Erasing gravity

Q: You have developed an anti-gravity machine that isolates itself and the occupant from the effects of gravity. You take it to the equator for testing, climb in and turn it on. What happens then and why? Suppose you take it to the North or South Pole for testing — how would the results be different there?

This question was submitted by Steve Justice of IGNITEQ LLC, who will review your responses.

Send a response of up to 250 words that someone in any field could understand to by noon Eastern Feb. 15 for a chance to have it published in the next issue.

From the January issue: NAPOLEON IN SUNGLASSES

We asked you to identify the French physicist our time-traveling fantasy novel protagonist visited to give Napoleon sunglasses over 100 years before Edwin Land invented them. 

WINNER: Light sources like the sun produce electromagnetic light waves, which are oriented in many random directions (unpolarized light). The polarization of these light waves allows them to oscillate only in one direction. Components that polarize light or split or suppress polarized light, depending on the type and direction of polarization, are called polarizers. This effect was first discovered by the French physicist Étienne-Louis Malus. 

Malus took part in Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian expedition from 1798 to 1801, and in 1808 began experiments on the refraction of light sources and the systematic investigation of the properties of surfaces with regard to reflection and refraction. In 1809, he discovered that light is partially linearly polarized when it is reflected, i.e., that polarized light waves only oscillate in one plane. The dependence of the intensity of the polarized light on the alignment of a polarizing filter (analyzer) held in front of it is referred to as Malus’ law. 

In 1936, Edwin H. Land invented polarized lenses, the birth of the “Malus sunglasses.” More than 125 years earlier, Napoleon had to face his dark end without this wonderful invention. Polarizing sunglasses only allow light waves in one direction through, thereby reducing the intensity of light entering the eye. Reflecting surfaces such as water and glass also polarize light to a certain extent, thereby rendering polarizing sunglasses even more effective. 

Peter Hamel, AIAA Fellow

Braunschweig, Germany

Peter led the Institute of Flight Systems at the German Aerospace Center, DLR, from 1971 to 2001.

Erasing gravity