I just want to know when I will get my hoverboard.
July 3, 2001 8:25 AM   Subscribe

I just want to know when I will get my hoverboard. On July 6, 2001 Transdimensional Technologies, LLC will unveil the next evolutionary step in propulsion. A small prototype "lifter" will rise to the height of four feet without an engine, moving parts, conventional thrust, or propellant. Application of this technology is possible within one year, and a vehicle that is lifted and propelled by this force is possible in three years. Video clip here.
posted by fluxcreative (23 comments total)
Does this mean that Ginger has competition?
posted by davidmsc at 8:30 AM on July 3, 2001

Ummm...am I just being a total sceptic, but i'm convinced I can see strings on that thing on the video.....
posted by metaxa at 8:59 AM on July 3, 2001

Ummm...am I just being a total sceptic, but i'm convinced I can see strings on that thing on the video.....
posted by metaxa at 8:59 AM on July 3, 2001

One of the founders is described as a "neonatologist". Since a neonate is a newborn infant, I'm smelling hoax. An amusing one, though.

And the video clip doesn't prove much at all - could be lifted by wires, air blowers, magnetism, etc...
posted by jackelder at 9:16 AM on July 3, 2001

According to the caption under the video, the thing is attached to an external power-supply - thus the wires. The video seems perfectly legit. There's nothing special about "levitating" something with electrical energy - especially if that something is made of balsa and tinfoil and attached to an external power supply. The caption under the video claims that they believe they can lift something with its own power supply. That's the trick, and, there's nothing here that indicates they can do that.

Personally, I'm just curious if their Medusa ray is the same one they used in Rocky Horror.
posted by dchase at 9:24 AM on July 3, 2001

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo."
posted by harmful at 9:34 AM on July 3, 2001

> One of the founders is described as a "neonatologist".
> Since a neonate is a newborn infant, I'm smelling hoax.

That's a baby doctor. I figured he was just a local medical practitioner, in other words an investor (and one whose wallet may soon be a bit lighter, if it isn't already...)
posted by jfuller at 9:38 AM on July 3, 2001

And P.S., it may be a hoax or a bunch of guys fooling themselves but I can't help hoping it's the real-world intro of the reallyo trulyo Buck Rogers flying belt. At least they didn't claim the on-board power supply was a perpetual motion machine.
posted by jfuller at 9:41 AM on July 3, 2001

Another alert that this may be a hoax: note the copyright year on the Medusa Ray page (thanks dchase).

Content copyright Transdimensional Technologies, 20001
posted by davidmsc at 9:44 AM on July 3, 2001

Well that solves it...they are time travelers...come back to sell "inventions" and make a quick buck.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:34 AM on July 3, 2001

I think I will wait until the press conference, when they reveal where to send my life savings as an investment in the future of transportation.
posted by donkeymon at 11:02 AM on July 3, 2001

The object in questions looks to be tree sticks with magnets at the end, all attached by a thin strip of tinfoil. My charging the table with a negative polarity to the magnets the object would look to float.

Personally, I don't think that a vehicle that wobbly would sell.
posted by DragonBoy at 11:22 AM on July 3, 2001

Can they make porn with it yet? It's not really technology until you can make porn with it.
posted by dong_resin at 12:34 PM on July 3, 2001

posted by fraying at 12:54 PM on July 3, 2001

Cool. I can hardly wait to get one, so I can hover next to ladies and blow their skirts up in the air like Marilyn Monroe's.

What about the fumes? Will they let it in the restaurants? Will I have to be seated in the hoverboard section?

I think the author of the article has been accepting and opening incorrectly addressed shipments. Well, who can blame him.
posted by Twang at 3:01 PM on July 3, 2001

spin dizzy
posted by clavdivs at 6:13 PM on July 3, 2001

"Roads? Where we're going we don't need... roads."

"When this car hits 88 miles per hour, you're gonna see some serious shit."

One of my favorite movies, and not just for the Huey Lewis & The News soundtrack...
posted by owillis at 8:46 PM on July 3, 2001

Well, the (presumably NASA-heavy) Huntsville branch of the Materials Information Society is giving Transdimensional's CEO Jeffrey Cameron the time of day.

A little investigation suggests that they're using a superconducting electrical system to generate a magnetic field effect sufficient to overcome gravity. It's but one of many promising propellantless propulsion technologies.

Note that the neonatologist is an investor. The lead engineer is an old NASA hand, having worked on the Hubble and AXAF programs. Cameron himself is a bit of an outsider (only a BS -- actually a common inventor profile), but his specialty is optics, and laser-generated propulsion is a cutting-edge field. The Power3 system in the video utilizes the unrevolutionary Lorentz force in electromagnetic applications. Essentially they are using a magnet to push the object into the air. What's revolutionary about this is the possibility that the magnet could be carried along and the device could lift itself beyond the reach of gravity, thus providing a space launch system without a rocket. I'm guessing there's some overlap with this piezo-electric anti-gravity experiment, with a paper describing the general effect of "impulse engines without any moving parts". More on advanced space propulsion techniques. It may be (the description is so sketchy) that they are accessing so-called Zero Point Energy or Zero Point Field Forces -- of which electromagnetism is one -- derived from manipulating the quantum electrical properties of the triangle device. Still more on ZPE, ZPF, and quantum vacuum physics.

