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A Potential Breakthrough in Quantum Gravity

An effect that far exceeds what would be expected under Einstein’s theory of General Relativity has been produced in a laboratory. The fact that the effect — the gravitational equivalent of a magnetic field — is one hundred million trillion times larger than what General Relativity predicts has raised the eyebrows of more than a few researchers. But Martin Tajmar (ARC Seibersdorf Research GmbH, Austria) says that three years and 250 experimental runs have gone into this work, and encourages other physicists to examine and verify it.

If confirmed, the new findings could be a key result in the search for a quantum theory of gravity. We know that a moving electrical charge creates a magnetic field, and General Relativity assumes that a moving mass likewise generates a gravitomagnetic field, one that should, by the tenets of GR, be all but negligible. To test this, Tajmar and colleague Clovis de Matos (European Space Agency HQ, Paris) used a ring of superconducting material rotating 6500 times per minute. From an ESA news release:

Spinning superconductors produce a weak magnetic field, the so-called London moment. The new experiment tests a conjecture by Tajmar and de Matos that explains the difference between high-precision mass measurements of Cooper-pairs (the current carriers in superconductors) and their prediction via quantum theory. They have discovered that this anomaly could be explained by the appearance of a gravitomagnetic field in the spinning superconductor (This effect has been named the Gravitomagnetic London Moment by analogy with its magnetic counterpart).

The result: acceleration sensors placed close to the spinning superconductor show an acceleration field that seems to be produced by gravitomagnetism. In other words, a superconductive gyroscope seems to be capable of generating a gravitomagnetic field, making it the gravitational counterpart of the magnetic coil used in Michael Faraday’s classic experiment of 1831. In that groundbreaking work, Faraday moved a magnet through a loop of wire and observed electric current flowing in the wire, thus demonstrating electromagnetic induction.

Despite being far vaster than what General Relativity predicts, the effect is nonetheless just 100 millionths of the acceleration due to Earth’s gravitational field. It could, nonetheless, represent a breakthrough in engineering acceleration fields. “If confirmed, this would be a major breakthrough,” says Tajmar, “it opens up a new means of investigating general relativity and its consequences in the quantum world.”

Further research and confirmation of these findings will be a fascinating process to watch. The results were presented on March 21 at ESA’s European Space and Technology Research Centre in the Netherlands. The two papers to study right now are:

Tajmar, Martin, F. Plesescu, K. Marhold, and Clovis J. de Matos, “Experimental Detection of the Gravitomagnetic London Moment,” submitted to Physica C and available here.

Tajmar, Martin and Clovis J. de Matos, “Local Photon and Graviton Mass and its Consequences,” submitted to International Journal of Modern Physics D, available here.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • JD March 25, 2006, 13:15

    My thoughts immediately jumped back to the article concerning Heim when I read this.

    Going into curmudgeon mode now:) Doesn’t it seem that many experiments are relying on mathmatical “models” and predictions? It’s amazing what can be discovered when you actually build something and run it:)

    Curmudgeon mode off. This is very interesting work and wil be interesting to follow.

  • kurt9 March 26, 2006, 10:09

    Two thoughts come to mind about this: Podkletnov and the Heim theory.

  • qraal April 3, 2006, 22:51

    Would be amazing if replicated. Some lab-level QG effects.

    What could it lead to? Gravity control? Huge gravitomagnetic accelerators?


  • Administrator April 4, 2006, 7:57

    The most immediate effect of this work should be to give us some insights into a quantum theory of gravity. But from a long-term perspective, the goal of creating an engineered gravitational effect can’t be ruled out. Of course, I’m speaking for myself here and not the experimenters, but imagine the ability to create a directed gravitational field that could be used in propulsion and you are imagining something with interstellar flight implications. We may be getting just a glimpse here that such a goal is not out of the question.

  • Timothy J Mayes September 2, 2006, 4:49

    If quantum gravity exists, and we can find ways to use the force of electromagnetism in physics to generate artificial gravitational fields,
    the construction of a gravitational propulsion system for space craft
    could become a real possibility.

