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Science Technology

Boeing Joins In Anti-Gravity Search 606

Posted by timothy
from the believe-what-you-will dept.
SimcoFrappe writes: "BBC News reports that Boeing is trying to extend the research of Russian scientist Dr. Yevgeny Podkletnov to develop a device to shield against gravity. The military branch of the British BAe Systems announced a similar program in 2000. One step closer to cheap space travel or just more sci-fi jive?"
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Boeing Joins In Anti-Gravity Search

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  • by Rhombus (104176) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:14AM (#3970739) Homepage
    Where are all the flying cars???

    I was promised flying cars.

  • by casio282 (468834) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:16AM (#3970747) Homepage
    A variant on this story comes up every year or so [slashdot.org], but there is never any evidence substantiating Dr. Podkletnov's claims...

    First NASA, now Boeing. Rubbish, I'm inclined to believe.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:16AM (#3970748)
    It's a conspiracy against "overweight" people. If we're shielded from gravity, we'll all simply be known as fat.
  • Worth it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drunkmonk (241978) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:18AM (#3970752) Homepage
    So Boeing spends a few million, finds the guys research is bunk and discards the project? No problem, they're a multi-billion dollar company.

    But... if on the off chance that it really works and could be used in commercial projects and could bring billions (trillions?) in sales and licensing royalties...

    Seems like a worthwhile risk to me.
  • by Captain Pedantic (531610) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:18AM (#3970755) Homepage
    The scientist says he found that objects above a superconducting ceramic disc rotating over powerful electromagnets lost weight.


    The reduction in gravity was small, about 2%, but the implications - for example, in terms of cutting the energy needed for a plane to fly - were immense.
    All Boeing have to do is strap a superconducting ceramic disc rotating over powerful electromagnets upside down into one of their planes!
    • by sql*kitten (1359) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:31AM (#3970800)
      All Boeing have to do is strap a superconducting ceramic disc rotating over powerful electromagnets upside down into one of their planes!

      Powered, no doubt, by a slice of buttered toast strapped to the back of a cat!

      But wait, how will cat-based purr-petual motion machine work if there's no gravity to pull the cat towards the floor? It's going to take all of Boeing's engineering talent to work that one out :-)
      • by Bandman (86149) <bandman@ g m a i l . com> on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:01AM (#3970909) Homepage
        what you would have to do is put simple floor linoleum above and below the cat, thereby creating the desired effect.

        In the words of Garth Algar, "It's almost /too/ easy."
        • by ShavenYak (252902) <bsmith3@chart[ ]net ['er.' in gap]> on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:37AM (#3971106) Homepage
          Nope, that won't work. The cat can then land, feet 'down', on either the above surface or the below surface. There is no force trying to attract the cat's back to one of the surfaces, like in the traditional BT-FAGE (Buttered Toast - Feline AntiGravity Engine) design.

          Unfortunately, much research remains to be done before the BT-FAGE becomes reality. We are dealing with forces far beyond our present understanding of the universe. All experimenters who have attempted to harness these forces have ended up with multiple flesh wounds, covered in butter, or both.
          • Perhaps if they took the BT-F (Buttered Toast - Feline amalgam) and suspended it over the linoleum piece and then attached a harness to the BT-F (since they will need some way to connect the amalgam to a turbine anyway). Then, all they need to do is apply a force to the BT-F that drives it into the linoleum catalyst, such as a say a rubber band. This could actually be utilized as a throttle mechanism if the BT-F's speed rotates faster as it aproaches the linoleum catalyst. By increasing/decreasing the tension the BT-F is under (and therby the force propelling it into the linoleum, you could theoretically increase or decrease the spin of the BT-F and the resultant power generated through the harness to the turbine.

            Facinating idea! More research is called for immediately!
      • Powered, no doubt, by a slice of buttered toast strapped to the back of a cat!

        I think somebody once funded a study into this and numerous conference papers later (along with the help of a couple of great Slashdot posts) it was put off as impractical.

        Apparently, the amount of energy required to strap the buttered toast to the back of the cat negates any net gain from the system over time.

        Also, physical experiments are inconclusive, since the lacerations take too long to heal.
  • The reduction in gravity was small, about 2%

    Please keep this number in mind. This is not a guy that tries to make SF happen. Zero-G would have a huge impact on the future of humanity.

    Does -2% G too?

    Johan.

    • Re:small (Score:3, Funny)

      by squaretorus (459130)
      Hello World

      As soon as you create a machine that allows you to put those two little words on the screen you can do all sorts of things - hey! You could display a whole encyclopedia!!!

