Anonymous: Unidentified magazine;
"Scientist says Invention can Defy Gravity"
Eric Laithwaite & William Dawson:
USP # 5,860,317; Propulsion System
Anon.: Unidentified magazine (Jan. 2,
1975): "Laithwaite’s Amazing Invention"
Robert Walgate: New Scientist
(14 Nov. 1974) ~ "Eric Laithwaite Defies Newton"
"Scientist says Invention can Defy
London (AP) ~ A British scientist said yesterday he is
on the threshold of inventing an antigravity motor that could
fly a manned spaceship to the stars using nuclear fuel the
size of a pea.
Eric Laithwaite, professor of heavy electrical engineering at
London's Imperial College of Science and Technology, said the
motor is based on the gyroscope, a rapidly
spinning top that defies gravity. Gyroscopes already are used
to guide spaceships.
"The motor is not easy to explain. If it was, others would
have tried to produce one by now," said Laithwaite, who
described himself as an astro engineer.
Laithwaite began working on the motor about six months ago
after Edwin Rickman, who works with an electrical
engineering firm, came to him with the idea. Rickman had
patented it after he said it came to him in recurring dreams.
Laithwaite incorporated in the device ideas of
another amateur inventor, Alex Jones.
Although Laithwaite is far from the production stage with his
motor to defy gravity, the 53-year old professor demonstrated
his principle Friday at the Royal Institution at London.
Inside a box he brought before his distinguished audience
were two electrically driven gyroscopes, each placed on a
central pivot. Laithwaite made the gyroscopes rotate at high
speed, and they rose into the air on the arms until they
reached a curved rail that pushed them down again. The process
then repeated itself.
With the two gyroscopes motionless, the box weighed 20 pounds
on an ordinary kitchen scale. With the gyroscopes spinning,
the contraption weighed 15 pounds.
Laithwaite said the loss of weight corresponded to the
gravity loss produced by the spinning gyroscopes.
Theoretically, the machine could produce weightlessness,
Laithwaite said. A spaceship with his device could be blasted
from the earth's gravitational field with conventional rocket
fuel, Laithewaite said. Then, without friction to hamper the
anti-gravity engine, nuclear power or solar energy could begin
operating the gyroscopes and to drive the vehicle to other
solar systems, he said.
Laithwaite is the inventor of the electrical linear motor
capable of propelling a device through strong magnetic
currents. He said the antigravity motor also could be adapted
to drive ships and land vehicles silently but added: "Man is
not interested in traveling horizontally. He always wants to
Laithwaite said the antigravity motor is based on
electromagnetism and vector multiplication "too complicated to
Then he tried: "Let me put it this way: You take a go-kart
with no engine and sit in it. It is loaded with a box of lead
balls. If you throw one ball out behind you, you move
forward a little. Throw another and you move farther still and
so on. But if these lead balls were attached to a strong
elastic band and could be sprung back into the go-kart, you
would have continuous propulsion. That is what a gyroscope
does when it moves from one plane to another."
United States Patent 5,860,317
( January 19, 1999 )
Eric Laithwaite & William Dawson
Abstract --- A propulsion and positioning system for
a vehicle comprises a first gyroscope mounted for precession
about an axis remote from the center of said gyroscope. A
support structure connects the gyroscope to the vehicle.
Gyroscopes are used to cause the first gyroscope to follow a
path which involves at least one precession-dominated portion
and at least one translation-dominated portion, wherein in the
precession-dominated portion, the mass of the first gyroscope
is transferred and associated movement of the mass of the
remainder of the system in a given direction occurs, and, in
the translation-dominated portion, the mass of the first
gyroscope moves with an associated second movement of the mass
of the remainder of the system in substantially the opposite
direction, wherein the movement owing to the
translation-dominated portion and is larger than the movement
owing to the precession-dominated portion of the motion, hence
moving the system.
Foreign Application Priority Data
May 05, 1994[GB] 9408982
Current U.S. Class: 74/5.34; 74/84S
Intern'l Class: G01C 019/02; F03G 003/08
Field of Search: 74/5.34,5.37,5.22,84 R,84 S
U.S. Patent Documents
USP # 5,335,561 ~ Aug., 1994 ~ Harvey ~ Cl. 74/84.
Foreign Patent Documents
2,293,608 Jul., 1976 FR.
23-41 245 May., 1975 DE.
35 23,160 Jan., 1987 DE 74/5.
60-56,182 Apr., 1985 JP 74/5.
2,090,404 Jul., 1982 GB 74/5.
2,207,753 Feb., 1989 GB.
2,209,832 May., 1989 GB 74/5.
WO 91/02155 Feb., 1991 WO.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to a propulsion system for a
vehicle. It has particular utility in the propulsion and/or
positioning of space vehicles.
The majority of propulsion systems in use today rely either
on exerting forces against the surface over which they travel
(e.g. cars, trains, funiculars (via their supporting rope)
etc.), accelerating material which comprises the medium
through which they travel in a direction opposite to the
direction in which they are being propelled (e.g. propeller
aircraft, power driven or manually propelled boats), taking
advantage of thermally or gravitationally derived energy
gradients (e.g. sailing boats, gliders or surf boards) or
ejecting material in the form of fuel carried by the vehicle,
either in part as in the case of a jet engine or totally as in
the case of a rocket engine. Hitherto, there has been no
alternative but to employ the latter method in order to propel
or position a vehicle in space.
A problem associated with propulsion systems utilising the
latter method is that the volatile fuel required to be carried
by the vehicle represents a danger to any crew in the vehicle,
the vehicle itself and its contents.
Another problem associated with such propulsion systems is
that the range and manoeuverability of the vehicle is limited
by the amount of fuel carried.
Yet another problem associated with such systems is that once
the vehicle is accelerated, it can only be decelerated by
expending further fuel.
The invention may also have utility in specialised
terrestrial applications. For example, much effort has been
expended in attempting to quieten the propulsion systems of
boats. By obviating the need for propellers or such like, the
system according to the present invention may provide quieter
propulsion than has hitherto been possible.
The principles underlying the present invention will now be
explained with reference to and as illustrated in FIGS. 1-9 of
the accompanying drawings in which:
One method of moving a space vehicle a short distance is
illustrated in FIG. 1. A device (D) inside the vehicle is
arranged to project or move an object (W), of significant mass
in relation to the mass of the remainder of the vehicle from
one end of the vehicle to a receptacle (B) at the other end.
It is known that if the object (W) is so projected to the
right in FIG. 1, the vehicle will move a distance to the left
(to the position S) in FIG. 1. After that movement, the object
(W) and the receptacle (B) are at the positions W' and B'
respectively. The distance moved will approach the length of
the vehicle if the mass of the object (W) is relatively large
in comparison to the mass of the vehicle, or will approach
zero if the mass of the object (W) is insignificant in
comparison to the mass of the vehicle. In any case, the effect
will be that the centre of mass of the vehicle and object will
not move. For this reason, it is thought that such an activity
is of little or no use in propelling a vehicle, since it is
assumed that, in returning the object (W), the vehicle will
necessarily undergo an equal and opposite displacement to that
which it underwent when the mass was originally moved from one
end of the vehicle to the other.
