Just How Possible Is Anti-Gravity Technology?

It's a pretty straightforward idea we've seen in countless sci-fi shows, movies, books, etc.: some kind of floating device levitates an object and doesn't depend on rocket propulsion. In "Star Trek," there are little anti-gravity platforms used to transport containers and sick people. Luke Skywalker's landspeeder in "Star Wars" is another example — it kind of hovers off the ground like an amphibious airboat zooming through the Florida Everglades. In fact, the typical, saucer-shaped UFO we're all familiar with could be considered a kind of anti-gravity device because it defies gravitational pull using outré technology and zips around however it wants. 

Fantastical alien spacecraft and last-gen hovercrafts aside, though, is there some middle technological option? Some kind of genuine, realistic, truly futuristic anti-gravity device? Maybe we could attach two portable versions to the bottom of a refrigerator and up the fridge floats — much easier on move day. Maybe we could defy gravity using a mercury vortex engine that spins mercury within an electromagnetic field coil, as the International Journal of Mechanical And Production Engineering describes? There's already an actual patent pending for that tech, filed in 2011 and viewable on Google.

As Futurism explains, such discussions aren't relegated to lay people spit-balling in online circles. Patents notwithstanding, NASA, DARPA, MIT, and the U.S. Air Force have gotten on board the anti-gravity conversation. They even held their first, out-of-the-box Alternative Propulsion Energy Conference (APEC) to toss anti-gravity and other ideas on the table.

Deleting gravity from the equation

Before embarking on any type of scientific or technological inquiry that sounds like fantasy and/or magic, it's important to take one critical first step: dismiss any and all knee-jerk naysaying assumptions. And indeed, that's exactly what the folks at the Alternative Propulsion Energy Conference (APEC) did and do. The items on their agenda read like a list of the wackiest, most speculative form of science fiction: hypersonic MHD and warp-drive propulsion, impulse drivers, finite theory and Alzofon propulsion, faster-than-light Alcubierre drives, and much more. So is anti-gravity tech possible? Well, if it isn't now, it possibly will be at some point (provided we don't go all apocalypse).

Forbes gets into some of the nitty-gritties underpinning the feasibility of anti-gravity technology. As they correctly state, gravity is a universal, unignorable, unavoidable force that's part and parcel of the very composition of the cosmos — it's not going anywhere and can't be deleted from the equation. However, antimatter — like the kind created on the regular at the CERN physics laboratory in Switzerland — has properties opposite to normal matter: spin, charge, etc. Antimatter does not display properties of negative mass, though, because gravity is always an attractive force. If it did, then we could solve this whole anti-gravity thing in a jiffy and cook up some truly sci-fi tech. Until then — if it's possible at all — some researchers, like those on Futurism, talk about hypothetical "gravitational shielding" that could resist the force of gravity.

Inversely buoyant vibrations

There's another quirky way to approach anti-gravity: vibrations. We're not talking the kind of "vibes" you get when you roll into a hipster barber shop, or the kind of vibrations your aunt talks about when she breaks out her crystal collection. We're also not talking about the kind of acoustic vibrations described on New Scientist that some claim levitated megalithic stones like that of Egypt's pyramids into place, as Ancient Origins describes. But out of all those options, the anti-gravitational properties of liquids discovered by a team of French researchers and published on Nature most closely resemble the last choice.

So how do these anti-gravitational vibrations work? As Inverse explains, the team vibrated a chamber of viscous fluid — glycerol and silicon oil — and the fluid floated up to the top of chamber. But more than that, the underside of the fluid behaved like the topside of a normal pool of liquid. Pictures show these little sailboat-looking objects floating on the underside of an upside-down mass of fluid. While this isn't what we'd call a catch-all solution for circumventing gravity's existence in all technological applications, it could be useful in chemical engineering. That being said, the basic principle of "inverse buoyancy," as it's called — that anti-gravity is produced by opposing forces of downward-pulling gravity and upward-pushing vibrations — could be helpful in pushing anti-gravity research further. All in all, it might just be a matter of time before we crack the anti-gravity puzzle for good.