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Can Superconductors Block Gravitational Fields? 481

Posted by chrisd
from the lose-weight-fast-with-no-dieting dept.
jswitte writes "Raymond Chiao, of the University of California at Berkel, believes that superconductors can convert electromagnetic radiation into gravitational radiation. His full paper can be found here. His theory is based on the idea that superconductors might be able to block the so-called 'gravitomagnetic' field just as they block the electomagnetic field in the famous Meissner effect allowing superconductors to levitate in magnetic fields. He claims that when he 'adds the gravitomagnetic field to the standard quantum equations for superconductivity, he confirms not only the gravitational Meissner-like effect but also a coupling between the two breeds of magnetic field. An ordinary magnetic field sets electrons in motion near the surface of a superconductor. Those electrons carry mass, and so their motion generates a gravitomagnetic field.'"
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Can Superconductors Block Gravitational Fields?

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  • If this works you won't be able to create antigravity fields. Antigravity would require canceling out the very powerful static gravitoelctric field and superconductors have no effect on these fields.
    • If this works you won't be able to create antigravity fields.

      Not that this wouldn't prevent the usual research into military applications. I wonder how much force is generated, how much enhancement of force is created per megawatt?

      Insert visions of UFOs with terrawat gravity generators, using this as a weapon to nuetralize gravity at an area of the surface below them. Enemy troops go drifting off into vaccuum or fall from a substantial height back to the ground.

      NB the weather effects as well, of all of that atmosphere going up an anti gravity shaft, creating a storm.

  • by Cyberdeck (15901) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:07PM (#3677111)
    Extrordinary claims need extrordinary proof. Build the device and demonstrate that it works. Publish the specs. Have other people who are not associated at all with you build these devices. If they confirm the results then the claim can be made relatively authoritatively.

    If it doesn't happen then that's also fine, it means that a hypothesis was shown to be not an accurate model of how the universe works.

    The method described is science in action, the way it is supposed to work.


    Of course if this does work then they are going to have some surprises when they enable those underground superconductive power cables in, IIRC, downtown Chicago. (Detroit? Somebody help me out here, please?)

    -C


    • Extrordinary claims need extrordinary proof. Build the device and demonstrate that it works. Publish the specs. Have other people who are not associated at all with you build these devices. If they confirm the results then the claim can be made relatively authoritatively. If it doesn't happen then that's also fine, it means that a hypothesis was shown to be not an accurate model of how the universe works. The method described is science in action, the way it is supposed to work.

      Of course the way science really works is that the 99% of people who propose kooky ideas like this, and who don't work for a university, get labelled as cranks while this guy gets recognition and publicity based solely on some back of the envelope speculation.

      -a
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Extrordinary claims need extrordinary proof.

      God I get sick of hearing that. Given that we know that current scientific models inevitably get overturned for new ones, and given that a claim can only be considered extraordinary (a judgment on the claim) from within a given scientific model (ie it seems to defy it, or seems very improbable within it), why should extraordinary claims be held to a higher standard of proof? Why can't *all* claims be held to an equally high standard?

      • by gorilla (36491) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @10:45AM (#3679164)
        Because some claims are trivial, and we can't spend enough time to validate every claim at the level required to validate the extrordianary ones. If I claim that I've found a fossil of a new species of dinosaur, then that can be validated simply by publishing a description of the fossil. If I claim that I've found a living dinosaur, then I'm going to have to do a little more than just write about it.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      That's right!
      Fuck the Hypothesis!
      The Scientific Method is for losers with too much time on thier hands!
    • by aallan (68633) <alasdair@@@babilim...co...uk> on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @08:03AM (#3678360) Homepage

      ...the method described is science in action, the way it is supposed to work.

      No, actually this isn't how things work these days. Science has become so specialised that there are very, very, few people that can do both theoretically and experiemental work at the cutting edge.

      Most of us have a fairly good knowledge of a very small corner of one field, a slightly less good knowledge of the entire field, and an educated layman's knowledge of the rest of our discipline. Outside of our own discipline our knowledge is fairly scanty, most physicist's knowledge of chemisty for instance is probably no better than your average layman.

      It's just not possible to keep up with everything even in your own field anymore.

      The characteristic of bogus (or "junk") science is theories that give predictions that are untestable, or theories that predict things that have already been proved experimentally to be untrue.

      While I haven't read the paper, not alot of point as I'm not a quatumn physicist, and my knowledge of quatumn field theory is fairly basic, this guy seems to have made predictions which are provable. This is good science. Whether he is right or wrong is imaterial (to the scientific process), his theory is interesting enough that some experimentalist will pick this up and run with and then we'll find out whether the theory is correct (or not).

      Just because he hasn't provided extrordinary proof, doesn't mean that he's doing bad science.

      Al.
  • by ObviousGuy (578567)
    Maybe they'll go back and rename the school correctly. Berkel. It is to laugh!

    As for the theory, it doesn't seem plausible, but physics is full of implausible concepts that work out in real life. Since gravity is a manifestation of a warpage of space-time, does this also mean that he is claiming superconductors are equivalent to gravity wells?

    No doubt that the symmetry between Maxwell's equations and Einstein's equations is stark, but does this also mean that they are equivalent in meaning and applicability? Though the article puts a dig into superstring theory at the end, isn't it exactly this type of theory that is needed to unify such disparate theories as gravity and electromagnetism? If there is a symmetry there, wouldn't it make sense that the two equations would derive from a common principle?

    My elementary physics is no match for the mathematics in the paper.
    • by sconeu (64226) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:29PM (#3677223) Homepage Journal
      No doubt that the symmetry between Maxwell's equations and Einstein's equations is stark, but does this also mean that they are equivalent in meaning and applicability?

