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Antigravity Machines and Other Delusions

Updated on February 3, 2019
Rupert Taylor profile image

I've spent half a century (yikes) writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.

British inventor John Searl has been called a genius; he’s also been called a scoundrel. His Searl Effect Generator is described by one of his followers, John A. Thomas Jr., as “a magnetic device that is totally magnetic … It will self-start and continue to run and, as far as we know … never stop.” If that’s the case, John Searl has cracked one of the immutable laws of physics and built a perpetual motion machine. But, his followers claim there’s dirty work afoot among conspirators trying to shut down the work of a visionary.


How the Device Works

The Searl Effect Generator (SEG) is a complex system of magnetic attraction and repulsion. It’s described on Searl’s several websites and consists of three concentric rings each made of a composite of four different materials. The three rings are fixed to a base.

Surrounding each of the rings, and free to rotate around them, are rollers - typically 10 on the first ring, 25 on the next, and 35 on the outer ring. Surrounding the rollers on the outer ring are coils that are connected in various configurations to supply either AC or DC current at a variety of voltages.

Under certain conditions, the SEG is said, by its inventor, to have flight capabilities.

John Searl
John Searl | Source

The Searl Effect Explained

At low speeds, Mr. Searl claims that the SEG produces electrical power by absorbing it from the surrounding environment and transmitting it through the roller and ring arrangement to collectors.

When the speed increases past a certain point, the claim is that the apparatus becomes a superconductor that creates an enormous antigravity effect. This antigravity effect is supposed to be what made Mr. Searl’s machine appear to hover.

In a talk illustrated with very fuzzy still photographs Searl claims to show a test flight of his invention that was carried out in 1968 at the request of the BBC. However, a search of the BBC archives turns up no reference to the event.

Fuzzy images that prove nothing

The inventor said the SEG could do more than hover. According to a March 5, 1978 report in The London Sunday Times, “It is provisionally scheduled to fly from Reading [England] to Auckland [New Zealand] later this year – in 30 minutes. To save agonizing mental arithmetic, this home-made UFO would have to travel at 23,000 mph or about 19 times the speed of Concorde.”

If that extraordinary feat of aeronautics ever took place it seems to have completely escaped the attention of the world’s media.

Loved in Russia?

There is a video on YouTube that is so bizarrely awful as to suggest it might be some university students having a bit of fun. The video, with patriotic Russian music in the background, claims the famous Dr. Ionies (who eludes detection via a Google search) improved the SEG.

The Science Is Questioned

Gunnar Sandberg is with the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences at the University of Sussex in England. He said in a report that the hovering was more likely achieved by hanging the SEG from a wire so it could be photographed as appearing to be suspended in space. Sandberg said he got this information from one of Searl’s sons.

In April 1991, a Danish engineer, Anders Heerfordt, also questioned Searl’s technology. He said he asked Searl to demonstrate his SEG device or to put him in touch with people who had witnessed a hovering flight. Heerfordt drew a blank on both requests.

Searl went ballistic and posted a rebuttal to Anders Heerfordt’s conclusions on his website. It is almost incoherent and mostly engages in character assassination aimed at those who question the inventor’s brilliance.

Mr. Thinktank in New Zealand has a lot of fun with his antigravity gizmos.
Mr. Thinktank in New Zealand has a lot of fun with his antigravity gizmos. | Source

Deluded or a Genius?

Searl has many passionate followers and many unconvinced critics. His prototypes worked fine says John Searl, but somehow they have gone missing.

Then, there was an unfortunate house fire and the notes and drawings went up in smoke. Heerfordt says he was able to discover no evidence of a fire.

John Searl calls himself “Professor” but has never produced evidence of a doctorate in any discipline from any seat of learning. Nor is he able to identify the institutions at which he taught.

He’s also been in a spot of bother with the law. On November 26, 1982, The Times reported that John Searl entered a guilty plea to charges he tried to topple some electricity pylons using a chainsaw and hacksaw. Searl was angry at the electricity utility because he was being charged with stealing power by bypassing his house meter.

Searl Effect Generator.
Searl Effect Generator. | Source

No Commercial Development

Whether or not Searl actually believes in his invention only he knows. He is certainly passionate about it, running many websites extolling its virtues. He’s also trying to drum up donations so he can continue his research.

Now in his 80s, John Searl has spent almost his entire life devoted to his Searl Effect Generator with no discernible result. The obvious question is why has Searl’s apparently miraculous free energy contraption never been produced and put on the market. Obviously, if it works as claimed, a manufacturer would score a financial bonanza.

There are two possible answers. The first is that it doesn’t work. The second, and a favourite of some Searl enthusiasts, is that evil energy companies have snuffed it out to protect their swollen profits.

Bonus Factoids

In 1917, the magnificently named Garabed T.K. Giragossian claimed to have a built a free energy machine. A New York Times report of July 1919 said the inventor’s device “would take power out of the air to run anything from a plane to a battleship …” A few days earlier a committee of scientists working on behalf of the U.S. government examined the “Garabed” as it was called. Unfortunately, there was no working “Garabed” to poke around in; the creator came armed only with an explanation of the principles upon which it would be built. The committee was not impressed. “We do not believe its principles are sound,” it reported, “that his devices are operative, or that they can result in the practical development or utilization of free energy.” He gained the attention and support of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. But, Mr. Giragossian’s miracle device turned out to be a huge flywheel that was quite ordinary.

Garabed T.K. Giragossian
Garabed T.K. Giragossian | Source

Thomas Townsend Brown was still a high school student when he seems to have convinced himself that he had discovered an antigravity effect. That was in 1921, and he spent most of the rest of his life building machines based on his “discovery.” However, “real scientists” pointed out that he hadn’t found a free energy principle although that doesn’t stop his fans from claiming a government conspiracy to hush up his ground-breaking work.

Patrick Moore was an amateur astronomer who was very popular on radio and TV in Britain. On April Fools’ Day in 1976 he revealed on radio that Jupiter and Pluto would combine to create a moment of zero gravity on Earth at 9.47 a.m. He told listeners that if they jumped in the air at the appointed time they would feel a floating sensation. Of course, dozens of people called in to report they had hovered slightly. In early January 2015, social media erupted with the news that at 9.47 PST on January 4, the Earth would experience Zero Gravity Day. Seemingly authoritative websites picked up the story and referenced Patrick Moore’s comments without realizing they were intended as a joke.


  • “Garabed T. K. Giragossian Free Energy Fraud.”, undated.
  • The Searl Solution.
  • “Condemn Garabed Free Energy Engine.” New York Times, July 2, 1918.
  • “Zero Gravity Day on Sunday: This Hoax Holds No Weight.” Joe Rao,, January 2, 2015.

© 2016 Rupert Taylor


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      4 years ago

      I often wonder if there is simply a limitation to everything. Then there is the fact that even if you can build it will it have any practical purpose. To travel from one star system to another is one of those questions. We could probably build something today and hundreds of years from now they get there. The cost would be here and we would have no cost benefit once they went somewhere else. Now we would hope that someday we meet or exceed the speed of light but what if we can`t? I think we have to stay simple and improve the things we have until a discovery in the process occurs. Even todays modern dams could be modernized so when people claim outrageous ideas I am more curious to know how they got the idea in the first place.


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