Michelle Delio writes in wired.com that antigravity devices are being developed that could eventually change the world as we know it. The devices are known as "lifters." When charged with a small amount of electrical power, they levitate, apparently able to resist Earth's gravitational forces.
Currently, the devices can only levitate themselves. But developer Tim Ventura and others are working to convert electrical current into a force that can lift and move planes, trains and rocket ships. If that proves possible, the technology that powers lifters could extend the ability to explore space and drastically cut the use of fossil fuels on Earth.
Ventura, a UNIX programmer for AT&T Wireless, builds lifters in his spare time. Ventura's lifters are triangle-shaped frames made of balsa wood, aluminum foil and 30-gauge magnet wire. When connected to a power source, a lifter suddenly shoots skyward, then hovers in the air. No one knows exactly why the lifters work.
Some developers believe that electricity stimulates the electrons on the lifter's surface, providing propulsion. Other theories have been proposed, such as ion-wind currents or electromagnetic disturbance of the air around the lifter.
"At least four different groups are pursuing [lifter technology] that I know of. None of these groups has yet published peer-reviewed rigorous literature on their observations or methods," says Marc Millis, a researcher at NASA?s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics project. "Lifter creators' lack of interest in standard scientific procedure is tainting this topic and impeding progress toward a reliable resolution of the remaining unknowns." Congress recently earmarked funds for a scientific study of lifter technology, which will be conducted by the Institute of Software Research this summer.
Ventura says he has considered submitting his work for scientific review, but it isn't "on the top of my to-do list." But he said he may soon be working with the Plasma Physicists project at Princeton University.
"I would welcome any real outcome to this research," Millis says. "Proof that lifters do or do not work would be equally valuable. Right now, all we have is what amounts to folk tales."
One story circulating around is that the idea for lifters came from pieces of UFO wreckage taken from the Roswell site. "As an inventor, I couldn't care less whether or not the idea for the technology came from a crashed UFO," Ventura says. "To be perfectly honest, I'm not what you would call a 'believer' anyway."
Meanwhile, scientists at NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Physics project are researching theories that are even more far out than the lifter, including possible methods of manipulating space-time to create time travel.
"All major scientific breakthroughs were scoffed at when they first debuted," say Millis. "To move forward, a scientist has to explore the seemingly impossible."
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