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Gravity Conquered?

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Gravity Conquered?

by Jeanette Cain

After all, Thomas Edison didn't need a quantum model of radiation to make a lightbulb.Discover Magazine

Conquering gravity, floating and levitation is becoming more of a reality and less likely good science fiction reading. Ning Li at the University of Alabama, works on a device in the laboratory that she believes will one day change the world.

Since Newton's famous apple story, the majority have believed that gravity cannot be conquered. Li's laboratory contains tanks of liquid nitrogen, a temperature chamber that is 390 degrees below zero, and a spinning ceramic material disk on the inside of the chamber. The disk is being levitated by powerful magnets and, if you were to see it, you would see that it floats inside the chamber. Ning Li's hopes are to invent a practical anti-gravity device allowing rockets to blast off without propellant and power plants to operate without fuel. She even hopes to design an anti-gravity car within a decade.

Li does not consider herself a normal scientist and neither does NASA. NASA helps by funding some of her research on the gravity altering properties of superconductor materials. After work by a Finnish researcher, NASA set up its own program at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Physicists are beginning to focus on a subject of which very little is known. They are beginning to questions and to study what gravity can and/or cannot do.

Hideo Hayasaka and Sakae Takeuchi of Tohoku University, Japanese researchers, were the first to have some success. It began when the two observed the behavior of high-speed gyroscopes with metal fly wheels spinning several thousand times per minute. Hayasaka and Takeuchi noticed that as the gyro rotated clockwise, the weight seemed to drop by one part in 100,000. They considered the possibility of this being an anti-gravity effect, but their peers considered it an experimental error.

A graduate student at Tampere University in Finland, Eugene Podkletnov, probably began the anti-gravity movement in the early 1990s. Podkletnov was researching superconductor materials, which lose all resistance to electricity, if chilled with liquid nitrogen. He placed ceramic disks, only a few inches wide, in the cold chamber and to his surprise, as they passed through the magnetic field, they began to spin rapidly. The objects above the disks apparently lost two percent of their weight.

If the effect was real, could he somehow discover a way to increase its effect? A little anti-gravity either is or isn't. Podkletnov's discovery began to circle the globe, but the skeptics remained stationary on its validity. The conditions needed in the laboratory to produce spinning superconductor disks may give many misleading effects, which would change the seeming weight of a test mass.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Ning Li published theoretical papers on anti-gravity. Working with a team of NASA researchers, Li created superconductor fly wheels up to a foot in diameter. They hoped to reproduce the same results of Podkletnov's experiments. After this, NASA began focusing on validating basic experiments and Li began focusing more on application. Li has put her desire for paper publishing to the side, as well as her techniques and experiment results. She believes that delays in her project would allow foreign researches to forge ahead of her own work.

David Noever, NASA scientist at Marshall Space Flight Center, is working on the Delta G Experiment. Delta G is the term used to indicate change in the pull of gravity. Noever is attempting to overcome any possible means of error in the experiments. Afterwards, he plans to quantify the true nature of this gravity modification phenomenon. Contrary to internet rumors, NASA's secret anti-gravity lab has yet to be built.

Physicists are beginning to consider that there may be more than one way to overcome gravity. Nieto has suggested that anti-matter may not fall when dropped. When matter and anti-matter meet, they cancel one another, but any sign of anti-gravity will create real interest in the science world. Nieto is working in the ATHENA project with other physicists hoping to use two powerful particle accelerators that will create anti-protons and anti-electrons. After being created, they plan to capture them and combine them to form anti-hydrogen atoms. The anti-hydrogen atoms will then be cooled and observed to see IF the fall under gravity's force.

James Woodward of California Sate University at Fullerton, believes that the answer may not be in the atoms, but in the relationship between gravity and inertia. He is referring to the tendency of objects to resist acceleration changes. Einstein said that inertia is related to the universal gravitation field. If an object were given a sudden knock, its mass will experience a moment of temporary fluctuation. Woodard works with twisting pendulums and electrical capacitors hoping to view this in action. NASA has started listening to Woodward's thoughts on the possibility of modifying an object's mass. NASA created a Breakthrough Propulsion program that will investigate mass modification for space travel.

The laboratory has not been the source of the greatest anti-gravity effects, rather studies of supernovae and exploding stars of distant galaxies. Flashes of light from supernovae have two teams of astronomers studying the combined pull of matter in the universe to slow the Big Bang. Initial results have shown that the universe is speeding up, not slowing down. Scientists believe this is evidence of a latent energy hidden inside the make-up of space, which has the opposite action of gravity. Hal Puthoff of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Austin, Texas believes that this energy is responsible for the effect of inertia. If true, it would connect the universal anti-gravity back to potential anti-gravity techniques here on earth. Noever believes it will become an advancing area of interest and study.

Corey Powell says, "After all, Thomas Edison didn't need a quantum model of radiation to make a lightbulb." (Discover Magazine)


1. Powell, Corey S. Discover: "Zero Gravity". Discover: US. May 1999 issue.

2. Editors. The World Book Encyclopedia. World Book-Childcraft International, Inc: Chicago. 1990