White leads me to his office, which he shares with a colleague who is looking for water on the moon and then takes me down the hall to Eagleworks.
As we walk, he tells me about his quest to open the lab, which he frames as “a long arduous process of trying to find ways for advanced propulsion to help human space exploration.” He speaks with a slight drawl, a product of many years spent in the South—first at college in Alabama and then 13 years in Texas.
White shows me into the facility and ushers me past its central feature, something he calls a quantum vacuum plasma thruster (QVPT). The device looks like a large red velvet doughnut with wires tightly wound around a core, and it’s one of two initiatives Eagleworks is pursuing, along with warp drive. It’s also secret.
When I ask about it, White tells me he can’t disclose anything other than that the technology is further along than warp drive. A 2011 NASA report he wrote says it uses quantum fluctuations in empty space as a fuel source, so that a spaceship propelled by a QVPT would not require propellant.
White’s warp experiment is tucked into the back corner of the room. A helium-neon laser is bolted onto a small table pricked with a lattice of holes, along with a beam splitter and a black-and-white commercial CCD camera. This is a White-Juday warp field interferometer, which White named for himself and Richard Juday, a retired JSC employee who is helping White analyze the data from the CCD.
Half of the laser light passes through a ring—White’s test device. The other half does not. If the ring has no effect, White would expect one type of signal at the CCD. If it warps space, he says “the interference pattern will be starkly different.”
When the device is turned on, White’s setup looks cinematically perfect: The laser is bright red, and the two beams cross like light sabers. There are four ceramic capacitors made of barium titanate inside the ring, which White charges to 23,000 volts. White has spent the last year and a half designing the experiment, and he says that the capacitors will “establish a very large potential energy.”
Yet when I ask how it would create the negative energy necessary to warp space-time he becomes evasive. “That gets into … I can tell you what I can tell you. I can’t tell you what I can’t tell you,” he says. He explains that he has signed nondisclosure agreements that prevent him from revealing the particulars. I ask with whom he has the agreements. He says, “People come in and want to talk about some things. I just can’t go into any more detail than that.”