Another method of moving a vehicle a short distance is
schematically illustrated in FIG. 2. FIG. 2 shows a vehicle
(1), on which is mounted a base plate (2), which in turn
carries a pivot (O). An arm OA of length R is mounted with one
end on pivot (O) and the opposite end carries an object (W) of
If a force were to be applied to the object (W) with the
intention of moving its mass M around the semi-circular arc
ACB at speed v, it might be thought that the sum of the
centrifugal force acting on the pivot (O) during that motion
would have components only in the direction Y and therefore
that the vehicle would be moved in the direction Y. However,
this is not the case because the force needed to give the
initial momentum Mv to the object W will always cancel the
component of the centrifugal force. In fact, the application
of the initial force to the object (W) will result in an equal
and opposite force being applied to the vehicle (1) so that
the object (W) and the vehicle (1) would rotate in opposite
senses about the pivot (O).
The rotary part of this reaction can be neutralized by
arranging for a second identical object (W1) arranged as a
mirror image of the first object (W) to rotate in the opposite
direction as shown in FIG. 3.
Referring to FIG. 3, if the two objects (W1, W2) are of large
mass compared to the mass of the vehicle, then it will be seen
that as they begin to move around their semi-circular paths
they will exert a relatively large centrifugal force
(initially towards the right in FIG. 3) on the vehicle (1)
which will in turn will be accelerated to a relatively high
velocity by this force owing to its relatively low inertia. As
the two objects (W1, W2) approach the point B (having passed
points C and E), they will then exert similarly large
centrifugal forces to the left in FIG. 3 decelerating the
vehicle until it returns to the condition it had when the
objects (W1, W2) were launched. Hence it will be seen that the
motion of the objects (W1, W2) will be accompanied by an
associated movement of the vehicle a distance D1 to the right
as shown in FIG. 4. The vehicle moves from positions A to E in
If, however, the objects (W1, W2) have a relatively low mass
compared to the mass of the vehicle then they will exert a
relatively small centrifugal force on the vehicle which will
only be accelerated to a relatively low velocity owing to its
relatively large inertia. When the masses then approach the
point B (having passed points C and E), they will exert
similarly low centrifugal forces on the vehicle in order to
return it to its initial condition. Therefore, it will be seen
that if the masses are relatively small (and hence the
centrifugal force is less than in the previous paragraph), the
vehicle will have moved a smaller distance D2 to the right.
The motion of the vehicle in this case is illustrated in FIG.
5. It will be seen that the reduction of centrifugal force
results in the vehicle moving a smaller distance. The vehicle
moves from position A to position E in that Figure.
Consideration of the above two paragraphs and FIGS. 4 and 5,
will show that the larger the relative mass of the objects
(W1, W2) to the mass of the vehicle, the larger the
displacement of the vehicle will be. If, for example, the
vehicle were to be of negligible mass when compared to the sum
of the masses of the objects (W1, W2), then the vehicle would
move a distance 2R to the right in FIG. 3. If the vehicle were
to have a mass equal to the sum of the masses of the objects
(W1, W2), then the effect of the centrifugal force would be to
move the vehicle a distance R to the right in FIG. 3.
It will be seen that, in each of the above examples, the
centre of mass of the combined vehicle and object system
remains in the same position.
As stated above, the fact that the centre of the mass of the
combined system is not moved in each of the above examples
means that such a method cannot be used to move a vehicle a
distance greater than its own length.
However, if the centrifugal force exerted by the masses of
the objects (W1, W2) as they travelled from position A to
position B were to be reduced below the level seen in the
examples above for that mass then the vehicle would be moved
over a smaller distance. In other words, in a supposed first
movement (in which centrifugal force is reduced), the vehicle
would move a first (relatively short) distance in a direction
opposite to the direction of movement of the masses.
Then, if the objects (W1, W2) were to be subsequently
returned, in a second movement in which the centrifugal force
was equal to that seen in the above examples, the vehicle
would move a second (relatively long) distance in the opposite
direction to the first movement. Clearly, after both the first
and second movements had taken place the position of the
objects (W1, W2) relative to the vehicle would be unchanged.
Moreover, it will be seen that the combination of the first
and second movements would result in a net movement of the
vehicle and its contents in the direction opposite to said
first movement. Hence, it will be seen how, if a way could be
found of reducing the centrifugal force exerted by the objects
(W1, W2) moving from one end of the vehicle to the other that
the centre of mass of the combined system could be moved
across space, that mass could thereby be transferred, and that
the vehicle could be propelled through space.
It is well known that when a spinning gyroscope is mounted on
a pivoted radius arm, so that the pivot is remote from the
centre of the wheel forming the spinning mass of the
gyroscope, and the gyroscope is subjected to a torque at right
angles to the spin axis of the wheel (for instance by means of
transfer through the radius arm) then the gyroscope precesses,
that is rotates, about a precession-axis that is at right
angles both to the spin-axis of the wheel and the applied
torque provided that it is free to do so.
FIG. 6 shows a plan view of a spinning wheel, all of whose
mass may be considered to be concentrated in its rim of
negligible thickness and of radius r. The wheel is connected
to a pivot (O) (which forms the centre of precession) by a
light rod of length R. A torque T is applied to the wheel in
the direction shown.
The mechanism of precession may better be understood by
considering the highest and lowest points of the rim of the
spinning wheel as illustrated in FIGS. 7A and 7B.
From FIGS. 7A and 7B, the application of the torque T may be
considered as tantamount to the application of a force F1 to
the top point of the spinning wheel and a force F2 to the
bottom point of the spinning wheel, deflecting them and
causing a change in the direction of their velocities from v
to v' as shown. Thus both velocity vectors are deflected
clockwise. It will be realized that an object whose velocity
is constantly changing in a direction at right angles to its
current velocity moves in a circle.
By conventional two-dimensional mechanics, a non-precessing
mass moving in a circle only does so if it is subjected to a
constantly applied force defined as the `centripetal` force.
The present inventors realised that by applying oppositely
directed forces, (the effect of a torque,) to particles that
are themselves, moving in opposite directions as a result of
being part of the rim of a spinning wheel they could cause the
spinning rim to circle about O without requiring a centripetal
It is known that a convenient means (for demonstration
purposes) of applying a constant torque to a gyroscope is to
offset the gyroscope on a shaft, which is supported at the end
remote from the gyroscope by a joint, that allows the shaft to
move both laterally and up and down, and to allow the weight
of the gyroscope, together with the reaction force at the
joint, to be the forces that apply the torque.
It is also known that when the wheel is spun up, suspended
and released in this manner the gyroscope will precess at a
rate .OMEGA. derived from the equation:
Where: T--MgR--torque at right angles to shaft
M --- mass of the wheel
g --- acceleration due to gravity
R --- length of the shaft
I --- moment of inertia of wheel
.omega. --- angular spin velocity of wheel
Further, it will precess about any point in the precessional
plane so long as it is launched with initial conditions such
that it finds itself travelling at the linear tangential
velocity R..OMEGA. where .OMEGA. is determined from equation
(1) inserting the value for the torque that so obtains.