      As soon as you prove you can do something AT ALL you know its worth figuring out how to do more of it.

      Creating a Zero G device is like making love to a beautiful woman. When your young you pull your first woman. Yeah - she might be a dog, but hey! she was willing to sleep with YOU! So you try again with some chick who's a bit nicer looking, or has bigger boobs, or washes a bit more often. Some of you will stay with her - glad not to be alone. But some of you with vision will keep climbing that mountain until you finally get to nail a pretty one! THEN my boy, THEN you'll be floating on air!

      That first shag proves it is at least POSSIBLE. Same with the 2%.

      ( I dont think the observations hold up - but if they HAVE achieved a 2% effect then WOWOWOWOW!!! )
    • Even if a 2% reduction in mass was the limit to this technology, it would still save the airline industry hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in fuel consumption per year.
  • Check out http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/cond-mat/9701074/ [lanl.gov]. It's a PDF doc on what the Russians have researched. This is the abstract; "A high-temperature YBa_2Cu_3O_{7-x} bulk ceramic superconductor with composite structure has revealed weak shielding properties against gravitational force while in a levitating state at temperatures below 70 K. A toroidal disk was prepared using conventional ceramic technology in combination with melt-texture growth. Two solenoids were placed around the disk in order to initiate the current inside it and to rotate the disk about its central axis. Samples placed over the rotating disk initially demonstrated a weight loss of 0.3-0.5%. When the rotation speed was slowly reduced by changing the current in the solenoids, the shielding effect became considerably higher and reached 1.9-2.1% at maximum."

    But I must be off now. I've got a YBa_2Cu_3O_{7-x} widget factory to get off the ground. :B

  • by hooded1 (89250) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:24AM (#3970773) Homepage
    I'm sure alot of you will first respond by saying thats impossible. But you're wrong. There are no laws of physics that say its is impossible to block gravity. At this point we no so litle about gravity that it is difficult to make any conclusions about it.
    Some elementary electromagnetism courses will teach you about faraday cages, which block electromagnetic radiation. Pretty much everyone has experienced this. Ever walk into a concrete building and lose cell phone reception? This is because the concrete is reinforced with steel bars which form a kind of metalic cage around you, this is a faraday cage.
    Now like electromagnetism, gravity is one of the four fundamental forces. If we can create a shield to block one of them why not block gravity?
    • by AtomicBomb (173897) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:52AM (#3970873) Homepage
      However, if his approach is correct, other guys should have already validated his claim. The experiment is so simple, only superconducting ceramic + strong magnet... Two percent in weight change is quite detecatable. Any university's physics dept can do that. If his experiment *still* works, it is his responisble for him to demostrate that to the commnunity. If it was due to experimental error, he should post a correction to say physics review letter. He has done neither; just after money.... As someone who is sort of belong to the science community, I suggest we should start questioning this guy's integrity.

      People used to say that "extraordinary claim needs extraordinary proof". But, if you want to siphon money from the military-industry complex "extraordinary dubious claim makes you money".

    • by alienmole (15522) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:04AM (#3970924)
      Now like electromagnetism, gravity is one of the four fundamental forces. If we can create a shield to block one of them why not block gravity?

      Hmm, although I agree it's difficult to say that shielding against gravity is impossible, the above is not exactly sound logic. You need to look at the origin of the forces in question to see why.

      The general relativistic model of gravity as the effect of warped spacetime would seem to indicate that blocking gravity could be a fundamentally different problem than blocking electromagnetic radiation.

      Electromagnetic radiation travels through spacetime, i.e. it follows the curvature of spacetime. Blocking it is simply a matter of constructing the right kind of interfering device, such as a faraday cage, to prevent electromagnetic photons/wave packets from penetrating.

      OTOH, according to GR, gravity as we perceive it is essentially a secondary effect due to the curvature of spacetime. To "block" it, you would have to be able to uncurve spacetime in the vicinity you wish to block. This is a little different from blocking photons. The only thing we've ever discovered that's capable of warping spacetime is "mass". So sure, we can counter the effects of gravity, there's no mystery about it: simply use a mass as large as the mass of the object whose gravitational effects you want to counter.

      Unfortunately, in the case of gravity, this doesn't really work the way we want. Let's say I create a black hole with a similar mass to that of the Earth (I have a fairly well-equipped basement). In the vicinity of the black hole, I would feel a force towards the hole (please no goatse jokes) of approximately 1G (adjust masses to achieve appropriate effect outside the Schwarzchild radius, etc.) So if I hang the black hole from my ceiling, I could create a micro-gravity environment in my basement, with the force upward cancelling the force downward.

      Astute readers have by now noticed a slight problem with this scenario. Despite my well-equipped basement, I don't happen to possess a means for suspending an Earth-mass object a few feet above another Earth-mass object (i.e. the Earth itself). There's not going to be a heck of a lot I can do about the fact that my black hole is going to shoot down towards the earth under a combined force of 2G and a momentum that would require numbers with "E" in them to describe. (I had better not be standing beneath it, if I want to avoid rather nasty tidal effects as the black hole travels through my body - that killed a guy on Mars once.)

      Because of the nature of gravity, "shielding" against its effects may not even be meaningful. Even if it is possible, it's highly doubtful that we will stumble across the solution by random experimentation with e.g. spinning disks. Spinning disks might confuse researchers, but they don't confuse the universe.

      • Of course in Quantum Physics where gravity is explained as an exchange of gravitons (a type of particle) it could be possible to block them...

        Justin Dubs
        • by colmore (56499) on Monday July 29, 2002 @09:45AM (#3971540) Journal
          Gravitons are a nice way of satisfying a few equations, but they don't really fit in the standard model and have never been even indirectly observed.

          I suspect that gravitons are the particle representation of quantum physicists' inability to think of things other than particles.

          Hmmm... that probably sounded like more of a flame than it should have. It's really one of those "when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail" things.
        • A Graviton is a spinning cylinder, not a spinning disk. When you get inside, it starts to spin, and you slide across the floor and stick to the inside wall of the cylinder. Then they drop the floor and friction holds you to the wall. But it gets boring pretty quickly.

          I once snuck a tennis ball inside and tried to throw it to my buddy on the far side of the cylinder, but it didn't travel in a straight line. Spooky.
          • I once snuck a tennis ball inside and tried to throw it to my buddy on the far side of the cylinder, but it didn't travel in a straight line.

            Yes it did. The problem was that YOU weren't traveling in a straight line. :)
      • Unless of course we can find a way of pushing the curvature of space back up by some type of anti-mass. As create plateos (spelling?) of space-time. But I digress. Or a VERY VERY strong bar holding the two earth masses apart. (preferably at at a decent distance, put it where the moon is I guess. Then we'd have significantly less gravity on that side of the earth. It would be pretty neat! :)
      • by magi (91730) on Monday July 29, 2002 @09:02AM (#3971250) Homepage Journal
        You had excellent comments. I'll just add a few notes.

        The only thing we've ever discovered that's capable of warping spacetime is "mass".

        IANAP, but I've heard that, according to some current theories, it's actually energy that curves the space. Matter just happens to have a lots of it. I would think this would have radical cosmological implications as the mass (with respect to gravity) of the universe would be a constant. Or maybe it's just an urban legend.

        Let's say I create a black hole with a similar mass to that of the Earth (I have a fairly well-equipped basement). In the vicinity of the black hole, I would feel a force towards the hole ... of approximately 1G ...

        Not quite, because the force is inverse square of distance. If the mass of the black hole is 1 earth, you'd have 1G at the distance of earth's radius, i.e., about 6300km. At one meter... have fuuunnnnnnnnn......!

        There's not going to be a heck of a lot I can do about the fact that my black hole is going to shoot down towards the earth under a combined force of 2G

        To be precise, the earth would pull the black hole towards it with 1G and the black hole would pull earth with 1G (on average). It would therefore accelerate just as much towards the earth as earth would accelerate towards it, if we look from somewhere else, say from Sun.

        Even if it is possible, it's highly doubtful that we will stumble across the solution by random experimentation with e.g. spinning disks.

        Assuming that it was random. I think I saw an argument a few years back that Einstein had mentioned about such a possibility.
      • Rhombus correctly pointed out that the mass of the black hole in my example was way off. To work out what mass it would need to be to create a microgravity environment in my basement (or at least a tidally interesting environment), we can simply plug the numbers into the equation for the gravitational force between two objects, F=GMm/r^2, where G is the universal gravitational constant. For this example, let M be the mass of Earth, m is the (unimportant) mass of a test object in my basement (e.g. me), and r is the radius of Earth. To cancel out gravity in my basement, we want the resulting force to be equal to F=GHm/s^2, where H is the mass of the black hole, and s is the distance from me to the hole.

        So we have GMm/r^2 = GHm/s^2. The G and m cancel out, leaving M/r^2 = H/s^2. Using an Earth mass of 5.9736 x 10^24 kg, and a radius of 6370000m, and assuming s=1m, my calculations show that the black hole would need a mass of 1.472 x 10^11 kg (147 billion kilograms) to create a micro-gravity environment in my basement - however localized, and however briefly. That's hundredths of trillionths of the mass of the Earth - quite a lot lighter, as Rhombus guessed.