I'm afraid I haven't explained this very well. (Steven?) It's important to note that nothing's been discovered here -- we already knew about such things, and they're turning out to be an interesting (though controversial) area of physics -- but he has apparently found a practical application. Whether it will ever work outside of laboratory conditions is another matter entirely.

Which is not to say that this area of quantum physics may not yet completely revolutionize our view of the universe: some say it's already turning Einsteinian physics on its head (while giving new bolstering to the prior Newtonian view).

(Unless, of course, he turns out to be the son of Ed Cameron, whose resume includes the Philadelphia Experiment and a sojourn in 2751. I think it's just a wild coincidence....)
posted by dhartung at 1:00 AM on July 4, 2001

Dan, your second link to "promising propellantless propulsion technologies" is to a list of links to articles with nice scholarly names. I haven't read them, but one of them lists "H.E. Puthoff" as an author.

Harold Puthoff is one of the people who fell for Uri Geller, hook-line-and-sinker. Later he was reportedly involved in trying to get energy for free out of empty space. (The energy is there in infinitesimal amounts, but the Second Law of Thermodynamics says that it can't be utilized to do useful work. Not to put too fine a point on it, he was working on perpetual motion.) Apparently now he's into propellantless propulsion systems.

I took a look at the abstract for that paper. It looks like a lot of double-talk. I would only believe its claim to be NASA-funded if I saw that in a NASA publication, although Puthoff has a track record for convincing big-name institutions to fund his studies. (His studies of Geller were done while he was at the Stanford Research Institute, but they were a crock nonetheless.) So it's barely possible he really did wheedle some cash out of NASA (possibly based on his credentials from having worked at SRI) but that doesn't mean this study is worth any more than the one he did on Geller (which claimed that Geller's powers were genuine).

If anyone has actually managed the feat of theoretically unifying gravity and electromagnetism, I sure haven't heard of it. But that is what this abstract claims to have done, and not merely on a theoretical basis. It seems to imply that they've actually reduced it to engineering practice. It's difficult to believe that all this could happen without setting off a bomb in the physics community, and I haven't noticed any blast.

I'm looking now at their "Questions and Answers about the Origin of Inertia and the Zero-Point Field by the CIPA", and that too reads like double-talk. In fact, it sounds almost exactly like a pseudoscientist trying to pass his nonsense off as being science, by making all sorts of reference to orthodox scientists in ways which don't really pass muster when you look at them in detail.

"General relativity (GR) attributes gravitation to spacetime curvature. Modern attempts to reconcile quantum physics with GR take a different approach, treating gravity as an exchange of gravitons in flat spacetime (analagous to the treatment of electromagnetism as exchange of virtual photons)." Well, that's true, as far as it goes. There are people who wistfully hope that the graviton can be introduced to join the photon, the gluon and the weak vector boson to finish the tetrad of force particles. But there is no evidence for the existence of the graviton and all efforts to create a particle-based explanation for gravity have failed. Yes, there have been "attempts". But none have gotten very far. However, the section from which I took that quote implies that these represent the mainstream of physics and are quite well along. That simply isn't true. General Relativity is the mainstream of physics, and in GR there isn't any graviton. (And in GR, gravity has nothing whatever to do with electromagnetism.)

The thing they describe as the ZPF really does exist but it's not theoretically interesting; it's little more than the exhaust and wastes which inevitably will accumulate after a few billion years of operating a universe which has energetic matter in it. But they're trying to go a lot further than that and make it some sort of fundamental aspect of the universe which actually is responsible for fundamental properties like mass and gravity, and that is a different matter, and well beyond anything justified by current theory. Some of the detritus they describe does exist out there, but they sort of toss in "electromagnetic zero point field" in passing without explaining just what it is -- and then make that the keystone of their work. The only thing I can think of which comes close to that is the background field of virtual photons which pervade space, which amounts to the field-sum of all the charged particles in the universe.

They're claiming that this background field is actually primarily responsible for mass. It needs to be realized that the localized field density can easily be changed. We do it every day. There are places on earth (human machines, mostly) where the local field density is billions of times higher than the background level, and if this theory was even close to correct then objects in such circumstances would change mass. You'd think someone would have noticed before now, don't you? Why didn't all the electric power lines fall down of their own increased weight when the power was turned on?

I think they're cranks. But we'll know soon enough, since they claim they're going to make a public demonstration this Friday. (I wonder if anyone respectable will even bother showing up.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:43 AM on July 4, 2001

"I'm afraid I haven't explained this very well"

DOH, im still trying to look up nitrogen. Very concise. damn.
posted by clavdivs at 7:44 AM on July 4, 2001

didn't some US car company try to make a flying car in the sixties?
posted by stevridie at 4:48 PM on July 4, 2001

There have been attempts at flying cars a couple of times, but they used straightforward principles like fans and wings and propellers and jet engines. No-one has ever tried to claim a breakthrough in theoretical physics which would lead to levitation. (or at least, not with a straight face.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:06 PM on July 4, 2001

One `o them breakfast burritos will get me a good 4 or 5 inches of lift.
posted by dong_resin at 5:08 AM on July 5, 2001

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