With reference to FIG. 8, the present inventors realised that
if two gyroscopes of identical mass M and spinning at the same
speed .omega., but in opposite directions to one another, were
mounted on equal rods with their remote ends pivoted in a
frame (0,0') of negligible weight which was itself
unrestrained, and were launched in an arc from A to B by
whatever means (P), be it a spring, motor, ramp or chemical
reaction, in such a way that, at the moment they found
themselves being acted on by gravity supplying the torque,
their launch velocity was exactly R..OMEGA. where:
then the resulting motion (in the event of the gyroscopes
being `perfect` (see below)), would not involve a centrifugal
force being exerted on the frame (0,0'), that the frame would
not therefore be deflected and that the centre of mass of the
system would move a total distance of 2R.
It will be appreciated that if the wheels were not spinning
and were then just `dead` masses and were given the same
treatment (as far as that is possible given that they would
then have NO TENDENCY to move of their own volition when
subjected to a torque and would therefore have to be projected
with considerable velocity to achieve a similar result), then
the frame (0,0') would, (as explained with reference to FIG.
3), be deflected from a distance R from one side of the wheels
to a distance R on the other side. The centre of mass of the
system would not move.
The present inventors have conducted experiments which show
that when a gyroscope is caused to precess by a torque
whatever additional angular momentum it acquires combines with
the angular momentum already in the spinning mass and if the
axis about which it is caused to precess is remote from the
centre of the wheel, that an additional linear momentum
proportional to the linear tangential velocity of the total
moving mass of the gyroscope about that said axis of
precession is the only extra dynamic requirement. The
experiments conducted further show that, once the gyroscope
has been launched on its path of precession about a remote
axis as described, the forces exerted by the gyroscope at that
axis are largely those involved with application of torque to
the gyroscope. Such forces that pass through the axis normal
to the tangent at any point in the precessional path of the
gyroscope are less than those calculated from the conventional
formulae for derivation of centrifugal force of a
non-precessing mass. Thus it follows that, provided it is
correctly launched, the centre of mass of a gyroscope may be
moved around a circle of precession from the one end of a
diameter to the other without the full corresponding net force
at the centre of precession.
The present inventors further realised that if the mass of
the gyroscope could be transferred predominantly by a
precession of the gyroscope without a substantial movement in
the vehicle, (i.e. providing the first movement referred to
above) and thereafter the mass of the gyroscope were to be
returned to its original position in relation to the vehicle
by means not involving precession (deriving the momentum for
that movement from the remainder of the system) (i.e.
providing the larger second movement referred to above), then
the vehicle would be moved and if this cycle were to be
repeated the vehicle would be propelled.
It is arranged that in the precessional motion of FIG. 8, the
gyroscopes derive their momentum from each other.
According to a first aspect of the present invention there is
provided a method of moving a vehicle in a first direction,
which method comprises the steps of : connecting at least one
gyrocope means to said vehicle; causing said gyroscope means
to follow a path which involves at least one
precession-dominated portion and at least one
wherein in the precession-dominated portion, the mass of the
gyroscope means moves in said first direction and an
associated first movement of the vehicle in substantially the
opposite direction to said first direction occurs, and, in the
translation-dominated portion, the mass of the gyroscope means
moves with an associated second movement of the mass of the
vehicle in substantially said first direction, wherein said
second movement is greater than said first movement and hence
the vehicle moves in said first direction.
According to a second aspect of the present invention there
is provided an apparatus for propelling a vehicle in a first
direction, which apparatus comprises:
at least one gyroscope means adapted for precessional motion
about an axis remote from the centre of said gyroscope means;
means for causing the gyroscope means to follow a path which
involves at least one precession-dominated portion and at
least one translation-dominated portion,
wherein in the precession-dominated portion, the mass of the
gyroscope means moves in said first direction with an
associated first movement of the vehicle in substantially the
opposite direction to said first direction, and, in the
translation-dominated portion, the mass of the gyroscope means
is moved with an associated second movement of the vehicle in
substantially said first direction; and
wherein said second movement is greater than said first
movement and hence the vehicle moves in said first direction.
Furthermore, the present inventors have conducted experiments
which show that if the mass of the wheel of the gyroscope is
not concentrated at an infinitely thin rim then an amount of
centripetal force is developed which is required to constrain
all parts to a circle, or precess, about the same centre 0.
However, these experiments have verified that the centripetal
force is still less than that predicted by the conventional
formula for non-precessing masses.
The practical situation that would thereby be obtained is
illustrated in FIG. 9. The gyroscopes would, as a result of
their not being `perfect`, exert some centripetal force on the
frame (0,0'). The frame would be moved a distance to the right
as shown in that Figure, so that by the time the frame (0,0'),
had moved from S to T, the gyroscopes have moved to Q and Q'
respectively. However, when the gyroscopes are subsequently
returned to the right hand side of the frame, the frame will
be displaced by a distance 2R to the left in FIG. 9.
Therefore, the combined result of the precessional motion and
the translational motion would be to move the frame from
position S to position U, i.e. over a distance less than the
distance 2R obtained in the perfect case of FIG. 8 but
nevertheless with a resulting movement in the centre of mass
of the system that would not be achieved with `dead` masses.
Advantageously then, a high proportion of the mass of the
gyroscope means lies in a plane at right angles to the spin
axis of said gyroscope means and is located at a predetermined
distance from said spin axis of the gyroscope.
Other experiments have shown that the greater the wheel spin
velocity .omega. is in relation to the precessional velocity
.OMEGA., the less centripetal force is developed. .OMEGA. and
.omega. are related to the applied torque T and the moment of
inertia I of the wheel by equation (1).
Preferably, the ratio of the angular velocity of the
gyroscope means about its spin axis to the angular velocity of
said precession is maximised.
In the absence of a gravitational field the torque to cause
the gyroscope to precess in the first place has to be
provided. This may conveniently be obtained from an identical
gyroscope spinning in the opposite direction and with the same
angular velocity as the gyroscope against which it is to be
reacted so that the torque being applied to one gyroscope is
equal and opposite to the torque on the other gyroscope, the
net torque on the vehicle is nil and the two gyroscopes then
precess in the same direction, as a pair, about a centre.
Preferably therefore, the apparatus comprises at least first
and second gyroscope means such that the torque required for
the precession of the first gyroscope means is provided by the
second gyroscope means.
In order for this first pair of gyroscopes to precess about a
centre remote from the centre of the gyroscopes, they must, as
previously stated, be given a linear momentum proportional to
their prospective linear tangential velocity when subjected to
the applied torque. In a preferred embodiment of the invention
this linear momentum may conveniently be derived from an
identical pair of gyroscopes with identical attributes
arranged as a mirror image of the first pair. In this
arrangement the linear momentum required to launch each pair
of gyroscopes on their precessional paths are equal and
opposite and cancel out so that the net momentum outside the
system is nil. Similarly when the two pairs of gyroscopes
reach their diametrically opposite point the linear momentum,
delivered when the torques are removed, are again equal and
opposite and again cancel out leaving no net momentum outside
Preferably then the apparatus comprises at least first and
second gyroscope means such that the linear momentum required
by said first gyroscope means in order to precess about an
axis remote from its centre is derived from the second
gyroscope means precessing in the opposite sense.
Advantageously, the apparatus comprises at least first and
second pairs of gyroscope means, the torques required by each
gyroscope means being provided by the other of said pair, and
each pair providing the linear momentumrequired by the other
Preferably, the path of the gyroscope means is such that the
motion of the gyroscope means varies continuously between a
substantially entirely precessional motion and a substantially
entirely translational motion, thereby providing a smooth
propulsion to the system.