      • Nice math to back up thouse ideas. In fact thouse ideas are the math. The problem is reality is playing a slightly different game. This is why The Voyagers and Pioneer spacecrraft are slowing down as well as all the GPS sats. There is also that slight problem with pendulums and eclipses. But other than thouse things, GR gravity models work great.
      • The only thing we've ever discovered that's capable of warping spacetime is "mass". So sure, we can counter the effects of gravity, there's no mystery about it: simply use a mass as large as the mass of the object whose gravitational effects you want to counter.


        So this is very simple then.

        All we need to do is generate a quantium singularity in the vacinity wher we wish to block the forces of gravity...

        what do wo do then after we are sucked into the singularity?

        Oops... the earth was destroyed today when boeing ran some tests on a gravity shielding system they have been devising..

        The american government responded with "we would have been very interested in the device as a doomsday weapon, unfortunately we no longer have anything we want to blow up... If boeing can discover a race or another planet we can threaten with the device, we will be very interested."

        Senator hollings was not available for comment.
  • by Bocaj (84920) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:26AM (#3970782) Homepage
    Thay actually had Dr. Yevgeny Podkletnov's working prototype. Unfortunaty it sheilded against 100% of gravity and was lost when they turned it on outside and it was slung from the earth at about 25,000 mph.
  • by shoppa (464619) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:27AM (#3970785)
    See these articles by Bob Park at the American Physical Society website [aps.org]:

    My favorite quote from one of the above:

    It should be pointed out that it would also lead to a violation of the first law of thermodynamics. A 19th century patent for a perpetual motion machine consisted of a heavy drive wheel on a horizontal axis. If a gravity shield is inserted under one side of the wheel, it becomes unbalanced and rotates -- continuously.
    • Re: the 19th century patent + gravity shield, I don't think that constitutes a perpetual-motion machine, since now the machine includes the AG field generator. Energy required by the generator will be greater than the energy produced by the wheel, so...
      • What you'd need to figgure out is the maximum amount of energy you could generate with a given mass over a given differential in gravitation. That would be the minimum amount of energy required to deflect that much gravity from that much mass.

        Or, maybe thermodynamics are wrong. But I wouldn't bet on it.
        • What you'd need to figgure out is the maximum amount of energy you could generate with a given mass over a given differential in gravitation. That would be the minimum amount of energy required to deflect that much gravity from that much mass.

          Which, in principle, would mean that it always requires as much energy to block gravity as it would to pick the object up in the first place.
          Before you get discouraged - antigravity might still be useful. Since no process can use energy with 100% effectiveness, it's very possible that antigravity would still be more efficient than rockets in lifting payloads.
          • Especially since most of the payload is the fuel. The amount of energy required to move an object from an altitude of 0 km to 200 km will be the same whether rockets or AG is used, but perhaps the AG device wouldn't have to lift its own energy source as rockets do.
            • depends on the effective range of AG, gravity exists in all directions. Even if you block the "rays" coming from directly below you, diagonals would still hit the craft. In fact, I'm not sure how much gravity comes from directly below, it might not be that much.

              you might have to strap the AG to the ship, or perhaps use a small rocket combined with ground based AG to assist lift-off. Somewhat like the idea of building a really big plane to fly a spaceship up into the atmosphere where it would need much less fuel to get into space.
    • by sql*kitten (1359) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:38AM (#3970830)
      It should be pointed out that it would also lead to a violation of the first law of thermodynamics. A 19th century patent for a perpetual motion machine consisted of a heavy drive wheel on a horizontal axis. If a gravity shield is inserted under one side of the wheel, it becomes unbalanced and rotates -- continuously.

      Surely if the energy required to maintain the "gravity shield" exceeds the energy output by the wheel, the laws of thermodynamics hold? That quote only applies if there is a gravity-proof material that doesn't require any power to function, must as a waterproof material doesn't require a power source to remain impermeable to water. The Pokdletnov device does require a power source.
      • Precisely. Indeed, this fallacy points out presumptions of certain failure by members of the scientific community. So much so that it is clear that they are conveniently oblivious of the same laws which they espouse as prevention of the new theory.

        I am sure that someone has written a good quote on this type of ignorance to preserve the status quo. :)
      • Ok, but what if the 'gravity shield' merely prevents movement towards the gravity source, but does not change the energy requirements. I.E. an object placed above the shield will still fall towards the source, but would still require exactly the same energy input to raise it.

        I guess what I am trying to get at is that a device that negates the effects of gravity (movement towards the source) whilst preserving the energy levels of objects within it's field (moving away requires energy, moving towards releases it) would not violate the 1st law, and would still be very useful.
        • First paragraph should have said

          '... I.E. an object placed above the shield will NOT fall towards the source...'

          Sorry.
        • I guess what I am trying to get at is that a device that negates the effects of gravity (movement towards the source) whilst preserving the energy levels of objects within it's field (moving away requires energy, moving towards releases it) would not violate the 1st law, and would still be very useful

          If the energy required to drive the antigravity field and the energy output by the entire contraption are equivalent, why not just directly couple the motor that rotates the field generator to the wheel and bypass the whole antigravity device? The net result is the same. In fact, if you also consider the power required to refrigerate the superconductor, and the effort of maintain the entire contraption, you're actually better off with some old-fashioned cogs or a drivebelt.

          I suppose there is some value if you needed to mechanically influence a non-ferrous object without actually touching it, but that's all I can think of right now.
      • When I first read about Podkletnov in Park's book Voodoo Science, nothing was said about a power source. In that light, the dismissal made sense; the effect, if it could be confirmed, was statistically insignificant. It does make some sense that no substance can *passively* block gravity, though I thought Park's reasoning on the subject was uncharacteristically (for a scientist) ad hoc.

        If Podkletnov has taken an entirely different tack, or Park simply misreported it to begin with, maybe there's something there, but the fact that no one can quite seem to confirm it (Boeing notwithstanding; plenty of companies are willing to overlook the principle of sunk costs to chase phantoms that could give them an advantage over the competition, laws of nature be damned) says a lot. Secrecy often just means that they don't want to be forced to admit in public that they're chasing ghosts; Park actually tells a story of a Belgian con artist who humiliated the Giscard-D'estaing (sp?) administration in France with a rather elaborate oil-dowsing tool. Rather than admit it had been taken, the French government classified the embarrassment; when word got out, it helped cost Giscard-D'Estaing the next election.

        As for the assertion about possible non-violation: that makes it interesting scientifically, but they still have to confirm it. Of course, you make it secret, they can't pull a cold fusion on you and tell you you're wrong. (That's one thing I don't get about people like that: if your data is wrong, the scientific establishment will eventually find out, whether you open up or not. Why risk your career and reputation on something you know damn well is going to get shot down eventually?) /Brian
        • It does make some sense that no substance can *passively* block gravity, though I thought Park's reasoning on the subject was uncharacteristically (for a scientist) ad hoc.

          It depends on what is meant by passive. If you mean something that happens to repell gravity, and can do so forever, with no power input, then of course you are correct. If you mean something that can operate without an active power source, then you are not necessarilly correct.

          An anti-gravitational material could concievably be created, without violating any of the laws of thermodynamics, if its initial creation required more energy than would be 'created' through the gravitational imbalance it creates.

          This would imply something that requires vast amounts of energy to create, and would decay over time (becoming less effective, eventually becoming inert and no different from any other kind of matter).

          Not that such a material is possible to create, but if it were, it would not necessarilly violate any of the laws of thermodynamics. Indeed, it could be considered a rather esoteric 'battery' storing vast amounts of potential energy ... one that will run down, in time.

          There may be good reasons for dismissing Podkletnov, and there may be good reasons for dismissing passive anti-gravitational materials, but the laws of thermodynamics do not qualify.
          • Interesting point, and I don't doubt that you could be correct. The problem is that I wouldn't necessarily want to be standing anywhere near anything using an ablative gravity shield.

            The problem with that is the Joe Newman thing; that's what he claims is going on with his energy machine. He claims he's getting pseudo-perpetual motion from his motors consuming their own wiring in a very low-level E=mc^2 reaction, but a) nobody else is getting the results he's been claiming for the past who-knows-how-many years and b) he has never provided a mechanism for what he claims; it's just post-hoc justification for a claim that should never have been made in the first place. /Brian
      • It should be pointed out that it would also lead to a violation of the first law of thermodynamics. A 19th century patent for a perpetual motion machine consisted of a heavy drive wheel on a horizontal axis. If a gravity shield is inserted under one side of the wheel, it becomes unbalanced and rotates -- continuously.
        Surely if the energy required to maintain the "gravity shield" exceeds the energy output by the wheel, the laws of thermodynamics hold? That quote only applies if there is a gravity-proof material that doesn't require any power to function, must as a waterproof material doesn't require a power source to remain impermeable to water. The Pokdletnov device does require a power source.
        Actually, it's not even necessary that the energy come from the gravity shield itself. If there is a force required to move an object into the shielded area, then the energy could come from that. In order to conserve energy, the force would have to be proportional to mass and decrease proportional to height. I'm sort of surprised that Podkletnov did not describe a test of that in his experiment.