      If superstring theory is correct, then they've been known to be equivalent since the 1920s. The Kaluza-Klein equations show that in a 5-dimensional space-time (4xspace + 1xtime) or higher, Einstein's equations and Maxwell's equations both come out. See Kaku's Hyperspace [amazon.com] for more info.
    • Since gravity is a manifestation of a warpage of space-time, does this also mean that he is claiming superconductors are equivalent to gravity wells?

      Cause or effect?

      Does mass produce gravity that produces a distortion in space-time..

      or is it a distortion in space-time that produces the illusion of the gravity associated with a mass?

      Can we exceed the speed of light? Of course we can -- just combine the theories of Einstein with the observations of Gallileo...

      Einstein tells us that the mass of an object increases infinitely as we approach the speed of light. This has been taken by most to mean that accelerating a mass beyond the speed of light would therefore require infinite energy.

      But hang on -- Gallileo correctly determined that the acceleration of an object when acted on by a gravitational field is independent of its mass (air resistance not withstanding).

      So -- if we use an external gravitational field to accelerate an object, the fact that it will gain infinite mass is irrelevant -- because it will maintain the same acceleration regardless.

      Hence -- black holes and their immense gravitational pull are our secret to faster-than-light travel.

      Now if I could just hitch one up to my mountain bike I'd be away :-)
      • Assuming you're not just trolling/joking, here's the thing:

        You don't add velocities linearly in special relativity, they add in such a way that they can never exceed c in any reference frame. In order to move faster than light, you need either a discontinuity or an effect in a domain not covered by SR (GR, quantum, ...).

        Special Relativity is a really cool system, but it doesn't act intuitively - it all falls out of the simple assumption that everybody always sees light as moving at c relative to their own reference frame (no matter how fast they are moving).

        There's a nice intro to a bunch of the concepts involved here [earthlink.net] (sorry, requires flash).
    • Obv notes accurately: "...physics is full of implausible concepts that work out..." Superconductors play close to the edge. Take this idea, for instance:
      1. Make an ice chest out of single-crystal high-temperature superconductor. (Can't be done in practice yet, but nothing theoretically impossible about it.) The chest is a single crystal, the lid is another single crystal machined to very close tolerance. No gaps when you put it on.
      2. Cool the ice chest down to liquid-nitrogen temp and run a current through it. It is now superconducting, and it is now non-conductive of heat. Put in this ice chest a solid piece of frozen oxygen or whatever you like that's cold cold cold.
      3. Lid on, current now running through lid too.
      You are now keeping a piece of oxygen frozen solid at little more than the energy expenditure to keep some nitrogen liquid. Sounds like it doesn't compute, but a cryo guy told me it would work. (Shoulda patented it...)
    • by s390 (33540)
      Maybe they'll go back and rename the school correctly. Berkel. It is to laugh!

      Surely. Isn't it properly spelled "Berzerkely?" ;-)

      As for the theory, it doesn't seem plausible, but physics is full of implausible concepts that work out in real life.

      True enough. Yet the more implausible they seem, the more I suspect them of being over-convoluted theories that just _happen_ to match the results. Some things that seem implausible from a macro (visible, Newtonian) point of view are believable, but a lot of the quantum-level theories are just guesswork, as far as I'm concerned. Physicists must publish _something_ to keep their jobs, and that's what I think drives too much of the recent scientific theorizing. Publish something! That's their bread and butter. And they can write up for grants to pursue Big Physics research... and jobs. For example, fusion research is all simply a massive boondoggle.

      Since gravity is a manifestation of a warpage of space-time, does this also mean that he is claiming superconductors are equivalent to gravity wells?

      Another interpretation is that the space-time warp of gravity is a big illusion... that gravity isn't about mass but about energy (and mass and energy are related, thus the illusion). Thus the photons which have no mass _do_ have its analog... energy, and thats what gravity acts upon to bend the path. There _must_ be a consistent explanation for both macro and quantum level interactions, and until we find it, we'll not be intellectually fit to travel into the cosmos. We've got time (depending on when the next major comet intersects Earth's orbit at the wrong moment), but we do really need to figure everything out before our time runs out for us here.

      No doubt that the symmetry between Maxwell's equations and Einstein's equations is stark, but does this also mean that they are equivalent in meaning and applicability?

      My intuition tells me that such mathematical symmetries are trying to tell us something, but we just haven't figured it all out well enough - yet. We need free thinkers in the physical sciences, but... the entire structure of academia is built to enforce conformity. Some few people survive it and think "outside the box" as it were (Feynmann comes to mind), but the majority are just buried in conformity. The best thing the politicians could do to advance science would be to grant all science graduate students Associate level pay with no obligations to serve their tenured colleagues, but maintaining their freedom to consult and even collaborate with them whenever they find it helpful. This would accelerate big science in a way that would make the last decades seem a backwater.

      Though the article puts a dig into superstring theory at the end, isn't it exactly this type of theory that is needed to unify such disparate theories as gravity and electromagnetism? If there is a symmetry there, wouldn't it make sense that the two equations would derive from a common principle?

      Yes. Superstring theories (there are several that are trying to agree, convolutedly) are all so very complex that they're ultimately not very credible. Sorry! (To a generation of theoretical physicists.) The Universe _must_ have some simple rules (Einstein would agree with this, I am sure), but you haven't figured them out, so far. Complex systems are the products of insufficient mentality in both science and large-scale software systems. The bottom line for me is that I'm not convinced that they're not just playing with irrelevant and really fantastic math that will never work right. When they go outside five dimensions (3 space, 1 time, 1 energy), I lose interest. Or maybe six (vector/spin). But you maybe will get my drift... ten, twelve, fourteen dimensions? Give it up already!