A smoother propulsion can also be obtained by providing a
plurality of groups of gyroscope means and arranging each
group to impart said second movement the vehicle at a
Some embodiments of the present invention utilise a gyroscope
means which comprises a wheel which is driven by a central
hub. A problem associated with such embodiments is that the
degree of propulsion that can be provided by the apparatus is
limited by the strength of the materials making up the hub
Preferably therefore, said gyroscope means comprises a
substantially annular rim which is driven by a means in
contact with that rim.
Furthermore, the rim is preferably rotatably supported at a
plurality of points around the rim. This has the further
advantage that the level of propulsion that can be provided by
the apparatus is increased in accordance with the number of
means rotatably supporting the rim.
In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the
gyroscope means comprises two counter-rotating annuli which
are retained in a frame means. This has the advantage that the
torques exerted by each rim substantially cancel one another
and that substantially no net torque is exerted by the frame
on the vehicle.
The invention will now be described further, with reference
to and as illustrated in FIGS. 10 to 28 of the accompanying
drawings in which:
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURES
FIG. 1 is an illustration of a first method of moving
a vehicle a short distance.
FIG. 2 and FIG. 3 are illustrations of a
second method of moving of a vehicle a short distance.
FIG. 4 is an illustration of the motion of the vehicle
of FIG. 3 if the masses of W1 and W2 are relatively large in
comparison to the mass of the vehicle.
FIG. 5 is an illustration of the motion of the vehicle
if the masses of W1, W2 are relatively all in comparison to
the mass of the vehicle.
FIG. 6 is a schematic illustration of a gyroscope
adapted to precess about an axis remote from the center of the
FIG. 7A and FIG. 7B together form a schematic
illustration of how a gyroscope can move in a circle as a
result of a torque being applied at right angles to the spin
axis of the gyroscope, without requiring the application of a
centripetal force to the center of the precession.
FIG. 8 is a schematic illustration of an apparatus
which can be used to demonstrate the principle underlying the
FIG. 9 is a schematic illustration of the motion of
the apparatus of FIG. 8 if the wheels employed therein are
FIG. 10 is a perspective view of one of four identical
gyroscopic devices that comprise the first embodiment of the
FIG. 11 illustrates the cycle of operations of one of
four identical gyroscopic devices that comprise the first
embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a constituent part of
a second embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 13 illustrates the motion of the one of the
gyroscopes in the second embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 14 is a perspective view of four such constituent
parts as illustrated in FIG. 12 combined so as to eliminate
substantially any net torque on the vehicle being propelled.
FIG. 15 is a schematic view of an apparatus, the view
being used to explain the operation of a third embodiment of
the present invention.
FIG. 16 is a perspective view of a constituent part of
a third embodiment of the present invention and illustrates
the three dimensional space required for motion of that part.
FIG. 17 is a perspective view of four such constituent
parts as illustrated in FIG. 15 combined so as to eliminate
substantially any net torque on the vehicle being propelled.
FIGS. 18, 19 & 20 are diagrammatic representations
of the forces developed during one cycle by a single gyroscope
in the third embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 21 is a view in plan and elevation of a
constituent part of a fourth embodiment of the present
FIG. 22 is a view in elevation of four such
constituent parts as depicted in FIG. 21 and arranged to
eliminate any net torque on the vehicle.
FIG. 23 is a perspective diagram of a fifth embodiment
of the present invention so designed to maximise the mass of
the gyroscope means both lying in a plane at right angles to
the spin axis of the gyroscope means and being located at a
predetermined distance from the spin axis and which is capable
of being substituted for any two counter rotating single
gyroscopic means in any of the preceding four embodiments.
FIG. 24 shows the fifth embodiment incorporated into
the fourth embodiment.
FIG. 25 and FIG. 26 indicate two arrangements
of FIG. 24 so as to eliminate net torque on the vehicle.
FIG. 27 and FIG. 28 further illustrate the
limiting alternative attitude of the fifth embodiment with
respect to the fourth embodiment.
DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
Referring now to FIG. 10, which shows one of the four
gyroscope units of the first embodiment of the present
invention, each gyroscope unit comprises a horizontal base
plate (30), a cradle means (32,34), which cradle means
supports a translatable shaft (22) and enables the rotation of
that shaft about a vertical axis AA which passes through the
centre of the shaft and a horizontal axis BB which also passes
through the centre of the shaft and intersects the axis AA.
The shaft (22) in turn carries a gyroscope (23) which is fixed
against movement along the shaft but is free to rotate around
The base plate 30 is arranged to be secured to the vehicle to
be propelled by the system.
In more detail, the cradle (32,34) comprises an outer
U-shaped member (32) which is connected to the base plate (30)
by a pivot (31) which enables the outer U-shaped member (32)
to rotate about the vertical axis AA. The outer member (32) is
formed by a substantially horizontal central section (41)
which has an arm (42,43) depending vertically from each of its
ends. Each of these arms (42,43) carries a pivot (35) which is
disposed on the axis BB.
The inner member (34) of the cradle is formed from a
relatively long U shaped member (21) and a pair of side arms
which extend perpendicularly outwardly from the long member at
a position half way along its length. The long member consists
of a substantially horizontal section (46) from either end of
which an arm (47,48) extends vertically upwardly. Likewise
each of the side arms (44) has a part extending vertically
upwardly (50,51) from its end. Each of the arms (47,48)
extending vertically upwardly from the ends of the long member
(21) carries a rectangularly shaped bearing (24,25) towards
its upper end. Each of the vertically depending arms (50,51)
on the side arms defines a recess which is engaged by the
respective pivot (35) on the outer cradle member (32). When
each of the horizontal sections (41,46) of the inner and outer
cradle members (32,34) are in a horizontal position then the
centre of the bearings (24,25) which define the axis `CC` are
positioned to be at the same height as the pivots (35) so that
the axis `CC` intersects the axes `AA` and `AB`.
A shaft (22) of substantially regular rectangular
cross-section and of a length slightly greater than twice the
distance between the bearings (24,25) is held by the two
bearings (24,25). Each of these bearings is configured so as
to prevent rotation of the shaft relative to the inner member
(34) but to allow it to be linearly translated through the
bearings. A rack (29) is cut into one side of the shaft and
extends along the shaft by a distance substantially equal to
the distance between the two bearings (24,25). A motorised
bearing (27) is fixedly attached to the shaft (22) at its mid
point which lies between the two bearings (24,25). A gyroscope
(23) is in turn carried by this motorised bearing.
Finally, the means for translating the shaft is provided by a
motor (26) which is supported by the inner cradle member (34).
The motor (26) drives a spur gear (28) which engages with the
rack (29) on one side of the shaft (22).
To enable the gyroscope unit to be operated outside a
gravitational field a means is provided for exerting a torque
about the pivot (35). This torque providing means consists of
a solenoid actuator (36) which is attached to the upright arm
(42) by a pivoted clamp (37). The solenoid (36) actuates a rod
(39) which in turn acts on a connector (40) which in turn
engages the upright member (51) of the inner part of the
It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that power
must be supplied to the torque providing means (36), the
actuating motor (26) and the motorized bearing (27). A person
skilled in the art will be able to envisage a number of ways
of supplying this power to the apparatus.
