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Designing a World Without Gravity
[Part 1] Gregory Daigle examines Marcus Hollingshead's 'gravity-lensing' device
Gregory Daigle (gdaigle)     Print Article 
Published 2005-12-19 11:59 (KST)   
Early postings from Marcus Hollingshead on the former Magnetic-Levitation newsgroup

"In fact the first time Bob floated up off the workbench and I ran back up to the house to tell her -- she said (you guessed it) 'That's nice dear, like a cup of tea and a ginger nut?' A grounding response." Bob Drive Records

"I then asked if he would like a demonstration -- the man hadn't even looked bob over! . He nodded -- I plugged Bob in switched him on and of course nothing happened -- until I unbalanced y+ and Bob rose 50 cm off the bench. I wish I had been allowed to film the whole thing. What DO you call a man who suddenly goes from supercilious to superstitious in the flick of a switch? He really jumped back then very cautiously leaned back again. So I swept my hand underneath Bob1 and said (very cheeky really) 'Look -- no strings!'." Bob Drive Records

Talk to Tim and ask him, really ask him, what he would do if he had a working device in his hands right now. What's the next step -- because I'm telling you, you haven't got a clue -- no one has. Propulsion, force fields etc -- that's the obvious easy stuff. But once you understand it and start to work with it, there are an infinite number of uses and consequences. Everything from Stasis to Climate control. Light sculptures? ... there are almost no aspects of life that you can mention that wouldn't be directly impacted.
Marcus HAFF Notes (PDF)

Gravity research is hot. Today, a satellite circles far above the earth measuring the effects of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Using rotating spheres ten thousand times smoother than a billiard ball in a near-perfect vacuum, the Gravity Probe B experiment is gathering data to prove (or disprove) if speeding objects drag space-time with them in gravitational fields.

In an adjacent area of research, several labs in Europe and the U.S. are vying to be the first to detect gravity waves. British oddsmakers Ladbrokes gives 6 to 1 odds that gravity waves will be detected by 2010 and several labs say it will happen even sooner. Other researchers are less interested in detecting gravity than in generating gravity. In other words -- antigravity.

As a youngster I read about "cavorite" the antigravity metal discovered by Mr. Cavor and which propelled a spacecraft in H.G. Wells' Edwardian science fiction novel "First Men in the Moon." Until now antigravity has existed only in the domain of cartoons and science fiction. But in November of 2002 one inventor made public that he had stumbled upon a method to produce and control gravity. Lots of gravity! If successful it would change nearly every aspect of society and how we perceive our place in a three dimensional world.

Like Mr. Cavor, Marcus Hollingshead is a British inventor. But before we stereotype him, he is also an IT consultant and was trained as a biochemist. In November of 2002 he began posting the results of his 12+ years of "tinkering" with geomagnetic models of the Earth on the Yahoo Magnetic-Levitation online newsgroup (which is no longer active). What he reported to other newsgroup members seemed fantastic and more in the realm of science fiction.

Schematic configuration of the marcus rings with RP in the center (artist conception).
©2003 Jay Raney (2003)
His posts described a series of experimental devices quaintly known as "Bob." An early Bob crushed his Black and Decker workmate table when it was switched on. Redesigns produced a Bob that produced a "darkening halo effect" around its center when its fast-rotating rings were powered in balance. When out of balance -- it levitated!

At first Hollingshead assumed that the forces being manipulated were magnetic. But a professor from Cambridge acting as a reviewer for his patent attorney countered that it was, " ... motive power without apparent thrust ...", "A new form of propulsion...", "... characteristics appropriate to an anti-gravity device ...". Over a few months in late 2002 and early 2003 fellow experimenters coaxed the reticent Hollingshead to reveal increasingly detailed accounts of his construction and experiments with his most recent Bobs (now renamed versions 161 and 162). And then -- silence.

Since March of 2003 little mention of his ongoing work has made it to the newsgroups. Small wonder. At the peak of his postings he was inundated by thousands of emails a day. Over 100 uninvited "guests" showed up at Chepstow racecourse in February 2003 for a supposedly private demonstration of his technology to Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, Nick Cook of Jane's Defense Weekly and others. This caused him to shun inquiries, falsely report that his device had been confiscated by the government and, alternately, that the whole thing was just a hoax.

This despite his already having posted on newsgroups pages worth of descriptions and engineering specifications for his version 161, providing enough data for many enthusiasts to build their own computer models. And those computer models all seemed to fit together to form a complex-but-not-implausible design looking somewhat like a ringed Ptolemaic model of the solar system with an iron sphere at its center where the Earth would be. So were his claims real?