  • Mark Oller November 30, 2006, 18:57

    One hundred million trillion is 20 orders of magnitude. The New Scientist article says 17 orders of magnitude. Another website claims that the gravitational field was 30 orders of magnitude greater than General Relativity predicted, but it still agreed that 100uG of acceleration was produced. Which is it?

  • Administrator December 1, 2006, 8:38

    Hi Mark,

    I’m going by the European Space Agency’s statement on this: “…the measured field is a surprising one hundred million trillion times larger than Einstein’s General Relativity predicts.” But I don’t know why various sources are citing different orders of magnitude on this.

  • Bernd Missal January 22, 2008, 16:05

    Quite a while ago I saw a documentary about an American physycist – I don’t remember his name :-( – who demonstrated the Podkletnov-effect in a kitchentable experiment. He used a small superconductor of the sort that works in liquid nitrogen. Under it he had fastened three or four electromagnets. On top of this he placed some coins which he weighted with a simple balans and an electronic scale. Instead of rotating the superconductor he had the electromagnetic field rotate electronically I guess.
    After half an hour of cooling his expriment he measured a 2% weight reduction, the same as Podkletnov reported.
    The hole documentary seemed serious, no fake or show. If I remember it well it was made by the BBC.

    P.S.: What a great site! I’m just going through your archives.

  • Administrator January 22, 2008, 17:01

    Thanks for the kind words on the site, and hope you enjoy it! I didn’t see the BBC show you’re talking about, but I would have to say I’m dubious about a table-top test of this kind. Although the work of Podkletnov looked promising for a time, it was thoroughly examined in a privately funded test after an earlier study was unable to be completed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The private test ran at levels of detectability far higher (fifty times higher, actually) than what Podkletnov himself had available. Unfortunately, no effect of the kind he claimed was observed, and current research, as discussed in the above post, is taking different directions, as in the work of Martin Tajmar. We’ll have more about Tajmar and team’s activities in the near future.

  • Jim Stevenson March 21, 2008, 18:39

    I believe what is demonstrated is not a true gravitational effect but rather a force or field that is able to interact with gravity. Minor distinction perhaps if desired results could be attained. However if this is only an interactive field then it’s effective range could be limited as well as it’s useful force.We wouldn’t need a less effective use of electricity than say an ion drive for use in space propulsion.Of course mass involved would be part of the final equations.

  • hiro March 31, 2008, 16:56

    Is it true that the speed of gravity in dimension 5 (I don’t know whether it’s 4+1 or 3+2 space-time) or higher ( n+m space-time, where n&m > 3 ) is > c ?

  • Kriku August 31, 2008, 13:57

    Has this effect been experimentally verified by other researchers?

  • Administrator August 31, 2008, 15:53

    That’s exactly the right question, Kriku. The Tajmar work has been studied closely by a New Zealand team, although the results are thus far inconclusive. Consider this work as definitely ongoing and in need of much more study. Also, a search at the arXiv site will turn up the latest work by Tajmar’s team, which seems to raise as many questions as it answers. At this point, we cannot say whether or not what Tajmar is seeing is a genuine force or not.

    More on this and much more in the upcoming AIAA volume Frontiers of Propulsion Science, to be published in the late fall. I’ll have more on that when the publication date nears (we’re still in the page proof process now).

  • jfeeney July 12, 2009, 23:44

    If gravity went only the speed of light, then at a black hole, shouldn’t even the gravity be trapped, so that even the huge gravity of the black hole would get sucked in? Gravity might have a speed greater than light, or gravity is not connected to the space time continum that is getting sucked in to the black hole, and so the gravity can still excape. Interesting.

  • Mr. Small September 24, 2009, 1:59

    jfeeney, I think that black holes are spinning faster than C and the gravitational frame dragging effect causes the lack of light.
    How many instruments and how would they be sync’d to be able to actually measure the speed of the jets of matter being ejected from BHs?

  • Marian January 11, 2011, 11:06

    It would be more efficient and faster to use antiprotons and protons instead of normal antimatter?

  • Marian January 11, 2011, 14:01

    1.I not believe Podklentovi. But what do you think
    experiments on the ESA in 2003 to 2006 with grvotomagnetismom.
    2.it is possible to connect high energy laser beams (artificial singularities and so on) with Gravity magnetick Londonvym moment to propulsion spacecraft eye faster than light?