In order for the means (36) to exert a torque on the
gyroscope (23) it will be necessary to supply a torque which
prevents the vehicle (with the base plate (30) and outer
cradle member (32)) rotating around the pivot (35). This may
be achieved by securing an identical gyroscope unit to the
vehicle and it to precess about the axis AA in the same
direction as the above described first gyroscope unit but with
the gyroscope in the second unit spinning in the opposite
direction to the gyroscope in the first unit. For example, the
inner cradle of the second unit may also be fixedly attached
to the base plate (30) whereby the torques on that base plate
owing to the precession of the two gyroscopes cancel.
Alternatively, in a terrestrial application of the first
embodiment, the required torque may be provided by the weight
of the gyroscope, in combination with an equal and opposite
reaction provided through the vehicle to the base plate (30).
It will further be appreciated that it will not be possible
to supply each of the gyroscopes of the first and second
gyroscope units with the requisite momentum along their
precessional path without imparting an equal and opposite
momentum to the vehicle. The requisite momentum for the
precession of the first gyroscope unit may be obtained from a
third gyroscope unit identical to the first unit and in which
the pivots (35) of that unit also lie along the axis BB. The
gyroscope of that third unit may be set spinning in the same
direction as the gyroscope (23) of the first unit and caused
to precess in the opposite direction to the gyroscope of the
first unit, whereby the net linear momentum required to launch
the first and third gyroscopes would be zero. In order to
provide the torque required for the precession of the third
gyroscope unit a fourth gyroscope unit may be provided which
precesses about the same axis as the third gyroscope unit and
in the same direction as the third gyroscope unit but with the
gyroscope of the fourth unit spinning in the opposite
direction to the gyroscope of the third unit. Furthermore, the
fourth unit supplies the requisite launch momentum for the
Since the gyroscopes of the first and third gyroscope units
are spinning in the opposite direction to the gyroscopes of
the second and fourth gyroscope units then it will be seen
that the torques required to start the gyroscopes spinning are
also cancelled in the above arrangement. Hence, no net torque
is exerted on the vehicle.
It is to be appreciated that in terrestrial applications,
some or all of the required torque and linear momentum may be
provided by the medium through which the vehicle is
travelling, or the surface over which the vehicle is
travelling. For example, the torque may be provided by
reaction against rails along which the vehicle is travelling,
or, in the case of a boat, by reaction between the keel and
Preferably, however, the torques and linear momenta will also
be balanced in a propulsion apparatus for terrestrial use. For
example, in the case of a propulsion system for a boat this
has the further advantage that the water is less disturbed and
quieter propulsion results.
The cycle of operations of the first embodiment of this
invention is shown in FIG. 11. For simplicity only the ends
(47,48) of the inner cradle (34), the gyroscope (23), with the
direction of spin of gyroscope (23) indicated by the arrow,
and the motor (26) of the first gyroscope unit are drawn. At
`A` a torque is applied to gyroscope (23) and the system is
allowed to precess to `B` where the torque is removed. The
motor (26) now operates and attempts to return the assembly to
its previous position in space but because the gyroscope (23)
is massive with respect to the remainder of the system the
supports move rather than the gyroscope (23) as shown at `C`.
The gyroscope (23) is again caused to precess to `D` as
previously, the torque once more removed and the motor
reversed. The supports again move further than the gyroscope
(23) as shown at `E` and the whole system has been caused to
translate a distance `S`. The system will be seen to be in the
same position as at `A` and the whole cycle may be repeated.
It will be realised that the operations of the other three
gyroscope units may be carried out in synchronism with the
operation of the first gyroscope unit such that each of the
gyroscopes will be translated in the same direction at the
In order to reduce the step like nature of the movement of
the vehicle being propelled a number of other groups of four
gyroscopes may be provided. It will be understood that each of
these may be operated serially so as to provide a steady
succession of movement to the vehicle and thereby smooth the
propulsion of the vehicle.
Another method of smoothing the propulsion of the vehicle is
to combine the translational and precessional part of the
gyroscope cycle into a single compound motion so as to allow
the proportion of translational and precessional motion to
vary smoothly throughout that cycle. The second embodiment of
this invention is an example of an apparatus which achieves
Referring now to FIG. 12, the apparatus of the second
embodiment consists of three principal parts. The first of
these is a means for rotating the direction of the spin axis
CC of a gyroscope (60) about a perpendicular axis AA which
intersects the axis CC, the second of which is a means for
causing the centre of the gyroscope to follow a circular path
about an axis BB which is parallel to the axis AA and
displaced therefrom by distance D, and the third of which is a
means (80,81) for rotating the gyroscope (60) about its own
spin axis CC.
The means for rotating the direction of the spin axis of the
gyroscope about the first axis AA comprises a horizontal bar
(63) rotatably driven about the axis AA by a shaft (62) which
is in turn connected to a motor ( not shown). The bar (63) has
two arms (64,65) which depend vertically downwardly from each
end of the bar (63). A horizontal shaft (61) is carried
between the arms (64,65). The gyroscope (60) is rotatably and
slidably supported on the shaft (61) at a point intermediate
the two downwardly depending arms (64,65). In this way the
direction of the spin axis CC of the gyroscope is constrained
without dictating the position of the gyroscope along the
The means for causing the centre of the gyroscope to follow a
circular path about the parallel axis BB comprises a lower
shaft (75) which pivotally supports a substantially horizontal
second bar (70) which is thereby rotated about the axis BB,
(which axis passes through a first end of the bar (70)), by a
motor (not shown) at an angular velocity which is twice that
of the angular velocity of the rotation of the upper bar (63).
A vertical shaft (76) is pivotably supported at the opposite
end of the bar (70) at a distance D from its first end and is
fixedly attached to the base of a substantially U-shaped
member shown generally at 71. The U-shaped member (71)
comprises a horizontal base part which has two upwardly
extending arms (72,73) at its ends, each of these arms having
a bearing through which the shaft (61) passes. These bearings
support the shaft (61) on either side of the gyroscope (60),
sleeves (77,78) being provided around the shaft (61) to
maintain the position of the gyroscope between the two
upwardly extending arms (72,73). Each of these sleeves is
preferably of an equal length, thereby positioning the centre
of the gyroscope (60) directly above the axis of that shaft
(76). In this way the centre of the gyroscope (60) is
constrained to follow a circle centred on the vertical axis BB
and of radius D, where the distance D is smaller than one
quarter of the distance between the downwardly depending arms
(64,65) less one half the external distance between the
upwardly extending arms (72,73).
The means for rotating the gyroscope about its own spin axis
comprises a motorized bearing (not shown) similar to that
described in relation to the first embodiment. Those skilled
in the art will be able to envisage a number of ways in which
the required power can be supplied to the motor.
Each of the shaft (62) and the lower shaft (75) is arranged
to be attached to the vehicle to be propelled.
As with the first embodiment of the present invention, the
torque developed or required in the precession of the
gyroscopes may be obtained from another "mirror image" system
so that the two torques cancel leaving no net torque on
vehicle. Also, again as with the first embodiment of this
invention, any resulting uncancelled forces may be provided by
another gyroscope unit. In practice therefore several
gyroscope units may be employed together as shown in FIG. 14.
