Monday, February 22, 2010

Projects Zenith, Winterhaven, Xerxes

Toward the end of his life, Townsend's stationery carried the Project Xerxes reference.  However, we have no knowledge (yet) of the purpose or scope of this project. Of those listed in the title of this blog, the 1952 Project Winterhaven proposal is the best known. It is often cited as evidence of the "antigravity" research that was carried out in the fifties..

I have recently come across a carbon for an undated proposal for a Project Zenith that appears to be a Winterhaven predecessor, or possibly, a Winterhaven offshoot, though I can't yet determine a specific year. It is likely that it was written after 1953, as that was the year Townsend spent time in Cleveland. a The phone number is given as "Metropolitan 8-6070." which makes me want to break out into a 1940's boogie-woogie for some reason.  (I need a reverse look-up phone book for 1954-1960, please, Google.)

The proposal kicks off with this information: .

Quite recently, careful studies of the detailed records of the Brush experiments on Gravitation have been completed. The unpublished notes and letters, uncovered last year, in the old files of the Brush estate in Cleveland have been examined. There seems to be no doubt that Dr. Brush's findings, if confirmed, are of tremendous importance and may easily provide the answer to an urgent and unsolved problem in the control of guided missiles.

I believe that what he summarized as the "Brush Concept" became an operating principle for his future gravitational research:

The ratio of mass to weight is not the same for all kinds of matter, as has been supposed, and that the mass-weight ratio is not constant even in the same kinds of matter.

What I find most ingenious about this proposal, is that he could envision how that knowledge could be applied to developing a "stable vertical" for missile guidance systems, a sort of high tech gyroscope that would orient itself to the vector of gravity, while resisting acceleration and centrifugal forces.  I also liked his proposal approach, which boiled down to "Instead of spending lots of time and money to replicate the Brush experiments and verify his results, let's just spend $2,500 to test them out in a real world application"  A pragmatic genius is a rare commodity.

1 comment:

Nate Cull said...

Ooh! Shiny!

This is very interesting.

TTB's ideas about 'gravitational isotopes' are one of his weirder theories which seems to have absolutely no pedigree from the usual mainstream physics sources (and even to have been decisively invalidated). I'd traced this idea back as far as Brush, but Brush doesn't have a lot of scientific standing despite publishing his essay series in the Proceedings of the Royal Society (wasn't it?)

As I've said before, varying gravitational vs inertial mass, on the face of it, would seem to completely invalidate Einstein's fundamental premise of General Relativity (the Equivalence Principle), so it's the sort of claim that should be considered extraordinary and requiring extraordinary evidence. Brush's essay series, while suggestive, don't seem to be extraordinary.

But the idea that TTB got hold of unpublished Brush papers which may have contained more convincing evidence of an i-mass/g-mass disparity (to him at least) is new to me, and therefore intriguing.

This 'stable vertical' business of course surfaces again in TTB's lab journals (the ones publically viewable on the Qualight site), where he writes about using this property of gravitational isotopes to build a 'true gravity gradient' detector (my words not his - I forget his term for it) which could be differentiated from acceleration. I'm sure this claim exists in the Winterhaven papers too.

This all makes a lot of sense in the background of early rocketry, before they'd sorted the inertial guidance problem (and built miniaturised digital computers like the Minuteman one). Figuring out which way a rocket was pointing relative to Earth's g-field while it was thrusting would have been a hard problem, I guess. Brown's outrageous theories would have stood a good chance of being useful, even critical. Assuming some of those magic gravitational isotopes could have been located and refined (though I'm not convinced, reading his journals and patents for beneficiation, that he ever actually succeeded in doing this; but he obviously did think that certain types of beach/river sand or clay were such isotopes, and possibly even moon dust - that it would be self-sorted by the lofting action of air, so the lighter isotopes would rise to the surface).

Neat SF story idea: what if TTB's theory about moondust was correct? If so, there's a good McGuffin to go back to the moon: mine gravitational isotopes. Probably worth more than Helium-3. However, this is something we could confirm or invalidate given the Apollo moon dust samples; since I'd be very surprised if any lab has published findings supporting anomalous weight of moondust, it seems likely that TTB's theory is not correct unless there's a huge conspiracy to suppress those results. But well, it could be something tangible to look into.

On the other hand, wearing the tinfoil hat, did TTB's magic gyroscope get built? If so, what rocket series might it have been used in, and are there any classifications still remaining on those designs which could hide such a thing? Early ones, I'd guess. If it did exist, would it maybe have been replaced by a less exotic system that was cheaper?