16:00 GMT +326 March 2017
    Japan claims to have created the world’s strongest laser beam.

    Pushing The Limits: New Tech to Let Us Explore the Stars Like Never Before

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    A physics professor at the University of California Santa Barbara tells Sputnik about a revolutionary technology that could pave the way to interstellar travel.

    According to Philip Lubin, a so-called photonic propulsion engine will enable humans to reach the stars, as it allows near-light speed travel. The project is called DEEP-IN, for Directed Energy for Interstellar Exploration, and is backed by NASA.

    The idea behind photonic propulsion is explained by using simple analogies. Grab a hose and turn on the water. The reactive force pushes back. The same effect occurs when releasing an inflated balloon. Or, turn a flashlight on a wall. The waves hit the wall and bounce back.

    In space there is littleto-no gravity or atmosphere to drag or push moving objects, so a propulsive force can increase to almost the speed of light. With photonic propulsion, the flashlight is an array of hundreds of lasers combining to create a powerful beam.

    "You could call it a superlaser, if you will," said Lubin, "though that is not the language we use."

    Current research suggests that, using this technology, a satellite of as much as 100 kilograms (220 lb) could reach Mars in three days.

    "In comparison it would take a shuttle roughly a month to get there,"  researchers said.

    According to the research team, the technology is scalable, and could be adjusted for larger vessels.

    Synthesizing a powerful beam is currently a technological challenge, but, according to Lubin, development could take as little as ten years.

    Lubin suggests that this propulsion technology would be used mainly to propel very small robotic missions toward the stars. "Humans are ill-fitted for interstellar travel," he says, noting that physical bodies require large amounts of resources. The smaller the interstellar spacecraft is, he stated, the higher the speed that could be achieved.


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    photonic propulsion, space travel, DEEP-IN, NASA, Phillip Lubin, Space
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    • avatar
      Well, as they didn't make it to the moon, why should they so suddenly have such advanced knowledge?
    • avatar
      I remember hearing something like this as a kid. There was a proposal to send a probe to Alpha Centauri that would be propelled by laser beams. This type of tech is probably decades away. I would like to see nuclear space propulsion developed first so that we can explore the solar system and develop experience travelling through space.
    • avatar
      this could work, especially given the current bout of miniaturisation of satellites and technology that we are seeing.
    • support
      For the near term, it would be more cost-effective to solve the problem of defining precisely in algebraic terms what the Universe "looks like" (its topology) minus the observer-introduced Heisenbergian distortion. If that is accomplished and a proper primary-brane (or primary-membrane, if you will) observatory is crafted at a CERN-like facility, there would be no need for spaceships to observe any point in the Universe in depth right down to its past history back to the Big Bang which more properly should be called the Great Unification, and down to its subatomic structure. This is in fact the direction in which research into the structure of the Universe has been heading since 1999 when Tarski and Givant completed the fourth volume (concerned with geomatrics) of Russell's and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica. Without their finishing that work on the semantic logic governing geometric formulations, none of the following work would have been possible.

      Here are two major works, one defining in depth the terms of the argument as a sort of glossary, the other the unraveling of the geometrics of Heisenbergian distortion in depth. The charm and eloquence of both works and the strength of the arguments made are irresistable:

      Together these are a primer for the algebraic unraveling of space-time's actual topology.

      Volume 1 (24 MB)


      Volume 2 (23 MB)


      The most bracing aspect of this collective work of several dozen academic luminaries in this field from all over the world is its refreshing readability and statement of the core concerns of this domain of endeavor in this day and age. Why this should be so is easy to understand and faintly humorous, as of course these scientists and academics have had to explain their work, each, to hundreds of non-academic research-funding Mr. Moneybags to continue their advanced studies.

      The hardcore math is at the end of each definitive section though, so the arguments are very exhaustive in nature insofar as my abilities such as they are have allowed me to comprehend.

      Why this project has not won a Nobel Prize on a stand-alone basis is beyond me, though several Nobel Prize awardees are involved (probably the reason why).
    • Unless it can get humans off this little rock there is absolutely no point to space travel.
    • support
      It sounds a lot like a bazooka: do not be standing behind it when it is fired :)

      This is a little different in one way. The laser beam could fly across millions of light years only to be picked up by an alien telescope centuries from the vehicle's flight, thereby frying a hole through the telescope user's head.

      Back to the drawing board, I think, is appropriate.
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