        The paper (http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/cond-mat/9701074/ [lanl.gov]) looks good. Outside of outright fraud (which I suppose is still the most likely explanation), it's hard to explain the results.

    • > If a gravity shield is inserted under one side
      > of the wheel, it becomes unbalanced and
      > rotates -- continuously.

      A perpertual motion machine is not implied by a gravitational shield. Magnetic shields do not create perpetual motion machine so why should gravitational shields?

      Consider that in normal gravity as we experience it a ball on a flat table will stay still. This is because the surface of the table is at one gravitational potentiol. An object will only fall when there is no resistive force normal to the line of potential and equal to the weight of the object.

      However if you place a gravitational shield under the surface of the table directly under the ball you will distort the lines of potential in the vicinity of the ball. You create an inverted gravitational well. At the bottom of the well there is the ball. It is at a higher gravitational potential than any other point on the table. If you now take two points on the table. One being the location of the ball and the other being a point some distance delta away you will find that they are at two different gravitational potentials. As there is no resistive horizontal force on the ball it will now "fall" across the table.

      Three observations. (1) By moving the shield under the ball increases it's gravitational potential and thus it's potential energy. This requires work to be done to install the shield. (2) When the ball "falls" across the table it will gain kinetic energy equals to the amount of energy required to install the shield. (3) You cannot get the ball back to the centre of the table again for free. It would have to move up through lines of gravitational potential. IE you would have to expend energy to do so.

      From this it should be obvious that even with a gravitational shield you will not get perpetual motion machines.

      Of course this doesn't prove that gravitational shields exists.

    • There is no reason why the existence of anti-gravity should violate the first law of thermodynamics, and that should be obvious to any physicist.

      Podkletnov probably simply committed an experimental error--it happens. That's why experiments get reproduced. Let's be grateful that there are still people willing to come forward with unexpectd scientific results. It may be like cold fusion, but the alternative where people only publish what can be explained by currently fashionable theories would be worse.

      Park, however, is apparently giving up on any scientific training he has in order to further some agenda of scientific orthodoxy. Park is committing a grave scientific sin. It's regrettable that people like him create a climate in which people are less and less inclined to come forward with unexplained scientific results.

    • It should be pointed out that it would also lead to a violation of the first law of thermodynamics. A 19th century patent for a perpetual motion machine consisted of a heavy drive wheel on a horizontal axis. If a gravity shield is inserted under one side of the wheel, it becomes unbalanced and rotates -- continuously.

      This is assuming it takes no energy to power the gravity shield...
  • by CaptainAlbert (162776) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:28AM (#3970787) Homepage

    The real problem with "research" like this is that it brings out the very worst in the peer review system which usually serves scientists so well. As soon as a journal dares to publish something so dubious, there is a huge backlash by the establishment, to the extent that real, innovative research can be stifled.

    The best-known example of this phenomenon was the cold-fusion debacle of the late '80s. A group of researchers claimed (essentially) to have initiated nuclear fusion in a beaker using heavy water and palladium electrodes. No-one else was able to reproduce the experimental results. The result, however, was not just to discredit the report's authors, but to cause a scepticism so immense that no electro-chemist could publish a paper which mentioned a similar experiment. I can see the same happening to unsuspecting scientists working on superconductors now.

    I would link to an interesting editorial in this month's NewScientist [newscientist.com], which describes the phenomenon in considerable detail, but it would appear that they only put it in the print version. Shame, that.

    • The best-known example of this phenomenon was the cold-fusion debacle of the late '80s. A group of researchers claimed (essentially) to have initiated nuclear fusion in a beaker using heavy water and palladium electrodes. No-one else was able to reproduce the experimental results. The result, however, was not just to discredit the report's authors, but to cause a scepticism so immense that no electro-chemist could publish a paper which mentioned a similar experiment.

      I don't see that as a fault in the peer-review system. At some point, when multiple labs have failed to reproduce a phenomenon, scientists give up on it as a dry hole. Especially when experience has shown that a particular type of experiment is fraught with potential for artifacts, skepticism is understandable. At this point, to revive cold fusion, somebody would have to come up with a very different, and reproducible, approach.

      • The serious problem is, while no lab has produced results to match the original experiment, many labs have produced what they have refered to as 'interesting results'. Something which they should NOT be getting.

        Thats the problem with backlash, most of the labs researching it have to be quiet or they may lose funding, or credibility.

    • After the initial press conference, there quickly came a lot of early confirmations from various respected laboratories. There were also a large number of "early drafts" of papers from teoreticians for teories that should explain the finding.

