Gravity wave pseudoscience

In the novel Earth by David Brin, the protagonist develops a gravity laser that uses collimated high frequency gravity waves to create invisible beams of pure accelerative force. Using holographic techniques relying on clever manipulation of constructive and destructive interference, the novel’s main character figures out how to twist space at a distance with pinpoint accuracy… allowing the surgical obliteration of any target, anywhere in the world, at any time. The concept makes for fun science fiction, but would be impossible in reality. Gravity waves are predicted by physics, but physics also predicts them to be exceedingly faint. The most sensitive detection apparatus on Earth can only hope to register the most powerful gravity waves passing across space and through our planet… and such waves require the smashing together of neutron stars or the merging of black holes.

Gravity waves are very weak, even under the best of conditions. If we wanted to create directed gravity waves we could do it, but first we would need to figure out how to throw black holes around. Our species is not quite that advanced yet. But is the US federal government? The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) commissioned a report to answer this very question, from the JASON Defense Advisory Group. The report was based on a proposal from a US company seeking government contract money to develop a device capable of generating high-frequency gravity waves for telecommunications and for imaging the Earth’s interior. The proposal was pure pseudoscience drivel because the energy requirements for creating useable gravity waves for industrial purposes are prodigious in the extreme, as a recent article in New Scientist magazine points out.

The technique is so inefficient that it would take longer than the lifetime of the universe for every power station on Earth to produce a gravitational wave with the energy of one ten millionth of a Joule. Accelerating a spacecraft at 10 metres per second squared, a rate that just exceeds the pull of Earth’s gravity, would require 1025 times (a 1 followed by 25 zeroes) the electricity output of the world.

It is unclear whether the original proposal was written as a joke, as a scam, or as the unfortunate outcome of someone being off their meds. In any case the DIA spent time and effort preparing a report that could have been functionally substituted by an afternoon’s conversation with a couple of prominent gravity-wave physicists, at the cost of a nice lunch in a fashionable restaurant. I suppose I should be relieved that this particular piece of pseudoscientific garbage was dispensed with as summarily as it was. In the past the US government has thrown away billions of dollars on equally frivolous nonsense, such as the Stargate Project that investigated remote viewing and psychic clairvoyance through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

In any event, the JASON report advising the DIA that technology to produce gravity waves is nonsense does make interesting reading. Your tax dollars at work.

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~ by Planetologist on January 9, 2009.

One Response to “Gravity wave pseudoscience”

  1. I have a gravity wave projector at my house. It is based on spinning magnets, quantum physics, and extreme dilution.

    If you’d like a complete set of blueprints to build your own copy of this amazing device the government doesn’t want you to know about, please send me your credit card number.

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