Allais effect

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Allais's paraconical pendulum
Photo taken during the French 1999 eclipse

The Allais effect refers to the alleged anomalous behavior of pendulums or gravimeters, which is sometimes purportedly observed during a solar eclipse. The effect was first reported as an anomalous precession of the plane of oscillation of a Foucault pendulum during the solar eclipse of June 30, 1954 by Maurice Allais, a French polymath who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Economics.[1] He reported another observation of the effect during the solar eclipse of October 2, 1959 using the paraconical pendulum he invented.[2][3] This study earned him the 1959 Galabert Prize of the French Astronautical Society and made him a laureate of the US Gravity Research Foundation for his 1959 memoir on gravity.[4]

Experimental observations[edit]

Maurice Allais emphasized the "dynamic character" of the observed effects:[5]

Besides Allais's own experiments, related research about a possible effect of the Moon's shielding, absorption or bending of the Sun's gravitational field have been conducted by various scientists. Some observations gave positive results and some failed to detect any noticeable effect.

Anomalous observations[edit]

Romanian physicist Gheorghe Jeverdan et al. observed the Allais effect and the so-called Jeverdan-Rusu-Antonescu effect or Jeverdan effect, i.e. the change of oscillation period of a pendulum during an eclipse, monitoring a Foucault pendulum during the solar eclipse of February 15, 1961. The authors made two hypotheses regarding their observation: during an eclipse, the Moon exerts a screening effect on the gravitational attraction of the Sun so that the attraction of the Earth is indirectly increased, a phenomenon that could also be studied with tides. If the hypothesis of the screening effect is wrong, another explanation could be that the variation of the gravity of Earth might be considered as a result of the diffraction of gravitational waves.[6][7]

Erwin Saxl and Mildred Allen reported strong anomalous changes in the period of a torsion pendulum during the solar eclipse of March 7, 1970 and concluded that "gravitational theory needs to be modified".[8]

Dr Leonid Savrov of the Sternberg Astronomical Institute built a dedicated paraconical pendulum to test the Allais effect during the solar eclipse of July 11, 1991 in Mexico and the eclipse of November 3, 1994 in Brazil. While he could not observe Allais's claim that there is a diurnal periodicity in the motion of a paraconical pendulum, he however wrote: "The most interesting result of the Mexico and Brazil experiments is the increase of rotational velocity of the pendulum oscillation plane in the direction of the Foucault effect during the eclipse. It seems that we have some kind of special effect."[9][10][11][12]

Various other experiments using atomic clocks and gravimeters instead of pendulums also recorded significant anomalous gravitational effects which can neither be caused by a tidal effect or drift of the gravimeters, nor by high frequency noise which have special patterns. These experiment were set up by different teams during solar eclipses in China, 1992,[13] India, 1995,[14] China, 1997.[15]

Dutch physicist Chris Duif, who surveys the field of gravitational anomalies in general, concludes that the question remains open because Allais observations do not satisfy conventional explanations, and that such investigations should be pursued, in view of their relatively inexpensive nature and the enormous implications if genuine anomalies are actually confirmed, but the article was self-published and has not undergone any peer review.[16]

Result confirming observation of the Allais and Jeverdan-Rusu-Antonescu effects during the annular solar eclipse of September 22, 2006 has been presented the year after by a Romanian team, with a quantization of the behavior of the paraconical pendulum.[17]

During the solar eclipse of August 1, 2008, a Ukrainian team and two Romanian teams worked together hundreds of kilometers apart with different apparatuses: five independent miniature torsion balances for the Ukrainian team, two independent short ball-borne pendulums for a Romanian team and a long Foucault pendulum for the third team. All three teams detected unexplained and mutually correlated disturbances.[18] Same teams repeated a dual experiment during the annular solar eclipse of January 26, 2009, this time outside of the shadow zone, with the same significant correlation between the behavior of light torsion balances and a Foucault pendulum.[19] They also registered similar anomalies using a Foucault pendulum and a very light torsion balance, both located underground in a disused salt mine with minimal interference, during the partial solar eclipse of June 1, 2011.

