Mocking Robert Shawyer

Life, once again, imitates art

The British physicist who completed his work on EMdrive in 2007 has known his share of heartache. Thank goodness, he was British, and had that stiff upper lip thing going for him. The drive he proposed last decade broke part of Einstein’s theory … well, in half, and his critics weren’t buying at the time. They are singing a different tune now.

According to IbTimes in the article linked above, “EmDrive is based on the theory of special relativity that it is possible to convert electrical energy into thrust, without the need to expel any form of repellent.” In other words, we don’t need rockets.

Everything about that statement confounds me as a non-scientist type person. And yet, NASA and Boeing are currently working on a drive, and China has already got one that’s producing roughly three times the thrust of NASA’s machine. The misunderstood scientist, Shawyer must be feeling pretty vindicated right now.  Smug, even.

The implications of this drive are game changing. It could take us to space, but it could also be the green energy ticket we’ve been hoping for, provided the technology can be harnessed and doesn’t have some wacky, tropy side effect that could get us all killed. (I’m a writer, imagining the worst is what I do.)  And, I’m gonna say it, even if no one else will, HOVER CARS.

On a personal note

When I wrote Home is the sailor,  I just needed a super weapon. That’s all I needed. I went with EMP, making the tech in my universe old news. Yet, it was so powerful and game changing that it had been banned, hence the conflict. I’m feeling  a little smug, too, right now.

I couldn’t even begin to explain to you the workings of the electro-magnetic drive, but the idea of a weapon that can shut down anything electric has always seemed the most dangerous and effective to me. In fact, it’s what finally kills the Redemption in my world because the thing that changed was a targeting system that could narrow and control the pulse, allowing it to be a directed weapon, and not a WMD.

Trope is trope for a reason

The misunderstood scientist is one of my favorite character tropes. He or she is the best part of almost any disaster movie, right after explosions. They spend the better part of every movie waving data in someone’s face, explaining how they can fix this with no one paying attention. It’s an underdog character, and everybody loves the underdog.

It also says something pretty profound about our western society. We aren’t accepting of the visionaries anymore. We’ve become unforgiving in our view of failures and challenging the staus quo. We don’t like people questioning common wisdom, and yet that’s just what every progression of modern science does. That’s how the world moves forward.

Shawyer is my new favorite scientist because he did something I consider badass. He challenged all our preconceived notions about physics, and dared to question the theory of the master, Einstein, and he took a beating professionally for it. Yet, he stood firm. He continued talking, continued begging for money and backing. He proved them all wrong, and we may one day all reap the benefits of his persistence.

That’s my idea of a hero.

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