Tags:


hmm...
March 24, 2006 8:44 AM   Subscribe

Artifical gravity via spinning superconducting disks? It sounds like an experiment very similar to the work of Yevgeny Podkletnov, who read about in wired in 1998. Most people thought he was a crackpot at the time. But now it's being reported on a .int site, so it must be true.
posted by delmoi (38 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Oh you JUST beat me, I was posting this while you were.

My writeup:

The first tiny steps toward artificial gravity were taken recently. Researchers funded by the European Space Agency have demonstrated the gravitational equivalent of a magnetic field; a spinning superconductor causes measurable gravitational changes nearby. This result was expected, but not the magnitude: it's a hundred million trillion times larger than General Relativity predicts. [more inside]
****
The strong effect is a big deal. To my knowledge, Einstein's predictions have never been falsified before. He knew that his work was incomplete, and this is some of the the first experimental evidence possibly pointing out where the problem(s) is/are.

I also find it quite interesting that it has to be a *rotating* superconductor. Suddenly it makes those flying saucers from the 1950s nearly prescient. Eerie concidence?
posted by Malor at 8:54 AM on March 24, 2006


I read the original Wired article back in 1998 and was inspired. I haven't kept up with Yevgeny, but now I can! Thanks for the post!
posted by NationalKato at 9:10 AM on March 24, 2006


When do I get my Gravity Gun?
posted by TeamBilly at 9:22 AM on March 24, 2006


I read an article in Skeptic even earlier than the Wired article. Very interesting stuff. I hope it pans out.
posted by kalessin at 9:48 AM on March 24, 2006


Ah, well you missed the Yevgeny connection malor, and the kickass wired article.
posted by delmoi at 10:00 AM on March 24, 2006


True, your links were better, but I think you should have played up the 'Einstein's wrong!' more.... this is more important than the amount of traffic in here would indicate.
posted by Malor at 10:07 AM on March 24, 2006


this is more important than the amount of traffic in here would indicate.

Yep, at this point this thread is at 7 comments; Britney Spears giving birth nude on a bearskin rug: 56.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:11 AM on March 24, 2006


Wow, this is big. Who knows what kind of stuff this is going to lead to? And the fact that it shows that there are holes in Einstein's theories...wow. Just....wow.
posted by unreason at 10:11 AM on March 24, 2006


There is a lot of money to be made by whomever can predict how a fundamental finding like this or the development of fusion power will change the economy. Because if this is true it changes everything.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:14 AM on March 24, 2006


The London Movement would make a great name for a really annoying band. They'd be worse than Interpol. They'd make millions.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:14 AM on March 24, 2006


The best thing about this is the possibility of a non-assinine reason for why all space ships in sci-fi have some sort of gravity, apparently, despite being in micro-g environments. Now that's important! (other than the fact that you'd need absolutely gigantic super-conducting disks and insane amounts of power, but why quibble?).

I jest. This is very cool stuff. The potential of it opening up new vistas in quantum gravity is the most exciting part to me. I really, really want to know why QM and GR conflict.

And I love the terms gravitoelectric and gravitomagnetic fields. Although the thought of actually doing the math and working with them gives me a headache — one of these days I'm going to get through Misner's et al Gravitation and Wald's General Relativity. But for right now it's probability theory for me.
posted by teece at 10:28 AM on March 24, 2006


wow. don't suppose anyone here knows if anyone is trying to confirm this?

the're reporting 100 ug, which i assume means apparent mass change of 0.01%. that's way smaller than the 2% in the bbc article. that means that (1) the earlier claims still look very odd and (2) this result is probably hard to measure.

so it's not clear yet. but still, wow.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:30 AM on March 24, 2006


i love the comment comparing this to faraday. that always seemed like "duh, the needle moves"; now you have some idea how he must have felt...
posted by andrew cooke at 10:32 AM on March 24, 2006


Preprints: 1; 2.

i purposefully didn't put useful text in those links just to annoy you
posted by andrew cooke at 10:48 AM on March 24, 2006


This is too heavy on the physics-speak. It looks interesting but what's going on here? Does it imply the ability to repel gravity as well or just create more gravity? To the non-scientist, while I can see the significance of a theory being disproven -- it's fairly an esoteric subject. What are the potential applications?
posted by geoff. at 11:08 AM on March 24, 2006


Man back quite a few years, probably when I was a sophomore in high school, a friend of mine said he believed gravity was caused by spinning. His reasoning was so flawed, but if he sees this it'll give him enough reason to say he was right all along. I haven't seen him in a few years, but if I do I have a feeling this would be like the first thing out of his mouth.

Thanks science!
posted by Phantomx at 11:08 AM on March 24, 2006


Can I have my flying car now, please?
posted by bashos_frog at 11:40 AM on March 24, 2006


Related to this hyperdrive perhaps?
posted by afu at 12:02 PM on March 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


Yep, at this point this thread is at 7 comments; Britney Spears giving birth nude on a bearskin rug: 56.