Inconclusive or negative experiments[edit]

Louis B. Slichter, using a gravimeter during the solar eclipse of February 15, 1961 in Florence, Italy, failed to detect an associated gravitational signal.[20]

During the solar eclipse of July 22, 1990, no anomalous period increase of a torsion pendulum during the eclipse have been detected independently by a team in Finland,[21] and another in Belomorsk, USSR.[22]

The total solar eclipse of August 11, 1999 had been a good opportunity to solve a 45-year mystery, thanks to an international collaboration. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center first inquired about experimental protocols to Maurice Allais,[5] in order to coordinate ahead of the event a worldwide effort to test the Allais effect, between observatories and universities over seven countries (United States, Austria, Germany, Italy, Australia, England and four sites in the United Arab Emirates). The lead supervisor then stated: "The initial interpretation of the record points to three possibilities: a systematic error, a local effect, or the unexplored. To eliminate the first two possibilities, we and several other observers will use different kinds of measuring instruments in a distributed global network of observing stations."[23][24] However, after the eclipse, Allais criticized the experiments in his final NASA report, writing the period of observation was "much too short […] to detect anomalies properly".[5] Moreover, the lead supervisor left NASA shortly thereafter with the gathered data and the NASA study has never been published.[25]

Further observations of the team lead by Xin-She Yang appear to have yielded much weaker evidence of anomalies than their first 1997 study. The authors first posited a more conventional explanation based on temperature changes causing ground tilting, but they suggested that this explanation was unlikely.[26] A possible but yet controversial explanation has been finally proposed by the same author and Tom Van Flandern, who conjecture the anomaly is due to the gravitational effect of an increased air density spot in the upper atmosphere created by cooling winds during the solar eclipse. They conclude there have been "no unambiguous detections [of an Allais effect] within the past 30 years when consciousness of the importance of [experimental] controls was more widespread." They point out that "the gravitation anomaly discussed here is about a factor of 100,000 too small to explain the Allais excess pendulum precession […] during eclipses" and from this conclude that the original Allais anomaly was merely due to poor controls.[27]

Eight gravimeters and two pendulums were deployed across six monitoring sites in China for the solar eclipse of July 22, 2009.[28] Although one of the scientists involved described in an interview to have observed the Allais effect,[29] no result has been published in any academic journal.

An automated Foucault pendulum was used during the solar eclipse of July 11, 2010 in Argentina, with no evidence of a precession change of the pendulum's oscillation plane (< 0.3 degree per hour).[30]

Aether hypothesis[edit]

Maurice Allais states that the eclipse effect is related to a gravitational anomaly, that is inexplicable in the framework of the currently admitted theory of gravitation, without giving any explanation of his own.[31] Allais's explanation for another anomaly (the lunisolar periodicity in variations of the azimuth of a pendulum) is that space evinces certain anisotropic characteristics, which he ascribes to motion through an aether which is partially entrained by planetary bodies.

His hypothesis leads to a speed of light dependent on the moving direction with respect to a terrestrial observer, since the Earth moves within the aether but the rotation of the Moon induces a "wind" of about 8 km/s. Thus Allais rejects Einstein's interpretation of the Michelson–Morley experiment and the subsequent verification experiments of Dayton Miller.[32][33]

In particular, the Michelson–Morley experiment did not give a zero speed difference, but at most 8 km/s, without being able to detect any regularity. This difference was therefore interpreted as due to measurement uncertainties. Similarly, Miller's experiments corroborated these results over a long period of time, but Miller could not explain the source of the irregularities. At the time, temperature problems were invoked to explain the cause, as concluded by Robert S. Shankland.[34] By re-analyzing the data from this experiment, Allais reported a periodicity using sidereal time rather than civil time used by Miller (daytime sidereal variation of the speed of light over a period of 23 hours 56 minutes with an amplitude of about 8 km/s).[35]

Applying Titius–Bode law to the Earth-Moon system, which he generalizes to aether, Allais calculates a "wind" of 7.95 km/s, which is comparable to the values found by the experiments of Michelson and Miller. Hence Allais deduces that the aether turns with the stars as proposed by the aether drag hypothesis, and is not fixed as Lorentz thought when inventing his famous transformation and his ether theory. But the majority of scientists of the end of the nineteenth century imagining that such an aether crossed the Earth through, so that the rotation of the Earth around the Sun would cause an important variation of 30 km/s. Consequently, since the third postulate on which is based special relativity is the constancy of the speed of light in a vacuum, Allais considers it as unfounded. In order to measure a change in the speed of light, one would have to get back to the definition of the 1960 meter, since the confidence in the theory of relativity nowadays is such that current metrology uses constancy of the speed of light as an axiom.

