Defying Gravity

The Search for a Way to Get Off the Planet Accelerates

To date, all space missions, manned or unmanned, have been lifted into orbit and beyond with rockets in one form or another. They work but are dangerous and expensive and very limited in their capabilities, in large part because in the vacuum of space, they must carry an oxidizer along with the fuel. They use highly explosive propellants and are dependent on high speed, high-pressure pumps and engines that can withstand enormous pressure and high temperatures. They need fuel to lift the payload, and more fuel to lift the superstructure that contains the tanks, pumps, engines, and payload. Then they need fuel to lift the fuel, and fuel to lift the fuel that lifts the fuel, and so on. So the engineers must resort to staging, with a big rocket lifting a smaller one, and so on; and, since it is difficult to retrieve and reuse the stages, they are usually discarded, analogous, as Elon Musk points out, to flying coast to coast and then discarding the airliner. The shuttle was supposed to solve this problem, but its technical problems were so great that it was even more costly rather than less.

Some of the technical problems have been solved, and it looks as if reusable rockets will become feasible after all (as Musk’s company SpaceX demonstrated in March with its first relaunch and recovery of a used rocket), but they will still be dangerous and expensive. The British and others are developing scramjets, which use atmospheric oxygen to reach very high speeds and altitudes; a reusable scramjet first stage and a reusable rocket second stage would certainly reduce costs. Once in orbit, only a very low thrust is required to slowly accelerate substantial payloads to escape velocity. A photon sail, pushed by sunlight and by solar wind, can do this, or an ion or plasma rocket that uses electric fields to accelerate a payload very slowly to enormous velocities. But space flight would still be expensive and dangerous, and these technologies do not allow us to land on other planets.

There have even been proposals for a “space elevator” making use of the enormous strength of new materials currently being developed. A weight would be placed in an orbit a little higher than the geosynchronous orbit used by communications satellites, which orbit Earth every 24 hours as it rotates at the same rate beneath them, so they stay above one point on the equator. It would be attached by a light but strong cable to a ground base. But proponents of this idea have been a bit vague about the means to propel a vehicle up and down this cable. At 100 miles per hour, it would take nearly ten days to reach the top; and any supports, magnets, or whatever attached to the cable would be so heavy that it would break.

So it is no wonder that people have always dreamed of gravity control (a broader and more useful term than “antigravity”) or some kind of reactionless space drive that would need energy (solar energy, for example) but would not need a huge reaction mass to expel out the back (action) to produce thrust (reaction). But relativity and quantum mechanics, the twin pillars of modern physics, do not allow for gravity control. And Newtonian mechanics, the laws of motion, do not permit a reactionless drive. But what if modern physics is at least partly incorrect? What if, for example, there is a sort of “loophole” in the laws of motion? What if gravity is not what Einstein claimed (a curvature in space)?

In 1921 American researcher Thomas Townsend Brown was experimenting with capacitors. A capacitor consists of two metal plates separated by a dielectric (an insulator), which can be air, a vacuum, or a substance with even stronger insulating properties. One plate is given a negative charge and the other a positive charge, and their attraction holds the charges in place until they slowly leak across and are neutralized. Brown discovered that there was a small thrust toward the positive plate; if it was above the negative one the device weighed less, and he believed that he had found a way to control gravity; and, in honor of his former astronomy teacher, called it the Biefeld-Brown effect and described it as “electrogravitics.” Consider this: if this really is either gravity control or a reactionless drive (it can be hard to tell the difference), it has been an incredible 96 years since its discovery. Brown experimented for decades, and the U.S. government, aerospace companies, and the French government all showed an interest. Brown discovered that if the positive plate was larger than the negative, the thrust was increased; and that if the plates were charged with a pulsed DC current, it worked better than with a steady current. The plates produce a very weak breeze from the positive plate past the negative one, and skeptics claim that this “ion wind” acts like a jet, meaning that the device weakly and inefficiently does what a propeller does and will not work in the vacuum of space. Wikipedia, always supporting the status quo and the conventional paradigm, claims that the device has been tested in a vacuum and produced no thrust. Brown claimed otherwise.

A number of tinkerers have built small thrusters based on the concept. Seen from above, one of these looks like a triangle; seen from any side it has a rectangular sheet of foil between two dielectric rods (thin wooden sticks will do), and a short distance above the foil is a thin wire. The wire is given a positive charge of 30,000 volts or so, and the foil is negative. The device lifts off the table and hovers, held back only by the leads attached to it to keep it charged. Larger ones have been made, composed of several of these triangular units. I have witnessed one of these on several occasions, once even helping its maker to set it up, and I can say that the “ion wind” is a barely perceptible breeze, incapable of lifting anything.

