Sep 11, 2012

Only One Interstellar Travel Community Will Succeed

Posted by in categories: engineering, finance, philosophy, physics, space

There four camps that comprise the present day interstellar travel community and only one camp will succeed.

The first camp, the conventional rocket camp, believes it is possible using conventional rockets (chemical, ion, nuclear or antimatter) to realize interstellar travel to our nearest star Alpha Centauri. One of the problems is the costs, estimated at an unthinkably large $238,596 billion and upwards. It is several thousand times greater if we choose to use antimatter.

Further, John Eades, a former senior scientist with CERN, in his March/April 2012 Skeptical Inquirer article “Antimatter Pseudoscience”, lays down the reasons why antimatter based propulsion will never be technologically feasible.

Black Hole of wealth. One down three to go.


The second, the hypothesis camp, believes that there is some equation that will allow us to reach 1,000 x velocity of light and upwards based on quantum foam. Nonsense. Be very clear, the experimental evidence proves that anything with mass cannot be accelerated to exceed the velocity of light. Sure, we have hypotheses (i.e. mathematical guesses without experimental proof) that point every which way, but at best these are guesses and they have not or cannot be proven experimentally. In addition, Robert Nemiroff’s three photon discovery suggests that both quantum foam and quantum gravity may in part or whole invalidated while upholding relativity.

Wrong turn. Two down and two to go.


The third, the impossible camp, believes that interstellar travel is impossible. As Prof. Adam Franks stated in his July 24, 2012 New York Times Op-Ed, Alone in the Void, “Short of a scientific miracle of the kind that has never occurred, our future history for millenniums will be played out on Earth”. Obviously the impossible camp disagrees with the hypothesis camp on the basis of the physics.

Don’t argue. Three down one more to go.


I belong to the fourth, the new physics camp, that there is a new physics that the other three camps do not subscribe to. There are 57 of us physicist-engineers from 16 countries, US, Russia, UK, China, Japan, Romania, Austria, India and more, who have researched or are researching new propulsion technologies that are not based on chemical, ion, nuclear or antimatter engines or untested hypotheses. We search out and investigate anomalies.

Change is coming. We will be successful.


Based on my work as evidence, several important phenomena have been discovered

1. A new formula for gravitational acceleration that does not require us to know the mass of the planet or star. This is an immense discovery, never before accomplished in the 346-year history, since Newton, of the physics of gravitational fields, as all theories on gravity require us to know the mass of the planet or star.

2. Solved Laithwaite’s Big Wheel experiment, which nobody else could in the last 35 years.

3. Asked questions that neither relativity nor quantum theory has. For example, how is probability implemented in Nature?

Because we have learned to ask questions that the other three camps have not, we the new physics camp will find different answers and reach the stars before anyone else.


Benjamin T Solomon is the author & principal investigator of the 12-year study into the theoretical & technological feasibility of gravitation modification, titled An Introduction to Gravity Modification, to achieve interstellar travel in our lifetimes. For more information visit iSETI LLC, Interstellar Space Exploration Technology Initiative.

Solomon is inviting all serious participants to his LinkedIn Group Interstellar Travel & Gravity Modification.


Comments — comments are now closed.

  1. If Ray Kurweil’s singularity comes true — and I believe that it will — mankind will sooner be able to create virtual realities to match any possible worlds out there. In that scenario mankind may never want or need to go where man has never gone before. Considering the ubiquitous laws of nature why go there when we can create there right here?

    Yes, in time mankind would uses up all the mass and energy in the Solar System, but by then reasons for traveling would be distant reasons stranger than our present imaginations, maybe. In any case, unless we discover those new technologies soon, we may decide the risks are not worth it when any possibilities out where can be created right here. Of course, we’re presently adventurous beings and find it hard believing we won’t want to go there anyway, but then, if we can remake ourselves to feel happy and content at home in the singularity…many scenario can be possible, especially in the interim…

  2. Tom Kerwick says:

    Ben — thanks for your enthusiastic contributions to Lifeboat. However- if I may be critical I would suggest your new physics camp is just another form of the hypothesis camp — i.e. fringe concepts based on theoretical models, extrapolations, largely exploratory ideas — almost science fiction — if not complete science fiction.

    Interstellar travel is a huge jump — one I would suggest is not even worth contemplating of cost until travel around our solar system becomes commonplace — i.e. easily centuries from now. In this context what you refer to as the conventional rocket camp may be the one to succeed — though I am hesitant to refer to a nuclear or antimatter rocket engine as conventional. You can put a cost on it today, though doing so is largely irrelevant as costs in the future could be far less as technologies advance. It is as pointless as someone in the middle ages contemplating the cost of building a rocket to the moon — as technologies advance and become more feasible the true costs are seen.

    Though for now I’m in what you refer to as the ‘impossible camp’ — such travel I believe is not possible in the short to medium term… Thanks again for your contributions.

  3. JohnHunt says:

    And then there is the non-straw man camp. Take for example, beamed propulsion. No mention of this even though it is experimentally proven and would cost much less because the propellant is left behind. And then there is the longer-trip / stasis crew approach. Since this would require travel times nowhere near relativistic speeds, it wouldn’t cost the hundreds of thousands of billions of dollars posited in this post.

  4. GaryChurch says:

    I am with John. The “Slowboat” scenario is probably within reach or very soon will be by freezing people and using H-bombs for pulse propulsion. Yes, very expensive but then 1 trillion dollars over the next 50 years for the F-35 Stealth Fighter brings the term “relative” into perspective.

    As for “new physics”, the only thing new we are likely to see is more proof that SSP (Small Singularity Propulsion) will be prove feasible. This is the only proposal for a true star drive that has ever been proven mathematically to be viable. Since it is a from of gravity drive, I would say Benjamin the modifier is barking up the wrong tree and should give Louis Crane and Shawn Westmoreland a call. Change is coming but I am afraid these are the guys who are going to be successful.

  5. Tom Kerlick, thanks for your comments.

    Dissent is vital to progress.

    Think what would happen if a hundred years ago all our physicists agreed with each other and concurred that classical physics is all that is needed and it will eventually solve all physics problems, given enough money, people and other resources. We won’t be studying relativity or quantum mechanics or even string theories. We will be studying classical physics!

    But remember for dissent to work it must be backed by an informed opinion, which in the first paragraph of your comment shows you have not done. If you had read my book you would know of the tremendous amount of experimental data I have worked with, and understood the theory-empirical relationships I have investigated. As someone with a PhD you should know that this is not easy to do.

    It is your opinion that interstellar travel is a huge jump. What informs your opinion? Michio Kaku in his April 2008 The Space Show interview said that gravity modification is several hundred years away. I solved it in 12 years. But still Michio Kaku is entitled to his opinion, which is informed by his work on string theory.

    The US is not the only country investigating this field. I know, I get emails from China asking me to present my work or attend their conferences there. And emails from European journals to publish my work with them. So when we come across major road blocks in contemporary physics we either have to explore new avenues or … sit tight and wait for someone else to make a mathematical breakthrough? Like quantum foam, which is now suspect? Or take the initiative and find alternative approaches?

    Highlighting the problems with the current approaches also gives potential investors some background information of what they are getting into, when or *if* to expect a return. If you say you are going to build this grand spaceship that will get us to Alpha Centauri in 40 years, and you only need a little bit of money this year, and it’ll be done. Then next year you go back, for more, and the year after, and after, and after … What doing think that is going to do? The investing community is *very* small, and once made a fool of, all of them won’t touch you.

    You must ask yourself why did DARPA (known to have funded very strange projects) hand off interstellar travel technology to a civilian organization, the 100YSS? Because it was not financially feasible with conventional technologies – search the internet and you will find that answer, from other organizations, including the Air Force.

    Therefore, it is better to let everyone know upfront that conventional rocket technology, will eventually cost $240 trillion, and that, 1,000+ velocity of light is now suspect.

    I welcome dissent but I expect it to be backed by an informed opinion.

  6. John Hunt, thanks.

    In my opinion beamed propulsion is still conventional rocket technology except momentum exchange is provided directly or indirectly by photons.

    All lasers, even though coherent, suffer from beam divergence and therefore there is a limit to how far away the laser source can be from the payload ship. Definitely not Alpha Centuari.

  7. Gary Church, you are funny. Your comments are a comedy of errors.

    Let me try to dissect your comments on my blog post. H-bombs really?

    Search the internet. A 110 kiloton bomb will create on Earth a crater that is 990 ft. wide. An 8 megaton bomb will create one that is 6,240 ft. wide (more than a mile or about 2 km). ‘Create’ means vaporization of everything in that region. Imagine in space where you have nothing, how much bigger a region would this vaporization zone be? So how do you expect to contain and channel this blast when it is vaporizing everything in its path?

    Second problem, lethal doses of gamma and neutron radiation is on the order of kilometers. The EMP is the other problem. A 1.44 megaton bomb’s EMP can cause damage 1,500 km away. So how are you going to protect the spaceship?

