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Gravity, Inertia, Exotica

Are we ever going to understand what makes matter resist acceleration? If we can get a handle on inertia, we’ll have a better idea what’s possible when it comes to exotic propulsion. 19th Century physicist Ernst Mach believed that inertia was the result of matter being acted upon by all other objects in the universe, even the most distant ones. At the University of California at Fullerton, James Woodward has been studying inertia in a Machian context for some time, and an implication that appears to grow out of it: an object undergoing acceleration may experience transient fluctuations in its mass.

It will take a great deal of experimentation to find out whether there is anything to this, but the idea is interesting enough to keep Woodward working. His theories are put to the test in the laboratory, for they predict an effect that should be measurable. Indeed, his work with capacitors produces results that can be interpreted as mass reduction, though getting a clear data signal through the experimental noise is not easily done. How such mass reduction squares with the laws of physics, and just how far it can be taken — is this a clue to possible anti-gravity effects? — are questions that remain unanswered.

But the implications are intriguing. Be aware, then, of two sites that focus exclusively on Woodward’s activities. The polymath (he’s a member of both the history and physics faculty at Fullerton) maintains a research page of his own with links to older papers explaining his theories, and a bibliography of recent publications. A PDF on propellantless propulsion is useful, as is the older paper “Mach’s Principle and Impulse Engines: Toward a Viable Physics of Star Trek?” which Woodward presented at NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics workshop in 1997.

Woodward doesn’t refer to what he’s studying as the ‘Woodward Effect,’ but the name has begun to settle in, and Peter Vandeventer maintains a Woodward Effect site containing background papers (unpublished) and links to further information. As Vandeventer notes, Woodward prefers to talk about the ‘Mach Effect,’ a refreshing dose of humility in a world filled with people intent on naming things after themselves. Whatever we call it, the effect studied by Woodward and others gives some credence to the notion of a ‘Mach-Lorentz thruster,’ a spacecraft that, as Woodward once said, “…puts out thrust without blowing stuff out the tailpipe.”

Be aware, too, of a recent paper by Martin Tajmar, Florin Plesescu and team that discusses work sponsored by both the US Air Force and the European Space Agency. The authors attempted to “…measure the gravitational field induced by a non-stationary gravitomagnetic field generated by an angularly accelerated superconducting ring.” If confirmed, these findings would appear to demonstrate the production of a gravitomagnetic field of measurable magnitude in the laboratory. Which is to say that years of research lie ahead to examine such effects and place them in a sound mathematical context.

We may find, of course, that there are other explanations for the results of both Woodward’s and Tajmar’s experiments — Tajmar, for example, notes quite different results from earlier claims by Evgeny Podkletnov about gravitational shielding effects above rotating superconductors. But provocative work that tests the boundaries of known physics is worth keeping an eye on as followup investigations continue. Most hypotheses fail — this is how science works — and we are early on in putting a number of fascinating concepts to the test. Let’s hope funding for the most testable of these ideas continues to emerge as we get an idea of which hypotheses make sense.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kurt August 28, 2006, 19:42

    It is worth noting that Einstein is said to have gotten the inspiration for General Relativity theory from Mach’s Principle.

    I believe there has been an unsuccessful attempt to replicate Woodward’s experimental results.

  • Adam August 28, 2006, 20:52

    Hi All

    The rotating superconductor measurement of gravitomagnetism clearly means there’s something going on at the fringes of gravity. The STAIF paper giving a Heim Theory estimate of the force that agrees is a hopeful sign, though whether that means extended Heim-Theory is the ToE it claims to be is still sub judice.

    Physical phenomena at the fringes is what got relativity and quantum theory a leg-up. The Ultraviolet Catastrophe was classical theory’s partial failure when trying to explain something as mundane as a blackbody spectrum – the fit was good at low frequencies, and trailed off to infinity at higher frequencies. I think the various singularities of GR and the like are similar signs of something missing in our theories. Gravastar inversions of spacetime within an event horizon, or the bizarre suspension of physical processes in a MECO (Magnetic Eternally-Collapsing Object) are alternatives that avoid GR singularities, and yet seem even weirder.

