Levitating Quartz in a High-Frequency Dielectric Field

The Kowsky-Frost experiment was an antigravity experiment performed in 1927 by two Polish scientists credited as "Dr. Kowsky and Engineer Frost." The scientists subjected a cube of quartz to high-power, high-frequency radio waves, causing it to expand to 8000 times its original size and levitate, carrying a 55-pound weight. This article will delve into the initial publication of the discovery, the attempted cover-up, and how the experiment might have been performed.

A description of the Kowsky-Frost experiment was first published in the German journal Radio Umschau (Radio Review) in 1927. I could not confirm the exact date on which it was published. I only found two pages of the original article, although it clearly continues onto another page. Here is a translation of the available pages:

English Translation of Ueberwindung der Scherkraft?
Overcoming gravity?

A new success in quartz crystal research

Anonymous Author

As soon as the following details became known, we intended to tell our readers more about the experiments that had apparently been carried out with good success. - But in order to be precisely oriented, Dr. Lertes first visited the laboratories at the invitation of the inventors, and we are now in a position to publish three very interesting photographic images of experiments at the same time. Since the technical means for the experiments themselves are not too expensive, many hobbyists and amateurs were allowed to undertake experiments themselves; we are happy to convey further requests to the inventors.

The Editorial Team

While a short time ago the radio amateurs' involvement with short waves was denied any justification, particularly from the radio engineering side, and the possibility of significant improvements and valuable innovations in this way was denied, the involvement of two young researchers with ultra-short waves has now resulted in a discovery, whose significance from a scientific and technical point of view cannot yet be remotely overlooked. This would have refuted the experts' assertion that no demand for science and technology could be expected from the activities of amateurs.

The discovery was announced about 6 weeks ago in the newly established central laboratory of the Nessartsaddin works in Darredein (Poland) by Dr. Kowsky and Engineer Frost.

During experiments on keeping very short waves constant using quartz resonators, the piece of quartz used suddenly showed a significantly different appearance; It was not difficult to see that milky cloudiness appeared inside the experimental crystal, especially when the temperature in the laboratory test room was not above 10°C [50°F] and this was kept constant throughout the entire experiment increased to the point of complete opacity. If you look for the investigations by Dr Meissner (Telefunken Co.), according to which quartz crystals treated with high frequency produce clear air currents, which even led to the construction of a small motor based on this principle (see RU 1926, issue 39), further strange phenomena can be expected on such crystals were, this phenomenon was initially completely inexplicable. Weeks of eager experimentation finally gave the explanation, and further experiments then showed the unimagined technical application possibilities of the discovery.

To explain this, a few things must be said in advance. As is already partly known, quartz and some other crystals of similar atomic structure have the property of expanding in certain directions relative to the optical axis when voltages are applied. to contract and thus, if one uses rapidly changing voltages, to convert the electrical vibrations into mechanical vibrations of the crystal. Although these oscillations were extremely small, they had already found their technical application in quartz crystal wave meters and in keeping the wavelength of transmitters constant. A special arrangement of the excitation of the crystals in different directions ensures that the crystal now expands and no longer contracts. Apparently a detachment of electrons from the molecular structure has been achieved, which, initially irreversible, changes the entire crystal structure so that a return to the previous state is prevented.

The expansion explained the opacity, but at the same time a change in the specific gravity must have occurred. An experiment on the balance showed that immediately after the voltage of the very short waves was applied, the side of the balance on which the crystal with the electrical arrangement lay increased. This experiment is shown in Fig. 3. The further path of the investigation was thus mapped out. An attempt had to be made to see how far the reduction in the specific gravity could be pushed. By using larger energies (most recently it was several kilowatts) and longer exposure, it was finally possible to create an opaque white body about 10 cm long from a small crystal with a side length of 5:2:1.5 mm (Fig. 2), which is so light was that he finally pulled the entire apparatus up with him and even kept a 25 kg weight floating freely in the air. A precise measurement and calculation, which could be carried out thanks to the good equipment and the rich resources of the laboratory in Darrdein, showed that this...

That's where the available portion of the original article cuts off, so I don't know whether any more detailed description of the experimental setup was given.

In September of 1927, Science and Invention magazine made the Kowsky-Frost experiment their cover story. Click here for the full issue. Here is the cover art and the article:


The Cover-Up

In the next issue, published in October, Science and Invention issued a bizarre retraction, alleging that the Kowsky-Frost experiment had been a hoax all along. In fact, the editors claimed that they had written "Gravity Nullified," their September cover story, as an April fool's joke!