    I looked up Small Singularity Propulsion and the Journal of Applied Treknology popped up? Is that your idea of science?

    I looked up Louis Crane and Shawn Westmoreland, to give them the benefit of the doubt ( they say “at the edge of possibility” so they know this is not going to be practical any time soon. They add “but quantum gravity effects could change the picture.” And we know from Robert Nemiroff’s findings that quantum gravity is now suspect.

    I have two questions for you. The second I will ask after you have answered the first. With respect to Crane and Westmoreland, in his blog Jim claims using 1 billion metric tons to propel his craft.

    Jim says Cran & Westmoreland proposed a million metric tons. How are you even going to get a nano-ounce of black hole matter when you cannot even do antimatter which we now have? (re John Eades)

    Jim suggests that for every ton of payload you need 1,000,000 tons of black hole mass. Really? And Gary Church this is your idea of realistic?

    I’m waiting for your reply before I ask the second question.

  8. Tom Kerwick says:

    Ben- I never suggested that all that is needed in physics is already studied. Perhaps you misunderstood as I doubt you would intentionally use straw man arguments — so let me attempt to clarify my views. I have not read your book… yet — I have just read your advertisements here on it to date. Therefore yes I am extrapolating a bit on my first impressions of your research as you present them here. Deriving a proof in mathematical physics does not necessarily follow true that something can be actualized in engineering. We could talk about Lorentzian manifold and the Gödel metric in mathematical physics but that does not mean time travel spaceships are feasible to engineer either.

    Yes — it is my opinion that interstellar travel is a huge jump. This would be the general consensus. As our nearest star systems are many light years away then it is a huge jump to reach them when one considers we have yet to even send a manned mission to Mars which is just 4 light minutes away at nearest approach — and with typical Mars mission plans having round-trip flight times over almost two years — the concept of traveling 4 light years to Alpha Centauri today would be considered crackpot.

    However- you have stated that your research may have made that huge jump on paper at least — by solving equations for a gravity modification technique and how to apply them. As I have not read your book I don’t know how far you’ve taken this… but could you extrapolate a little on how much engineering effort would be required to take your research and use a gravity modification technique to travel to somewhere less ambitious such as… Mars… which is 500,000 times closer, and how long it would take to reach it.

    Finally your closing point on ‘1,000+ velocity of light is now suspect’ — I don’t know of anyone suggesting superluminal velocities except perhaps Star Trek fanatics. The slowboat approach by another contributor here is what I would consider the unfortunate reality to any such adventure — without revolutionary physics as you have adhered to. Perhaps we are closer to the same page than you think — we both consider such adventure practically impossible without such new revolutions in physics and engineering. I am just the more skeptical that the theoretical physics can be actualized into a real engineering project. Perhaps I need to review the ‘technological feasibility’ section of your book to understand how close you have taken your theoretical research towards an engineering concept that is technologically feasible –leaving aside the financial aspects.

  9. JohnHunt says:

    I appreciate the “slow boat” reference. There are quite a number of proposed interstellar missions. Everyone seems to have their favorite. How are we to choose between them. I would like to suggest what I call the First Mission Principle. Simply put, we should put our initial development efforts into that true interstellar mission which is most likely to be the first one to be launched. Whereas on one hand, this should seem rather obvious, the interstellar community tends to ignore this principle and instead focuses most of the expert resources on those approaches which either have a historic development (i.e. Daedalis –> Icarus) or which has sentimental value (e.g. worldships). In both cases, there are more cost-effective approaches to both the science probe and manned approaches.

    My concept called Embryo Space Colonization to Avoid Possible Extinction (ESCAPE) is, I believe, the mission most likely to be launched first. I can understand how people might question this since science probes have been sent to the outer planets whereas people haven’t yet been sent. Also, sending living crew largely avoids the difficult engineering problems involved with automated childbearing.

    But if you look at the TRL levels for automated childrearing, the components are really quite advanced today and will by default largely be fully mature within 50 years. We’ve had viable humans from frozen embryos for 40 years now. A Cornell researcher was able to use a stem cell-derived artificial uterus to gestate rat pups to our equivalent of 31 weeks. YouTube videos can be viewed of very realistic-looking and moving android robots. There are also YouTube videos of recorded and played-back android behaviors. Siri-like verbal dialogue will be much more realistic in 50 years. Full AI is not necessary. Let me repeat emphatically, full AI is not necessary. Rather, a large expert system could be developed which would adequately simulate intelligent interaction. Current examples include Siri, A.L.I.C.E., and especially cleverbot. I expect the Turing Test to be won within 10 years and certainly within 50 years. Specific, ethical development of parenting robots will be necessary but that would cost in the millions not billions of dollars.

    There’s all sorts of other issues such as launch (beamed propulsion), automated habitat and life-support production, and certain ethical issues. I address these in an older version of the concept. Just Google: The EGR Mission.

    The key to understanding why he ESCAPE Mission will be the first is because it is the only true interstellar mission that I know of that can justify a travel time greater than about 200 years. The rationale is that the solar system may not be safe from extinction given our lack of evidence that any other civilization has achieved interstellar travel. Yes, there are plenty of alternate explanations for Fermi’s Paradox but universal extinction remains a real possibility and grows in likelihood every year. The Lifeboat Foundation should know better than others the risks to civilization our self-replicating technology will pose before the end of this century. So, a low-mass, slow, less energetic and hence less expensive mission to ensure the survival of humanity at great distance is justified logically, financially, and ethically as likely the first true interstellar mission.

  10. GaryChurch says:

    I am with John- we think the same and adhere to “Safeguarding Humanity.“
    Sadly, we are among the few with any realistic approaches to accomplishing the lifeboat mission before something bad happens.
    ” you are funny. Your comments are a comedy of errors. “
    well, you might tell that to Stanislaw Ulam, Freeman Dyson, Werner Von Braun, Arthur C. Clarke, among others, who said bomb propulsion will work.
    You are the one who is funny. Gravity modification? You solved it?
    Who is laughing now?

  11. Tom Kerlick, I agree with you that “deriving a proof in mathematical physics does not necessarily follow true that something can be actualized in engineering”. There are many cases of this in physics. Many. My work, however, is very close to the engineering. So that won’t be a problem.

    The last chapter of my book discusses experimental precursor engine designs. The proprietary stuff not discussed in the book needs some more engineering research not physics research. An optimistic time period for a working engine development is three years. That should give you an idea of how far down the road I am.

    And contrary to modern thought, gravity modification cannot deliver interstellar travel.

    A few weeks ago, I found an internet reference to a paper on achieving “1000+velocity of light using quantum foam” by a fairly well know physicist, and it is gone now (Robert Nemiroffs’ finding may have caused him to remove his link), but don’t worry it will resurface soon, and when it does I will post the link here.

  12. John Hunt, thanks for your insights, and your justification for the slow boat, but I’m in a hurry.

    Having worked 10 years for Texas Instruments, the question “You want it when?!” (implying, are you crazy you need that much time? I wanted it yesterday!) is in my blood.

  13. Gary Church, so you could not answer my question, and therefore throw up a smoke screen to avoid answering my question.

    So once again you have shown you don’t understand the process of science. I pity you.

  14. JohnHunt says:

    Benjamin, the “slow boat” is actually the quickest to launch. It is also the quickest to achieve its goal. It is also the most important of all interstellar missions. Here’s why.

    A science probe achieves its goal only after data is returned. So, if it travels at 10% light speed and dies a flyby, them it would be 47 years before we get the data. By contrast, an interstellar mission whose goal is to ensure the survival of humanity achieves its goal the moment it gets a safe enough distance from Earth. For biotech threats, that’s the moment of launch. All other goals are pointless if humanity doesn’t survive. All science, all history, all humanitarian progress is lost if humanity is lost.

    Also, it would presumably take longer to develop the launch facilities to launch something at 10% light speed than .2% light speed. Likewise, it would presumably take longer to develop the infrastructure to launch a larger payload than a smaller payload at the same speed.

    Also, the level of technological development of the components of an ESCAPE Mission is more advanced right now than for a science probe and the natural development of these technologies is progressing faster than the propulsion technologies for a science probe. For example, a realistic-looking and acting android will likely be developed (without input from an interstellar budget) within 50 years anyhow because it would serve other goals such as the need for tour guides or an elderly companion or whatever.

  15. John Hunt says:

    Benjamin, there are some possible solutions to the beam divergence problem. Fresnel lenses are one. Using a neutral particle beam since particle beans are about 6 times more efficient than masers IIRC. SailBeam is a particularly interesting concept.

    Also, you could either produce power at different points in the solar system so as to allow a longer track for high power acceleration or you could transfer power from point to point within the solar system to likewise produce a longer acceleration track. Finally, you could launch your interstellar craft on a path that will bring it back towards the Eartn. On its way to the Earth, you could beam power which could be used to accelerate it using advanced ion propulsion. Then, after passing the Earth, you could beam propel it directly on its way out.