The operation of the unit of the second embodiment of the
invention will now be described with reference to FIG. 13. The
rotation of bar (63) about axis `AA` is at half the rate of
rotation of the arm (70). When these two motions are combined
the motion of the gyroscope is substantially that depicted in
FIG. 13, which shows the sequential positions of the gyroscope
for one half turn of the bar (63). It will be seen that the
gyroscope moves from one end of the shaft (61) to the opposite
end of the shaft (61) in the same period as the shaft is
rotated by 180.degree.. The way the gyroscope is depicted in
FIG. 12 corresponds approximately to position (H) in FIG. 13.
Before bar (63) completes a whole turn the gyroscope has to
make a second complete path about its locus but during the
second turn the direction of spin of the gyroscope is opposite
to the direction in which it was spinning on the previous
turn. The direction of torque demanded by, or that must be
applied to, the gyroscope has therefore to be reversed each
time the gyroscope passes position (E) in FIG. 13.
From FIG. 13 it will be seen that the motion of the gyroscope
is essentially in two parts; first when it is undergoing
substantially precessional motion between positions (H) and
(B2) corresponding to position (B) but on the second
revolution around the axis `BB` and second when it is
undergoing substantially linear translation between positions
(D) and (F). In both revolutions the direction of linear
translation is in the same direction and will tend to impart a
linear cycle of momentum to the vehicle while the motion
between positions (H) and (B2), being substantially
precessional, develops significantly less momentum.
Combined in the manner described it is possible to provide a
cyclic pulse of momentum in the opposite direction to the
linear direction of translation of the gyroscope, and provide
a smoother propulsion than is provided by an apparatus such as
the first embodiment, in which the motion of the gyroscope may
be divided into a purely precessional part and a purely
Just as in an electric circuit, a voltage applied across a
resistor causes a current to flow in that resistor, so equally
a current of that value being passed through that same
resistor will cause a voltage to appear across it, so a torque
may be seen as the cause of a precession or conversely that
precession may be seen as the cause of a torque. This is of
especial significance with respect to the third embodiment of
Generally, the operation of the gyroscope unit of the third
embodiment will now be explained with reference to FIG. 15. In
that Figure, a gyroscope (M) is precessed around a horizontal
circle, the torque on the gyroscope being provided along a
radius of that circle, and the axis of spin of the gyroscope
at all times being tangential to that circle, the wheel
subsequently being returned along a path which lies in the
plane of the wheel.
The operation of the third embodiment of the present
invention can be understood by considering the arrangement of
FIG. 15 in a situation of zero gravity and ignoring, for the
present, the fact that any torque in one direction is only
produced as the result of an equal torque in the opposite
direction. In operation, the torque motor twists the shaft (R)
which causes the wheel (M) to precess from A to B in a
horizontal plane. This is a precessional stroke. At B the
torque is removed and a second return motor, incorporated as
part of the pivot (O), drives the shaft (R) in a downward
semicircle, between the supporting plates (G, G'), back to A.
This is a reaction stroke. If, instead of being precessed from
A to B by an applied torque, the wheel were forced round the
same path, the torque motor being removed so that the solid
shaft were not interrupted, then the wheel would help itself
to the amount of torque required to maintain that rate of
precession, from the bearings at the pivot (O).
The gyroscope unit of the third embodiment of the present
invention is shown in FIG. 16. The unit has a horizontal base
plate which rotatably supports a horizontal turntable which is
free to rotate about a vertical axis through its centre. A
motor is provided to rotate the turntable relative to the
base. A pair of parallel-spaced substantially triangular
plates extend vertically upwardly from the turntable. A
horizontal lower bevelled gear is disposed directly above the
centre of the turntable and is carried in between the two
upwardly extending plates. The lower bevelled gear is fixed
against rotation relative to the base plate. An upper vertical
bevelled gear is pivotally mounted between the uppermost ends
of the upwardly extending plate. The upper bevelled gear and
lower bevelled gear are of equal size and are arranged to mesh
with one another. A pendulum shaft is carried in plane
parallel to the two upwardly extending plates by the upper
bevelled gear. The free end of the pendulum shaft is provided
with a fork which is arranged to rotatably support the
The bevel gears of the third embodiment enable the precession
and reaction strokes to be geared together, such that, for
rotation of the support plates (G, G') fixed to turntable (J)
with respect to the baseplate (H), the shaft (R) carrying the
wheel is rotated by the same amount, using the bevel gears (at
O) in place of the return motor shown in FIG. 15. Hence, the
gyroscope unit of the third embodiment of the present
invention is driven by a single motor so that for every
180.degree. of precession in the horizontal plane it performs
180.degree. of reactive rotation in the vertical plane.
The resultant motion may now be seen to take place entirely
within the space ABCDEFGH of the theoretical circumscribing
box and, as above in FIG. 16, never enters the other half of
the box at all.
Looking in plan, i.e. downward on plane ABCD, the motion of
the wheel is seen to be as in FIG. 18. In the parts of the
path in the lowermost half of that Figure, precession
dominates and mass transfer is taking place, whereas, in the
parts of the path in the uppermost half non-precession
dominates and a reaction force is developed.
FIG. 19 shows the elevation as viewed into plane ABFE for a
full 360.degree. of rotation the turntable. The torque
demanded at the centre point is seen to alternate between one
half rotation and the next.
FIG. 20 shows the elevation as viewed into plane ADHE. In
addition to the alternating torque required, there are seen to
be alternating reaction forces parallel to AE and BF which do
not therefore contribute to propulsion of the vehicle.
These forces along with the torque which has to be provided
by the base (H) may be cancelled out by additional similar
arrangements in mirror image.
On the other hand, FIG. 19 shows that the forces parallel to
AB and EF do not cancel but instead combine to drive the base
in one direction. The cancellation on one axis and
supplementation on another at right angles to it is a
fundamental property of three dimensional space and is also
exemplified by the use of the left and right hand rules of
In order to cancel the actual torque developed in driving the
wheel on the turntable (J) round the baseplate (H) an
identical turntable may be mounted alongside on the same
baseplate with the second wheel occupying the space DCJIHGKL
(allowing such additional space as might be required for
clearance). The two wheels spin in the same direction when
adjacent but are driven in mirror image paths by equal and
opposite torques from the same motor resulting in no net
torque on the vehicle.
Similarly this pair of wheels develop a net torque in the
plane DCGH against the baseplate which may be cancelled by
another pair of identical wheels mounted immediately beneath
the first pair, again as a mirror image of them. The four
wheels may then be driven by a single motor so mounted that it
is free to rotate on baseplate (H) and all its power is
absorbed by the losses in one pair of wheels being exactly
equal to the losses in the second pair while the sum of these
losses is supplied by the motor(s) typically though not
exclusively when the gyroscope units illustrated in FIG. 16
are arranged together as in FIG. 17.