      My elementary physics is no match for the mathematics in the paper.

      Mine too. ;-) But my scientific intuition is not satisfied by the embarrassing worldwide failure to integrate General Relativity with the Standard Model of Quantum Theory. It's an intellectual debacle that the so-called "best minds" of science haven't been able to work this out for going on a century here. It's also a shame that kids aren't going into science. Can we rehabilitate the Red Menace to get our politicians and educators back in gear here? That worked real well in the 50s and 60s, but raghead terrorists won't cut it.

      • "The Universe _must_ have some simple rules"

        Why? This is a most extraordinary claim. Are you prepared to produce your extraordinary evidence?

        Oh, and a quote from Einstein that I rather like, ""Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

        "When they go outside five dimensions (3 space, 1 time, 1 energy), I lose interest."

        It's funny: when I read this I got a mental picture of a race of blind people discussing physics and introducing this bizarre concept of "energy waves" that travel around, and people getting bored by it because it's obviously just an overly complex theory being shoe-horned onto reality.

        Do you have any evidence, or even any reason to believe, that there are in fact not seventeen dimensions and we just don't have the necessary organs to readily percieve them all as being distinct?

        Bear in mind that without sight or our kinesthetic sense, there would be no especially good or convincing way to tell that space had 3 dimensions to it.

        Btw, when the view that you are currently advancing was put forth on some other topic a few weeks ago, a name for was mentioned that seems highly appropriate: "proof by instant gratification". How do you maintain it with a straight face?

        • Do you have any evidence, or even any reason to believe, that there are in fact not seventeen dimensions and we just don't have the necessary organs to readily percieve them all as being distinct?

          Do you have any evidence or reason to believe that there's not an _infinite_ number of dimensions? Why not? If you accept (with _no_ supporting evidence) 10 or 12 or 14 dimensions, why not go for 10,000 or so dimensions, or 10**80 or so dimensions. It makes no difference! It's all just imaginary, just conveniently approximate math to justify what the so-called "scientists" do with large amounts of public moneys, which they waste.

          I'm no Luddite (a step-daughter did theoretical quantum physics until she transferred into astrophysics last year), but I'm skeptical.
          • by Sklivvz (167003)
            Do you have any evidence or reason to believe that there's not an _infinite_ number of dimensions?

            Well, you seem to forget the reason why those extra dimensions were put in string theory! The K-K equations show that adding an extra (curled up) dimension makes EM a consequence of GR. So, in simple terms, you do see the extra dimension, but you "measure" it as EM charge. The other dimensions are added up to provide for the other charges (i.e. weak and strong charges). Is that so strange? Not to me, not stranger than allowing for phantomatic "charges" (what is EM charge made of?).

            So basically, we don't have an infinite number of dimensions because we don't have an infinite number of different possible charges.
            • (Great sig you have - what does it really say?)

              See Occams Razor (the original statement, much abused since), which was roughly "Don't multiply entities beyond necessity."

              To me, that translates to deprecate imaginary dimensions in quantum mechanics, beyond necessity. Necessary means observable.

              To me, superstring theory is just too fantasical to stand. Sorry, Hawking, et al. I don't buy it, the Universe doesn't work like that.

              I think we ought to demote most of the physicists in academia to teaching positions - no "research" for about 5 years or so. Then let students loose on the issues, but with none of that former apprenticeship culture that has held back several generations of scientists.

      • I call bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by denshi (173594) <toddg@math.utexas.edu> on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @04:29AM (#3678010) Homepage Journal
        Yet the more implausible they seem, the more I suspect them of being over-convoluted theories that just _happen_ to match the results. Some things that seem implausible from a macro (visible, Newtonian) point of view are believable, but a lot of the quantum-level theories are just guesswork, as far as I'm concerned.
        And yet, they're not guesswork. They are powerful predictive models that have enabled the construction of devices such as the one you are typing garbage into.
        Physicists must publish _something_ to keep their jobs, and that's what I think drives too much of the recent scientific theorizing.
        Every competent university physicist could easily double their salaries by going into industry. Not everyone in the world is as cynical and trite as yourself.

        Yes, academic credentialism is driven by publishing. So? How does that translate into your assumption that all the 'recent theorizing' is bunk? Publishing is hard work. You don't just make up crap and watch is magically traverse the gauntlet of peer review.

        For example, fusion research is all simply a massive boondoggle.
        Oh, right, because there's no such thing as fusion. That's why we know it's a boondoggle. Oh wait. It seems fusion is actually a common physical process! Maybe we should look into it. If, you know, that's all right with you.
        Another interpretation is that the space-time warp of gravity is a big illusion... that gravity isn't about mass but about energy (and mass and energy are related, thus the illusion). Thus the photons which have no mass _do_ have its analog... energy, and thats what gravity acts upon to bend the path.
        Work up the math, develop a consistent theory with provable axioms, then we'll talk. This isn't consultancy, s390, this is science. Golf, blowjobs, and 'intuition' won't cut it. Oh, and physics on LSD went out 20 years ago.

        Have you actually *read* the General Theory of Relativity? Go get Wheeler's "Gravitation". It deals with your confused theory, and much more besides, all coherently.