Conventional physics tells us that this is impossible, but several qualified people have dared to develop completely new theories of physics. One of these is American Paul LaViolette, with a BS in physics and a Ph.D. in systems science. His theory is called subquantum kinetics, and it postulates a “reaction-diffusion ether” and “subquantum units, called etherons,” which can combine, transmute, and recombine, and are the components of particles like protons, electrons, etc. LaViolette rejects the big bang theory in favor of continuous creation, and he also explains how consciousness plays a role in his physics. His theory explains electrogravitics: a positive charge creates a gravity “well” and a negative charge creates a gravity “hill.” He has explained his theory in Genesis of the Cosmos and the Biefeld-Brown effect in Secrets of Antigravity Propulsion. His theory is internally consistent and predictive—that is, it explains the phenomena we observe in the real world. LaViolette believes that, in addition to the very real gravity control effect, positive ions escape from the anode (positive plate) and repel it up while attracting the cathode (negative plate). He uses the term “electrokinetics” to refer to the overall effect and believes that the purely gravitational effect will still work in a vacuum, and also explains why it is desirable to use an anode larger than the cathode. LaViolette has pointed out that any solid dielectric will become charged negatively on the side facing the anode and positively on the side facing the cathode, largely neutralizing the thrust and making it necessary at intervals to turn off the current briefly before restarting it. Of course, a dielectric of air or a vacuum would eliminate this problem but also would make it difficult to attain high voltages and, hence, a high thrust.

Like a number of other researchers, LaViolette suspects that the B-2 bomber uses electrokinetics for at least part of its thrust, using its jet engines as “flame jet high voltage generators” to give a positive charge to a strip along the leading edge of the wing, separated by a dielectric from the negative aft portion. And both Brown and LaViolette believe that an electrokinetic thruster can be an over unity device, creating more energy in the form of thrust than is put into it in the form of electric current. Brown even proposed a rotating electrokinetic motor, which could be used to spin a dynamo and generate more electricity than was being fed into it.

In 2001, British researcher Roger Shawyer developed his EM (electromagnetic) drive, also referred to as a radio frequency (RF) resonant cavity thruster. The device is a hollow truncated cone of metal with a cavity magnetron (like the ones used in radars and microwave ovens) feeding microwaves into it. It produces a small thrust toward the large end, not enough to launch payloads into space from Earth’s surface, but sufficient to be used from Earth orbit for satellite station keeping and for slowly accelerating spacecraft to escape velocity and beyond. It produces more thrust than a photon sail; and, unlike a plasma or ion rocket, it can never run out of propellant, although, of course, it needs an energy source, like solar power. NASA has tested it repeatedly, even in a vacuum, and the thrust is real. China’s Academy of Space Technology has tested it successfully in a vacuum in Earth orbit. American Guido Fetta has developed a somewhat similar device but differently shaped, which he calls the Cannae Drive. NASA has verified that this device also produces a thrust without expelling a reaction mass or pushing on anything outside itself (unless the machines somehow push against the zero point field).

Interestingly enough, the inventors themselves seem a bit vague about how the thrusters work. Fetta designed his Cannae drive with little “wells” near the back end, believing that they trap electrons, causing more electrons to push against the forward end—but when NASA eliminated the wells, the Cannae Drive still produced a thrust. Shawyer has suggested an uneven push by the microwaves, but, like visible light on a photon sail, microwaves produce a thrust so weak that any difference would be negligible. So no one is really sure how these things work; but, in apparent violation of the laws of physics, they do work, and both inventors hope to be able to improve them, greatly increasing thrust. Paul LaViolette has stated that microwaves do produce a measurable thrust when they strike certain substances; he believes that this may be because they create a charge gradient, producing a Biefeld-Brown effect. I e-mailed him, asking if the EM and Cannae drives might be doing just that, especially since the forward end of the EM drive is larger (like the larger anodes that Brown tested), but he replied that he thinks that the EM drive and Cannae drive probably work on some entirely different principle.