Britney Spears' vagina is more powerful than gravity.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:06 PM on March 24, 2006


It looks like (from quickly scanning andrew's links) that the effect they have discovered is very small magnitude, but in the opposite direction of Podkletnov's predictions, so this makes Podkletnov's anti-gravity results even less likely to be confirmed.

That they can show any increase at all in acceleration induced at a distance like that is hella cool.

This is very interesting.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:07 PM on March 24, 2006


Following from afu's link, here's a couple:

Heim Theory on Wikipedia

The Droscher-Hauser PDF on the possible hyperdrive

Note that the D-H hyperdrive would use a spinning disc suspended above a non-spinning superconductor, but this sure sounds awfully similar.
posted by zoogleplex at 12:16 PM on March 24, 2006


I think it's important to remember that a "gravitomagnetic" field isn't some sort of mix of gravitational and magnetic fields, it's just frame dragging.

Much like how a magnetic field is just an electric field that is moving, a gravitomagnetic field is just a gravity field that is moving.
posted by bshort at 1:22 PM on March 24, 2006


[this is floating]
posted by davejay at 1:25 PM on March 24, 2006


the first preprint is amazing reading. they have a ring of lead, about 6" in diameter, that they accelerate to around 6000rpm in one second, and then decelerate again. this is sitting in a cryostat (very fancy fridge) which is itself inside a box filled with 1.5 tons of sand to damp movement. you'd imagine it gives a bit of a jolt, yet at the same time they have embedded accelerometers (glorified kitchen scales scales taking the weight of masses) to high accuracy to measure the gravitational field...

what makes it a bit more believable is that they can run the tests with and without superconducting "on"; and when it's off they don't see the effect (apparently). which argues against it being related to the shaking.

(they also say their results are very different from previous claims)
posted by andrew cooke at 1:26 PM on March 24, 2006


A well-designed and executed experiment is a thing of beauty.

Now it's up to peer review to check the answers and make sure the design, execution and overall methodology are sound.

That's the elegance of science, and the reason why it works so well.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:04 PM on March 24, 2006


geoff, there's no practical application yet. They're showing that a spinning superconductor (aka electromagnetism) can affect gravity, and that the effect is enormously stronger than Einstein theorized. But it's still very weak in real terms.

This is one of those things that could change the fundamentals of physics, so it's extremely, extremely important. If their measurements are accurate, and if the effect works as they say it does, it means Einstein was partially wrong. That's a huge deal, because while everyone (including Einstein himself) knew his theory was incomplete, we didn't know where the problem was. This may be pointing straight at the problem.

Don't make the mistake of thinking it doesn't matter.... they're just spinning a disk in a lab, but may be peeling back another layer of reality.
posted by Malor at 2:18 PM on March 24, 2006


this is more important than the amount of traffic in here would indicate.

Yep, at this point this thread is at 7 comments; Britney Spears giving birth nude on a bearskin rug: 56.


You really need "thread viewed" counts. I'm not saying that this would necessarily get more views, but I am one of a lot of people who found this thread fascinating, are unsure of the ramifications, can't wait to find out more, but really have nothing to say here other than "can't wait to find out more". When that's the case, I usually keep quiet. Comment-count isn't everything.
posted by dreamsign at 2:22 PM on March 24, 2006


Since there are many physics geeks here who are orders of magnitude smarter than I am...a couple questions arise for me...

...is this potentially the missing link (or at least the bridging principle that can explain why quantum mechanics and special/general relativity diverge?

..could a 'gravity field' be generated, contained and manipulated?

...are there any incredibly annoying engineering problems, right now, which could be solved by some application of this technology?
posted by TeamBilly at 2:57 PM on March 24, 2006


"what it means" is that there's a possible link between two things that, so far we have been unable to connect.

nearly two centuries ago, faraday noticed that electric current in a coil of wire made a magnetised needle move. before that, electricity and magnetism had been considered two completely separate things. now we take things like electric motors - which rely on generating magnetic fields via electricity - for granted.

more than that, we came to understand that electricity and magnetism are two different ways of looking at the same thing, and that what we see - magnetism or electric fields - depends on the relative motion between ourselves and charged particles.

so electricity and magnetism, it turns out, are connected via special relativity.

progressing further, other "forces" (that we don't notice directly since they operate only at very small scales, like inside atoms) turn out to be related.

the cool thing about science (physics) is how interconnected everything is. it's "holistic" in a very deep sense - in a way that you don't learn at school, where it seems like a lot of arbitrary rules. instead, it appears that there's an underlying symmetry/order that "connects everything".

