Previous: Weird Names Around the Solar System
Next: The Weirdness of Jupiter's Great Red Spot



View count:979,554
Last sync:2018-05-04 09:00
Join us for a trip into the SciShow Space News Debunker, where we explore the rumors that NASA has created a warp drive.

Hosted by: Hank Green
Dooblydoo thanks to the following Patreon supporters -- we couldn't make SciShow without them! Shout outs go to Justin Lentz, John Szymakowski, Ruben Galvao, and Peso255.
Like SciShow? Want to help support us, and also get things to put on your walls, cover your torso and hold your liquids? Check out our awesome products over at DFTBA Records:

Or help support us by becoming our patron on Patreon:
Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet?

Hank: If you're a space news junkie (and why would you be here if you weren't), you may have recently heard about NASA's big breakthrough in developing a warp drive-like technology. You may have even heard that they're testing a prototype and that the test was successful.

Well guess what? That's right, it is time for another trip to the SciShow Space News Debunker. It's very nice in there. It's comfortable. We may not get as many views as if we were just spouting off whatever sounded most exciting, but it's nice.

(SciShow Intro Music)

Hank: The most recent buzz started a couple of weeks ago when a website that covers space flight research published an article about a successful test of a new kind of propulsion engine at NASA's physics lab at the Johnson Space Center, informally known as Eagleworks.

The technology in question is a so-called EM or Electromagnetic Drive designed to use electricity to generate thrust without actually having to use any propellant, just like the fabled warp drive in Star Trek. These claims about EM drives have been around since 2000 when a British engineer named Roger Shawyer reported that he had generated thrust by bouncing radiation around inside a cone-shaped canister. As radiation is reflected within the tapered end of the cone, the thinking goes, it could theoretically start to exert force toward the wider end of the cone.

Ostensibly, you could pump in as much energy as you wanted from a nuclear reactor, say, and get an incredible amount of thrust out. If that were true, we'd be dodging Borg ships in the Delta Quadrant in no time. But as anyone who's ever taken a physics class will tell you, there's a law being violated here and it's a pretty basic one. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. That's Newton's Third Law of Motion and it means that no matter how much radiation you have pushing on the walls of the cone shaped container, the walls of the container will push back with just as much force.

So if this device really worked, we would have some serious thinking to do about, like, the nature of the universe. But it's not like the article that created all of this hype just made stuff up out of the blue. NASA really does have an Eagleworks physics lab, and while NASA says it's not developing any kind of warp drive, the lab has been conducting experiments that would come in handy if it was.

And the development that's been getting so much attention is that an Eagleworks physicist says that the lab has managed to generate force using an EM design. Specifically, it was able to produce thrust measuring 30 to 50 micronewtons. Which is about a few millionths of the force you'd feel while holding a 1 kg weight in your hand.

Not only is it not very much force, but it might not even have been produced by the drive they were testing. The equipment they used to gauge the results can only measure accurately within about 15 micronewtons. Which means a lot of what they're seeing could just be random effects. But you know how the internet is. Sometimes the rumors that you hear like Zayn leaving One Direction turn out tragically to be true, but most of the time, especially when it comes to physics -- the rumors about real working hoverboards having been invented or Stephen Hawking saying that black holes don't really exist -- those rumors turn out to be as phony as perpetual motion. 

So don't believe everything you read. Even if we won't be visiting distant galaxies anytime soon, we can still observe them from here on Earth. And a team of American astronomers just announced that they've discovered the oldest and most distant galaxy yet, called EGS-ZS8-1. Thanks to the universe's expansion, the galaxy is about 30 billion light years away right now, but its light has taken 13.1 billion years to reach us, so it's at least 13.1 billion years old. Meaning that what we see from Earth is actually what this galaxy looked like 13.1 billion years ago, and it looks different.

Measured using the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, this galaxy was already about a sixth of the mass of the Milky Way with around eight billion stars. But the thing is, the galaxy that we're seeing now is what existed only 670 million years after the Big Bang. So it must have grown super fast. 

The team estimates that at that point this far-flung galaxy was forming stars about 80 times faster than our own galaxy. But it probably won't hold these records for long. When the James Webb Space Telescope comes online in 2018, we'll be able to more easily measure distances to far-off galaxies and analyze their light to learn more about them. So a lot more information about the early universe is coming our way in the next few years.

Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Space News, which was brought to you by our patrons on Patreon. If you want to become one of those patrons and help make this show possible, you can go to, and also don't forget to go to and subscribe.

(Exit music)