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A researcher in Finland has reported on a gravity-change effect during an experiment that, while steeped in controversy, is being viewed as a promising development in new physics propulsion research by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
Dr. Eugene Podkletnov, a researcher at the Tampere University of Technology, Finland, reported that during a superconductivity experiment, tests showed a small drop in the weight of objects placed over a device made up of a rotating superconducting ceramic disk suspended over a magnetic field produced by three electric coils enclosed in a cryostat.
The latest experiments by the Finnish researchers have reportedly registered a 2 percent drop in the weight of objects suspended over the cryostat.
The report has already generated a fair amount of skepticism and controversy, owing to the dramatic departure from accepted physics. The controversy was further fueled by Podkletnov's decision to request his paper be withdrawn from publication in the Journal of Physics-D: Applied Physics, which is published by Britain's Institute of Physics.
But the report is being taken seriously by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, said Whitt Brantley, chief of the advanced concepts office at the flight center.
Brantley said NASA has already funded research into gravity-modification devices, and has determined that the Tampere University experiment should be reproduced in the flight center's facilities in Huntsville, Ala., USA.
THEORY SOUND. "We have taken a look at the foundations of the theory, and they look sound," Brantley said. "Many of these theories are at best controversial, but we'll never know until we test them in a lab and see if the results of the experiments are valid.
"We know that it's a touchy situation, since the initial research was supposedly funded by a private company and there's concern about releasing information before any patents are in order," Brantley said.
"But this kind of controversy is not really that unusual -- it often occurs when a research professor figures out he hasn't read the fine print of his agreement with private funders."
NASA has already contributed US$150,000 for research conducted by Dr. Ning Li, a research scientist at the University of Alabama Huntsville's Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research.
Li published a 1991 paper in the Physical Review-D on gravity-modification experiments based on the interaction between a rotating superconductor in a electromagnetic field and the local gravity field.
Her theories postulate that the lattice-ion structure in a superconductor plays a significant part in superconduction. Rotation of the lattice ions caused by the EM field generates a gravito-magnetic force which can affect the local gravity field. Two later papers expounded upon her theory.
PROMISING. Dr. Li believes that the Podkletnov test results are consistent with her theories, and further tests at Marshall will enhance understanding of the effect.
The funding for gravity-modification research is through the breakthrough propulsion physics program of NASA's Advanced Space Exploration Program.
Together with the Lewis Research Center, the NASA program has identified propulsion theories, often controversial, that have been identified by a loosely-organized group of physics peers as having a sound theoretical basis that could be extended through experiment.
NASA plans to fund US$300,000 in research a year for the next three years in the breakthrough propulsion physics program.
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