Sunday Times, UK
4th August 2002

When a Russian scientist announced he had invented an anti-gravity machine,
he was ridiculed. Now aerospace companies are racing to copy his work.
Jonathan Leake reports.

Evgeny Podkletnov watched in annoyance as clouds of smoke drifted across the laboratory from his colleague s newly lit pipe and clung to his delicate research apparatus.

The fumes would mean hours of recalibration, but the smoker was his superior and Podkletnov, a quiet, shy man, felt unable to stop him. Then, in the midst of his annoyance, he spotted something peculiar. As the smoke drifted over his machine it suddenly changed direction, shooting upwards to form a bizarre column shape above it. .

At the time it seemed no more than a curiosity. But that observation, in an obscure university in Finland 10 years ago, would soon change his life and prompt some of the biggest aerospace companies to come knocking at his door. For Podkletnov had unwittingly discovered a device that, if his claims are to be believed, can change gravity itself.

From futuristic airliners hanging weightless in the sky to hovering cars held aloft by gravity repulsion, the significance of such a discovery is not hard to fathom for any fan of science fiction. The science fact, though, is a little more complicated.

Podkletnov had built his equipment to test superconductivity, the ability of some metal alloys to transmit electricity with no resistance at low temperatures.

The kit was basic by current scientific standards: a ceramic disc coated in specially formulated alloys was cooled to -220C and then spun at high speed in a magnetic field.

It was important but dull work, and had no apparent link with challenging the forces of gravity.

But when Podkletnov observed his columns of smoke he was puzzled enough to investigate further. First he suspended a metal ball above the machine, then some silicone and wood. Each time he found that the objects lost about 2% of their weight above the spinning disc.

That wasn t all. Investigating further, Podkletnov found that the anti-gravity effect extended far above the machine, right to the ceiling. Then he went up to the roof and, sure enough, there was a narrow circular beam penetrating right the way through the building which reduced the weight of anything placed in its path. It was just as strong there as it was above the machine. His anti-gravity beam, it seemed, had no limit. It extended upwards forever.

Podkletnov, an experienced researcher with two doctorates, immediately knew the impact of his discovery. If he had found a way of changing an object s weight, even by a small degree, then the aerospace and transport industries could be revolutionised.

PODKLETNOV was not the first man to dream of the benefits of anti-gravity. More than a century ago H G Wells, the writer, suggested that spacecraft might fly to the moon using gravity shields. He had realised that a device that could negate gravity would enable spacecraft to launch without fuel. It followed that planes, ships and even cars could also have their weight reduced, saving on fuel and enabling incredible speeds.

Others imagined a more sinister purpose. Nazi Germany devoted serious research to developing an anti-gravity weapon in a programme headed by the Austrian scientist Viktor Schauberger.

For the past five decades Schauberger s achievements have remained shrouded in mystery. When the war ended, the invading Americans stripped his laboratories of all machinery and documents and shipped them home.

Last year, however, Nick Cook, an aerospace expert at Jane s Defence Weekly whose book The Hunt for Zero Point describes the history of gravity research tracked down Schauberger s family and former colleagues. From them he coaxed an extraordinary tale of flying saucers that levitated without fuel and glowed silver and green.

Sadly for Schauberger, the machines also apparently all crashed. They had, however, hinted at the power of an undreamt of new technology and within months of the war ending his documents and prototypes were in the hands of engineers at secret US laboratories.

Two years after the war the knowledge gleaned from them prompted Nathan Twining, a general in the US air force, to state that America could now build a plane that would defy gravity.

Then everything went silent. The world has still never seen a plane that flies without fuel or a spacecraft that can defy gravity. No research papers have been published and official sources deny all knowledge of anti-gravity research before 1990. What could have happened?

One logical answer is that anti-gravity research proved fruitless. Cook believes otherwise. Over the past few years he has interviewed dozens of researchers from Lockheed Martin, Boeing and other companies involved in aviation research. His conclusion? That the anti-gravity research programmes have continued amid the utmost secrecy.

Someone realised that anti-gravity could be so destructive that it would endanger world peace and decided to keep it secret for a long time, he claims.

COULD it be, then, that Podkletnov had stumbled on a secret other scientists had been trying to keep quiet for half a century? What is certain is that since his work was released to the public in 1996 some very big names have admitted their enthusiasm.

Last week George Muellner, the executive who oversees Phantom Works, Boeing s secretive research organisation, told The Sunday Times that anti-gravity works . He added: We know it can work but what we don t know is whether it can be useful. The systems we have seen consume too much energy. I believe that one day there will be a breakthrough but it is a long way away.

What Muellner would not talk about was an internal seminar held at Boeing earlier this year in which the researcher Jamie Childress and other senior Phantom Works executives described the potential of anti-gravity research.

Childress, who has been in contact with Podkletnov, concluded: It is plausible that gravity modification is real. He warned that, if it were proven, the aerospace industry would experience a gold rush that would alter Boeing s entire business.

The story is similar at Nasa. It has commissioned a 3m study that will aim to replicate Podkletnov s work. Mark Millis, head of Nasa s breakthrough propulsion programme at the Glenn space centre in Cleveland, confirms he is particularly interested in Podkletnov s recent claim that he has generated a beam that can exert a force 1,000 times more powerful than Earth s gravity.

Podkletnov s device, built with Giovanni Modanese, a respected Italian physicist, could be the basis for launching anything from spacecraft to missiles.

Millis, like Boeing, emphasises the peaceful uses of such technology, but both accept that it could have a darker purpose. Such a beam could, for example, be projected against an aircraft, satellite or missile, knocking it off course or smashing it apart from huge distances.

Like Boeing, Nasa has been trying to bring Podkletnov and his equipment to America, but has been blocked by Russian laws banning the transfer of such sensitive technology.

Nasa may, however, have more of a head start than it is admitting. It emerged recently that in 1993 the advanced concepts office at the Marshall Space Flight Center received a paper written by Ning Li and Douglas Torr, both respected physicists, who knew nothing of Podkletnov but like him described how rotating superconductors could alter gravity.

Nasa immediately set up a programme to study the phenomenon which has continued ever since.

SUCH potential has also interested British researchers including some at BAE Systems. It has appointed Ron Evans, a senior researcher and mathematician, to run its anti-gravity research, codenamed Project Greenglow. Similar work is under way at Toshiba s research centre in Japan.

Getting any of these companies to discuss their work is another matter. Whether for fear of ridicule, or to protect the scope of their discoveries, none will outline the form or success of their experiments.

The same applies to Podkletnov. Since 1996, following the surge of media attention that greeted his research, he has been a near-recluse. The last public sighting of him was two years ago, when he slipped into Britain to give a lecture at Sheffield University and sensationally announced that he d been able to reverse gravity so effectively that his experimental equipment had actually levitated just as Schauberger s flying saucers had done five decades earlier.

But having dropped his bombshell, Podkletnov disappeared again and has never published details of that work. Officially he still works for the Moscow Chemical Science Research Centre, a secretive institute that does not even publish its address.

This weekend The Sunday Times traced Podkletnov to Finland, to a home near the University of Tampere, where he did his first gravitational research. He will not talk to anyone about anything, said a woman who then slammed the phone down. What is he hiding from? What does he know?

One day all may be revealed. Boeing, Nasa and BAE are taking his principles seriously enough to challenge our most basic understanding of gravity itself. It could be that the very force that binds us to the ground could be harnessed to carry us to the stars.

Additional reporting: David Windle, Valeria Korchagina

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