    As for quantum theory – much of its absurdities seem to be due to the dubious assumption that particles are infinitesimal points, and spacetime is an infinitely divisible continuum. Yet what are the alternatives? String theory makes unverifiable predictions and gives us seemingly too many vacua. Perhaps Loop-Quantum Gravity might do it, but it requires its own baroque mental gymnastics – like denying space is real, and that particles are clusters of ‘qubits’.

    I think we’ve hit the point that trying virtually any sensible theory is worth doing to solve the puzzles that physics-at-the-fringes is throwing at us. Taking any current concept to be ontologically real (like the Many Worlds ‘universes’) is probably premature. That’s my chief reason for not wholeheartedly endorsing otherwise worthwhile concepts like Frank Tipler’s version of a ToE. We don’t know the limits yet.

  • Enzo August 28, 2006, 21:11

    New Scientist had an article about inertial mass being a consequence of
    virtual photons and particles in the vacuum.
    The article, for subscribers only is here:

    The key point of the article is the following :
    “Rueda and Haisch argued that charged matter particles such as electrons and quarks are unceasingly jiggled around by the zero-point field. If they are at rest, or travelling at a constant speed with respect to the field, then the net effect of all this jiggling is zero: there is no force acting on the particle. But if a particle is accelerating, their calculations in 1994 showed that it would encounter more photons from the quantum vacuum in front than behind it (see Diagram). This would result in a net force pushing against the particle, giving rise to its inertial mass (Physical Review A, vol 49, p 678).”


  • Enzo August 28, 2006, 21:14

    I forgot to add that these two guys (Rueda and Haisch), in the same NS article, claimed to be able to explain gravitational mass as well in a similar way. Basically the warped space time would create a similar virtual photons unbalance between the two sides of an object and hence a force.


  • adros47 August 29, 2006, 0:04

    I recently read some of the forum comments on tenthdimension.com and it got me thinking about our travel through time (which I think of as a 2-dimensional ‘timesurface’.) I was trying to equate our inability to alter our speed of travel through time with some kind of inertial explanation, but so far no luck.

  • Eric James August 29, 2006, 2:53

    The Woodward effect in relation to Mach’s principle brings up some interesting observations.

    Let’s consider Mach’s principle for a moment: The hypothesis that inertia is the result of distant matter acting gravitationally on local mass to create the effect we observe as inertia:

    Particularly let’s think of Mach’s principle in this manner for a moment: Let’s consider the entire universe as an enormous Newton sphere. The focal point of which is always apparent to the observer, to be his locality. What ramifications might this present?

    Let’s consider that if this is true; from our perspective, distant matter in any arbitrary direction might be considered to be closer to the Newton sphere’s shell (relative to us) so it would have a greater attraction to the shell the farther away from us it is. Therefore, it should appear to be accelerating away from us as a function of its distance from us. Perhaps this is the root cause of dark energy?

    Interestingly and in addition, inertial differences might be observed locally in the center of gravitational objects. Perhaps these differences might explain some of what we perceive as the effects of dark matter? Maybe it’s not that galaxy fringes orbit too slowly, but rather that galaxy centers are too fast?

    Lastly, might we then be able to observe varying inertial effects inside of even more local gravitational bodies? If we were to dig deep into a mountain, might we directly observe such an inertial variance?

  • Eric James August 29, 2006, 3:45

    Oops, I think I meant that dark matter/galaxy orbit thing to be the other way around. Oh well, it’s very late and I’m very tired. Brain cells… shutting down. Must… turn.. off… compu…ter. Go… to… go… to… go… bed. Zsnork-k-k-k-k!

  • Adam August 29, 2006, 6:27

    Hi Enzo

    It’s important to distinguish the Mach Effect and the ‘pseudo-Unruh’ radiation of HARP – they’re quite different effects being invoked and the physicists involved see their theories as antagonistic. But, for me, the gravito-electric back-reaction makes more sense and parallels neatly the transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics that also invokes back-reaction. Of course we have to then face the implied ‘backwards causation’, but it was always present in the maths of electromagnetics, and most other theories, anyway.

    Hmmm… I wonder how Heim theory resolves this one?


  • Enzo August 29, 2006, 20:11

    Sorry, I didn’t want to create confusion, just to give an additional contribution to the topic of the origin of gravitational and inertial mass by mentioning alternative approaches.


