This month’s wacky patent boldly goes where no patent has gone before:
US 6,960,975 B1 – Space Vehicle Propelled by the Pressure of Inflationary Vacuum State
“A space vehicle propelled by the pressure of inflationary vacuum state is provided comprising a hollow superconductive shield, an inner shield, a power source, a support structure, upper and lower means for generating an electromagnetic field, and a flux modulation controller. A cooled hollow superconductive shield is energized by an electromagnetic field resulting in the quantized vortices of lattice ions projecting a gravitomagnetic field that forms a spacetime curvature anomaly outside the space vehicle. The spacetime curvature imbalance, the spacetime curvature being the same as gravity, provides for the space vehicle’s propulsion. The space vehicle, surrounded by the spacetime anomaly, may move at a speed approaching the light-speed characteristic for the modified locale.”
Judging by the description, this appears to be a vehicle powered by something akin to the warp drives from Star Trek [though one of my colleagues insists the “flux modulation controller” is, in fact, a flux capacitor and hence that this is not a spacecraft but a time machine].
To coin a phrase, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a chemist, not a physicist”, but my hunch is that the physics is somewhat unsound. However, I’m rather fond of the fact that the patent cites H. G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon in the Background section, as well as discussing “substantially egg-shaped spacetime anomalies”.
Of particular note is that Claim 1 is directed to a space vehicle comprising, inter alia, a crew. Discussion in the office resulted in the conclusion that if the claim is only directly infringed when the crew are on board their near-light-speed spacecraft, it may be somewhat difficult to bring infringement proceedings against them.