Straight Outta Star Trek

This abstract talks about inertial mass. Actually it talks about changing inertial mass, in an isolated object (four different spacecraft, to be precise). This is something that just doesn’t happen, except in Star Trek when Q is around.

It’s the same kind of everyday magic as slowing down light and teleporting photons.

Can the flyby anomalies be explained by a modification of inertia?
The flyby anomalies are unexplained velocity increases of 3.9, 13.5, 0.1 and 1.8 mm/s observed near closest approach during the Earth flybys of the Galileo, NEAR, Cassini and Rosetta spacecraft. Here, these flybys are modelled using a theory that assumes that inertia is caused by a form of Unruh radiation, modified by a Hubble-scale Casimir effect. This theory predicts that when the craft’s accelerations relative to the galactic centre approached zero near closest approach, their inertial masses reduced for about 10^-7 s[.]

So for a tiny fraction of a second, one of the basic physical properties of Galileo, NEAR, Cassini and Rosetta all changed. The observed effect of this change what the heretofore unexplained acceleration of these spacecraft, which in the cases of the older, more distant Pioneer spacecraft, amounts to hundreds of thousands of miles.

Universe Today has a good layman’s explanation.

The Unruh effect, put simply, suggests that accelerating bodies experience a type of electromagnetic radiation. At very low acceleration, the wavelength emitted will be so large that a whole wavelength will be longer than the dimensions of the Universe (otherwise known as the Hubble Distance). Low acceleration would therefore generate waves that have no effect on the body. However, should the accelerating body (i.e. Galileo getting accelerated by Earth’s gravity during the 1990 flyby) slowly exceed an acceleration threshold, the Unruh radiation will decrease in wavelength (smaller than the Hubble Distance), causing a tiny, but measurable “boost” to its increasing velocity.

Well, this may not be the final answer, but it sure is intriguing.

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