  • Eric James August 30, 2006, 0:13

    Concerning the Woodward effect:

    As I understand it, isn’t he primarily experimenting with flux capacitors? Isn’t the variability of the mass derived from the in-flow and out-flow of energy?

    It seems to me that the energy flow, back and forth, must always counter the push/pull from the temporarily heavier mass, for a total of no net propulsion (in an isolated system).

    If you did the same thing with a liquid medium (instead of energy) would you expect a propulsive force?

    Am I misunderstanding the concept?

  • Adam August 30, 2006, 6:14

    Hi Eric

    What matters is not the flow itself but the rate of change of mass-flow and electrical energy flow is a lot quicker than any pump can manage.


  • Paul August 30, 2006, 12:34


    The MLT’s alternating current (ac) cap energy flow establishes the +/- mass fluctuations. An external B-field at the same frequency as the cap’s applied E-field and one that is oriented 90 degrees away from the E-field is then applied to the cap’s dielectric to force rectify these +/- mass fluctuations into a unidirectional force. It’s a push heavy, pull light type of process and it uses the standard Lorentz force equation F=q[E+(vxB)] where the F is the generated unidirectional force, q is the electric charge, E is the applied vector E-field, v is the velocity (another vector) of the accelerated cap dielectric ions and B is the magnitude of the vector B-field.

  • Eric James August 30, 2006, 22:50


    Sure, energy moves faster, but it carries momentum too. Therefore, the physics should still be baasic Newtonian (for the most part), right?


    I just don’t see it that way. To me, it seems that it’s a simple Newtonian problem, just very quick. I just think it’s easy to “see” the mass fluctuations whilst ignoring the consequences of the energy’s flow. That is, I don’t think the force equation is being applied to all the actual force points. Put more succinctly; when the cap hems, the structure haws, and vice versa.

  • Adam September 2, 2006, 8:13

    Hi Eric

    All I can say is read his papers. He explains it better than the rest of us.


  • Eric James September 3, 2006, 0:31

    That’s just it. I’ve read lots of what’s available on this through the web and elsewhere. All I see is a more sophisticated version of the common errors associated with “inertial propulsion”. The “Peter Principle” all over again, on amore sophisticated level.

    I think the main misconception is that you can actually vary a mass by moving waves of energy through it. By E=mc^2 we know that energy is equivalent to mass. Therefore, I think the difference in the low mass state versus the high mass state is no more than the difference between the added energy/mass versus the lack thereof.

    The real issue then is does the capacitor’s base materials mass vary as a consequence of these energy waves moving through it? I don’t think so.

    Can anyone point to a specific portion of a paper that describes such a change? Did I miss something?

  • Eric James September 10, 2006, 15:55

    This has fallen back a bit, so I have doubts that anyone might read this…

    In regards to non-linear conditions:

    I’m wondering why it doesn’t seem apparent that anyone in this field is trying to develop an irrational problem/answer to the concepts of propellantless propulsion? After all, mustn’t the correct solution to an impossibility, at first seem irrational?

    Might a purposely paradoxical (read, non-linear) concept seem particularly interesting? And no, I’m not talking about blatant silliness like “gyroscopic propulsion” and such. What I mean is that a condition be contrived wherein a system breaks the known laws of physics if it behaves in only one or another of two potential ways, but it must do one, the other, or both.

    This type of phenomenon is well documented in quantum physics, but can it be applied to macroscopic systems?

  • Antony September 20, 2006, 11:24

    Just read every word, a very interesting discussion, my limited understanding of the subject leaves me with the following observations: To achieve acceleration (overcome inertia) asymmetry is required and maybe even hysetersis and resonance plays a part.

    The most practical work I have seen in this area to date is by Jean-Louis Naudin. If his ‘Lifter’ work and experiments are studied closely and duplicated (they are easily repeatable) they appear to align well with some of the ideas and theories discussed here. The initial reaction may be to dismiss the observed events as attributable to mundane mechanisms (electrostatic thrust, ion wind, etc), however all challenges to date have been successfully covered and eliminated with carefully targeted experiments by multiple experimenters.

    Very interested in your thoughts on this work.

    The full ‘Lifter’ story:


    and a practical introduction to the latest work:


  • Eric James September 24, 2006, 4:12


    Do you mean MY thoughts in particular? If not, then forgive my impertinence.