        We need free thinkers in the physical sciences, but... the entire structure of academia is built to enforce conformity. Some few people survive it and think "outside the box" as it were (Feynmann comes to mind), but the majority are just buried in conformity.
        There are things to be said in favor of conformity. Science was created in a time of mystics and frauds. Actually having to prove what you claim was a big jump, and conformity is a natural side-effect of that. On the other hand, there is too much conformity in the university environment these days, but for that the blame can be laid at the doors of the administration. Nationwide, administration staff has doubled relative to student&faculty populations. All the bone-headed management theories that the private sector spent the last decade or two working through have trickled into the Uni, and all the 'free thinkers' fear for their jobs. Tenure, the great bulwark of high-performance original thinkers, is on the way out.
        The bottom line for me is that I'm not convinced that they're not just playing with irrelevant and really fantastic math that will never work right. When they go outside five dimensions (3 space, 1 time, 1 energy), I lose interest.
        Work through the math, get back to us.
        But my scientific intuition is not satisfied by the embarrassing worldwide failure to integrate General Relativity with the Standard Model of Quantum Theory. It's an intellectual debacle that the so-called "best minds" of science haven't been able to work this out for going on a century here.
        Perhaps if your 'scientific intuition' was better grounded in, say, math and science, then you wouldn't troll with this garbage. Oh, we broke the Standard Model 3 years ago. Better update your notes.
        • Yes, academic credentialism is driven by publishing. So? How does that translate into your assumption that all the 'recent theorizing' is bunk? Publishing is hard work. You don't just make up crap and watch is magically traverse the gauntlet of peer review.

          Well, from a certain point of view though....

          At some level some publishing is, "I've noticed this quirk. It that light at the end of the tunnel illumination, or sunlight shining in my sphincter?" Sometimes in Physical Review Letters I would come across what would appear to be fairly formal flames. And other times the multitude of arguments leading to contradictory conclusions would individually be so compelling I wouldn't know what to think.

          At some level all theorizing starts out as bunk, and the successful ideas percolate to the top. But I'm hardly an expert. :)
  • Sorry, no anti-grav (Score:3, Informative)

    by sequence_man (97765) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:08PM (#3677115) Homepage
    All he is exccluding are gravity-waves. These are different then the basic curvature of space that generates gravity itself. Basically they are little ripples that float on top of the curvature. So blocking them won't levitate us.
    • by beanyk (230597) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:52PM (#3677312)
      All he is exccluding are gravity-waves. These are different then the basic curvature of space that generates gravity itself.


      If you mean "gravitational waves", then no, they are *not* different from the curvature of space. It's exactly the same stuff, though gravitational waves passing close to the Earth are probably very weak.So yes, they look like ripples on our pretty flat curvature, but they're just smaller-scale, generally weak curvature perturbations on a much more uniform background curvature.

      As an aside, the term "gravity wave" is usually taken to mean "wave formed by a process where gravity is significant", like some types of water wave. Not actually what's been talked about here.
      • by Wraithlyn (133796) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @03:10AM (#3677871)
        If you click the sidebar link [sciam.com] at the bottom, there is a paragraph that reads:

        "Even if Chiao's contraption works, it wouldn't allow the generation of antigravity fields, as Russian materials scientist Eugene Podkletnov, then at Tampere University of Technology in Finland, controversially claimed to have observed in 1992 (see link [sciam.com] ). Antigravity requires canceling out a powerful, static gravitoelectric field, yet superconductors have no effect on such fields."
  • by Max Threshold (540114) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:09PM (#3677122)
    Isn't this just a new take on the Podkletnov effect [inetarena.com]?
    • by Vireo (190514) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:54PM (#3677319)
      Isn't this just a new take on the Podkletnov effect?

      Excerpt of the article in the paper version of SciAm:

      (...) Even if Chiao's contraption works, it wouldn't allow the generation of antigravity fields, as Russian materials scientist Eugene Podkletnov, then at Tampere University of Technology in Finland, controversially claimed to have observed in 1992. (...)


  • by DaBjork (575727) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:13PM (#3677150)
    Firstly, Fuel cells ARE 8th grade chem, they are just 2H + O = H2O. Secondly, astrophysicists have been theorizing antigravitation as a solution to the "dark matter" problem for quite sometime. Don't get me wrong, I am all for a healthy dose of cynicism, but in order to progress we need to take an open mind. This is not that far out of the realm of possibility. Point to the error in the theory if you feel this person is wrong. Then your point will stand on it's own.
    • "I am all for a healthy dose of cynicism, but in order to progress we need to take an open mind."

      Not necessarily.. you should clarify that to *scientists willing to do the research* need to have an open mind. The rest of us can go along with "believe it when I can buy it for $49.95 at Wal*Mart" stance and the world will be just fine.

      My not believing (or understanding for that matter) that this stuff works, doesn't have any impact on the future at all :)
      • I can buy it for $49.95 at Wal*Mart" stance

        You'll be seeing this at the Sharper Image [sharperimage.com].

        "Dude! You have a computer game in your bag. My computer has a built-in mouse and this game with goblins. You gotta burn me a copy of that on CD! You suck!"
        -Orange-haired employee at the Sharper Image(2 months ago).
  • by PurpleFloyd (149812) <<moc.ibtta> <ta> <02onez>> on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:16PM (#3677157) Homepage
    Note that the Scientific American article is very cautious: they state the implications if it's true. While, if true, this is a breakthrough on the level of relativity or quantum mechanics, one should take this with a large grain of salt. Plenty of other "revolutionary" theories haven't managed to pan out.
  • This was also in wired about 5 years ago, you can find it here [wired.com].
  • If a superconductor will float in a static magnetic field, why won't it weigh less in a static gravitational field? If it did, they wouldn't have to go throug elaborate tests to verify the theory.
    • The weight of an object is precisely the force acting on it resulting from a gravitational field. When the superconducter levitates in a magnetic field, it still weighs the same as neither its mass nor the gravitational field have changed. Instead, the magnetic field applies a force on the superconducter that is larger than the gravitational force.

