Richard C. Hoagland - Anti-Gravity Program

Art Bell Show Wednesday, September 13-14, 1996

Transcribed by Dorothy Takashina and G. Varano, Part 3 of 8


AB: We are talking to Richard C. Hoagland, science advisor to Walter Cronkite, advisor to NASA, investigator, now, of anti-gravity claims made in Finland. This fax ought to round out what we talked about last hour: "Dear Art, I took a class in superconductivity at UCSD. Seeing magnets float over a flat surface is absolutely amazing. There was a small magnet in the shape of a cube. It floated about a half-inch above the surface of the superconducting material frozen with liquid nitrogen. When a metal superconducts, it repels magnetic fields. The neatest part was that you can take some tweezers, and you could move the magnet around, over the surface, as well as rotate it in any orientation, and when you let go, it would stay exactly in the same position you left it. Also, you could tap it, and it would spin on its own north-south axis, no matter which direction the axis was pointed." That's Steve at KFMB in San Diego. And that is superconductivity as we discussed it this last hour. Richard?

RH: This is not anti-gravity. This is the Meisner Effect. This is the repulsion, and it floats on a magnetic field. Now this is very similar to the mag-lev train. You've heard of the bullet train?

AB: Oh sure.

RH: Out in Japan? And you've heard of the German mag-lev train, magnetic levitation? If you take two magnets and you, basically, take their same poles, two norths or two souths, and try to bring them together, you will feel a very sensible (and I don't mean logical, I mean a demonstrable, a physical) repulsion between them. And as a kid, you know, we all played with magnets, right? And I remember trying to bring these suckers together and getting really amazed that the closer I got them to touch, the harder it got to push them together. Not realizing, because I was 11, 10 at that time, that I was fighting, what's called, an inverse cube law, and there was no way I was ever going to get these suckers to come together, because the field gets stronger as the inverse cube of the separation between them.

AB: Right. Inevitably, it will slip off to the side.

RH: That's right. Well, it's that repulsive effect, repulsion, levitation, the exclusion of the field from the superconductor that causes the little superconductor to float on the magnetic field of the magnet below it. That's not the anti-gravity thing that Dr. Podkletnov has found.

AB: What has he found?

RH: OK. What he found, and we're unclear, even in his paper, as to why he started looking for this. Let me read you what he says out of his own 1992 paper, published in October 1992. From Physica C, which is the ?Hollandra? of physics. He says, "The aim of this study was initially to investigate the shielding properties of dense Y-base, that's the Yttrium, bulk superconductors against electromagnetic fields of various frequencies and intensities, in a wide range of temperatures. So far, it's the standard stuff. It's your friend there in San Diego. Then he goes on to say, "But, an unusual behavior of the ceramic material observed during the first stage of this work initiated a separate set of experiments dealing with the shielding of the gravitational force." Now, Art, you got to understand. This is like the Holy Grail. If, in all the experiments, in all the labs...it's kind of like that line out of Casablanca: "Of all the gin joints, in all the world..." Think of all the scientists over the last several hundred years who have experimented with all kinds of materials under all kinds of conditions, looking for caverite, looking for a stable material that when you place it between the earth and another object, the object above loses weight, a shielding for gravity. And no one has ever found a trace down to one part in 10 to the tenth, that's 10 billion, which is pretty fine measurements, okay. Nobody has found any effect, certainly not at the 2% level, which is what Dr. Podkletnov and his co-author Robert ?Nemian? reported in 1992. So what they found was pretty awesome, so let me continue. He lays out the experimental setup, and this is all in the Web. You can read it there on the Web. So let me get to the part which is really amazing. Hang on one second. A lot of this is very technical so I don't want to... He's talking about how he cooled it down, and it's basically a disk, a 145 mm in width by 6 mm thick, and he made it by a powder, compressing it, heating it to 1000 degrees for 12 hours, slowly cooling to room temperatures. "The disk was placed over a toroidal solenoid"...All right, a toroidal is like a doughnut or a bagel..."and kept at a temperature below 77 Kelvin, using liquid and its vapors." You could also use liquid nitrogen at that temperature. "The massive disk," he said, "maintained its temperature below 60 Kelvin for about 2 1/2 minutes." What he then did was to...He says, "Two coils with rotating magnetic fields similar to those used in regular electric motors were placed on both sides of the disk. See figure 1." Figure 1 is on the left. "The disk levitated, as usual, above the toroidal magnet and was able to rotate around its central axis at a variable speed." So you've got the picture here. You've got a thin disk of this superconducting ceramic. It is levitating above a ring-shaped magnet, and spaced around the magnet were other coils used to make it spin like the ?field? armatures in an electric motor. So he could spin it to the left or spin it to the right, and by changing the rheostat and the frequency of the current going into the coils, he could change the speed of the rotation, make it go up, spin faster, make it spin slower, and go back and forth. "The disk levitated above the toroidal magnet and was able to rotate around its axis at variable speed. The frequency of the electromagnetic field at all three solenoids was varied from 50 to a million Hertz." That's from 50 to a million cycles per second. "A sample made of silicon dioxide..." Now notice that scientists can never speak simply. Silicon dioxide. Glass! or quartz. "...hanging on a plastic thread was placed over the disk at a distance above of about 15 mm, and was separated from the helium, liquid helium vapors, by a thin, transparent plastic foil. The weight of the sample on the thread was measured with high precision, using an electro-optical comparative balance," which is basically a very super-duper lab scale, which is available in any good college, or even now, high school physics lab. "The phase and crystal structure of the superconductor were studied by X-ray diffraction analysis and under a scanning electron microscope. The electrical resistivity of the superconductor was measured by the four probe method, using an AC current and gold contacts." In other words, he wanted to know what the sample looked like at its atomic level, so he took X-ray images of it. "Results: As determined by the XRD analysis (that's the X-ray diffraction) the ?sintered? disk (that means it was put together from a powder and welded together under high temperature) was pure single-phase orthorhombic 1 2 3 compound."