American Antigravity

Tim Ventura, editor of the newsgroup American Antigravity, keeps track of online newsgroup topics such as "tensor fields," "lifters" and other "electro-gravitic" oddities which are the focus of enthusiasts ranging from weekend hobbyists to certified engineers. His experience has given him a good sense of each claimant's level of credibility -- and many are lacking.

You can often identify those with empty claims by their inconsistent facts or their requests for additional funding to pursue unspecified research. To be sure, not all those seeking support for research are scammers. Some are legitimate researchers in the physical sciences working with accredited universities. At least one researcher held enough sway to be contracted both through NASA (in their Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project) and to ESA (the European Space Agency).

In these past few years Ventura has had several communications with Marcus Hollingshead and conducted one of the most recent and in-depth interviews with him. Ventura gauges his consistency and credibility as high. "[He] always sounded like an honest, rational man with a good heart," said Ventura. Being neither a physicist nor having publicly solicited funding, Hollingshead was and still is an enigma.

In one recorded interview (.WMA) Hollingshead described himself to Ventura as "a complete layman [in terms of physics]", and that when it comes to what's happening in the physics realm, "I really don't understand it." Apparently straight talk from an inventor who describes his discovery as "actually more of an accident." But what he lacks in formal training in the physical sciences, he compensates with quiet persistence and constant tinkering with his device.

Schematic of ring, stubs and roller clamp layout (artist conception).
©2003 Jay Raney (2003)
What makes the "Marcus Device" (not to be confused with the pulp novel by Ib Melchior) work?

The Marcus Device

Along with the strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force and electromagnetic force, gravity is one of the four fundamental forces in nature. Like electromagnetic force (light, radio waves, etc.) gravity gets weaker with the square of the distance. You move it twice as far away and its force is one quarter of what it had been. Move it four times as far and it diminishes to a sixteenth the force. But gravity initially starts off far, far weaker than the other forces. How much weaker? If electromagnetic force had a value equal to 1.0 you would have to move the decimal point 36 places to the left before you matched the weakness of gravity. It's a billion, billion, billion, billion times weaker!

The force of gravity affects all matter with mass. Electromagnetic force affects just electrically charged particles. Imagine how dramatically everyday life has changed since the harnessing of magnetic fields in the late 1880s for industrial and domestic purposes. These range from multi-story dynamos for producing electricity, particle accelerators, vacuum pumps, huge electric motors to drive industry -- down to modest home appliances such as refrigerators, vacuum cleaners or clothes dryers.

Coil-wound stubs (artist conception)
©2005 Paul Horwood (2005)
How the Marcus Device creates "gravity-lensing" (a term Hollingshead prefers to "antigravity") is not well established. The nature of gravity itself is not well known. Several theories are in play: string theory, loop quantum gravity -- but no proposed theory has suggested that such a device was within reach.

Physically, the first generation of his devices that produced gravity-lensing fields consisted of six rotating flattened rings. The rings were arranged in offset pairs, each rotating counter to the other. One pair was oriented in the x-y plane, another pair oriented at 90 degrees to that plane (x-z) and the third pair in the y-z plane. None of the rings had hubs. They were all powered by a set of roller-clamps, not unlike the wheels on a roller coaster car. That left the center to be occupied by a spherical capacitor (called the "RP" -- for Reference Point) composed of layers of metal and non-conducting material.

Recall that Hollingshead was originally trying to simulate the generation of magnetic fields in the earth's core. In emulating the circulation of local magnetic zones he studded the rings with pyramid-shaped stubs wound as electromagnets. All the rings were wound with criss-crossing wires to cancel any overall electromagnetic fields. Then he spun the rings at over 4,000 RPMs, timing the stubs to fire at specific intervals and connected it all to a high voltage power source capable of various frequency outputs. Obviously this configuration was not only dangerous to operate but also not one a mere weekend hobbyist is likely to replicate.

What's going on at an atomic level? Hollingshead (and the Cambridge physicist) suggests that the RP focuses the fields generated by his device and pumps electrons into the nucleus of the iron atoms in the RP. In capturing the electron a proton is converted to a neutron and an atom of iron (Fe) becomes an atom of manganese (Mn). The RP becomes a source of gravitational energy just as a light bulb can be described as a source of light (electromagnetic) energy. The RP gradually loses its ability to focus the fields because it is increasingly composed of manganese rather than iron. This diminishing effect has contributed to some of the delays in bringing the technology to market.