    Marc Millis is the current expert on theoretical propulsion and in this paper; http://www.nidsci.org/pdf/nasa_tm2004.pdf …he says, “These “Biefeld-Brown,” “Lifter” and “Asymmetrical Capacitor Thrusters” are not viable candidates for breakthrough physics propulsion.”

    Personally I think the lifter is very interesting. I’d like to see a scaled up hyper-tech version, perhaps utilizing superconductivity, to see what the limit of the technology might be. It’d be fun to experiment with.

    Even so, I too very much doubt that it can have a practical application as a spacedrive device. I do think it might be practical in certain circumstances though, like possibly for propelling high-altitude balloons and additionally for fun applications like science fair exhibits and hobby modeling.

    Here’s an interesting study performed by NASA researchers Francis X. Canning, Cory Melcher, and Edwin Winet:


  • Edwin Winet November 15, 2006, 23:59

    Gentlemen: This marks my fiftieth year in the laboratory, within the realm of engineering and physics. My title is: Senior Associate Engineer, (industry bestowed). I have probably done everything from DC to light (literally),in the lab. I have had the honor of being able to serve universities, industries, the US military and various government agencies. If you are a Dr. Tesla Fan, then my position has been similar to his Mr. Czito, or the many skilled lab. persons who were really responsible for many of “Mr. Edisons” inventions.
    I am “Herr Constructeur for Herr Doktor”. Occasionally I get inventive, or at least am able to significantly improve technological concepts.

    I am honored to have had the opportunity to serve the science community and still do, in the form Of “Winet Technical Services”, which functions out of a two-car garage converted into a laboratory, with a small machine shop that is dedicated mostly to R.F research, plus a “minor” of antique science interests.

    I am a subcontractor to an organization that may very well be of interest to you. Here’s the link: http://www.nedyn.com/spacepropul.html Please note their interest in BPP projects.

    RE: Dr. Naudin’s work: I have been able to spin my version of an “A.C.T.” device@ 200+R.P.M., in air and other gases, – by use of efficient bearings, H.V. technique and my own “Assymetrical Capacitor” designs. Next step: (got money?) high vacuum (space simulation) – at much higher voltage tests, to see if it will still emit, by field emmision technique (?)

    May I be of service? I can also round up a small creative engineering staff.
    “Alive and well, in West Virginia — (Birthplace of RADIO, — as we know it, today”). With kindest regards, Edwin M. Winet

  • Eric James December 5, 2006, 23:39

    Mr. Winet:

    In what capacity (pun!) might you be willing to serve, and what do you charge (another pun!)?

    How might you be contacted (okay, one too many)?

  • Eric James December 16, 2006, 3:51

    Well, I put in a query to the website Mr. Winet mentioned. I’ve received no response. The website looks hacked together. Various searches have resulted in no information on the organization. I fear it might be a ruse of some sort.

    Anyone else have any luck?

  • Administrator December 16, 2006, 8:43

    I still can’t get the site to load here. Don’t know anything about the organization, I’m afraid.

  • Ron S December 16, 2006, 14:20

    Out of idle curiosity I did some google’ing and followed this link and that and came up with some peculiar results regarding this NED site.

    Two key names that come up again and again are James and Kenneth Corum. There are some egocentric and very fluffed up bio’s to be found (which I will not reproduce here), especially for J.L. Corum. There is a connection to the Nikola Tesla Society, and in particular with some of Tesla’s more out-in-left-field craziness. These guys also have some connection with other folk who dabble in transferring souls between bodies, time travel and so on, all supposedly factual.

    Perhaps most relevant though are the Corum’s papers on Tesla’s supposed detection of intelligent radio signals from Mars and elsewhere in the solar system circa 1900. I hesitate to grace this topic with an actual link to the material, but here goes anyway.

    http://www.teslasociety.com/mars.pdf (about 2.5 MB)

    You can find more such links if you feel compelled to do so. If nothing else, the paper serves as a form of entertainment, in my opinion only of course.

  • Eric James December 16, 2006, 19:23


    Thanks. I found those same associations (decided they weren’t worth mentioning). I’m beginning to doubt very much that our Mr. Winet is the Mr. Winet of NASA STI.