Friday, August 13, 2010

21th Century Mission: Tame Gravity!

More than a century ago British writer George Wells imagined a fabulous way to travel to the moon: by abolishing gravity. Can science in the 21st century realize this idea?

To travel miles in a few seconds and not feel your own weight like chains… This exciting dream, to float in the air light as a feather, is even older than Newton's law of gravity. Thanks to airplanes, satellites, and even trains with magnetic levitation, a lot of things are already our reality. But none of these methods of transportation has provided us with real opportunity to float because gravity is not abolished. Other forces are just used to overcome gravity. In this way, not even magnetic levitation has something in common with anti-gravity. In this case, the effect of gravity is interfered with magnetic forces produced by superconducting magnets.

Expensive pleasure

From the point of view of official science, gravity is difficult to abolish. Gravity is one of the four fundamental forces of nature (the other three are electromagnetic, weak nuclear and strong nuclear force). Gravity acts between the mass (mass is a measure of the amount of body matter). Mass is also responsible for the inertia of matter. Mass is, at the same time, inertial and gravitational, and that there is equality between those two, is something that Galileo proved in his famous experiment. Dropped from the top of the tower of Pisa to fall in free fall, both, wooden ball and ball of lead, fell with the same acceleration (Despite the legend, the tower is probably not the correct venue of this experiment, and Galileo probably performed this experiment on some ramp).

The equality of inertial and gravitational mass was the starting point for Einstein's general theory of relativity, which is now the modern theory of gravity. This theory brought mass in connection with space-time. Deeper implication of this theory is that gravity is not force, rather it’s a consequence of geometry, or, the very geometry itself. Gravity is the curvature of space-time, shaped by the mass that space-time contains. That means that the cancellation of gravity in a certain place would require canceling mass, and that is, matter and space-time. This is really expensive price for the pleasure of levitation. However, in recent decades, the idea to find anti-gravity force is revived.

Fifth force

Two decades ago a certain "discovery" was the focus of interest of the scientific community: it was about the so-called fifth force. It was not in the true sense anti-gravity, but apparently a new primary force that has the opposite effect of gravity.

American scientist Dr. Ephraim Fishbach and his associates from Purdue University, have decided that in a new way, after 80 years, carry out experiments of Hungarian scientist Loránd Eötvös. His experiments were improved version of Galileo’s experiment, and their goal was to confirm the principle of equality of gravitational and inertial mass. However, Fishbach noted that between these two masses there exists a very small difference. From this he concluded that the acceleration of the body, in a very small extent, depends and on the nature of the body, for which is responsible, until then unknown, fifth force. However, after that, no one else has managed to confirm the existence of this force, and she quickly fell into oblivion.

Some fifth teen years ago, Russian physicist Dr Yevgeny Podkletnov, boasted in certain English newspaper that he discovered anti-gravity. He performed experiments with superconducting disk that was rotating in a magnetic field, and recorded its weight reduction for about two percent. Unfortunately, this weight loss no one has managed to repeat, even the NASA who continued their research in this direction.

These failed experiments have not completely sunk all hopes of discovering anti-gravity. After all, in our universe obviously some force exists which is responsible for its rapid expansion. In addition, general relativity is certainly not the final theory of gravity because she is in "the quarrel" with quantum physics, in other words, with the second carrier pillar of modern physics. The other three fundamental forces are based on quantum physics.

Since general relativity is not able to describe gravity at the level of atomic particles, nothing prevents us not to use the theoretical gap and imagine that, at that size scale, there exist both quantum gravity and anti-gravity. Of course, if the latter phenomenon exists, it certainly has a negligible effect in the world that surrounds us. Will we ever be able to strengthen her and use her to build anti-gravity devices with which we would, for example, levitate and travel all around the world?

While we wait for the discovery of quantum gravity, which would just announce the possibility that there is anti-gravity, we are left with no option but to continue using tested means – airplanes. :)

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