Allais summarized his experimental work in English in his 1999 memoir on behalf of NASA.[5] He detailed his aether hypothesis in the books L'Anisotropie de l'Espace published in 1997,[31] and L'Effondrement de la Théorie de la Relativité published in 2004.[36] A book on Allais's scientific legacy has been edited in English in 2011,[37] yet his aether hypothesis has not gained significant traction amongst mainstream scientists. Nevertheless, after Allais's death in 2010, experiments on the Allais effect carry on.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hecht, Laurence (24 October 2010). "In Appreciation of Maurice Allais (1911-2010) The New Physical Field of Maurice Allais" (PDF). 21st Century Science & Technology. pp. 26–30. 
  2. ^ Allais, M. (September 1959). "Should the Laws of Gravitation Be reconsidered? Part I – Abnormalities in the Motion of a Paraconical Pendulum on an Anisotropic Support" (PDF). Aero/Space Engineering: 46–52. 
  3. ^ Allais, M. (October 1959). "Should the Laws of Gravitation Be reconsidered? Part II – Experiments in Connection with the Abnormalities Noted in the Motion of the Paraconical Pendulum With an Anisotropic Support" (PDF). Aero/Space Engineering: 51–55. 
  4. ^ Allais, Maurice (1959). New theoretical and experimental research work on gravity. Memoir (Report). 
  5. ^ a b c d Allais, Maurice (November 1999). The 'Allais Effect' and my experiments with the paraconical pendulum (1954-1960) (PDF). Memoir C-6083 prepared for NASA (Report). 
  6. ^ Jeverdan, G. T.; Rusu, G. I.; Antonescu, V. I. (15 February 1961). "Date preliminare asupra comportarii unui pendul Foucault in timpul eclipsei de soare de la 15 februarie 1961" [Preliminary data about the behavior of a Foucault pendulum during the Sun eclipse of 15 February 15, 1961]. Annals of the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University (in Romanian). 7 (2): 457. 
  7. ^ Jeverdan, G. T.; Rusu, G. I.; Antonescu, V. I. (1981). "Experiments using the Foucault pendulum during the solar eclipse of 15 February, 1961" (PDF). The Biblical Astronomer. 1 (55): 18–20. 
  8. ^ Saxl, Erwin J.; Allen, Mildred (15 February 1971). "1970 Solar Eclipse as 'Seen' by a Torsion Pendulum" (PDF). Physical Review D. 3 (4): 823–825. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.3.823. 
  9. ^ Savrov, L. A.; Yushkin, V. D. (January 1995). "Paraconical pendulum as a detector of gravitational effects during solar eclipses (processing data and results)" (PDF). Measurement Techniques. Springer Science+Business Media. 38 (1): 9–13. doi:10.1007/BF00976738. 
  10. ^ Savrov, L. A. (March 1995). "Paraconical pendulum as a detector of gravitational effects during solar eclipses (processing data and results)" (PDF). Measurement Techniques. Springer Science+Business Media. 38 (3): 253–260. doi:10.1007/BF00977602. 
  11. ^ Savrov, L. A. (April 2009). "Improved determination of variation of rate of rotation of oscillation plane of a paraconic pendulum during the solar eclipse in Mexico on July 11, 1991". Measurement Techniques (PDF). Springer Science+Business Media. 52 (4): 339–343. doi:10.1007/s11018-009-9291-6. 
  12. ^ Savrov, L. A. (June 1997). "Experiment with paraconic pendulums during the November 3, 1994 solar eclipse in Brazil". Measurement Techniques. Springer Science+Business Media. 40 (6): 511–516. doi:10.1007/BF02504372. 
  13. ^ Zhou, S. W., B. J. Huang, and Z. M. Ren. "The abnormal influence of the partial solar eclipse on December 24th, 1992, on the time comparisons between atomic clocks." Il Nuovo Cimento C 18.2 (1995): 223-236.
  14. ^ D. C. Mishra and M. B. S. Vyaghreswara Rao, “Temporal variation in gravity field during solar eclipse on 24 October 1995,” Current Science, vol. 72, no. 11, pp. 782–783, Jun. 1997.
  15. ^ Wang, Q.S.; Yang, X.S.; Wu, C.Z.; Guo, G.H.; Liu, H.C.; Hua, C.C. (14 July 2000). "Precise measurement of gravity variations during a total solar eclipse" (PDF). Physical Review D. 62 (4): 041101. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.62.041101. 
  16. ^ Duif, Chris P. (9 August 2004). "A review of conventional explanations of anomalous observations during solar eclipses". arXiv:gr-qc/0408023Freely accessible. 
