Patently Weighty Nonsense

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Fig. 1 from Boris' patent -- looks like he ain't kidding about building a spaceship, either. Scroll to near the end of the patent text for the number key -- #14 is helpfully labelled as "Crew," but no indication of what these big scary (M) tanks are. Now what I'd like to know is, how come the one guy gets a nice workstation, but the other one has to take his laptop and go sit on the nuclear reactor core? Besides which, doesn't Boris know that women have been allowed to fly spacecraft for some years now?

Or not, actually. See, the US Patent and Trademark Office, in its infinite wisdom, decided to issue patent #6,960,975 last week for a Space vehicle propelled by the pressure of inflationary vacuum state.

That's right. Some Boris fellow in Indiana now has a patent on the antigravity drive. I expect he will be following this up shortly with a pixie-dust-powered BS detector. Does make you miss the days when patent examiners at least pretended to read the applications, though. (On the other hand, I suppose I'd rather they spent their time approving patents for blatantly impossible inventions that rely on crackpot made-up physics. It would be better than the usual arrangement of bulk rubber stamping patent applications for ancient and obvious bits of software, which is causing serious problems out here in the real world.)

Boris isn't even being terribly original, by the by. Google for "antigravity" and "superconductor" and you'll see that there's a whole cottage industry of cranks and conspiracy theorists based around the really strange notion that superconductors can somehow block gravity. Sometimes they have to be spinning, or charged, or some such. This idea dates back to experiments in the early 90s, when high-temperature superconductivity made the effect much easier to play with. This, in turn, harkens back to 1950s-era military research that, again, relied on wild speculation about magnetism and the like. (Let's recall that, during the Cold War, US researchers actively tried to develop everything from mind control to nuclear airplanes. Ah, irrational exuberence!)

All of this ultimately ties back to the fact that for most of recorded history, magnetism has been known only as a completely mysterious force associated with certain kinds of rare mineral. As such, magnets have always been ascribed with various mystical powers. The BBC radio program "In Our Time" recently hosted a fascinating discussion on the history of thought about magnetism, which is well worth a listen or a read of the transcript.

1 Comment

I guess it would be false to assume that in order to get a patent you have to prove that your contraption does what you say it does.

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This page contains a single entry by Milligan published on November 9, 2005 8:27 PM.

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