BUT. gravity has always been out of it. general relativity (which is something largely separate from special relativity) is a beautiful theory, but it doesn't fit with everything else.

so we have an "almost unified" understanding of electricity, magnetism, the strong and weak forces, particles, quantum mechanics, etc etc. it's called "the standard model". and we have gravity. and there's no connection. we're as stupid as people before faraday who thought magnets were something you dug up from the ground and electricity what you got when you rubbed ivory on fur. or whatever.

at the same time, neither existing "side" (gravity or the rest) is completely "right". the standard model is kind of flakey in places - i'm no expert, but the maths is kind of dodgy and there's a lot of tweaking behind the systems. and astronomy is in a complete mess - we see things in the universe moving in a way that we just can't explain using general relativity. at the moment astronomers have to invent two different things (called "dark energy" and "dark matter"; afaik they're unconnected despite the similar names - "dark" just means we can't see whatever it is) to explain their results.

so something has to give. and in the past we could always use experiments to force the issue. faraday's experiment showed the way to unify electricity and magnetism. but for a long time it's seemed that experiments no longer work. there's been good reasons to believe that the necessary experiments would need huge amounts of energy. huge as in completely impossible here on earth.

as a consequence, people have been wanking around with theory - strings etc etc. but that seems to be fizzling out. everything is stalled.

and suddenly there's this experiment, which seems to be from a fairly kosher group, which gives a connection between the two different worlds. it's like faraday all over again....

that's why it would be wonderful. but this is not confirmation of earlier results (which sounded way too "easy" to be true). this is different both qualitatively - in the way the gravity changes - and quantitatively - in that it's very small. so it's new, and it's the result of hard work at the borderline of seeing patterns in noise. so it desperately needs confirmation. but if it is true, it could be the start of a new avalanche of progress in physics that finally leads to a grand unified theory. which would great, because physics has been stalled for too long.

[on preview:

i suspect practical applications will be limited because unification is, as i said, expected to occur only at energies way outside what we can use here on earth. but that's only a guess, and one that's invalidated to some extent by this experiment, if it holds out.

you don't put a "gravity field" in a box any more than you put an electric field in a box - you can't "can" a radio broadcast, open the tin later and listen to your radio. what this experiment does is "broadcast gravity waves" like a radio antenna broadcasts radio waves.]
posted by andrew cooke at 3:09 PM on March 24, 2006


"behind the scenes" [spellchecker...]
posted by andrew cooke at 3:10 PM on March 24, 2006


This is so great to hear.

Its too bad there's been so many New Scientist-ish, half-baked science threads here at mefi that its hard to convey that this, more than anything I've seen recently, looks *real* and potentially world-changing.

I guess more than thread-view counts you need something like Projects has: these mefites recommend this!
posted by vacapinta at 4:41 PM on March 24, 2006


The space aliens may have neato anti-grav spaceships, subspace communications or even time travel, but WE have brittney spears! Just goes to show you. What do THEY know?
posted by muppetboy at 4:51 PM on March 24, 2006


nearly two centuries ago, faraday noticed that electric current in a coil of wire made a magnetised needle move. before that, electricity and magnetism had been considered two completely separate things. now we take things like electric motors - which rely on generating magnetic fields via electricity - for granted.

So, in two centuries we'll have "gravity motors" for interstellar travel? That'd be cool... Seriously though, this is very important. I remember reading about a garage experiment once that claimed that if a magnetic disc is accelerated to a certain rpm and suddenly stopped, it takes less energy to accelerate it back up to the same rpm. I was taking undergrad physics at the time and just thought "eh, that's not supposed to happen" and chalked up the result to shoddy experimentation. Now though, it makes be wonder whether it was a real result. Wish I could remember where I read that...
posted by Nquire at 6:48 PM on March 24, 2006


Asimov would have been pleased. Perhaps he still is.
posted by zoogleplex at 7:39 PM on March 24, 2006


Because if this is true it changes everything.

Well we'll see. It seems to me (and the authors of the study, btw) that it needs to be indepentantly reproduced and confirmed by other groups before we get all excited about it.
posted by moonbiter at 9:29 AM on March 25, 2006


the cool thing about science (physics) is how interconnected everything is.

As a friend of mine used to say, "Its all the same, only different".

Also makes me think of "May you live in interesting times".

So, in two centuries we'll have "gravity motors" for interstellar travel?

You aren't accounting for the exponential rate of increase of technology since then. I'm betting on 2112 for the Singularity. (Kidding... but just a little.)
posted by Enron Hubbard at 9:51 AM on March 25, 2006


eh? are you reading "if this is true" as "if the authors are not lying"? i read it as "if this is independently reproduced and confirmed".
posted by andrew cooke at 9:52 AM on March 25, 2006


glad I caught this on a second look - it didn't catch my eye at first, but this is very interesting.
And I like andrew cooke's rundown above. It does seem as if all the theorizing has more or less run its course, and a lot of viewpoints that had become fairly standard are getting a closer look (a lot of rethinking in QM, but relativity seems like it's been knocked off its pedestal in recent years as well - like that recent experiment about the "speed of gravity" being higher than the speed of light... whether it's correct or not, the fact that more questions are being raised about conclusions which were considered pretty close to settled is newsworthy in itself.
posted by mdn at 10:56 AM on March 25, 2006


« Older Pot, boobies and panties in the Alabama Govenors R...  |  A vessel to fill with mirth.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments