact the National Archives Public Affairs Office, (202) 501-5525. Public queries should be addressed to the Project Blue Book archivist at (202) 501-5385. For queries not related to Project Blue Book, contact the National Archives receptionist at (202) 501-5400. Documentation is available from: Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Service, Eighth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408.
- The Air Force publication, "The Roswell Report: Fact Vs. Fiction in the New Mexico Desert," a lengthy document providing all of the details available from the Air Force on the Roswell incident, is available for $52 from the US Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, Mail Stop: SSOP, Washington, DC 20402-9328.
- There are a number of universities and professional scientific organizations that have considered UFO phenomena during periodic meetings and seminars. A list of private organizations interested in aerial phenomena may be found in Gale's Encyclopedia of Associations.
- Persons wishing to report UFO sightings are advised to contact law enforcement agencies.
Science fiction has played a much larger role in inspiring
youngsters to help shape the future than in being an accurate predictor of the future. Although examples have been given for how well Jules Verne's story matched Apollo (3 people launched from a peninsula), also consider how much he missed: It was a rocket, not a cannon, and best of all, when we did it for real the whole world could watch it as one united people on their television sets. That was an awesome factor in and of itself. A real benefit for the good of all humanity. The world was one on that day.
What are tachyons?
Tachyons are hypothetical faster-than-light particles. Physicists asked themselves, "What would be the characteristics of matter if it did
move faster than light?" -- a kind of thought experiment. One odd thing is that to slow down a tachyon, you would have to put energy into it. In fact, it would take infinite energy to get it to slow down to the speed of light - that is if it has any mass. That brings me to the next interesting point - one way to view the momentum of tachyons is to consider that they have imaginary mass. So far any attempt to observe a tachyon has come up dry, and most physicists have abandoned the idea that tachyons might be real. The only tempting recent clue was a recent measure of the rest mass of a neutrino. They got an imaginary number. This result was NOT attributed to tachyon properties, in fact, the experimental report attributed the results to possible errors in some of the supporting information used to make the calculations. To learn a little more about tachyons, visits the Usenet Physics FAQ’s on tachyons
What are black holes?
When a star collapses and becomes super dense, its gravity becomes so strong that even light can't escape. That is why it is black - no light. Several objects have been observed astronomically that are believed to be black holes, and theoretical debate continues on the exact nature of black holes.
Are wormholes real?
That is still completely unknown. Wormholes
are just theoretical constructs, and we are still not sure if the theories are correct. Astronomical searchers are underway to look for evidence of wormholes
, but nothing has been found.
How long before we have a breakthrough - any historic examples to compare to?
We have two answers to that:
, borrowing a fitting analogy given by Robert Forward;
It was originally thought that the apparent excess energy of radium was in error. It only took 3 decades from the confirmation of what became known as "radio active decay" (1911) to the construction of the first working nuclear reactor (1942). We just recently confirmed that this vacuum fluctuation energy is real. Who knows if a parallel exists here. Will it only be 3 decades before we have machines that can take advantage of this medium? Who knows?
: Even if it will not be in my lifetime or my children's lifetime or even if it is impossible, I am firmly convinced that we as a society will gain far more from trying to make such breakthroughs happen than if we didn't. This is a noble and honorable cause, and I find it much more gratifying than designing weapons.
What about Cold Fusion?
First, this effect should NEVER have been dubbed "cold fusion." It should have been called an "anomalous heat effect." That means you don't know what's going on, but it involves heat. The part about "we don't know what's going on" is still very true.
Most evidence points to this being a dead end, but not all the evidence. If I recall correctly, about 30% or the replications for producing heat work, and 70% do not. The evidence also does not indicate that a normal nuclear reaction is occurring. Heat?- maybe, sometimes. Nuclear fusion as we know it
It is not being studied very seriously in the US, in fact it is generally frowned upon, but some countries like France and Japan are still looking into it.
If it is real and if it is useful, then someday, someone will make a practical and unambiguous device out of it. If it is not real, you're still probably going to be hearing lots of stories about it for years to come -- an "Elvis sighting" phenomena.
What about "Gravity Shielding" with spinning superconductors out of Finland/Russia?
For those of you who haven't heard about this, it was reported in 1992 that objects appeared to weigh less over a spinning superconductor. The experiments were performed in Finland by a Russian researcher named Podkletnov. There has not yet been a conclusive and credible test of this effect, but we're working on it.
It's still an open question. NASA is looking into this one directly. Specifically NASA Marshall Space Flight Center is attempting to duplicate the experiment to see if the claimed effect exists, and if it does, to determine what's really going on. These investigations took place in 1997. We are not aware of them having anything substantial to report one way or another.
To be fully open minded about such things, one has to be equally ready to accept that there is, and that there is NOT new effects being discovered here.
What is wrong and premature is to dub this effect a "Gravity Shield." It is better to call this an "anomalous weight change effect". We won't know for sure what it is until it has actually been confirmed and more fully analyzed. The original reports on this subject were unquestionably insufficient.
How can I get more information?
Stay tuned to this web site and to the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics website
. Also check out the annotated bibliography
on this site and visit your nearest library.
What subjects would one study to get involved with these explorations?
Physics and Engineering, in particular:
Can NASA engineers evaluate my invention, drawing or plans?
- Quantum Physics
- Special Relativity
- General Relativity
- Electronic Engineering
- Aerospace Engineering
We receive hundreds of requests each month from individuals who want NASA to comment on their ideas. Typically these submissions do not contain the kind of information needed for an evaluation, or they are too complex to be easily evaluated. NASA does not have enough scientists and engineers to evaluate such ideas in addition to their regular duties.
To submit an idea that can be evaluated by NASA, please adhere to the guidelines specified in the NASA booklet entitled "Guidance for the Preparation and Submission of Unsolicited Proposals →
." Such submissions require that the idea has been developed sufficiently that a specific proposal can be made.
From time to time, some organizations within NASA have solicitations for proposals. One such organziations is the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC)
If you have a breakthrough device or theory that you feel is ready to be put to the test, consider having a local university or other educational institution test your idea. The university can propose to conduct the test as an educational student project, where the students will learn first-hand about the scientific method and how to apply systematic rigor and open-mindedness in conducting a credible test of an incredible claim. In such collaborations it is suggested that the inventors retain full intellectual property rights, and that the universities make the proposal and receive all the funds to conduct these student educational projects. With this procedure, if the device or theory works, then supporting evidence would be established in a credible fashion and the originator would retain the intellectual property rights. If the device or theory does not work, then at least the students would have had a meaningful educational experience, and the concept's originator can work on another idea. Potential funding for such tests may be available from existing educational fund sources, but presently there is no known funding that is specifically aimed to support these kind of educational and idea testing programs.
How come I get a blank page when printing?
The formatting of these pages uses dark backgrounds and light foreground colors to increase the visual presentation on your monitor. Most web browsers have an "Options" menu from which you can specify your own backgrounds and text colors. By eliminating the background and setting the text colors to black, you can print a good copy from your printer. This option can be toggled off and on using an override buttom in the options menu. Other browsers have a "Page Setup" form under the "File..." menu in which you can specify black text and black lines.
Can I change how the colors appear on my monitor?
Most browsers have an option for you to specify a color scheme and default it to have your color scheme always override the web site's programmed color scheme. Check your browser's options/preferences menus.
Back to Warp Drive When?
NASA Glenn Research Center