In the fourth embodiment of the invention FIG. 21 shows a
frame F on which is mounted a turntable T capable of being
rotated with respect to F by a motor M. A motorised gyroscopic
means G, which may be similar to that described in relation to
FIG. 10 below, is rigidly mounted in a carrier B. This carrier
is located by flanged wheels S in turntable T so hat it is
free to rotate about an axis E normal to the plane of the
turntable but will be carried round by the turntable. The axis
E is substantially at right angles to the axis of rotation of
the gyroscopic means G. An actuator A is fitted in such a
manner as to be able to operate a clamp C and prevent the free
rotation of the gyroscopic means and its carrier with respect
to the turntable.
In operation, the gyroscopic means is first supplied with
power and allowed to reach its designed operating rotational
speed. The motor M is energised causing the turntable to
rotate. At .PI. the actuator is activated clamping the frame B
to the turntable and causing the gyroscopic means thereby to
be forcibly precessed through an arc of 180.degree.. At 2.PI.
the actuator is released so that the frame B is free to rotate
while the turntable continues turning a further 180.degree.
back to .PI. without stopping. The actuator is again energised
and the cycle repeated.
During the first half of the cycle just described the force
acting upon the gyroscopic means to maintain it in the
prescribed arc is less than that calculated were the gyroscope
means a simple non rotating object of the same mass. During
the second half of the cycle the full calculated force is
required. Thus the relative movement of the effective centre
of mass of the whole apparatus with respect to the frame F
takes place with a fraction of the reaction upon the frame
during the first half cycle F compared to the reaction upon
the frame during the second half cycle, resulting in an
overall transfer of mass in direction P.
In practice the torque developed by the gyroscopic means on
the carrier B has to be provided by an identical inverted
turntable complete with an identical counter rotating
gyroscopic means, carrier, actuator and clamp, both turntables
driven by the same motor. The net torque required to maintain
rotation of the turntables as just described and the angular
momentum developed when the carrier(s) B are clamped is
supplied from an identical mirror image pair of turntables
such as the arrangement illustrated in FIG. 22. Such an
apparatus as illustrated in FIGS. 21 and 22 or those described
in the following FIGS. 23 to 28 inclusive are not necessarily
limited to one gyroscopic means per turntable and a number of
such gyroscopic means might be attached symmetrically to each
turntable provided that the arrangement is repeated for
reflecting and balancing turntables.
For clarity, each gyroscopic means thus far described has
been considered to consist of a simple, single, motorised
bearing with a massive outer rim. However, if the mass of the
rotating part of each gyroscopic means is concentrated in a
`thin` rim, to the extend indeed that the entire centre of the
gyroscopic means were absent, the theoretical gyroscopic
effectiveness of such mass would be increased. If an identical
rim, revolving in the opposite direction, be mounted alongside
the first rim, the torque required to cause one rim to precess
would always balance that required by the second rim.
Furthermore the forces required to develop this torque are
provided at either end of a diameter where they are needed and
not through the shafts, hubs and webs, thereby concentrating
the highly stressed sections to two compact zones with reduced
risk and lower weight penalty.
FIG. 23 is a simple perspective sketch of such an arrangement
where G and G' are the two rim-only gyroscopic means, M is a
common motor driving both rims and mounted within the
enveloping carrier B to which are fixed a series of rotating
supports R that locate the rims. The carrier B is here shown
with flanged wheels S to mount this unit into a turntable as
described in the fourth embodiment and illustrated in FIG. 24.
FIGS. 25 and 26 show two arrangements of the fifth and fourth
embodiments so combined as to illustrate that mass transfer
may be derived from the difference in centrifugal force
between rapidly spinning masses being precessed and being
swung round an arc without precession as firstly
a) in FIG. 25 by arranging for the effective mass transfer P
and P' of two identical counter rotating systems to cancel and
combining the effective difference of resultant centrifugal
forces C and C' or as secondly b) in FIG. 26 by summing the
effective mass transfer P and P' and arranging for the
effective centrifugal forces C and C' to cancel.
FIGS. 27 and 28 show the fifth embodiment combined with the
fourth embodiment turned through 90.degree.0 at the start of
the cycle to indicate that the claim to mass transfer does not
rely in particular to the relative angle the fifth embodiment
may have with respect to the fourth embodiment at the
commencement of a cycle provided that an arc of precession of
approximately 180.degree. is followed by a further arc of
180.degree. without precession whereby the transfer of the
mass of the gyroscopic means is transmitted to the vehicle.
In other words, the purpose of FIGS. 27 and 28 is to clarify
the claim that mass transfer is achieved is not limited to any
one initial attitude of the fifth embodiment with respect to
the fourth embodiment but may apply to any attitude provided
that the axis E is substantially normal to the plane of mass
transfer and, by definition, is substantially parallel to the
axis of precession.
Notwithstanding the use of `single gyroscopic means` being
described in each of the preceding three other embodiments of
the invention, the `twin gyroscopic means` of the fourth
embodiment may be substituted for the appropriate pairs of
single gyroscopic means in each of the former embodiments.
It will be seen how the present invention provides a
propulsion system which does not necessitate the carriage of
volatile fuel and which need not accelerate the vehicle in a
conventional sense since it ceases to move the vehicle when it
is inactive. Furthermore, it will be seen how the propulsion
system may be powered by a renewable energy source such as
stellar radiation or may be powered by a deliberately focused
distant energy source such as a microwave power beam.
"Laithwaite’s Amazing Invention"
(Unidentified magazine, Jan. 2, 1975)
Professor Eric Laithwaite, of the Imperial College of Science
and Technology, England, has invented an anti-gravity machine!
Such a device has been the tool of science fiction writers and
the dream of thinkers such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, but
until now e everyone had dismissed the idea as an
Now Professor Laithwaite, who is already famous for inventing
the linear induction motor, has demonstrated that his machine
actually works. When switched on it reduces its weight!
If the machine is truly functional it must be but a short
step to building a machine that will reduce its weight so much
that it will simply float away.
The professor insists that he has discovered a principle that
will solve the problems of interstellar flight. “With just a
cupful of uranium we could reach the nearest star", he says.
The professor’s prototype antigravity machine was
demonstrated to the historic Royal Institution recently. He
placed it on a pair of kitchen scales to prove that it does
reduce its weight when in action.
Opinions vary whether or not it did are sharply divided. A
disclaimer appeared in the prestigious New Scientist magazine
soon after. The good professor explained patiently to us that
the writer had no idea of what he had demonstrated and did not
understand the principles involved.
The machine itself consists of a central upright rod which is
spun by means of an electric motor at its base. Towards the
top of the rod two smaller rods connect laterally. On the end
of each is a brass gyroscope.
When these gyroscopes are spun with a blast of compressed air
their movement causes the hinged rods to rise and revolve
around the main spindle. This revolution is aided by the
A curved rail counteracts their tendency to rise and forces
them down again. The reaction to this provides the thrust for
lifting, as the cycle repeats itself again and again.
The professor insists that he has no quarrel with Newtonian
laws of motion, although many claims have been made by less
well-informed commentators that he has. “But I do think
Newton’s laws need modifying", he comments.
Newton, it seems, rather overlooked the problems of
gyroscopes and their tendency to do unexpected things.
Laithwaite contends that Newton’s laws of motion should be
modified to account for gyroscopic precessions.
The secret of his anti-gravity machine lies in the fact that
no energy is required to return the gyroscope arms to their
starting positions --- gyroscopes do that naturally as they
It’s a difficult problem to explain the workings of the
machine. Only time will tell us, the general public, if the
professor has done his homework properly.