Click here for the full October issue with the retraction.

The editors point out that at the bottom of the original article they wrote, "Don't Fail to See Our Next Issue Regarding This Marvelous Invention." While it's true that this was written at the bottom of the article, the editors' suggestion that this should have "aroused suspicion" is a reach. It appears more likely that they initially intended to publish more information about the experiment.

They go on to assert that "wiser [readers], if they inspected the main photograph carefully, no doubt at once saw the hoax... If you look closely at the main illustration, which we reproduce herewith, you will observe that the article labeled "1" is nothing more nor less than a microphone with a resistance. "2" is a pair of head receivers, and "3" is an old time German telephone transmitter with a mouthpiece which, in this case, serves the practical jokester as a handle."

While it's plausible that the box with the circular know protruding is in fact a microphone, the horizontal cylinder referred to as a "resistance" looks like a radio tuning coil. It's hard to see the headphones and the telephone transmitter in the picture, but it's plausible that these items are what the editors claim, although the assertion that the telephone transmitter serves as a handle for the prankster makes no sense.

In any case, it's unclear how the presence of these items in the photograph exposes the experiment as a comedic prank. None of these items even appear to be part of the experiment.


Finally, the editors claim that "the supporting wires do not even touch the ring on the weight." In the original magazine, the connection between the crystal and the weight looked like the picture on the left. The appearance of the supporting wires not touching the ring on the weight is clearly attributable to the low quality of the photograph, and in the enhanced photograph it is clear that there is a carabiner-like loop that connects the supporting wires to the weight. (Also, if the weight wasn't connected to the crystal, the weight itself would be levitating!)

Finally, the "Gravity Nullified" article described the experiment as having been performed "about six weeks ago." If this is true, given that the Science and Invention article was published in September, this would place the experiment as having been performed in July or August of 1927, well after April. I was unable to confirm whether the original Radio Umschau article was published in April. I was also unable to confirm whether Radio Umschau issued a similar retraction claiming the experiment to be a practical joke.

None of this makes it remotely believable that the Kowsky-Frost experiment was intended as an April fool's joke. Both the original Radio Umschau article and the Science and Invention article were obviously written in earnest. Almost a hundred years later, it's impossible to know exactly what happened, but it seems likely that some entity pressured the Science and Invention editors to claim that the experiment was a hoax.

Experimental Setup

Unfortunately, neither the Radio Umschau article nor the Science and Invention article provide a description of exactly how the quartz was levitated. The best clues as to how the crystal was levitated come from the illustrations of the experimental setup. The Science and Invention article include four different depictions of the experimental setup: the illustration on the cover, two photographs, and one schematic diagram.


In each depiction of the experimental setup we see:

Electrodes are directly attached to the top and bottom of the quartz cube.

A pair of conductive plates is placed to the left and right of the quartz cube.

Remarkably, neither article explained the purpose of these two components of the setup. The only description given is that the setup created "a special excitation of the crystal in various directions." Therefore, we'll have to make an educated guess as to the purpose of the electrodes and the plates based on our understanding of electricity and 1920s technology.

Crystal Oscillators

The Pierce oscillator was invented by Harvard professor William Pierce in 1923, four years before the Kowsky-Frost experiment was performed. This oscillator employs a quartz crystal to stabilize its frequency, and it is widely used to this day in radios and digital devices.

Here is a schematic diagram of the Pierce oscillator:

Does this look familiar? It is reasonable to guess that the electrodes on the top and bottom of Kowsky and Frost's quartz cube were part of a Pierce oscillator. The resonant frequency of a quartz crystal is determined by its dimensions, and a Pierce oscillator would establish an electrical oscillation at precisely the resonant frequency of the crystal.

The conductive plates placed next to the cube are reminiscent of the alternating electrostatic field setup Nikola Tesla used for wireless lighting in his 1891 lecture:

Therefore, my hypothesis for how the Kowsky-Frost experiment was performed is as follows:

1. A Pierce oscillator was used to generate an electrical oscillation at precisely the resonant frequency of the crystal via the electrodes connected to the crystal.

This hypothesis implies that the antigravity effect is due to the high-power alternating dielectric field between the conductive plates; the electrodes are merely for establishing an oscillation of the correct frequency. It would be of interest to test whether the electrodes could be removed after determining the resonant frequency of the crystal, replacing the input signal of the amplifier with a signal generator tuned to the same frequency.

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