Feeds

Brit space agency to probe 'crackpot' antigravity device

Niobium superconductor flying cars proposed

Intelligent flash storage arrays

A controversial British antigravity device is to be investigated by the government's National Space Centre, according to reports. If the technology really works, it would be able to counteract the force of gravity using only electrical power, permitting the easy building of Jetsons-style flying cars or hoverships and hugely simplifying space travel.

The kit in question is the "Emdrive" - brainchild of engineer Roger Shawyer - which some readers may already be familiar with. It supposedly works by generating high-power microwaves within a special closed wave guide. Somehow or other - it's to do with relativity, according to Shawyer - the microwaves push harder on one end of the tin than the other, causing a thrust to be generated from nothing more than electrical power - no reaction mass required.

Naturally a lot of people assert that this is bunk. In particular, Dr John Costella, Aussie physicist and expert on relativistic electrodynamics - the very stuff which is supposed to make the Emdrive work - says it's a fraud, and also uses (pdf) ugly words like "crackpot" and "charlatan". On the other side of the coin, Shawyer is a bona-fide Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society (we checked with them) - which would normally indicate status as a flying-stuff boffin of some substance.

The Emdrive has already received funding and investigation from the British government in the last few years, and Shawyer has built a demonstration unit which appears to generate enough thrust to rotate itself on an air bearing (see the vid above). He says that more powerful second-generation kit using superconducting niobium wave cavities cooled by liquid helium would be able to generate much more powerful forces - lifting tonnes per kilowatt put in.

One might think that this would enable mighty electric spaceships to flit easily between the planets - but, interestingly, Shawyer denies this. He says that the thrust drops off rapidly once the generator starts moving along the line of thrust, so that the kit would really only be of much use to nullify an opposing force - for instance that of gravity. Your spaceship would find getting away from Earth much easier, but it would still need some other propulsion in order to pick up speed: your car or yacht could easily float in midair using only a horsepower or two to hold itself up (plus the power needed for the liquid-helium chiller gear) but it would need jets or props to move along.

Sadly for all those still waiting for their antigrav car, sky yacht, cheap and easy space launch etc. it seems quite likely that it's all a load of cobblers. But not everybody is convinced of this: Flight International reports that a deputy director at the British National Space Centre - the nearest thing the UK has to a government space agency - envisages a "workshop" on the Emdrive next year. Shawyer has been exhibiting his kit at the European Air and Space Conference in Manchester this week. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.