In perhaps his most famous quip of all time, celebrated physicist Richard Feynman once remarked, when speaking about new discoveries, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.” When you do science yourself, engaging in the process of research and inquiry, there are many ways you can become your own worst enemy. If you’re the one proposing a new idea, you must avoid falling into the trap of becoming enamored with it; if you do, you run the risk of choosing to emphasize only the results that support it, while discounting the evidence that contradicts or refutes it.
Similarly, if you’re an experimenter or observer who’s become enamored with a particular explanation or interpretation of the data, you have to fight against your own biases concerning what you expect (or, worse, hope) the outcome of your labors will indicate. As the more familiar refrain goes, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” It’s part of why we demand, as part of the scientific process, independent, robust confirmation of every result, as well as the scrutiny of our scientific peers to ensure we’re all doing our research properly and interpreting our results correctly.
Recently, former NASA engineer Harold “Sonny” White, famous (or infamous) for his previous dubious claims about physics-violating engines, has made a big splash, claiming to have created a real-life warp bubble: an essential step toward creating an actual warp drive, as made famous by Star Trek. But is this claim correct? Let’s take a look.
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