I know what you’re thinking: “Zach + Quantum Propulsion = what?”. It’s ok, I really haven’t shown my theoretical physicist side to many people over the years.

My love of physics began in high school and propelled me into a world of physical understanding and inventing things on paper. I’ve got a binder full of ideas back in Illinois. These are the things I would dream about, get inspired by in the morning, and run calculations on during the day. This eventually led me to study Computer Engineering at UIUC. I’m a huge nerd, ok?

Today, a fast company article caught my attention: “Mustafa’s Space Drive: An Egyption Student’s Quantum Physics Invention”.

Aisha Mustafa, a 19-year-old Physics student in Egypt, patented a quantum propulsion system that takes advantage of the Casimir effect, a cavity between two charged plates that generates a repulsive force around it. It isn’t completely known why it works. To add to the confusion, it also appears to defy Newton’s laws.

So why is this crazy? For one, it’s a friggin’ quantum propulsion system! Oh, and secondly, I diagramed this exact engine six months ago on a late-night physics bender. I’ll post some pictures later if I can find the diagrams. I will also explain the ideas at the end of this post. Either way, you should have seen my face when I first read the article.

So now I sit here, hanging out at the Bloc / ClassConnect house in Palo Alto, thinking about what to do…

I thought about the complications of this engine for a really long time - I almost certainly could help Aisha if put in contact. So I just sent the writer of the article a tweet. Hopefully he can connect me.

What about the patent and the IP? I don’t care about ownership of the idea/execution. To me, patents have become a force against open innovation. In addition, as many commenters on Fastco have stated, this whole thing hasn’t even been peer reviewed. Nonetheless, I want to help.

The Tech

So how did I even think about this? Late-night physics benders are pretty strange, and brainstorming ideas means a lack of fact-checking. That’s why I never took much of this seriously. Therefore, if you see some “bad physics” below, realize it isn’t meant to prove causation. Also, the bullet points order is bad. Sorry.

First, I was inspired by the idea of an engine powered by gravity. Anyone who talks to me about physics will realize that I am obsessed with gravity. It’s almost like I’m pulled to it… (bad pun).

With my electrical engineering background, I figured it would be fun to relate this to electricity.

These thoughts led me to go on a wikipedia rampage. After juggernaut/hulking through 50+ articles, I stumbled across the Casimir effect.

Boom. Here is how I tried to rationalize these findings:

What the hell indeed. Nevertheless, I produced a physical mockup of what the engine may look like and ran some calculations. Then I went to bed and continued my normal life.