Artificial Gravity and Inertia Control


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Gravity as a phenomenon has been known since Issac Newton first postulated his theory of universal gravitation as the force of attraction between different masses.

One thing that puzzles me (a non-scientist) is whether gravity is a force in the same sense as electromagnetic forces. That is to say is it part of the four fundamental forces- the electromagnetic, gravity, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force, or, is it purely a manifestation of the distortion of the space-time as seem to be suggested by Einstein general theory of relativity. May be both views are true: they are but different abstraction of the same thing- a ‘thing’ that we do not fully understand.

While we now have the ability to predict the effect of gravity using Newton’s law of universal gravitation, and more precisely by using Einstein’s general theory of relativity, as yet we do not have the knowledge to manipulate it. That is we do not have the ability to create artificial gravity or a mean to repeal gravity.

All we know is that gravity and electromagnetism are coupled phenomena. For example, gravity is known to bend light right rays.

Although gravity's affects on electromagnetism have been confirmed, the possibility of using electromagnetism to affect gravity is unknown.

Thus, the possibility of "Artificial Gravity" is anyone guess. Insofar that the "Tractor Beams" relies on similar principle as artificial gravity generation, it falls in the same case of uncertainty.

A related technological marvel in Star Trek is the "Inertial dampers". Essentially it is a device to negate Newton’s third law of motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The effect of this law is that if the ship accelerates very fast to say even quarter the speed of light, the opposing force that exert on a person in the space ship would be so great that the person would literally be flatten. In order to accelerate at a humanly safe level (ie. the force is not to exceed three times the downward acceleration of free falling object on Earth, or 3G), the rate of acceleration would be have to be so low that it would take at least a month to reach even quarter the speed of light. This is far to long for realistic space exploration.

Consequently, an "inertial damper" is an indispensable gadget. Without it everyone dies and the ship would probably be ripped apart. In reality how this neat damping trick can be accomplished is unknown. Although if artificial gravity is indeed possible then this may well provide a solution. Namely that an artificial gravity can be generated to cancel out the effect of the reaction force of acceleration.

It is interesting to note that Newton’s third law may not present much of a problem when travelling faster than light using the space-time warping technology mentioned earlier. This is because the ship is in effect stationary and hence the occupants inside should not feel the effect of the opposing force as there is none.




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Modified: 23rd April 2000
Copyright © 1996 - 2007 Raymond Yu