Defying Gravity With Gyroscopes?

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by Spadge, Aug 31, 1999.

  1. Spadge Registered Senior Member

    Here is a question which I'd be grateful for some of you to shed light on for me. I'm sure this is going to sound crazy, but here goes...........

    About seven or eight years ago I remember seeing a programme on British TV dealing with 'scientists' who had been shunned and ridiculed by the general scientific community because their ideas seemed to be completely at odds with current science. I think the series was called Heretics or something.

    One particular episode dealt with some guy who said he had proof that gravity could be counteracted by using gyroscopes and what's more, he said he could prove it. The thing I found facinating was that one of his proofs seemed to clearly disprove Newton's Third Law Of Motion.

    The demonstration was this. Imagine a small rectangular platform with a small wheel at each corner (almost like a skateboard). This platform had a construction like a child's swing fixed standing upright in the middle. The 'seat' of this little swing was free to swing towards each end of the platform. There was a weight in the position of the 'seat' and, when it swung back and forth, the movement of this weight caused the platform to move back and fowards in small jerky movements on its wheels.

    This guy then substituted the weight for a spinning gyroscope and once again swung the little swing. Once again the platform moved in short jerky movements, but amazingly this time it only moved in one direction.

    I hope I've managed to explain this clearly enough. Anyway, what I would like to know is the following.

    a) Was this whole programme a complete joke?
    b) Have any of you ever heard of this before?
    c) If this does work as described then what the hell is going on?

    I would appreciate any answers on this as it's puzzled me ever since..

    [This message has been edited by Spadge (edited August 31, 1999).]
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  3. Aloysius Registered Senior Member

    That "some guy" was Prof. Eric Laithwaite, I would imagine, a professor at Imperial College, one of Britain's leading engineering universities. He died not too long ago. I believe he was, at the time of his death, working with NASA on railgun technology, for geound-based railgun launch-to-orbit systems.

    He is perhaps best known for pioneering engineering development in magnetically-levitated vehicles.
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  5. Crisp Gone 4ever Registered Senior Member

    Hi Spadge,

    c) If this does work as described then what the hell is going on?

    The first thing that happened (the mass moving back and forward on the "skateboard" and the complete board moving in opposite directions) is easy to explain with Newton's second law:

    Consider the mass on the skateboard and the skateboard itself as one object. For this object we know that: F = M*a. Here F is the total external force, M the total mass and a the acceleration of the complete system. The total external force F is zero (since vertically there is only gravitation, but this is cancelled out by normal forces, and horizontally nothing happens, we're only messing around inside our system, we're not pushing the whole skateboard+mass back and forward). Total force F=0, hence m*a = 0, and thus v, the velocity of the entire system, has to be constant during the entire motion. Since the skateboard is standing still at first, v has to be zero, always. If v is zero, then r (the position of the centre of mass) has to be constant. This is were the complete solution lies: if we move the mass on top of the skateboard back and forward, the center of mass also moves. Since the position of the center of mass has to be constant, the skateboard itself will move to the opposite direction to get the centre of mass back were it's supposed to be.

    Questions about the gyroscope substition: Was the gyroscope also moving back and forward ? And how was the gyroscope attached to the skateboard (did it have rotation axes, was it fixed on one position...) ? These are all conditions that determine how the gyroscope influences the movement of the underlying skateboard.



    "The best thing you can become in life is yourself" -- M. Eyskens
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  7. Plato Registered Senior Member

    Crisp is right on the first part, the second part is a little more devious but still, you can't cheat the conservation laws of energy !
    In effect what will be happening is that rotational energy of the gyroscope will be changed in kinetic energy of the scateboard. This means that they gyroscope, if he is not powered by an external source, will wind down eventually and the system will come to a stand still. I can't tell you how the actual transfer works since I don't know the setup in more detail but that is the basic thought behind it, if you do the calculations correctly you will find no violation of Newton's action-reaction law at all.

    "If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants."
    Isaac Newton

    [This message has been edited by Plato (edited September 01, 1999).]
  8. Spadge Registered Senior Member

    First of all, thank you all for your replies! I did not really expect any to such an odd question.


    Do you know if this Prof Eric Laithwaite did any research with gyroscopes? It’s just that the magnetic stuff does not ring any bells with me. I’m not sure that you’ve got the right guy.


    In answer to your question. Yes, the gyroscope was moving back and forward. While spinning it was swinging through an arc aligned in the same direction that the platform was pointing. Unfortunately, I cannot remember exactly how the gyroscope was fixed to the swing.


    Although I’m sure your answer is correct, I’m still having difficulty in understanding just how the rotational force could be changed into a kinetic force.

    What would happen if the gyroscope was fixed in an upright position on the swing? How would this affect the movement of the skateboard?

    [This message has been edited by Spadge (edited September 03, 1999).]
  9. Aloysius Registered Senior Member

    Indeed, Laithwaite appeared on television, and I believe in lectures, using gyroscopes in a box. He wrote on the topic too - fire up your search engines!

    Nuances of the Dean Drive here?
  10. Spadge Registered Senior Member

    Thank you Aloysius

    I shall have look for this guy!

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