      However, as far as I knew none of it made it through the review process. I guess most of it was withdrawn as more well-planed experiments failed to reproduce the results.

      I suspect the real lesson is not the peer-reviewed system itself, but the problems that come when you go around it by publishing through the press, instead of waiting for the system.
  • by pouwelse (118316)
    For more info:

    The Podkletnov Effect [inetarena.com]

    Search engine Google [google.com] relates this guy to the alternative science [google.com] section...

  • by edgrale (216858) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:30AM (#3970797)
    What about artificial (sp?) gravity? Anti Gravity is usefull to get stuff into orbit and to help disabled people not to mention commercial use in general.

    But what about artificial gravity? Once we get into space zero-gravity is a problem. Do you just rotate it to the left instead of right or vice-versa?
  • The Gravity Stone (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kisrael (134664) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:35AM (#3970815) Homepage
    My alma mater has a monument to this forthcoming breakthrough, placed by Roger W Babson (of Babson College). It's called the Gravity Stone [kisrael.com] and it's "to remind students of the blessings forthcoming when a semi-insulator is discovered in order to harness gravity as a free power and reduce airplane accidents" Kinda kooky stuff, check the link.
  • by gerf (532474) <edtgerf@gmail.com> on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:36AM (#3970821) Journal

    erconductors today are like electricity was in the 1800s. Back then, we understood little about how magnatism and electricity worked. It had a mystique about it that led to gypsies and sayonces (sp?) trying to contact the dead. Commonly, they used this new 'electricity' to contact lost relatives, loved onces, ect. Of course, they were debunked.

    Superconductivity is today's mystery phenomenon. We see things float in air, we see electricity move sans resistance, and other principal physics phenomena simply discarded. It's something new, and not as well known. With this mystique, people can claim to have done wonderous things, and have at least a portion of the general population go along with it. Or invest in it.

    Also, have you seen the Russian economy? How the brilliant scientists are treated? There's no money for them, they live in near poverty. I don't blame a Russian scientist if he tries to make money this way, legitimate or not. Personally, i find it much preferrable than him selling old USSR equipment (uranium, nukes, hot material, ect) to the highest bidder, in order to feed his family. If you don't think so, that's your problem.

  • by mccalli (323026) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:37AM (#3970827) Homepage
    I heard this on the BBC's Today [bbc.co.uk] programme this morning. They had a professor from my old university, Lancaster [lancaster.ac.uk], on explaining his disbelief.

    He pointed to the fact that an Irish university (sorry - don't remember which) had spent quite some time reproducing the experiment, and that this re-running of the experiment had failed to verify a single claim.

    I'd love this to be true. Sadly however, at this moment I'd have to put myself in the non-believer camp.

    Cheers,
    Ian

    • He pointed to the fact that an Irish university (sorry - don't remember which) had spent quite some time reproducing the experiment, and that this re-running of the experiment had failed to verify a single claim.

      However, it may be that they did something wrong- perhaps some detail was performed incorrectly, or something. It does happen sometimes. As a similar, but not exact example, I once heard about a chemistry experiment that was reproducible, but only when you used unreactive plastic antibumping granules in the mix. The granules should not have interacted at all with experiment. It turns out that the way that the granules moved stirred up the mixture in a particular way, triggering the reaction. If that detail hadn't been realised by the original experimenter; then the experiment would have been nigh on impossible to replicate.

      Still, many things bother me here- the effect that is claimed is small, only 2%; it turns out that weight reductions are often difficult to measure (a lot of machines produce vibrations that make most balances read either high or low- and you can get air currents, thermal effects, magnetic forces, electrostatic forces- all of which are nothing to do with gravity, all of which make weight readings high or low.) And the fact that so many labs cannot reproduce this- that is not a good thing.

    • Being an Irish university:

      Was the problem that they couldn't find a 100 Ohm superconductor?
  • by ebcdic (39948) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:38AM (#3970831)
    It's often said that IBM poured money into Josephson's work even though they didn't have any expectation of it succeeding because it would force their competitors to spend money on it - which they couldn't afford as well as IBM. Maybe Boeing are trying the same thing.

    Or maybe BAe are trying it, and have succeeded with Boeing...
  • by flacco (324089) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:41AM (#3970837)
    I wouldn't be surprised if the block-and-tackle industry buys the patents and kills the technology.
  • Wouldn't an easier way to get a 2% reduction in weight be to remove it from the passengers. Set a weight limit for plane passengers and weight everyone at check-in. Anyone over the limit gets immediate liposuction.

    Never have to sit next to a fat person on a plane again.

    HH
    --
  • A good thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by reelbk (213809)
    Any research conducted in order to obtain a better understanding of gravity is a good thing IMO. This is an extremely large company with plenty of essets. If this project fails, it's nothing much off their backs. They may not find anything that gives them 0G, but some important discoveries may be made in the process.
  • by shd99004 (317968) on Monday July 29, 2002 @07:56AM (#3970890) Homepage
    Since we all know that

    1. Cats always land on their feet, and
    2. A buttered slice of bread will undoubtedly land on the carpet butter side down,

    we could strap said buttered slice of bread onto the cats back, then drop the whole thing to the floor.
    • by colmore (56499) on Monday July 29, 2002 @10:00AM (#3971623) Journal
      This fails both under quantum physics and general relativity.

      Under the quantum physics interperetation, since both the cat's feet and the buttered toast are equally likely to land on the floor, the cat-toast enters a superposition where both cat and toast are simultaneously on the floor until it is observed, at which point a radioactive particle decays, and the cat is skinned in a number simultaneous, equally likely, yet distinct ways.

      Relativity predicts that the intense attraction to the floor will, in fact, bend space-time in such a way that the floor actually is in contact with both the cat and the toast. If the cat is of the black variety, then it will thus cross its own path, generate a singularity, and vanish in a puff of logic.

      The debate continues, as attempts at experimental verification have thus far failed. Dr. Kibble at Princeton's IAS said "Look, have YOU ever tried to hold a cat still and strap some friggin' TOAST to its back?"
  • I always thought that two objects with mass always have gravitational attraction. I also thought that two objects can never get far enough appart to have their gravatational attraction go to zero.

    F = G * m1 * m2 / d^2

    This equation shows that the gravitational attraction can never go to zero.

    That said, does anyone have any idea how this guy got two objects with mass to not have any gravitational attraction? It seems impossible.

    -ted
  • I went to the Farnborough [farnborough.com] airshow at the weekend and there were some serious [eurofighter.com] hardware [janes.com] which appeared to defeat gravity.

    With the aid of a few thousand pounds of thrust, yes.
  • by CaffeineAddict2001 (518485) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:10AM (#3970973)
    I learned this in quake:
    Step 1: Lower gravity to 0
    Step 2: Wait for enemies to accelerate upwards.
    Step 3: Increase gravity to 255, watch enemies splatter all over the ground.
  • This would be the advanced ward that a Tremere can cast upon any weapon providing lethal damage to anything affected by gravity. This differs from ward vs kindred in that instead of use of blood the caster spends 45 minutes rubbing magnets all over the weapon.
  • The World Health Organization Joins in Immortality Research [alexchiu.com]

    The WHO is trying to extend the research of Chinese scientist Dr. Alex Chiu to develop a device to make its owner never perish. The Ch*r*h of **ientology announced a similar program in 2000. One step closer to human immortality or just more sci-fi jive?


  • One step closer to cheap space travel or just more sci-fi jive?"

    Both this suggestion and a lot of comments fail to take into account one thing.

    Although some device might shield against gravity, the shield itself will be affacted by gravity. So, even if there is zero gravity inside some sphere, the sphere itself vill rest firmly on earth.

    Thus, no cheap space travel, but a lot of uses, none the less..

  • Inertial effect? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CommieLib (468883)
    If the effects of gravity are shielded, how about the inertial mass of the object? If local spacetime is "decurved", would this allow the object to accelerate past the speed of light, or at least decrease the dilation effect?

    I can't see how you could do one without the other...while anti-gravity seems really cool, if there's an effect on inertia, this is potentially far greater, IMHO.
  • Why do you think they are asking Slashdot users for ideas?

    There is always coral castle.......
  • by Mulletproof (513805) on Monday July 29, 2002 @09:37AM (#3971488) Homepage Journal
    Oh, come on. We all noticed this one [washingtonpost.com], right? UFO With Fighter Escort Over DC! ...News at Eleven. On a side note, of course Boing and NASA are sinking money into this; Just like several well known companies sank money into the Internet via Powerlines scam. If it pans out, your looking at a real society changing event, not some auto-balacing scooter hype. If not, they'll try to sue the guy's butt, legs and arms off and walk away with their tail between their legs. Life goes on. Further, you won't see this in civilian applications anytime soon if it is the real anti-gravity McCoy. Ever see Evangelion? Notice how they were always (until the later eps) attatched to a giant extention cord? I suspect your power-hungery anti-gravity unit is either going to be teathered to one of these or have it's own mini S2 nuclear plant. At least until we develop Mr. Fission, that is.

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