The scientist himself intends to demonstrate that he has
indeed found a new kind of "inertial drive". "By 1976", he
says, "I intend to lift a man off the floor of the Royal
Finally it should be known that the professor is no
"crackpot" inventor. He has the following degrees: BSc., MSc.,
PhD., DSc., and has won international honors for his
New Scientist (14 Nov. 1974)
"Eric Laithwaite Defies Newton"
The Professor of Heavy Electrical Engineering at Imperial
College London, Eric Laithwaite, highly successful inventor of
the linear motor, has entered the sacrosanct domain of the
mechanical engineers. And he says "they need me". Last Friday
as the piece de resistance of his evening discourse at the
Royal Institution he demonstrated a machine that, he claimed,
violated gravity and produced lift without any external
The machine is pictured here in action on a kitchen spring
balance, just as he demonstrated it. The machine uses two
precessing tops whose precession (slow motion of the axis of
rotation about a vertical axis under the action of gravity) is
assisted by the motor at the bottom. This makes the tops rise.
The tops are restrained from rising by a track like a big
dipper, and as the tops follow the track the whole machine
jogs up and down. Professor Laithwaite contends that there is
more jog up than jog down.
Laithwaite began his discourse with a series of
entertainments from his work on electromagnetic levitation,
draing applause and laughter from his evening dressed audience
like a good juggler, and throwing in his usual flamboyant
claims. All this was to prove Don Quixote’s phrase "all
things are possible". Then he moved into h=gyros (mmore
Tops are certainly fascinating. They fascinated the
Victorians and the Edwardians after them, and many a Newtonian
treatise has been written about their motion. They are used
with great precision in gyroscopes in ships, submarines,
aeroplanes and rockets, so there must be some understanding of
their motion. But Laithwaite contended that the familiar
precessing top that can be bought in the toyshop, being of a
different design (not supported through its center of
gravity), is not properly described by Newton’s laws of
He drew the curtain covering the blackboard to reveal a
modification of Newton’s second law (in an inertial frame)
that bears the same relation to the usual equation as does the
equation for the voltage on a resistance, capacitance and
inductance to Ohm’s law.
In practical terms he had four main contentions about
gyroscopic precession. First, he believes that the angular
momentum of precession (about a vertical axis) is created out
of nothing, so that angular momentum is not conserved about
that axis in direct contradiction of Newton’s mechanics;
second, he believes the precession is not accompanied by any
centrifugal force (the force you feel if you swing a bucket
around in the garden); third, he contended that it
requires no force to stop the precession; and fourth that if
the precession is speeded up, the tops (which certainly rise)
do so without there being any consequent downward reaction.
It is my opinion that none of these contentions was proved by
the experiments Laithwaite performed at the Royal Institution
during his discourse. Perhaps he will be able to do more
precise experiments which will bear him out, but until he does
so his case remains at least unproven. To take just one
example --- and the most spectacular --- his anti-gravity
machine weighed to within half a pound of the upper limit of
the scales (where there was a mechanical stop). So even if the
reaction on the scales was reduced during one part of the
machine’s cycle (and it indeed went down 5 pounds out of its
total 20), the reaction would not have shown on the scales if
it had gone above 20 pounds on the least of the cycle. The
needle in fact swung violently between its upper limit and 15
You have probably got the impression by now that I am
skeptical of Eric Laithwaite’s views on the gyro. You would be
right. I believe he has got it wrong by changing fields too
quickly and jumping to conclusions --- or else we are all
being taken for a marvelous ride! Yet he said in his discourse
that his "life had led up to this moment", and he appeared to
be extremely serious about his views.
If indeed he is not joking he is beginning to bear a strong
and sad resemblance to one of his heroes, Don Quixote. A giant
(figuratively and physically), he is gentle (he is an expert
on butterflies) and has all Don Quixote’s lovable but arrogant
naivity. This time he has tilted at windmills.
Newton's Point of View
Newton, though long dead, can still give us his views through
his equations of motion. The first point he might make about
Laithwaite’s experiments is that they involved "fast" tops.
These are tops that have far more kinetic energy in the
gravitational field (weight times distance the center of
gravity of the top can move). Such tops have a deceptively
simple motion that can confuse generalization to slow tops.
One example of this is the question of the "creation" of
angular momentum about a vertical axis when the top begins to
precess. In fact the top, when released from a stationary
horizontal position, falls vertically until has a component of
its own high internal angular momentum along the vertical ---
just enough to compensate for the angular moentum of
precession. This fall (which indetail is a damped out
nutation) is hardly noticeable in a fast top but is obvious in
a slow one. Hence the creation of the angular momentum of
A similar remark applies to the centrifugal force of
precession; if a top is fast the centrifugal force is only a
small fraction of the weight of the top, so it is hardly
noticeable. For a slow top the force becomes more important as
the precession speeds up, and this is one of the contributions
to the falling over of a toy top on its support as it slows
Next, according to our old friend Newton, a force is
certainly needed to stop a precessing top, albeit a small one.
The exact motion of the top after it has been stopped depends
on the details of its previous motion. So in both the case of
the centrifugal force and stopping the precession there is a
simple test by which Newton’s and Laithwaite’s contentions can
Finally there is the question of the reactionless rise of an
assisted, precessing top. Laithwaite agrees that the exact
amount of energy needed to lift the top must be introduced by
twisting its vertical support, so there is no gaining
something for nothing on that score. Newton would argue that
no vertical reaction was necessary anyway once the top started
upwards (just as no extra reaction is necessary on a crane
when it is steadily lifting its load). And to test the
contention that the machine gets lighter, Newton would ask
Laithwaite to measure the impulse (force times time of
action), not the force itself. Such sophistication is beyond a
set of kitchen scales.
Laithwaite, Eric R.: "The Bigger They Are, The Harder They
Fall"; Electrical Review 196 # 6 (14 Feb., 1975), pp.188-189
Laitwaite, E.: "1975 --- A Space Odyssey"; Electrical Review
196 # 12/13 (29 March/4 April 1975), pp. 398-400
"The Continuing Story of Gyroscope Magic"; Electrical Review
197, pp. 675-676
"Roll Isaac, Roll" (Pt. 1) Electrical Review, 204 # 7 (16
Feb. 1979), pp. 38-39, 41; ibid., (Pt. 2), Vol. 204 # 11 (16
March 1979), pp. 31-33
"Propulsion by Gyro"; Space, Vol. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 1989), pp.
Bova, Ben: "None So Blind"; Analog (June 1975), pp. 5-6, 8,
Coates, R.: "Professor Laithwaite & Gyroscopes";
Electrical Review 196 (1975): 506-507
"I Will Not Roll Yet, Isaac Newton"; Electrical Review 205 #
15 (19 Oct. 1979), pp. 43-44
Walgate, Robert: "Eric Laithwaite Defies Newton"; New
Scientist (14 Nov., 1974), p. 470; ibid., (28 Nov.,
1974), p. 679; ibid.,
(19 Dec., 1974), p. 895; ibid., 9 Jan., 1975), p. 97; ibid.,
(6 Feb., 1975), p. 341; ibid., (13 Feb 1975), p. 407; ibid.,
(13 Mar., 1975), p. 669.