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First Steps Toward Artificial Gravity 470

CompaniaHill writes "Have scientists been able to artificially generate a gravitational field? Researchers at the European Space Agency believe so. "Small acceleration sensors placed at different locations close to the spinning superconductor, which has to be accelerated for the effect to be noticeable, recorded an acceleration field outside the superconductor that appears to be produced by gravitomagnetism. This experiment is the gravitational analogue of Faraday's electromagnetic induction experiment in 1831." The effect is very small, so don't expect to see it used in spacecraft any time soon. But the effect is still many times larger than the predictions of Einstein's theories. "If confirmed, this would be a major breakthrough," says [Austrian researcher Martin] Tajmar. "It opens up a new means of investigating general relativity and it consequences in the quantum world.""
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First Steps Toward Artificial Gravity

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  • by jandrese ( 485 ) * <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:08PM (#14988241) Homepage Journal
    Maybe there is something to all of those internet kooks afterall? This is hardly the first time I've seen talk of creating (or nullifying) gravity by spinning superconductors around, sometimes with electromagnetic charge and sometimes without.

    The problem usually comes when someone wants to see the experiment replicated. For some reason the effect always seems to go away when other people are looking. Or worse, other people notice things like "you've got a lot of evaporating liquid nitrogen flying past your mass sensor, isn't that going to affect the readings?

    Still, effective anti-grav in my lifetime would be quite a breakthough.
  • by homebrewmike ( 709361 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:14PM (#14988307)
    The difference between a kook and a scientist is the testing and documentation. It's easy to conjour up some "radical new idea that will shock scientists", it's something completely different to actually PROVE it.
  • Hmm..... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hawkmoon77 ( 957541 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:16PM (#14988326)
    It seems to me if you can take some manner of electricity, and produce some manner of a magnetic feild, and generate some amount of gravity... then doesn't it seem that there should follow a mathmatical equation that, sort of, unifies these observations in a grand and quantifiable way?
  • by Nevynxxx ( 932175 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:19PM (#14988351)
    "We ran more than 250 experiments, improved the facility over 3 years and discussed the validity of the results for 8 months before making this announcement. Now we are confident about the measurement," says Tajmar, who performed the experiments and hopes that other physicists will conduct their own versions of the experiment in order to verify the findings and rule out a facility induced effect. I vote not enough testing :)
  • What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Moby Cock ( 771358 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:19PM (#14988357) Homepage
    Why is this called Artificial Gravity? They seem to have found a way to stimulate the generation of a gravitational field. But its still gravity. A radio transmitter stimulates the creation of an electric field (and the associated magnetic field) but we don't call that artificial electricity.

    Nevertheless, this is a very interesting discovery. Anyone have any other links?
  • by SpottedKuh ( 855161 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:24PM (#14988398)
    You're kidding, right? Mass is independent of gravity. That's second-grade knowledge.

    I believe you misunderstood the parent of your post. If I understand that post correctly, he's referring to Newton's gravitational law. It states that the gravitational force between Object A and Object B is directly proportional to the product of the two masses.

    So, in other words, your parent was asking: If we assume that the distance between two objects remains constant, as does the gravitational constant of the universe, shouldn't there be an increase in the mass of one of the objects to account for the gravitational force increasing?

    Or, put more simply: Did the spinning superconductor experience an increase in mass (somehow?), or was it the universal gravitational constant that was (somehow?) affected by the spinning superconductor?
  • by dildo ( 250211 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:29PM (#14988445)
    Artificial gravity is not the real exitement around this experiment. The really important part is, you know, experimental evidence that may provide insight into the unification of relativity and quantum mechanics.

    I wonder what the editors were thinking:

    "Well, we can talk about the really exciting implications of this experiment that will be relevant to respectable physics ... or we could talk about some artificial gravity field thingy that will make crackpots and sci-fi fans excited. Well, it looks pretty obvious. Defer to the crackpots."

    How long before some crackpot on the threads says: "Well, if you just spin the disk backward, logically it should follow that the artificial gravity will turn into anti-gravity! I have made the greatest scientific discovery since Einstein! Wait... I better be quiet about this before the oil companies and government agencies try to sabotage me, just like they did with my zero-point energy machine and my perpetual engine (I'm still working on getting the lubricant working correctly...)"

    Nice job, guys.
  • by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:33PM (#14988479)
    The really interesting thing was the gravity (or a force of some kind) would pull you towards the crator. It would pull you so strongly towards the crator that you could lean opposite to the force (crator) at an almost 45 degree angle and you would not fall.

    My guess is that it was a perspective trick - like you sometimes get in funhouses, you know? The slope was steeper than it looked, and your brain interpreted the conflicting information from your eyes and your inner ear as a horizontal force.

  • by nickptar ( 885669 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:34PM (#14988483)
    Neither. Apparently, you've been asleep since the beginning of the 20th century: Newton is WRONG. Gravity is the bending of space, and it just happens that the main thing that bends space is mass - but not the only thing.

    (But this device, apparently, isn't entirely consistent with General Relativity either. Nor does it generate gravity - it apparently creates a force that relates to gravity in the same way magnetism relates to electricity. I can't understand that.)
  • Re:Awesome (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrBlue VT ( 245806 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:49PM (#14988636) Homepage
    Maybe the faster than light speed drive accelerates all mass that is connected to it equally. This would make more sense in my mind because the entire starship moves instead of the incredible forces that would be exerted on the structure itself from the engine nacelles.
  • Re:Awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by azuretek ( 708981 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [keteruza]> on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:49PM (#14988638) Homepage
    Well even if it could predict where it would be fired that doesn't mean it can tell how strong or weak the impact will be.

    If it over corrects it would damage the crew inside, who knows, maybe it is correcting and the shaking and such isn't as bad as it would be otherwise.
  • by amliebsch ( 724858 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:53PM (#14988689) Journal
    If you can create gravity, it should be easy to create antigravity - i.e., free fall.

    I'm not so sure about that. Consider the following analogies:
    If you can create light, it should be easy to create antilight, i.e., darkness.
    If you can create sound, it should be easy to create antisound, i.e., silence.
    If you can create heat, it should be easy to creat antiheat, i.e., cold.

  • by susano_otter ( 123650 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:55PM (#14988698) Homepage
    All good points.

    Now, would you care to comment on the likelihood that the scientists conducting this research thought of these same factors, and accounted for them in their experimental methodology?
  • by Paradise Pete ( 33184 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:04PM (#14988777) Journal
    if they pull this off, we could have people safely living on the moon, and astronauts may not lose bone density with prolonged life in space.

    Don't you think that's a bit trivial? The impact of the ability to manipulate gravity is enormous. Your comment reminds me of the guy who posted that he was looking forward to teleportation reducing his commute time.

  • by ktulu1115 ( 567549 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:04PM (#14988786)

    Cold is defined as the absence of heat. There is no such thing as measuring how "cold" something is - heat is the intrinsic property, cold is just a lack of it.
    Same thing with light.

    A lack of gravity does not imply anti-gravity. It just means that spacetime is flat in that particular region (and of course we know it's never truly flat, there's always some deviation). Anti-gravity would be akin to emitting gravitons with a "negative gravitational charge" - it's possible in theory and that's about it as far as we've discovered.
  • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:31PM (#14989033)
    I you were building superstructures in space, yes. If you are trying to build something the size of the space shuttle, or even the ISS, spinning is not going to work. Besides, space travel is not the only place that artificial gravity would be useful. How about gyms. How about if being able to create artificial gravity leads to advances in deflecting or shielding of gravity. What if it leads to figuring out a way to make a repulsion as opposed to the normal attraction.

    While spinning is still probably a good idea for space superstructures, there are lots of uses for artificial gravity, and even on a spinning space superstructure, you might want to even out the gravity close to the center with that at the rim.
  • by zCyl ( 14362 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @03:08PM (#14989829)
    The problem usually comes when someone wants to see the experiment replicated. For some reason the effect always seems to go away when other people are looking.

    Well, in the real world, experiments are difficult and there is absolutely no guarantee that an experiment which works sometimes can be replicated with certainty on demand. An experiment may work once, then the researcher spends a month trying to get things working again, then it works, then the researcher spends another month trying to get things working again. This is particularly true in the case of novel experimental results for which we do not have a solid theoretical understanding.

    Without a good theoretical understanding, it is extremely difficult to know which experimental parameter causes a setup to work or not work, which makes it difficult for other people to duplicate work, and difficult to guarantee it will work for a single demonstration. But neither of these things by themselves invalidate experimental results.

    I think the tendency of many to cry "kook" everytime we see experimental results which contradict theory and are difficult to replicate some of the times we try is quite non-scientific.
  • Re:Awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @03:48PM (#14990160) Homepage Journal
    Good for you — exactly right. Otherwise, it is a fantasy element.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @05:09PM (#14990768)
    Which is why they submitted papers to a journal so other people can do MORE testing. Instead of keeping it secret so "they" can't get it.
  • by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @08:30PM (#14991944)
    Remember, every generally accepted scientific theory today started life as a fringe theory that the general consensus held was wrong. This is why groups like the NSA, DARPA, CIA etc continue to investigate "stupid" stuff like teleportation, mind control, hyperspace, gravity control, etc. 99% is probably BS, but there's a good bet that some fringe theory or phenomenon today will evolve into generally accepted wisdom within the next 50 years. If you're not looking at the edges of science you won't see where its reach is expanding.

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission