210. BURKHARD HEIM
This is some truly mind-bending stuff:
Scientists are thinking of building an extraordinary anti-gravity machine which - if it works - could make "hyperdrive" starships a reality.The life story of this man, Burkhard Heim, is also amazing, and a tribute to the powers of the human mind and spirit.
The design is based on the ideas of a little-known but brilliant German physicist who modified Albert Einstein's theories of space and time.
Burkhard Heim postulated a multidimensional world in which the forces of gravity and electromagnetism are coupled together.
Last year, a paper drawing on the concept won the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Future Flight prize.
It envisaged an engine that could not only defeat gravity but propel a space craft through multidimensional hyperspace at unbelievable speed.
Using the drive, it would take as little as three hours to reach Mars, and just 80 days to journey to a star 11 light-years away.
Testing the idea would require a huge rotating ring, several metres in diameter, placed above a superconducting coil to generate an intense magnetic field.
If the theory works, a large enough current and magnetic field should cause the ring to float free by reducing gravity.
Stretching technology to its limits
Building such a machine would stretch existing materials and technology to its limits. But one space propulsion scientist in the US thinks it might be possible.
Roger Lenard, from Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, runs a powerful X-ray generator known as the Z-machine.
He told New Scientist magazine that it could "probably generate the necessary field intensities and gradients".