Skip to main content

Greenglow and the Search for Gravity Control - Ronald Evans ***

This is an unusual book with an unusual back-story. It’s no surprise, of course, that Britain’s largest aerospace company, BAE Systems, has a vested interest in countering the force of gravity – rockets and aircraft are designed to do just that. But over a period of about ten years, starting in the mid-1990s, BAE decided to take on the law of gravity itself. In what became known as 'Project Greenglow', the company sponsored fundamental research in university departments around the UK. In effect, they were looking for loopholes in the current understanding of physics which might point the way to radically new forms of gravity control.

Extraordinary as it was, Project Greenglow was in tune with its times. On the other side of the Atlantic, NASA was running a 'Breakthrough Propulsion Physics' programme which was similarly concerned with potential aerospace applications of new, as-yet-undiscovered physics. There were tantalising hints that such things might be just around the corner. In 1996 a Russian scientist named Evgeny Podkletnov made headlines with his announcement that a rotating superconductor could act as a kind of 'gravity shield'. One of the many strands of the Greenglow project was an attempt – an unsuccessful one – to duplicate Podkletnov’s experiment in a UK laboratory.

The driving force behind Greenglow was Dr Ronald Evans, a senior engineer in BAE’s Military Aircraft division until his retirement in 2005. His own expertise lay in the more conventional fields of aerodynamics and electronics, but the idea of 'gravity control' was something that had fascinated him since the 1980s. Dr Evans eventually succeeded in persuading his superiors at BAE Systems to set up a research project on the subject, before moving on to the equally difficult task of convincing academic researchers to take on what must have looked suspiciously like fringe science. The story of how all this drama unfolded, together with the ensuing highs and lows of Project Greenglow itself, would probably make a great book – but it’s only a relatively minor thread running through the book Ron Evans has actually written.

As I said at the start, this is an unusual book. It isn’t any of the things you might expect it to be. It isn’t a narrative history of Project Greenglow, although some of that does come across in passing. It can’t really be classed as a popular science book, because there are too many equations – although most of these can be skipped over without any great loss. It isn’t a textbook, because textbooks focus on what is known and understood, while this one repeatedly draws attention to what is not known or not understood. Most emphatically, however, this is not a crackpot’s book. It pushes on boundaries without going over them. The author points out gaps in current theories and describes other people’s speculations (rarely his own), but he doesn’t make any unsupportable assertions, or claim that such speculations are correct and that mainstream science is wrong.

So if the book isn’t aimed at the typical pop-sci reader, the typical textbook reader or the typical alternative science reader, who is going to enjoy reading it? The answer is all the above! The writing, if you’re prepared to skip over the (generally unnecessary) equations, is as lucid and well-structured as the best popular physics books I’ve read. The technical content, for the most part, really is textbook stuff – but presented in a fresh, innovative way (with crystal-clear diagrams) that draws attention to analogies and problems that many readers, even those with a solid grounding in physics, may never have encountered before. As for those alternative souls desperately looking for the next breakthrough or paradigm shift, this may not be the kind of glib, anti-establishment fare they’re used to, but they’ll certainly find plenty of food for thought.


Paperback:  
Review by Andrew May

Comments

  1. I used to belong/still to the Breakthrough Propulsion-Project Greenglow group that still has restricted membership via yahoo groups. As astra, Ron Kita, Chiralex

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have ever since College thought that this Anti-Gravity must be possible, in all fields of Science there are explanations to Physical phenomenon. But this is the physics version of the making of Gold from base metal. I'm sure that we are so tied to Einstein, that we dismiss the possibility of alternative properties. So with simple experiments some can show other things like levitation of a magnet. Anti-matter has to be the answer, this has bothered me since early years. Newton may have been hit by the apple, but what if it went the other way ?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Its already been done by the Nazi's in WW2. Look at operation High Jump and operation paper-clip.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Dialogues - Clifford Johnson ***

The authors of science books are always trying to find new ways to get the message across to their audiences. In Dialogues, Clifford Johnson combines a very modern technique - the graphic novel or comic strip - with an approach that goes back to Ancient Greece - using a dialogue to add life to what might seem a dry message.

We have seen the comic strip approach trying to put across quite detailed science before in Mysteries of the Quantum Universe. As with that book, Dialogues manages to cover a fair amount of actual physics, but I still feel that the medium just wastes vast acres of page to say very little at all. This is brought home here because quite a lot of the sections of Dialogues start with several pages with no text on at all, just setting up the scenario.

As for using a discussion between two people to put a message across, Johnson makes the point that, for instance, Galileo's very readable masterpiece Two New Sciences is in the form of a dialogue (more accurately a discu…

Liam Drew - Four Way Interview

Liam Drew is a writer and former neurobiologist. he has a PhD in sensory biology from University College, London and spent 12 years researching schizophrenia, pain and the birth of new neurons in the adult mammalian brain. His writing has appeared in Nature, New Scientist, Slate and the Guardian. He lives in Kent with his wife and two daughters. His new book is I, Mammal.

Why science?

As hackneyed as it is to say, I think I owe my fascination with science to a great teacher – in my case, Ian West, my A-level biology teacher.  Before sixth form, I had a real passion for the elegance and logic of maths, from which a basic competence at science at school arose.  But I feel like I mainly enjoyed school science in the way a schoolkid enjoys being good at stuff, rather than it being a passion.

Ian was a revelation to me.  He was a stern and divisive character, but I loved the way he taught.  He began every lesson by providing us with a series of observations and fact, then, gradually, between …

A Galaxy of Her Own - Libby Jackson ****

This is an interesting book, even if it probably tries to be too many things to too many people. I wondered from the cover design whether it was a children's book, but the publisher's website (and the back of the book) resolutely refuse to categorise it as such. The back copy doesn't help by saying that it will 'inspire trailblazers and pioneers of all ages.' As I belong to the set 'all ages' I thought I'd give it a go.

Inside are featured the 'stories of fifty inspirational women who have been fundamental to the story of humans in space.' So, in some ways, A Galaxy of Her Own presents the other side of the coin to Angela Saini's excellent Inferior. But, inevitably, given the format, it can hardly provide the same level of discourse.

Despite that 'all ages' comment and the lack of children's book labelling we get a bit of a hint when we get to a bookplate page in the form of a Galaxy Pioneers security pass (with the rather worrying…