Ventura and others have persuaded Hollingshead to reveal details (PDF) of recent iterations of his device. These include:

  • Replacement of its fast-spinning rotating rings with a new solid state design
  • 6,000 to 7,000 kilograms of lift
  • Seven distinctly different field effects (named "HAFF" 1 through 7)

    If you think that overcoming gravity through gravity-lensing sounds like science fiction, then the seven HAFF field effects associated with gravity-lensing are even more fantastic. Five of these fields: HAFF1, HAFF3, HAFF4, HAFF6 and HAFF7 have very practical applications. The others are still shrouded in secrecy.

    Re-envisioning the Marcus Device (artist conception)
    ©2005 Paul Horwood (2005)
    HAFF3 relates to thrust, traction and propulsion -- just the thing for providing lift for different forms of transportation in the air or in orbit. This is the only field effect generated while the device is in motion. The other field effects occur when the device is stationary.

    HAFF4 constrains atomic motion and reduces temperatures 100 degrees K or more. This makes it suitable for transporting granular material that would otherwise shift its load, or bulk material degraded either by chemical reaction or internally produced heat.

    HAFF6 produces standing fields, shearing fields and membrane fields. Shear fields are suitable for manufacturing processes such as punching, shearing and forming of sheet material. Standing fields are suitable for well walls, windows, flood defenses (are you listening New Orleans?). Membrane fields reportedly can be struck with a mallet and the mallet bounces off. HAFF6 fields reportedly can be breached with HAFF1 fields.

    Less physical in their outcomes are HAFF7 fields which influence light and electromagnetic fields. Potential applications from these fields include lens optics, light sculptures and 3D displays.

    Social Sea Changes

    The demonstration of controlled gravity-lensing would be a sea change in everyday life. There isn't a part of our society that wouldn't be affected. Preparing the next generation of engineers, planners and designers to employ HAFF fields would be the first step. How would we imagine the "antigravity" age? Then, how do we design it?

    Science fiction writer-critic Ed Bryant was once quoted to have said, "If this were 1890, it would take an inventor to predict the automobile, and it would take a real visionary to predict highways and gas stations. But it would take a science fiction writer to predict the traffic jam."

    Demonstrating a gravity-lensing generator today would be the equivalent of demonstrating an electric generator in the early 1800s. It changes the rules. What will be the everyday applications of this technology in transportation, architecture and manufacturing? How will such a technology change social institutions, commuting, privacy or land ownership rights? How does a potentially disruptive and destabilizing technology establish itself without the creative destruction of existing industries? And how long before it just becomes part of the background of everyday living?

    When Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web it took entrepreneurs almost no time to imagine the social impact of browsers and Web sites. If gravity-lensing is successfully demonstrated it could be adopted faster than was the Web.

    No doubt there will also be a Web extension for gravity devices, though its difficult to imagine now what it would be. Like the Web's spawning of "i" devices (iMac, iTunes, iPod) and "e" services (email, e-commerce, e-learning, e-government), start looking for "g" devices and services to proliferate.

    Public Policy

    If gravity-lensing is demonstrated then public policy planning can not afford to wait for wide public acceptance. Every industry potentially threatened by it would begin lobbing for state legislation restricting use and protecting existing commercial interests. Recently, citywide wireless broadband technologies have similarly been blocked by protectionist state legislation backed by threatened cable and telecom providers.

    Federal and international regulations should be established to develop standards for usage. International bodies overseeing transportation, trade, manufacturing and other arenas should seek coordination of oversight. Each nation, province, state, even local municipalities would need to develop plans for embracing a technology that could potentially disrupt their economic base in unforeseen ways.

    Just navigating those waters would be a growth industry. But it's also an opportunity for institutes and schools of public policy, technology management, transportation, architecture and design to anticipate, forecast, and get ahead of a pending (gravity) wave.

    Related Articles
    ESA Researchers Create Gravity in the Lab

  • The remaining entries in this five-part series will explore gravity-lensing as a catalyst with remarkable potential to change everyday life. Part II explores transportation and spaceports in "Where's my Flying Car?" Part III looks at architecture and semantics in "Living in Airspace." Part IV reviews its easy absorption into society in "Pervasive Lensing" and Part V concludes with a discussion of the downsides, plus a reality check, in "Negative Outcomes."

    Gregory Daigle is a consultant in social technologies and e-learning, and a former professor of industrial design. A third party sent a draft version of this introductory article to Mr. Hollingshead before publication. No reply was received before going to press.
    ©2005 OhmyNews
    Other articles by reporter Gregory Daigle

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