AB: Okay. You're going to start losing a lot of people, including me.

RH: Well. In other words, it's standard superconducting ceramics.

AB: Okay.

RH: Nothing magical about it. The kind of stuff that any high school kid can now get in a physics lab.

AB: In other words, that was normally occurring.

RH: You got it. Okay. "The transition temperature T measured was around 92 Kelvin with a width of 0.7 degrees Kelvin." That's important. In other words, 92 Kelvin is pretty damn high, well within liquid nitrogen. "The superconducting ceramic disk revealed a weak, but clearly detectable, shielding effect against the gravitational force at the temperatures from 20 to 70 degrees Kelvin. The sample"...now this is with the disk just sitting there, doing nothing. The sample with the initial weight of 5.5 grams was found to lose about 0.05% of its weight when placed over the levitating disk without any rotation.

AB: Okay now, let me under stand this. The piece of glass placed above the levitating disk weighed suddenly less than it had weighed before.

RH: When the disk was levitating.

AB: How can that be? Glass is not a conductor.

RH: That's right. Well, the reason he chose glass is he wanted something that was not magnetic, that was a conductive material, that was basically electrically neutral, as neutral as you can get.

AB: That'd be glass, all right.

RH: Yeah, and would, obviously not...because the main problem of this experiment is you got vibrating magnetic fields, you've got spinning system, you've got a toroidal solenoid with current going through it. So the obvious first problems you're going to run into from a critic is, "Aw, come on. You're looking at some kind of magnetic or electro-static effect. So what these guys were doing is designing an experiment where you could rule out trivial errors like that. And, in fact, in the Max Plank paper, what is interesting, if I can go to that, and that's also on the Web, where they give a two paragraph summary of the two experiments because they are more up-to-date on the second experiment, which is the one that was withdrawn earlier this week. He says here, "Further details on the experiments can be found on the cited works (the papers). In this paper, we, at the institute, investigate a plausible theoretical interpretation of the phenomena. We also would like to stimulate an independent repetition of the experiment in order to lower the likelihood of systematic errors." These are the dumb things you never think about.

AB: In other words, have other people do it.

RH: You got it. This is this author, Giovanni Modanese, the von Humboldt Fellow at Max Plank, writing in '95. He says, and I quote, "The authors (meaning Podkletnov and his co-author) have already taken all the most reasonable precautions to avoid spurious effect and have done a number of checks. But their results are so surprising that more confirmations are certainly needed along with more specific data." So what he's saying was, and this is an independent guy four years later, saying basically these guys...I'm sorry, three years later...basically did it the right way, and there's no obvious error. So the fact that when you put a piece of glass, a little 5.5 gram piece of glass over the levitating, superconduction disk, just hanging there, floating on the magnetic field due to the Meisner Effect, and it loses 0.05% of its weight, which is a whopping huge amount, judged by an electronic balance, that in itself is Nobel level prize stuff.

AB: Right. It wouldn't matter whether it was glass, I guess, or a piece of wood, or any other material. We're talking about real anti-gravity. In other words, you have produced a shield against gravity, whatever that force is, and I don't want to confuse the conversation with that right now. But, whatever the force is, you've actually shielded against it, so it wouldn't matter what the hell was above that, it would be reduced in weight. Correct?

RH: That's exactly correct. Now, here's where the politics come in. Reading down the paper at that point...Remember these scientific papers have to go through a process called "peer review," which is a very insidious process. Peer review is basically that whoever's out to get you canned, and no one will ever know that they did. It's the most insidious thing we've ever done to science, because it really means that if you've got enemies, or you've got an editor of a journal that really want something to get in, what he does is selectively send your paper to anonymous who can, basically, character assassinate you, saying this is not worth the powder to blow it away and decide, vote, that basically it should not be published.

AB: In other words, this experiment was flawed because he didn't do the following, or because ...

RH: He didn't use red ink, or anything, anything. And because it's anonymous, unless the reviewers wish to come out of the closet, it's extraordinarily insidious. In the constitution of the U.S. the framers of our constitution came out with a very important idea, which is that you have a right to face your accuser and cross-examine. In the sciences that does not exist. We have allowed a system to creep over science where anonymous people who may have it in for you because you wear the wrong color socks, can shoot you down in flames, and you can never confront them. You can never find out who they are, and you can never, point by point, try to refute their critique of your work. It is the most ?stealthifying? censorship, without calling it censorship, that one can imagine, and it's now practiced the world over. This is what we think of as science. Something is rotten in Finland on this experiment because, through all of that potential filtering, Dr. Podkletnov and his co-author were able to get this stunning paper into a world-class, recognized scientific journal in 1992, and he goes on to make even more extraordinary claims, and nobody shot him down. That is what is very important to thinking now tonight about this discussion, because over on CompuServe, there is a furious argument going on with a bunch of people who basically accusing this serious researcher of being a crackpot, of hoaxing it, of being worse that Dick Morris. Every imaginable evil has suddenly descended upon this poor man, who has done nothing more serious of a crime than, basically, do an experiment and publish it four years ago that has stunning implications.

AB: All right. Hold it right there, Richard. We'll be right back to you. Anti-gravity is tonight's theme. More of it in a moment. This is CBC. BREAK


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