Controlling gravity, a quest scientists at the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) have been pursuing, could make it possible to see through walls and under the ground. Researchers at the MoD’s Porton Down laboratories say they have developed a new device that is able to detect tiny fluctuations in gravity – a quantum gravity detector.
Today – at 8pm on Wednesday, 23 March – a BBC Two Horizon documentary explains that one day MoD technology that is being developed could also lead to sensors that will be able to overcome jamming attempts or stealth technology designed to beat current systems like radar.
According to the BBC, the documentary is an extraordinary scientific adventure – the quest to control gravity.
Dr. Ronald Evans, the man behind Project Greenglow. Poster for the BBC 2 Horizon Documentary – ‘Project Greenglow’: The Quest for Gravity Control. (Image: bbc.co.uk)
Mastering gravity – Holy Grail
For hundreds of years, determining exactly what gravity is and its precise workings have confounded the world’s greatest scientific minds – from Isaac Newton to Michael Faraday and Albert Einstein – and the notion of controlling gravity – perhaps the Holy Grail of science – has been viewed as little more than science-fiction or a fanciful dream.
However, in the mid-1990s, BAE Systems, a UK defence manufacturer, started on a ground-breaking project code-named Greenglow, with the aim of turning science fiction into science fact.
At the same time, across the Atlantic, NASA was running its own Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project. It was focusing on the potential space applications of new physics, including concepts like ‘warp drives’ and ‘faster-than-light travel’.
Image depicting Isaac Newton, when he allegedly discovered gravity while watching an apple falling from a tree – some people say it fell on his head. The world’s greatest minds have been trying to understand what gravity is for centuries. (Image: usf.edu)
Gravity control more than a fanciful dream?
The BBC Horizon documentary looks into the past and future, exploring science’s long-standing obsession with the idea of controlling gravity.
It looks at the major breakthroughs over the past few years in the search for loopholes in conventional physics, and examines how the groundwork carried out by Project Greenglow has helped alter our understanding of the Universe.
Gravity control may sound fanciful, like something that will only ever exist in science fiction stories, but the research that started with Project Greenglow is very much ongoing.
The documentary makers say that the dream of flying cars and travelling to the stars may no longer seem quite so unlikely.
Many potential applications for new technology
The MoD researchers say the technology might also lead to new ways of navigating, effectively replacing GPS satellites, which work only as long as an enemy does not destroy them, as well as having several civilian uses.
‘Greenglow & The Search for Gravity Control‘ written by Dr. Ronald Evans, the man behind Project Greenglow, is a fascinating read. He describes an exciting, but unfinished scientific adventure story, and writes about the epic struggle by researchers to wrest the secrets from nature of how to control the force of electromagnetism and how to control aerodynamic forces. He suggests analogies where gravity breakthroughs might be made. (Image: amazon.co.uk)
Neil Stansfield, who works at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, said their new quantum gravity detector uses lasers to freeze atoms in position. It then measures how the tiny particles are affected by the gravitational pull of objects nearby.
By studying how the mass of nearby objects influences the particles, the researchers can then draw a 3-dimensional map highlighting how density changes nearby.
According to Mr. Stansfield, the technology could be used to allow people to see underground.
The Telegraph quotes Mr. Stansfield as saying:
“Seeing underground is an obvious one. From a national security perspective, the potential is obvious if you can see caves and tunnels. There is also huge potential for civilian applications.”
Suspending an object in the air – is this gravity control? Image taken from the BBC 2 Horizon Documentary. (Image: bbc.co.uk)
Half of all current road works are in the wrong place because nobody knows where the pipes are buried. The new device would be able to provide an accurate map of all the pipes. Imagine how much time such a device could save, as well as money and unnecessary road-digging.
The device would also be able to detect changes through objects, including walls, thus allowing operators to see through them.
Mr. Stansfield added:
“We are not sending out a wave of any form, we are detecting the gravitational influence on an object. There’s nothing that we are sending out that can be interfered with. Until recently many had believed there would be no practical applications from similar quantum research for decades.”
“I think until about five years ago, this was seen as laboratory stuff and it will be 20 or 30 years before we can harness this. My view is that it’s much closer.”