      Similarly, a plane in flight still weighs the same, but the air moving across its wings applies an equal upward force, keeping it aloft.

      • Yes, force applied by gravity on a superconductor doesn't change when it's put in a strong magnetic field. But if a superconductor can do the same thing to gravitational fields as magneticc fields (repulse them), then wouldn't there be less gravity acting on a superconductor than an ordinary conductor?
        • It's been a long time since I did this (1988), but in my senior year of high school a couple friends and I made a superconductor with our physics teacher. With it we successfully reproduced magnetic levitation [gsu.edu] via the Meissner Effect [gsu.edu]: "If a small magnet is brought near a superconductor, it will be repelled becaused induced supercurrents will produce mirror images of each pole. If a small permanent magnet is placed above a superconductor, it can be levitated by this repulsive force."

          Thus, the superconductor is not affecting the gravitational field. It is in a sense becoming a magnet itself, producing an exact-opposite magnetic field. This new field simply repels the magnet, producing levitation. By far the coolest effect was spinning/flipping the magnet over the superconductor and having it remain levitated, as the superconductor's magnetic field was always a mirror of the magnet's.

          Now, in this I am not talking about the article or paper (I just started reading it). I'm simply talking about the magnetic field that is induced in a superconductor by magnets. My only experience and knowledge of the subject was the experiment in high school.

    • by dragons_flight (515217) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @12:58AM (#3677558) Homepage
      Ordinary gravitational attraction is dominated by "gravito-electric" force, or in normal language the force generated by stationary masses. In everyday concerns the Earth is the only mass that matters and it is stationary to a good approximation for nearly everything humans do.

      The paper talks solely in terms of affecting "gravito-magnetic" forces, which are those exhibited by moving masses (and generally only significant among masses moving at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light). Simply put there just isn't enough gravito-magnetic force in every day life to notice any change. If there were an appreciable gravito-magnetic force in ordinary everyday gravity then yes you could test it, though I'm not clear how to expect it to react.

      To put things another way, Newton described gravity purely in gravito-electric terms and most of us will never notice the more complex gravitiational interactions that Einstein discovered and this physicist cares about.
  • I'm surprised he doesn't have any references to the Podkletnov and Woodward [inetarena.com] effects.

    In any case, I'm not sure I believe any of this, but I think it's good that there are people thinking outside the mainstream.

    • Maybe he thinks, like most of us do, that Podkletnov is a crackpot, and he wants to dissasociate himself as much as possible.
      • Re:Podkletnov (Score:3, Insightful)

        by g4dget (579145)
        This is science, not a sandbox brawl. You don't get to pick and choose who you cite based on who you don't like. Podkletnov's experimental results are published, peer reviewed, and seem related. If Chiao is aware of them (and he must be), he has an obligation to cite them. If he thinks Podkletnov's results have no bearing on the effects predicted by his own theory, he can explain so in his citation. If he thinks there are fundamental flaws with Pokletnov's experimental setup, he can explain them.

        Personally, I think both are crackpots. But if crackpots publish scientific papers, they still should follow the rules of academic conduct, because the rules of academic conduct ultimately are what helps us sort out the real crackpots from the forward thinkers.

  • superconducters (Score:2, Informative)

    by DaBjork (575727)
    I might add after perusing the comments a little about superconductors. First off, liquid nitrogen is not a magic and impossible to find substance. it is cheap and easy to acquire as far as gasses go. Secondly, the city of Chicago has been using superconductors in their power grid for around 2 years. Supposedly the main line carries something on the order of 10s of thousands of amps (I belive 16,000 but I am not sure). Just for scale, you be hard pressed to find a house with any plugs rated above 20 amps, the nuclear structure lab I work at has some lines with 50 amps, but none higher.
    • [Nitrogen] is cheap and easy to acquire as far as gasses go.

      I have some nitrogen for sale, if you'd like. Fair warning, though: it's a little contaminated. I think it's only about 75%-80% pure.

  • ...somebody claims this. IIRC, someone in the early 80s had claimed to have done this (with "Radio Shack" parts) - I wish I remember where I read this - and of course there's Podkletnov [inetarena.com], though the jury's still out on whether it was a hoax or not [parascope.com]. Mind you, NASA has its own programme researching this...I'd be curious to hear their take on the issue.
  • Where do we donate to erect a statute of him in Montana [imdb.com]?

    BTW, I've noticed a disturbing trend of really smart people != me ...

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:32PM (#3677234) Homepage
    The key point here is that the theory predicts that the conversion of microwaves to gravity waves will be reasonably efficient. So this is testable, and is being tested. There should be a definitive result this year.

    Nobel prize material if it works. Footnote in Physical Review Letters if it doesn't.

    • The key point here is that the theory predicts that the conversion of microwaves to gravity waves will be reasonably efficient. So this is testable, and is being tested.

      How? Are they actually *detecting* gravity waves?
      • by Wocko (27778) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @02:16AM (#3677750)
        It is based on the fact that not only should gravity waves convert to microwaves, but that the inverse should be true.

        So, if you imagine the following experiment:

        Inside a Faraday cage, place a superconductor and a microwave source.

        Inside another Faraday cage, place a superconductor and a microwave detector.

        From inside the first Faraday cage, fire the microwave source at the superconductor. The theory predicts that a gravitation wave will be emitted.

        Aim the (suspected) emitted gravitation wave at the second superconductor (inside the second Faraday cage).

        Detect any microwave radiation after the gravitation wave has been converted by the second superconductor.

        The Faraday cages block electromagnetic radiation so they ensure that no microwaves can leak from the emitter to the detector, and therefore gravitation waves must be the culprit.

