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Antigravity and Vice Presidents: Part II of the Holiday Serial

When we left Dr. Witten in part I, he had just declared that anti-gravity had died in 1963. In a roundabout way, he was referring to the same event in 1963 that everyone else had mentioned, the first discovery of a quasar,which had provided a practical application for the tools of general relativity.  But Dr. Witten had used the A word, he didn’t have to, but he had.  My mind wondered back to what I’d been reading in “The Hunt for Zero Point” the night before.  Nick Cook’s story begins when an unidentified person leaves him a copy of Michael Gladych’s article from a 1956 issue of “American Modeler” titled “The G-Engines are Coming”.

 In the article, Gladych states that several United States aircraft manufacturers were working on solving the antigravity problem.  Among the industry leaders he quoted was George Trimble, “Vice President in charge of the G-Project” at Glenn L. Martin Aircraft company.  Gladych quoted Trimble as saying that antigravity, “could be done in about the time it took to build the first atom bomb.”

Cook continued to research Trimble and found that he was alive and well and living in Arizona.  In addition to Trimble being the Vice President in charge of the G-Project, Cook also revealed that he’d been instrumental in the creation and operation of the Martin subsidiary, the Research Institute for Advanced Study, which also happened to be Dr. Witten’s employer in 1963. Cook, who was an investigative journalist for “Jane ‘s Defence Weekly”, requested an interview with the then retired Trimble through his PR contacts within the parent company of Martin Aircraft.  Before too long his request was first tentatively accepted and then rather dramatically denied, leading Cook to comment in his book, that perhaps if only Trimble had accepted the interview he could have saved Cook the effort of his subsequent investigation by simply answering his questions about a project that had eventually faded away.

Dr. Witten continued to reminisce and spun a story that, while no names were mentioned, just might answer all the questions.

“…so he said to himself, “those poor bastards, I’ll show them”.  He was Vice President…”

He said vice president!  Fuck!  Witten just said vice president!  I scrambled for a recorder and continued to listen…

“…He was Vice President of a new company with a lot of money behind them and they made a lot of money in those days and the overhead rate was perhaps 150 to 200 percent of and for a contract which was cost plus, they were allowed to use 10 percent of the cost of the contract to do research.  So he had the bright idea he was going to start a fundamental research laboratory in which anti-gravity would be discovered.  I was a new employee, but a PhD in physics and I was assigned to the new laboratory to discover anti-gravity and I was told that’s my assignment….”

“…And so I learned relativity eventually I think I got there.  However, on the way there were some strange incidents.  I had to give a couple of lectures at the Astronautical Society.  The American Astronautical Society was just founded because Astronauts were beginning to go up in space and they asked me to give a talk on antigravity.  So I gave a talk to an audience that was assembled about the size of this room but there was standing room left after the audience came in and I told a little bit about space contraction and time dilation and that had to do with the metric and I was interested in curved space and so on and so forth.  And then during the question period they said, “What are you doing about antigravity?” and I said, “Well, I’m not against gravity.”  And I told them that there was no serious scientist in the world studying something that he would call antigravity.  During the time after my talk several people came to me and said, “You had a big audience today.  If you come next year, you won’t have 25 people.”  And I said to myself, “That was my aim.”  The same thing happened in Seattle, I won’t go through those things, but the same thing happened in Seattle.  But you’d be amazed at the number of people that know science who know that the mistakes that you’ve made and the mistakes Einstein made and they got it right.  I would get a person like that at least once a week for several weeks…”

“Well, there were lots of incidents of that type, but the power of a vice president of a big company was so great that’s the reason I will answer Josh’s question….”

The question Dr. Witten referred to was from Dr. Joshua Goldberg who was also at the roundtable.  He had mentioned that he wasn’t sure why the Air Force at Wright Patterson was so enthusiastic about helping out with pure general relativity research.

Dr. Witten continued, “…The reason there was a laboratory at Wright field was to find out what we were doing and to help us do it and I got  contract from Wright field to do gravity which I did.”….

Perhaps Dr. Witten’s story sheds some light on the events behind “The Hunt for Zero Point.”  It would seem the holiday serial would be over at this point, or it might seem that it should look at some of the science that was actually done by Witten, Goldberg, and others, and maybe it will, but not yet.  The next installment will look at another unanswered question from “The Hunt for Zero Point”, who was Michael Gladych, author of the G-Engine article that started all the curiosity?


One Response to “Antigravity and Vice Presidents: Part II of the Holiday Serial”

  1. Blog Review Jan. 13 2014 | System-Level Design Says:

    [...] Carter continues his epic quest and brings us down to earth with gravity [...]

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