  17. ^ Popescu, V. A.; Olenici, D. (August 2007). A confirmation of the Allais and Jeverdan-Rusu-Antonescu effects during the solar eclipse from 22 September 2006, and the quantization of behaviour of pendulum (PDF). 7th Biennial European SSE Meeting. Røros, Norway: Society for Scientific Exploration. 
  18. ^ Goodey, T. J.; Pugach, A. F.; Olenici, D. (2010). "Correlated anomalous effects observed during a solar eclipse". Journal of Advanced Research in Physics. 1 (2). 
  19. ^ Pugach, A. F.; Olenici, D. (2012). "Observations of Correlated Behavior of Two Light Torsion Balances and a Paraconical Pendulum in Separate Locations during the Solar Eclipse of January 26th, 2009" (PDF). Advances in Astronomy. 2012: 263818. doi:10.1155/2012/263818. 
  20. ^ Slichter, L. B.; Caputo, M.; Hager, C. L. (15 March 1965). "An experiment concerning gravitational shielding". Journal of Gravitational Research. 70 (6): 1541–1551. doi:10.1029/JZ070i006p01541. 
  21. ^ Kuusela, T. (15 March 1991). "Effect of the solar eclipse on the period of a torsion pendulum". Physical Review D. 43 (6): 2041–2043. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.43.2041. 
  22. ^ Jun, Luo; Jianguo, Li; Xuerong, Zhang; Liakhovets, V.; Lomonosov, M.; Ragyn, A. (15 October 1991). "Observation of 1990 solar eclipse by a torsion pendulum". Physical Review D. 44 (8): 2611–2613. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.44.2611. 
  23. ^ Leslie Mullen (1999). "Decrypting the Eclipse". Archived copy of NASA web page. 
  24. ^ Dave Dooling (12 October 1999). "French Nobel Laureate turns back clock". NASA. 
  25. ^ Thomas Goodey (2000). "Information available about what happened in the NASA 1999 Eclipse Experiments". 
  26. ^ Yang, Xin-She; Wang, Qian-Shen (October 2002). "Gravity Anomaly During the Mohe Total Solar Eclipse and New Constraint on Gravitational Shielding Parameter" (PDF). Astrophysics and Space Science. 282 (1): 245–253. doi:10.1023/A:1021119023985. 
  27. ^ Van Flandern, T.; Yang, X. S. (15 January 2003). "Allais gravity and pendulum effects during solar eclipses explained" (PDF). Physical Review D. 67 (2): 022002. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.67.022002. 
  28. ^ Phil McKenna (19 July 2009). "July eclipse is best chance to look for gravity anomaly". NewScientist. 
  29. ^ "Eclipse at Sheshan Hill". The Atlantic. July 2009. 
  30. ^ Salva, Horacio R. (15 March 2011). "Searching the Allais effect during the total sun eclipse of 11 July 2010". Physical Review D. 83 (6): 067302. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.83.067302. 
  31. ^ a b Allais, Maurice (1997). L'Anisotropie de l'Espace [The Anisotropy of Space] (PDF) (in French). Clément Juglar Editions. ISBN 978-2908735093. 
  32. ^ Miller, Dayton C. (July 1933). "The Ether-Drift experiment and the determination of the absolute motion of the Earth" (PDF). Review of Modern Physics. 5: 203–254. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.5.203. 
  33. ^ Allais, Maurice (1998). "The experiments of Dayton C. Miller (1925-1926) and the theory of relativity" (PDF). 21st Century Science & Technology. pp. 26–32. 
  34. ^ Shankland, R. S.; McCuskey, S. W..; Leone, F. C.; Kuerti, G. (April 1955). "New Analysis of the Interferometer Observations of Dayton C. Miller". Review of Modern Physics. 27 (2): 167–178. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.27.167. 
  35. ^ Deloly, Jean-Bernard. "The re-examination of Miller's interferometric observations and of Esclangon's observations". Maurice Allais Foundation. 
  36. ^ Allais, Maurice (2004). L'Effondrement de la Théorie de la Relativité – Implication irréfragable des données de l'expérience [The Collapse of the Theory of Relativity – Irrefutable implication of the empirical data] (in French). Clément Juglar Editions. ISBN 978-2908735185. 
  37. ^ Múnera, Héctor A., ed. (May 2011). Should the Laws of Gravitation be Reconsidered?: The Scientific Legacy of Maurice Allais. Apeiron. ISBN 978-0986492655. 
  38. ^ Deloly, Jean-Bernard (22 April 2016). "Continuation given to Maurice Allais's experimental works. State of the situation (2015)" (PDF). Maurice Allais Foundation. 

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