  • podkletnov (Score:2, Informative)

    by prell (584580)
    this observation was made years back by a scientist named podkletnov in Europe (hey, I said it was a while ago ;-). He used a super-cooled YBCO (yttrium boron carbon oxygen I believe) superconductor and was able to "reduce the mass of" (ie affect the gravitational effect on) objects. They actually ran an article in wired on him way back when (96-98 sometime). The "gravity society" had a website at www.gravity.org, but currently I cant reach it.
  • not yet antigravity (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    First of all, he's talking about blocking "gravitomagnetic" fields, which if I understand correctly you get from moving masses. So the static gravitational effect from e.g. the Earth isn't blocked.


    If what he claims is true then first of all he has invented a great new way to emit and detect gravitational waves. It would be awesome for astronomy, useful for submarine communication (and maybe detection), and probably many other things. However, it's not immediately obvious that we're talking "antigravity" here, so don't get too excited.

    Also keep in mind that 99+ times out of 100 these sorts of claims are completely bogus and a waste of time. Just sit tight and wait for rebuttals or confirmation to appear on the LLNL server.

  • A few posters, and Scientific American itself, are skeptical of these claims. This is reasonable, because they are so dramatic.

    If Dr. Chiao is worried about his reputation, or getting published, or arguing with critics, I have some free advice: discover first, publicise second.

    The article claims "By the time the theory is vetted, though, Chiao will probably have conducted his experiment and settled the question." Wonderful! Wait a few months to actually do the experiment, then publicise it. His reputation will be safe, everyone will want to publish it, and critics can try the experiment themselves. He will probably be able to complete it faster because he won't have all these clueless reporters asking him questions.

    But you have to discover it first.

    • by Saoshyant (584551) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @12:11AM (#3677392)
      Chiao has published the paper describing the theory, complete with mathematical arguments that "seem to be correct." Now, he's moving on to perform the experiments that will either verify or refute the theory. This is the way it's done! Black Holes were nothing more than a theory with mathematical arguments that "seem(ed) to be correct", until CHANDRA started supplying experimental evidence. General Relativity was a theory with mathermatical aruments that "seem(ed) to be correct", until we managed to observe light bending around the mass of the sun. There's nothing wrong with publishing a theory that has yet to be proven; many theoretical physiscists never participate in experimentation. They publish theories.
      • I think it's still an open question whether black holes (singularities in space-time) actually exist. All the current observations are compatible with many different kinds of theories. And there is no experimental evidence available at all, only observational evidence.
      • In the abstract, he references no less than six effects with other physists last names. So name dropping probably works better than saying things like "Einstein and his cronies are fools! I am the one true world genius!"
    • discover first, publicise second

      It is not always the scientist who is responsible for publication. It also happens that university staff hear about some discovery that may or may not be valid, and chat about it during lunch with someone who knows a reporter, who then publishes some wild story. Scientist's career is ruined, but hey, at least we sold a couple more newspapers...

  • by Ezubaric (464724) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @12:03AM (#3677355) Homepage

    I had a friend who was working on this for a while. He kept building larger and larger metal units, cooling them down more and more, trying to get a rotating disk to speed up in a very, very, strong (par. magnetic field). If it sped up, then this was a reduction in the moment of inertia, and a decreased effective mass.

    After two years of working on it, he gave up. He did get a measurable increase, but it was too little to be more than measurement error.
  • Can this work in reverse to create a gravity field? Artificial gravity on the space station, for example. Or doubled/tripled/quad gravity in a lab on earth to test equipment intended for planetary exploration. I'm sure somebody could use that, if it's possible.

    That said, I think somebody needs a girlfriend... Or the "The Simpsons" Season 1 Box Set and a DVD player.


  • Note: I'm not especially expecting this to be true, just wondering what it would mean if it WERE true. I'm also just a computer science student, and am acting more as a philosopher than a scientist proper.

    If it were true that gravity can be "generated" from matter by setting it up in a special super-conductive state, then sending energy at it, then we could learn several things.

    First, we could learn if gravity is faster than the speed of light. This also means that faster-than-light communication would be possible, and eventually a form of faster-than-light information-conversion-based travel.

    In addition, a new form of travel may be possible by just sending a small gravity generator where you expect to go, and have the smaller object pull you towards your destination at a cheaper net fuel cost. There's a LOT of assumptions here though, and the very idea itself seems to go against many principles of energy conservation.

    It would also mean that humanity would have an interesting opportunity to attract matter, and eventually counter the effects of universal expansion.

    Through learning about the speed of gravity, if we find that it is "instant", it may be possible to learn the time scale of the universe.

    We may also learn of the nature of the range and shape of gravity over distance. Things such as if it travels as waves that may miss particles, and if there are "weak" spots in it's eminations relative to the polls of an atom, and how often these waves may be emitted if they exist as such.

    Of course, nothing says that even if this were true, that it would be in any way efficient to use energy to generate gravity. Perhaps there is no way we could even generate gravity fast enough through energy conversion to match the effects of a marshmellow. Or much worse, perhaps it would be ironically simple to make a device that would slam a distant asteroid, planet, or star into our world within a few decades of the first exeriment!

    So, what else might this mean, either if it is true or false?

    :^)

    Ryan Fenton
    • We already know that gravity propogates at the speed of light to within our ability to measure it's effects (which is reasonably good). Doing so is also a requirement of general relativity.
      • Let me qualify that by saying the way GR ought to be applied, as opposed to the way it often is. We don't generally propogate gravitional effects as travelling distortions to space time because it is too hard. Instantaneous changes are easier.