Over the years, many inventors have tried to produce an unbalanced centrifugal force (technically it is not a force, but angular momentum). The complex and vibrating Dean Drive in the 1950s never produced a real net thrust. French researcher Jean Luc Naudin (who has also written about electrogravitics) has designed one, but it has never been tested. I myself have designed one (also untested) that varies the length of a rotating arm with a weight on one end so it is further out on one half of each rotation, generating more momentum on that side. Power is applied intermittently so that the motor is not pushed in the wrong direction when the mass is accelerated (this would neutralize the thrust). LaViolette believes that it may indeed be possible for someone to figure out how to produce unbalanced angular momentum.

But some researchers believe that any rapidly spinning mass has unexplained effects on momentum and on gravity. Eric Roberts Laithwaite was a British electrical engineer who worked on designing linear induction motors and maglev trains. He came to believe that a spinning gyroscope actually weighs less than a stationary one and that this effect would allow a space drive to be constructed. A researcher named Bruce DePalma believes that inertia is a property of space itself and that the inertial field of space can be “polarized” by rotating objects. He experimented and claimed that a spinning object will fall from a given height faster than a non-spinning object. He also claimed that his experiments showed that a spinning mass propelled upward by a given force will rise higher than the same mass, non-spinning, shot up by the same force.

In the 1960s I was driving alone at night across the West Texas desert, with radio stations fading in and out, when I heard a news announcement that someone had achieved “antigravity” with rapidly spinning magnets. I was never able to find the source of the story and never heard it repeated. But British inventor John Searl claimed that he had made a device consisting of a stationary magnetized ring, with its north pole facing down, surrounded by a ring of smaller cylindrical magnets, their north poles facing up, free to move. They were surrounded by a second stationary ring, then another circle of cylinders, and then one more of each, all with the same polarities as the first set. When he set the rings spinning in a clockwise direction as seen from above, he claimed that, once started, they would spin on their own (over unity) and that the whole apparatus actually levitated and flew (gravity control or a reactionless space drive). I have found no evidence that his claims have been independently verified, but many people (including Paul LaViolette) take him seriously. Russian inventor Eugene Podkletnov claimed that he built a device with a cryogenically cooled superconducting ceramic disc levitated magnetically, and spun at 5,000 rpm, and that it reduced the weight of objects suspended over it. He later claimed to have developed gravitational beams that could move objects at a great distance, but none of this has been independently verified.

Then there is the research of Austrian forester Viktor Schauberger, inspired by the movement of water in streams, who supposedly developed a gravity control device, There are the claims that the Nazis in WWII developed a gravity control device called the Bell (die glocke), using (according to the legend) either Schauberger’s research or a different principle, which involved the use of mercury (like in the legendary vimanas of ancient India). Again, none of this has been conclusively proven or disproven.

After his retirement, Ben Rich, former director of Lockheed’s famous Skunk Works research center, claimed that, “we already have the technology to travel among the stars, but these technologies are locked up in Black projects.” This statement, which has helped to give rise to stories of a secret space program, has never been proven true (or disproven), but the evidence that electrogravitics actually produces a thrust is pretty strong, and, again, the concept has been around for 96 years! What has the government been doing all this time?

The debunkers assure us that all of this is nonsense, but the EM drive has been conclusively proven—and the electrogravitic lifters keep right on levitating.



SpaceX Conducts Historic Re-Flight of Used Booster & Lands it Again

On Thursday March 30, 2017 the private space launch company SpaceX took a giant step into the future as it reused—for the first time—the recovered first stage of a previously flown SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket after a rocket-powered return. The satellite launch mission, carrying the SES-10 communications satellite, lifted off from Pad 39A at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at 18:27 local time (22:27 UTC) and once again landed the booster.

The mission, making use of the Falcon 9 orbit-capable rocket was the first—since the Space Shuttle—to achieve even partial reusability, and the first to do so with rocket-powered reverse descent. The Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, the same pad from which the Shuttle began eighty-two of its missions, including its first and final flights.

Reusability has long been a key objective for SpaceX, which company founder Elon Musk has argued will reduce the cost of spaceflight by orders of magnitude.

Previously SpaceX had successfully recovered five of its booster rockets. The rocket used in April’s launch was the second that SpaceX had recovered. It had been the vehicle used for the company’s eighth cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.

After launch, the rocket landed on SpaceX’s drone ship, facetiously titled ‘Of Course I Still Love You.’ SpaceX had decided to relaunch this particular Falcon 9 again first, since the company wanted to save the first rocket it had ever landed—a vehicle that sent 11 satellites into orbit for the company ORBCOMM in December 2015. That stage is now on display at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

By William B. Stoecker