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Anti-gravity at Least Raising Hopes

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posted on Jan, 2 2004 @ 10:25 AM
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Sometimes the jackpot is just so big you're willing to go against the longest of odds for the chance of a payoff - say when playing the lottery or buying an anniversary gift for a spouse. Businesses, too, sometimes will take a big risk on a technology with heavy odds against it in the hope of an industry-shattering breakthrough.

Nowhere are the odds of success longer than among those who seek to avoid the laws of nature. Take, for example, anti-gravity technology. By eliminating the nagging tug of the fourth force, you could revolutionize travel - not only cutting the cost of a trip to Mars but also shaving the shipping expenses for a container of knock-off sneakers from China.

Anti-gravity is, in fact, a hot spot of fringe technology. A quick cruise of the Web will turn up at least half a dozen devices that promise to defy Newton's nemesis. Most such Web sites offer you either a chance to invest in their fringe technology or to buy a CD full of facts and drawings that could help you build your own antigravity machine.

Other fringe technologies hold similar sky-high promises of scientific revolution and immense financial return. Self-proclaimed researchers are investigating concepts as diverse as propellantless propulsion that takes advantage of the Earth's magnetic field, extraction of unlimited energy from the vacuum of space, acceleration of the decay of radioactive isotopes - even good, old-fashioned cold fusion and time travel.

Most mainstream scientists scoff at such efforts. But occasionally an out-of-the-mainstream experiment turns up unexpected results too intriguing to ignore.

For example, Russian scientist Eugene Podkletnov observed a small antigravity effect above a rotating, electrically charged, superconducting disc. One popular explanation was that the device shielded items above it from the force of Earth's gravity.

Last year the BBC published a report that Boeing Co. was secretly pursuing this technology, although the company has made no public announcement of such work. Even NASA has experimented with the effect. Alas, a recent NASA-sponsored attempt to duplicate Podkletnov's results was inconclusive.

Although experimenting with discs of exotic metal oxides spinning in tubs of liquid nitrogen is beyond the means of most home researchers and hobbyists, other amateur approaches to antigravity often yield impressive results.

The starting point for most home experimenters is the "lifter," usually a lightweight triangle of balsawood and wires that gets charged to a high voltage, starts glowing and levitates upward, seemingly in defiance of gravity.

"The lifter takes about 15 minutes to build, and it will take off and fly just about every time," noted Tim Ventura, researcher and proprietor of the Web site americanantigravity.com, which he runs from Kirkland, Wash. He sells CDs full of advice on building lifters on his Web site, which also serves as a clearinghouse for antigravity information.

The lifter is based on a real enough phenomenon, one patented by its inventor, Thomas Townsend Brown, in 1960. Since then, other inventors have used the lifter as the basis of antigravity technologies that go by names such as Biefeld-Brown effect, asymmetric capacitors, electrokinetics and electrogravitics.

Unfortunately, gravity doesn't have anything to do with how the lifter operates other than holding it down.

The high voltage generates a plasma wind that lifts the lightweight device (Brown himself cited plasma effects rather than antigravity as the operative mechanism of his patent).

The now-unfunded Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project, based at NASA's Glenn Research Center, notes that most claims of lifterlike antigravity technologies are not credible. Even antigravity advocate Ventura notes that evidence does not support an antigravity claim.

"Lifter results decline substantially in vacuum," he notes. A vacuum lacks gas to ionize and create the wind effect, although laboratory vacuum chambers do not entirely shut down the lifter's abilities.

"A normal vacuum chamber still has enough ions that a lifter still produces substantial corona glow," Ventura added.

Even so, there remains hope that there's more to the lifter than hot air. In its standard reply to inquiries about lifter technology, NASA notes that some unresolved anomalies have been observed in lifter experiments and calls for scientific testing of the phenomenon that is reliable, impartial and testable.

Moreover, even if ions rather than antigravity do the lifter's lifting, the lifter phenomenon might still have practical applications if further developed. After all, not working in a vacuum handicaps only space travel.

"Even operating only within the atmosphere is a big market," noted Ventura.

Perhaps the biggest problem with research into fringe technologies is that practicality often isn't the real goal of the researchers. They want to be lauded as geniuses. Mixed with claims of antigravity breakthroughs are personal versions (generally unscientific or pseudoscientific) of the unified field theory that eluded Einstein.

"There are 60 years of cultural factors mixed up with this technology," explained Ventura. "It's about the idea itself. It's a little piece of Americana."

Source: The Plain Dealer

I really don't know enough to comment on this, but if agencies such as NASA have been playing with the idea OFFICIALLY than I think it's fair to say certain agencies have most likely got it UNOFFICIALLY.




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