A number of stories have been breaking on the internet from various sources (e.g. The Escapist, Sputnik News, The Daily Galaxy, IFL Science! etc.) with claims along the following from The Escapist,

Skip ahead to this month, where we have a propulsion device that somehow produces microwaves to generate thrust. According to posts on NASASpaceFlight.com, someone at NASA wondered where the thrust came from and used a tool to measure variances in light's path-time. What this tool recorded is that when lasers are fired through the EmDrive's resonance chamber, some of the beams start moving faster than the speed of light. If everything checks out - and on the surface the math does - it means the EmDrive is producing some kind of warp field.

These claims appear to be independent of previous claims that NASA was working on a warp drive. Additionally, the EmDrive appears to have largely been met with skepticism and over on the Physics Stack Exchange site the physics also appear to debunk the drive as well.

As such, are these claims groundless and has there been any official response from NASA yet?

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    The claim seems to me to be that there is a "warp field", which seems far removed from the title's claim of an actual "warp drive".
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 2:01
  • @Flimzy Yes, that's why I called it "warp-like" through, maybe a "'warp-like' field generator" would be a better title?
    – rjzii
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 3:06
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it about unresolved current event or issue currently under investigation by a court of law, government, or other similar investigative body. Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 6:03
  • @rjzii: Perhaps so. My issue isn't with the word "warp" but with the word "drive." As an analogy, ignitable liquid is far removed from an internal combustion engine. It seems NASA may be closer to some sort of energy source(-ish thing), which isn't the same as harnessing it to actually produce drive.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 14:57
  • @Flimzy Understandable but it seems like most people are referring to it as a "warp drive" so for now it might make sense to keep around just because that's the popular convention.
    – rjzii
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


I believe that this post on reddit/r/futorology is a decent overview of the current state of affairs (sources are provided here). To sum up, there are two similar machines being tested, EmDrive and Cannae Drive, both of which claim to produce thrust by pumping microwaves into a cavity, without expelling any propellant. The inventors have various theories for why this should work, none of which are well-grounded in physics theory or experimentation.

However, there is some early, preliminary evidence that these devices do in fact produce thrust. For example, here is a technical report from a Chinese team on EmDrive:

creating a propellantless microwave propulsion system can produce a net thrust; when the microwave source output is 2.45GHz, with a microwave power of 80-2500W, the propulsion produced by the thruster is located in the range of 70-720mN, and the total measurement error is less than 12%

Another test claimed to show space-time distortion effects using "a modified Michelson device," but I haven't seen any clear description of this.

The most likely explanation for the results so far is that these devices do generate thrust, but through some known physics that have not yet been well controlled for. However it has not yet been conclusively demonstrated that the inventors' claims of propellantless thrust are false.

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