'Anti-gravity' device gives science a lift

By Robert Matthews and Ian Sample

Sept 1 edition of Electronic Telegraph

Follow-up Below

SCIENTISTS in Finland are about to reveal details of the world's first anti-gravity device. Measuring about 12in across, the device is said to reduce significantly the weight of anything suspended over it.

The claim - which has been rigorously examined by scientists, and is due to appear in a physics journal next month - could spark a technological revolution. By combating gravity, the most ubiquitous force in the universe, everything from transport to power generation could be transformed.

Diagram of Device

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that Nasa, the American space agency, is taking the claims seriously, and is funding research into how the anti-gravity effect could be turned into a means of flight.

The researchers at the Tampere University of Technology in Finland, who discovered the effect, say it could form the heart of a new power source, in which it is used to drive fluids past electricity-generating turbines.

Other uses seem limited only by the imagination:

Lifts in buildings could be replaced by devices built into the ground. People wanting to go up would simply activate the anti-gravity device - making themselves weightless - and with a gentle push ascend to the floor they want.

Space-travel would become routine, as all the expense and danger of rocket technology is geared towards combatting the Earth's gravitation pull.

By using the devices to raise fluids against gravity, and then conventional gravity to pull them back to earth against electricity-generating turbines, the devices could also revolutionise power generation.

According to Dr Eugene Podkletnov, who led the research, the discovery was accidental. It emerged during routine work on so-called "superconductivity", the ability of some materials to lose their electrical resistance at very low temperatures. The team was carrying out tests on a rapidly spinning disc of superconducting ceramic suspended in the magnetic field of three electric coils, all enclosed in a low-temperature vessel called a cryostat.

"One of my friends came in and he was smoking his pipe," Dr Podkletnov said. "He put some smoke over the cryostat and we saw that the smoke was going to the ceiling all the time. It was amazing - we couldn't explain it."

Tests showed a small drop in the weight of objects placed over the device, as if it were shielding the object from the effects of gravity - an effect deemed impossible by most scientists.

"We thought it might be a mistake," Dr Podkletnov said, "but we have taken every precaution". Yet the bizarre effects persisted. The team found that even the air pressure vertically above the device dropped slightly, with the effect detectable directly above the device on every floor of the laboratory.

In recent years, many so-called "anti-gravity" devices have been put forward by both amateur and professional scientists, and all have been scorned by the establishment. What makes this latest claim different is that it has survived intense scrutiny by sceptical, independent experts, and has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Physics-D: Applied Physics, published by Britain's Institute of Physics.

Even so, most scientists will not feel comfortable with the idea of anti-gravity until other teams repeat the experiments. Some scientists suspect the anti-gravity effect is a long-sought side-effect of Einstein's general theory of relativity, by which spinning objects can distort gravity. Until now it was thought the effect would be far too small to measure in the laboratory.

However, Dr Ning Li, a senior research scientist at the University of Alabama, said that the atoms inside superconductors may magnify the effect enormously. Her research is funded by Nasa's Marshall Space Flight Centre at Huntsville, Alabama, and Whitt Brantley, the chief of Advanced Concepts Office there, said: "We're taking a look at it, because if we don't, we'll never know."

The Finnish team is already expanding its programme, to see if it can amplify the anti-gravity effect. In its latest experiments, the team has measured a two per cent drop in the weight of objects suspended over the device - and double that if one device is suspended over another. If the team can increase the effect substantially, the commercial implications are enormous.

Follow-Up Investigative Conversations

By Robert Matthews,
Science Correspondent, The Sunday Telegraph

What follows is a summary of my conversations on Friday 6/9/96 with the various parties involved in the anti-gravity claims, on which Ian Sample and I reported in the Sunday Telegraph on 1/9/96. It's rather terse, but it's been a long day.....

1. Following the posting of the statement from Prof Tuomo Tiainen of Tampere U Inst of Materials Science disclaiming any knowledge or involvement in the anti-gravity research, I contacted the Institute of Physics in London and the offices of J Phys D in IoP Publishing in Bristol to find out their reaction. Neither were aware of any problems about the paper, scheduled to appear in the October issue of the journal, and were taken aback by the reaction of Tampere. Richard Palmer, Managing Editor of J Phys D said he would investigate matters further (of which more below)

2. Following the statement by Petri Vuorinen, whose name appears on the paper as co-author, disclaiming any involvement, I faxed a set of questions to Dr Eugene Podkletnov (lead author) asking for an explanation. While waiting for a response of the paper, I contacted PV, whose immediate reaction was to insist that I talk to Prof Tiainen, who was apparently fielding all inquiries. However, PV did say that he had worked with EP some years ago, but had no idea why his name had appeared on the paper as co-author on this latest paper. He was anxious to distance himself from the research.

3. EP then responded to my fax by telephone. He said that the denial of any (recent) involvement by Tampere stemmed from the fact that (a) the key experiments were indeed done some years ago, in 1992; (b) that Prof Tiainen has only been director of the Institute for four months, and was not in a position to know about the experiments before then. EP insisted that the results stated in the forthcoming paper are reliable and genuine, and that Tampere has full knowledge, with a (Finnish?) patent being applied for in its name. (I wasn't able to confirm this latter point in the time available). On the matter of PV's denial of all involvement in the paper, and mystification of his involvement, EP insisted that there must have been some mix-up over names at Tampere, and that there must be a second Petri Vuorinen working on superconductivity at the Institute, and that the one involved in anti-gravity was now working in Japan. When challenged on the sheer implausibility of this, EP said that the name was a common one in Finland. He finished by saying that he did not want to cause any trouble with Tampere, with which he appears to still have some relationship (Tampere's statement says he no longer works there; however, one researcher said he had seen EP visiting the Institute last week; the discrepancy may revolve on the question of full-time salaried staff and others like EP who appear to be on more informal arrangements - see below).

4. I went back to PV, putting to him EP's claim that there must be two researchers with the same name. PV said there are only about 60 people in the Institute, and that he was sure he would know if there was another researcher with the same name there. He added that he had indeed been in Japan - three years ago. He ended by saying that he hoped the controversy did not damage relationships between Finnish institutes and the British academic journals. Later I discovered that there is indeed another PV - Petri Vuoristo - at the Institute, but he denied all involvement in the research too.

5. Prof Tiainen responded to a call placed AM, and began by repeating the original statement denying any involvement - except some years ago - in anti-gravity research. He re-iterated that he did not have any views on whether the claims being made in the forthcoming JPhysD were valid or not (he said he was not qualified to do so). He added, however, that "We don't want to get the credit for the result if it is good or bad". He said that EP had done good work at Tampere on thin films and S/conductivity, and that EP still came into the university, but had no official position.TT said: "I was completely surprised when I learnt these things were going on". He finished by saying that "If this turns out bad" he would consider banning EP from the Institute. He said that there had been claims that part of the work was funded by the Finnish military, but denied that this was the case.

6. I then contacted the editorial offices of JPhys D again, and was told by Richard Palmer, managing editor, that he had been contacted by TT. In the light of the conversation, RP said he and his staff were looking at the paper again, and had not ruled out the possibility of holding the paper out of the journal until EP had been contacted for clarification of various issues. Among these was the fact that documents relating to the paper's publication carry the signature of PV - who denies involvement in the research.

7. Despite repeated requests, the IoP head office did not issue a position statement during the day.

8. MONDAY 9 September: Dr Podkletnov has today contacted the IoP editorial offices, and requested that his paper be withdrawn from publication in JPhysD next month. His request has been accepted, and the IoP is taking no further action on this matter.

Robert Matthews,
Science Correspondent, The Sunday Telegraph

Physics Lab