Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Can this work? Moving in a vacuum

  1. Oct 7, 2011 #1
    Can this work?? Moving in a vacuum

    Okay, so i have been bugged by this idea for about a week now. And unfortunately it has been quite some time since I took any real in depth science classes. I am wondering if this idea is even plausible.

    In the vacuum of space, would you be able to have a space ship with a paddle-wheel type arm on the back. Instead of the paddles though, it is an arm with wiring coiled around it so that you can run a current through it and create a magnetic field. If that arm could be put on a rotating joint to allow say 180% movement, so as to allow for turning, would the magnetic field( if it was strong enough) be able to move the ship?

    ATM i am not so much concerned with the mass, current required, or speed gained as I am as is this even possible. Also I tend to have wierd ideas, so do you think that this is just completely insane? Plausible but not practical?

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 8, 2011 #2
    Re: Can this work?? Moving in a vacuum

    If you had a wire coiled around a paddle you really just have a solenoid, the magnetic field outside the solenoid is zero for the surface of the cylinder as each component is cancelled by the components generated by the next turn of wire. So there is only really a B field at either ends of the arm but one end would be the ship itself.

    How would generating a magnetic field into space cause a ship or whatever to move? Magnetic fields do no work
  4. Oct 8, 2011 #3
    Re: Can this work?? Moving in a vacuum

    No, it's not plausible.
    A magnetic field in itself generates no force to move the ship.
  5. Oct 8, 2011 #4
    Re: Can this work?? Moving in a vacuum

    Thanks guys, i dont know. I was thinking of kind of like the maglev trains. Like have the metal ship being repulsed by a larger magnetic force.
    Was just an off the wall idea i had but i don't know that much about this stuff. :)
  6. Oct 8, 2011 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Can this work?? Moving in a vacuum

    You want the magnetic field to repel the ship? It would work, but you couldn't carry the magnet or solenoid along with you, you'd have to leave it behind so it would push you away from it. Even then, the propulsion would be good for only a few metres before the field strength was too small to do much more. So not practicable. Myth busted.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook