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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 rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:06PM (#14988219)
    but a "gravitomagnetic one", which is a field that moving objects with "gravitational charge" (i.e., anything that produces gravitational force) make. it acts to repel or attract other gravitational charges. Still a huge discovery if true, could lead to inventions like (non-electromagnetic) "artificial gravity" or "force fields" or "levitation fields"
  • Because it seems to me that the only way they could be certain it was gravitational influence and not some other phenomenon is if they also saw an apparent increase in the mass of the system.
  • Re:Not again! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FhnuZoag ( 875558 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:12PM (#14988279)
    Yeah. I'm finding this very hard to believe. But it's the European Space Agency...

    If true, this would be pretty much the biggest breakthrough since Einstein.
  • Re:Forgot spaceships (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stunt_penguin ( 906223 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:12PM (#14988284)
    Actually, this is an extremely good point- we might not be able to create a graviational field big enough for people to use, but what if it became possible to create materials that are currently only produceable in orbit? Could we make superhard/strong/elastic/conducting materials in a field like this? An interesting application. I wanna see this on 'How it's made' on Discovery Channel 3D HD in 2015 at the latest (^^).
  • Path to Warp Drive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tempest451 ( 791438 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:16PM (#14988330)
    "IF" this is a real first step to artificial gravity (big if), then this is the natural progression to warp drive. Artificial Gravity - Gravity Shielding - Anti Gravity - Continuum Distortion - Warp Drive. My own scale.
  • by BewireNomali ( 618969 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:23PM (#14988386)
    ... but the caption is a bit sensationalistic.

    From the article, if I understand correctly, they are committing to the possible observation of a gravitomagnetic field as the explanation for discrepancies between expected and actual mass values. According to the article, all masses produce gravitomagnetic fields, so this artificial induction of one is no different from what anyone does when one moves mass around, right? It's just in this instance, the amount was so great as to be measurable in experiment.

    This is amazing, right? Isn't it that so much of gravity is known theoretically but not observationally? If we can directly gauge and measure gravitational fields, then we have taken the first critical step to manipulating them, right?

    Pardon any shoddy physics, but I was a chem guy, and only undergrad.

  • Re:Awesome (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shads ( 4567 ) <shadus@[ ] ['sha' in gap]> on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:27PM (#14988424) Homepage Journal
    Oh come on, you can see it form up (beam weapon) any computer worth its salt could predict where it's going to fire and the torpedos have a trajectory it could predict the impact point precisely.
  • by quanminoan ( 812306 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:27PM (#14988425)
    Podkletnov spun a levitated superconducting YBCO disk at high RPMs. As the story goes he walked into the room smoking a pipe and saw the smoke from the pipe rising in a column above the superconductor. Measurements showed a slight decrease in gravitational attraction above the superconductor. Of course, the science involved wasn't exactly careful (who would smoke a pipe next to equipment like that?), and he was dismissed as a crank.

    If you've read The Hunt for Zero Point by Nick Cook, Cook actually talks with Podkletnov about his "discovery". He then admits it wasn't a random experiment, but based off some Russian papers around WWII with some Nazi connections or something.

    So really it's pseudoscience, and i'm sure the scientists mentioned in the article were both aware of Podkletnov's work and at the same time careful not to associate themselves with him. Just because it's pseudoscience doesn't mean nothing will come of it - it just means it's really unlikely. If you're interested in this sort of thing I recommend reading Cook's book, he worked for a military journal before deciding to explore the world of pseudoscience (the book almost has a mystery thriller aspect to it).

    Podkletnov's Device: []

  • Re:Forgot spaceships (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JazzCrazed ( 862074 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:38PM (#14988521) Homepage
    Or put the field generator above the object(s) to be manufactured, such that it counteracts Earth's gravity for anything between itself and the ground.
  • Heim theory? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Balinares ( 316703 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:47PM (#14988617)
    Please excuse me if I'm asking something stupid, but does this relate with the Heim theory []? I recently a very interesting paper about its possible use in space propulsion [], but I can't tell if this article is about the same thing, not being much of a physicist. :)
  • by twifosp ( 532320 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:51PM (#14988665)
    I wish the article had more technical information on why they think it was a gravitational field and not a electrical magnetic field. I'm not questioning it without additional information, although the physicist (albeit amateur) in me wants to.

    Questions I'd like to see explained:

    It states that the acceleration is 100 millionths that of Earth's gravity. How was that measured? Against what constant?
    What was the effect on nearby matter placed in the field?
    If the type of matter was capable of it, was the matter polarized (possible indication that it's a electromagnetic field).
    And most importantly, what happens to radio waves as you fire them across the gravitational field? Cassini-Hyugen's experiment demonstrated that waves propagating at C will behave according to GR (spacetime bending) when shot across gravity fields. This behavior is different from electromagnetic influences, so it seems like a great validation test.

    This is fantastic news and I hope it turns out to be a valid gravitational effect. Studying this phenomenon could open up new doors in physics.

    Give us more details! I'm curious!

  • by skintigh2 ( 456496 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:01PM (#14988753)
    Like cold fusion, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, so I will wait for tons of verification before getting too excited.

    Wouldn't it be funny if it turns out the scientists forgot that they were spinning their superconductors though Earth's magnetic field and thus generating a current which in turn caused their readings...
  • Re:Forgot spaceships (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ariane 6 ( 248505 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:20PM (#14988924)
    If you can create sound, it should be easy to create antisound, i.e., silence.

    Noise-cancelling headsets. They create silence by inverting the external waveform. Effectively "antisound"

    If you can create heat, it should be easy to creat antiheat, i.e., cold.


    You have a point on the first one, however, and it's true that neither of those technologies are particularly "easy". Nevertheless, they're possible.
  • by NewKimAll ( 923422 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:36PM (#14989083)
    To me this doesn't seem like a breakthrough.... yet.

    Couldn't you take a ring of ANY material and spin it to cause this effect? Since things gain mass as you approach the speed of light, they'd also have a higher gravitational pull as a result of the change in mass. To get more of a gravitional pull, spin the ring faster, assuming it won't fly apart under the stress.

    The only way this could be considered a breakthrough is if a superconducting coil is the only material or one of many materials to somehow enhance this effect above and beyond the expected result according to the Theory of Relativity. Either that or the Theory of Relativity is wrong or needs to be tweaked to match the experimental result.

    Anti-gravity, would most likely be a function of placing yourself in the center of the ring as it rotates around you, but you'll have the problem of "your feet being heavier than your head" if you assume that your head is perfectly centered. So the anti-gravity effect may not be useful under certain conditions.
    If you want "gravity" on your trip to Mars in the short-term, just build the damn ship with a ring system so you can spin it. How hard is that?
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <> on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:51PM (#14989228) Homepage Journal
    You forgot launches. If launch vehicles were free from gravity (or at least experienced reduced downward acceleration), they could reach orbit on far less fuel. In theory, we could build Star Trek style shuttlecraft with such technology. (Don't get me started on the "Shuttle Pods", though. B&B had their heads up their rears when they dreamed those up. Then again, when aren't their heads up their rears?)
  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:57PM (#14989268)
    What you're asking is not stupid, but where you're asking it might be. It's highly doubtful that anyone here on Slashdot knows anything more about Heim theory than what the Wikipedia tells us. It's obscure and mostly understood by German speaking physics doctorates. (I challenge you small handful of physics experts on Slashdot who might have actually read his math and understood it to prove me wrong.) Fortunately, Germany is part of the ESA.

    However, from what I've read on "teh intarweb" from laymen speculators about Heim theory, his theory does supposedly predict that a rotating magnetic field would have a gravitational effect.

    Another physicist, Dröscher, has taken his theory further to say that in a similar setup -- a rotating ring above a superconducting coil -- could theoretically lift a 150-ton spaceship with a magnetic field of "only" 25 Tesla. He also claims that this might allow "hyperspace" travel where the speed of light changes, so I -- in my layman's knowledge of physics -- put Dröscher in the crank science box. You can read more about it in this New Scientist article. [] Take it with a good-sized chunk of rock salt.
  • by MindStalker ( 22827 ) <mindstalker@gmai l . com> on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:07PM (#14989343) Journal
    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.

    Think about using gravitrons in replace of electrons. Assuming gravitrons even exist, here is how it goes. Gravitrons flow through spacetime in much the same way as electrons flow through space. One can create a magnetic field that attracks electrons. It is believed you can great a gravmegnetic field that would attract gravitrons. You might not be able to capture and manipulate gravitrons in the same way that you can manipulate electrons, but if you could even bend the path of gravitrons you could do awesome things.
  • by Pfhorrest ( 545131 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:47PM (#14989660) Homepage Journal
    I remember hearing about some of the early (Austrian?) spinning superconductor experiments which were largely dismissed many years ago, and I've been thinking about this sort of thing for a long time since I find it so fascinating, but as it's always dismissed as crackpottery, I don't really talk about it much.

    But here is a nice opportunity to ask some simple questions for anyone out there who understands the physics described here a little better than me...

    The effect in question is not gravitational per se, but rather gravitomagnetic, right? That is, it affects (and is produced by) moving masses in the same manner that an electromagnetic field affects and is produced by moving charges? It seems it would make perfect sense then, that one could create such a gravitomagnet via a rapidly spinning mass, just as spinning charges create electromagnets. I imagine that the reason we do not often notice such gravitomagnetic effects is because the force of gravity (or the amount of mass ordinary matter has, if you like) is so much less than the electomagnetic force. and thus much greater acceleration is needed to produce any noticable effect.

    The point of my inquiry here, however, is whether this electromagnetic-gravitomagnetic similarity extends further. Namely, if one takes an electromagnet and moves it back and forth, an electromagnetic wave is produced. A lot of these waves together we call electromagnetic radiation. Would it make sense, then, that a rapidly spinning, oscillating mass would produce gravitomagnetic waves, or gravitomagnetic radiation?

    I've been wondering if the Gravity Probe experiments that are described in lay news sources as trying to detect "gravity waves" from planets like Mercury were in fact measuring something like I described above. My question though, is what effect does / would a gravitomagnetic wave have? Would such a wave push or pull the object it collides with? My intuition says that, as photons push what they collide with, these gravtomagnetic 'particles' / waves would pull what they strike.

    Is that what "gravitons" are supposed to be?

    Someone with more knowledge of contemporary physics, please explain. Thank you.
  • No, its my theory. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GreenSwirl ( 710439 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @04:24PM (#14990432) Homepage Journal
    I used to doodle spinning superconductor discs producing gravitational fields in my college notebooks in the 80's. My pick-up rap used to have a bit about the flying saucer I designed that used spinning superconductors for propulsion. I dunno why, but this effect always seemed obvious and intuitive to me. Are we really only now confiming it? Was this speculated in sci-fi or OMNI, because it seems awfully familiar for some reason.
  • by backdoorstudent ( 663553 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @05:29PM (#14990941)
    The experiment definitely looks ready for replication. If it works it will turn gravitational theory on its head. There is no theory in existence that can account for these results. Not general relativity, not quantum gravity, and not even these guys' non-standard theory will work. Something completely new will be needed.
    Let's withold the jumping to conclusions shall we. This may explain it: []

    And this: []

Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment. -- Robert Benchley