      • You'll forgive my honest ignorance - but I'm having a bit of a hard time finding more than indirect evidence pointing to the expectation that gravity should act like other recognized massless particle just because it travels like it has 0 mass - since that's just assuming it can't be different in any way in order to stick with one form of relativity.

        The closest thing to direct evidence I've found for gravity travelling at light speed is in observation of the changing orbits of binary pulsars, and the like - but this is not really a satisfying set of evidence for me. It assumes so many aspects of gravitational ratiation escaping and the like, that it really doesn't seem a clear picture so much as a loose interpretation based on existing assumptions.

        Also, in another part of this thread, I posted this link:

        http://www.ldolphin.org/vanFlandern/gravityspeed.h tml [ldolphin.org]

        , which seems to be a frequently-posted link in discussions like these. I find that the path of discussion in that link has at least a few points valid enough for me to realistically doubt that gravity must act like a conventional form of radiation. I'd definetly be interested in any evidence, and I'm not at all attached to the notion that gravity acts in one way or another - so, if there's some argument or logic I'm missing, lay it on me!

        :^)

        Ryan Fenton
  • ..to even pretend to understand this. But this much I know: I'll be keeping those old technology wheels on my car for a while longer. I wonder how long it will be before I can't get any one to work on my car, while they sniff and look down their nose, complaining (whining) "That's OLD technology. Upgrade to anti-grav!"
  • Not Anti-Gravity (Score:2, Interesting)

    by FatlXception (458604)
    If I understand the Scientific American article correctly, what we're talking about here is NOT blocking gravitational fields in the standard sense. The normal, static gravitational effect we associate with massive objects is really a manifestation of the gravitoelectric field. Superconductors, however, are believed to block the gravitomagnetic field, which occurs when a massive object is in motion or rotating. This is also referred to as the Meissner effect, or "frame-dragging". Note the effect of earth's gravitomagnetic field is very small; physicists have only barely been able to prove its existence based on minor course corrections needed for satellites in earth orbit, where the earth is the massive rotating object. So no, the effect of superconductors on gravity (if true at all), will not directly lead to hover technology. What it might lead to is a better method of detecting and generating gravitational waves; in theory, such waves could someday be used for communication the way EM waves are today.
  • Links to frontier sciences, free energy, anti-gravity sites can be found via: http://opensource.nus.edu.sg/projects/science/ http://opensource.nus.edu.sg/projects/conspiracy/ http://opensource.nus.edu.sg/projects/gaia/ http://opensource.nus.edu.sg/projects/ccfoo/
  • Electrons in motion are still positive mass-energy, they aren't going to "shield" the gravitational field the same way they can move to block electromagnetic fields.

    I haven't read the original article, but my guess is that the author is either working from some very simplified (linearized?) gravitational field equations, or else the author is somewhere making an assumption that these electrons in motion will have a negative contribution to the stress-energy tensor. And that's a big assumption. You may be able to write down pretty and symmetric equations which result in antigravity, but to date every examination of gravity has shown that it is asymmetric and the only thing we've ever found is positive contributions to the stress-energy tensor...

  • by Edmund Blackadder (559735) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:13AM (#3677607)
    Just because a theory sounds nice and fits well with other known theories (electro magnetism) does not mean it is true.

    There is plenty of moving mass in the universe. Has anyone measured a gravitomagnetic effect?

    i havent heard of it.
    • There is plenty of moving mass in the universe. Has anyone measured a gravitomagnetic effect?

      The problem is that there is either big mass moving slowly or small mass moving fast. You need a big mass to move fast to get a measurable effect. A supernova in our galaxy should generate a gravitomagnetic field big enough to measure with current sensors. On average, they happens once every few hundred years. We just need to wait...

      IIRC, the gravitomagnetic field has been measured indirectly by observing the slowdown of a rapidly rotating binary star. The rate of deceleration not accounted for by other effects matched the predicted amount of energy it was supposed to lose by radiating gravitation waves with very good accuracy.
  • Finally a second use for those oversized warp coils...
  • by Byteme (6617) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @02:09AM (#3677734) Homepage
    ...and his anti-gravity machine? This looks somewhat similar...

    Dr. Podkletnov was discounted as a hoax by many sources (cited that rising gases from the coolant, air flow from spinning or magnetism influenced his results), his university ejected him and now he has retreated to a hermetic existence.

    Here is a story on Wired [wired.com] for your reading pleasure.

    Much more to look if you search Google [google.com].

  • by austad (22163)
    Isn't this the same type of thing that NASA funded some guy several million to develop? It was on slashdot last year sometime. Apparently, they want him to build a giant rotating superconductor that would sit below the shuttle launchpad. Even if it reduced the effective mass by only a fraction of a percent, it would save huge amounts of fuel.
  • by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @02:27AM (#3677782)
    I've just finished my own version of the experiment.

    I took a tin pie tray and stuck it in the freezer for a couple of hours.

    Then I rummaged through the attic and found that old turntable that used to scratch all my Barry Manilow LPs back in the '70s.

    After running an extension lead from the socket on the kitchen bench over to the freezer, I stuck the plate on the turntable, set it to 78RPMs and let her rip.

    The inital results were somewhat disappointing. Several spiders and a rodent that was either a very large mouse or a small rat ran out the back of the turntable and disappeared into a bag of frozen mince -- but the pie tray didn't lift up an inch.

    Not to be discouraged, I figured that perhaps the reduced gravitational field only appeared above the pie tray -- so I grabbed the cat (which just happened to be passing by at the time) and pressed its warm little bottom onto the frozen pie tray.

    I guess it was a little cold for him because he didn't half get excited -- or maybe I should have taken that spindle out of the center of the turntable first -- oh well.

    Anyway, after a bit of hissing, growling and some bleeding (my blood not his), the cat eventually settled down enough for me to release him.

    He sat their with a glazed look in his eyes and once again I flicked the switch to 78 RPMs.

    Horray -- Success!

    The cat lept several feet into the air, schrieking, hissing, wailing and spinning wildly at what I figured was probably 78RPMs.

    But alas, the effect was short lived.

    No sooner had this levitated feline lifted into the air than he crashed back down onto the rotating pie tray.

    Ah, what the hell -- I slammed down the freezer lid and sat down in front of the TV with a beer.

    I'll go back later and see whether he's settled down. Maybe tomorrow.

    Anyway -- it looks as if there is some effect there but measuring it requires the use of protective garments and probably a more cooperative cat.

    Now there's some guy called Schrodinger at the door asking whether the cat in my freezer is dead but telling me not to open the lid.

    What the hell's going on there I wonder?
  • It appears that science is much more human-interest oriented and (perhaps) less objective than we would like to believe. I counted no less than 30 different names mentioned explicitely (not used as units) in this paper. Thats almost two a page, and I didnt even count the formal acknowledgements!

    Starring, in order of Apperance
    Raymond Chiao
    Meissner
    Lense
    Thirring
    Ginzburg
    Landau
    Hertz
    DeWitt
    Lagrange
    Hamilton
    Papini
    Josephson
    Anandan
    Cooper
    Minkowski
    Aharonov
    Bohm
    Sagnac
    London
    Newton
    Cart
    Avagadro
    Gauss
    Ohm
    Maxwell
    Ampere
    Einsten
    Faraday
    Coulomb
    Shroedinger
    Fresnel
    Fitelson
  • by i1984 (530580) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @04:04AM (#3677963)
    When I first glanced at this thread I figured this was just another crank story like the time machine or the previous anti-gravity superconductor, but then I saw it was in Scientific American I knew that if it wasn't crank science, it was at least probably being blown out of proportion, sensationalized, and/or taken out of context.

    Perhaps that's a bit too harsh, but Scientific American has come down in the world quite a bit since the late eighties or early nineties. As I recall, they got a new editor many years ago and he was hell bent on dumbing the magazine down, fluffing it up with low-attention-theshold filler, and generally reducing it to a level of depth, insight, and relevance typical of USA Today or Omni Magazine. He suceeded, and many of the science professionals I knew cancelled their subscriptions shortly thereafter.

    This subject strikes me as the researcher noting to himself "oh, hey...if I make some interesting assumptions, I get this cool effect popping out. And I might as well test it since it's so easy to test." Or an April Fools joke*. Which falls short of us dismissing the idea out of hand, but does suggest it doesn't deserve much media coverage -- at least until any positive results are verified. In other words, it was just sensationalist enough to get Scientific American's attention (they dig this kind of stuff), but not so far to the side of quackery that it has (yet) been featured in the Fortean Times [217.206.205.129].

    * By the way, the paper missed April Fools day by four days; the date is stamped April 5, 2002. There's also a second date stamp of April 11, 2002. (A slightly earlier date stamp would have cleared things up pretty quickly!)

  • The Ginzberg-Landau original paper just assumed the electrons paired up, and then went on to show that this had some of the right features of superconductivity. It's a tempting idea - add two fermions spin and make a boson, then let them condense. Unfortunately, it's also cheating. The microscopic explanation of why electrons should seem to pair up came a few years later with the Bardeen Cooper Schreiffer paper, and the many papers that followed.

    Imagine a discreet electron moving through a positive lattice. The positive lattice will be attracted towards the negative electron. If the electron was still, the lattice would move towards it locally, and screen its charge. Because the electron is moving, and the lattice has intertia, the positive induced charge will lag behind the electron. This will slow down the electron, and also might attract any following electron if it is traveling at roughly the same speed. This is often described as electron-phononon coupling, and is rather more complicated than that simple explanation would suggest, but there is a weak force that does tend to cause electrons to match their velocities provided they maintain a respectful distance.

    If electron-phonon coupling was all there was, then metals would only superconduct at a few milliKelvin. However the electrons are moving so slowly, and their wavelengths are so long, that each electron wavefunction may overlap with many thousands of others. If some of the electrons go into some ordered state, then it becomes energetically more likely for the neighbours to fit in too, and all of a sudden you get an energy gap between the ordered (superelectron) state and the disordered eletron states. This energy gap is much larger than the individual pairing energies.

    If you are going to get the same sort of coupling and condensation using gravitiational waves, then you are going to need to balance the gravitational force with some sort of other repulsive force with the right sort of range. You might find this sort of balance in a neutron star, but I don't see it happening in the lab. But maybe I'm missing something...

  • A clear, cogent explanation for how Magneto has been able to float around for all those comics.

    Now if they could only explain how The Flash manages to run so quickly without eating the entire national surplus...
  • Far Side (Score:3, Insightful)

    by N8F8 (4562) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @08:45AM (#3678477)
    I'll not pretend to grok the paper entirely, but a casual read remids me of a classic Far Side cartoon where a bunch of scientists are standing around a chalkboard. On the board is one of the scientist's Grand Unifid Theory. Smack dab in the middle of the equation is the phrase "And then a miracle happens".

    This paper reads the same way... "When A is time-independent, this equation has the same form as the time independent Schrodinger equation for a particle (i.e., a Cooper pair) with mass m2eff and a charge e2 with an energy eigenvalue except that there is an extra nonlinear term whose coefcient is given by the coefcient x, which arises at a microscopic level from the Coulomb interactions between Cooper pairs [16]. The values of these two phenomenological parameters must be determined by experiment."

    But then again, what do I know?

"Just the facts, Ma'am" -- Joe Friday

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