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 
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you

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

On the Fringe - Michael Gordin *****

This little book is a pleasant surprise. That word 'little', by the way, is not intended as an insult, but a compliment. Kudos to OUP for realising that a book doesn't have to be three inches thick to be interesting. It's just 101 pages before you get to the notes - and that's plenty. The topic is fringe science or pseudoscience: it could be heavy going in a condensed form, but in fact Michael Gordin keeps the tone light and readable. In some ways, the most interesting bit is when Gordin plunges into just what pseudoscience actually is. As he points out, there are elements of subjectivity to this. For example, some would say that string theory is pseudoscience, even though many real scientists have dedicated their careers to it. Gordin also points out that, outside of denial (more on this a moment), many supporters of what most of us label pseudoscience do use the scientific method and see themselves as doing actual science. Gordin breaks pseudoscience down into a n

A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth - Henry Gee *****

In writing this book, Henry Gee had a lot to live up to. His earlier title  The Accidental Species was a superbly readable and fascinating description of the evolutionary process leading to Homo sapiens . It seemed hard to beat - but he has succeeded with what is inevitably going to be described as a tour-de-force. As is promised on the cover, we are taken through nearly 4.6 billion years of life on Earth (actually rather more, as I'll cover below). It's a mark of Gee's skill that what could have ended up feeling like an interminable list of different organisms comes across instead as something of a pager turner. This is helped by the structuring - within those promised twelve chapters everything is divided up into handy bite-sized chunks. And although there certainly are very many species mentioned as we pass through the years, rather than feeling overwhelming, Gee's friendly prose and careful timing made the approach come across as natural and organic.  There was a w

Michael D. Gordin - Four Way Interview

Michael D. Gordin is a historian of modern science and a professor at Princeton University, with particular interests in the physical sciences and in science in Russia and the Soviet Union. He is the author of six books, ranging from the periodic table to early nuclear weapons to the history of scientific languages. His most recent book is On the Fringe: Where Science Meets Pseudoscience (Oxford University Press). Why history of science? The history of science grabbed me long before I knew that there were actual historians of science out there. I entered college committed to becoming a physicist, drawn in by the deep intellectual puzzles of entropy, quantum theory, and relativity. When I started taking courses, I came to understand that what really interested me about those puzzles were not so much their solutions — still replete with paradoxes — but rather the rich debates and even the dead-ends that scientists had taken to trying to resolve them. At first, I thought this fell under