Feeds

Brit space agency to probe 'crackpot' antigravity device

Niobium superconductor flying cars proposed

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.