On February 1st, an article was published by The War Zone, the military subsection of the automotive news site The Drive, reporting that Dr. Salvatore Pais had filed several patents including the following, all enabled by what he calls the “Pais Effect”:
- A high-frequency gravitational-wave generator (for high-speed space propulsion and communication through solid objects);
- A room-temperature superconductor (which would revolutionize power transmission worldwide);
- An electromagnetic force-field generator (to be used to deflect small asteroids among other things), and best of all;
- A craft using an internal mass-reduction device (also for high-speed space travel).
Um, could we please have all that to go, with a side of phlogiston sautéed in snake oil, maybe with a large cup of COVID-killing disinfectant to wash it down? The story would surely have been sentenced to click-starvation purgatory and died in moments except for one little thing: when he filed those patents, Mr. Pais was employed by the Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division (NAWCAD).
After collectively donning neck braces to recover from “wait, what?” whiplash, millions of scientifically-minded and allegedly-cynical readers (including myself), heartened by the seeming validation of said patents by being associated with a part of the military that deals with hard science, immediately began to scour the news for more information. With all the newly-unclassified news from the military (and especially the Navy) about UFO’s over the past couple of years, there did seem to be room to hope. It was as if we had all heard Pavlov’s bell signaling a Michelin-starred feast, for we began to drool over the prospects of the kind of bright futures we dreamed of as kids watching the Jetsons in their flying car.
And those of us who are retired Navy began to grin. “Hey — that’s MY Navy that might be about to change the world”, conveniently forgetting all the epic bone-headed mistakes we’d all seen the Navy make over our decades in service (I’m looking at you, “Total Quality Leadership”).
Then the hope began to fade as reality reared its butt-ugly head.
So far, not a single physicist of note has been willing to give Dr. Pais’ claims anything but short shrift, and the Navy has since admitted they were never able to prove the Pais Effect actually existed, much less enabled any of Dr. Pais’ wondrous inventions. Soooo…that’s the end of the story, right? It was all just a case of “too good to be true”, right?
Nope. Don’t take off that neck brace just yet. Whiplash #2 was included in the fine print.
It turns out that during TheDrive.com’s investigation, they found a document submitted by NAVAIR’s Chief Scientist/Chief Technology Officer James Sheehy wherein he stated that Dr. Pais’ room temperature superconductor is “operable and enabled via the physics described in the patent application”.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Oscar? The Navy says the Pais Effect doesn’t work, but NAVAIR’s Chief Scientist/CTO gave a sworn statement saying it does work! While I tend to be strongly skeptical of wild claims by any scientist, the ones in charge of research are responsible for keeping the pointy end of our military’s spear the sharpest on the planet, and tend to be hard-nosed, take-no-BS types. Of course they will lie through their teeth as the situation demands, but why would the one in charge lie about this?
I often tell my wife that one thing every military retiree learns along the way is how to justify (almost) anything. At a moment’s notice we can pump out barely-plausible excuses that would make OJ’s lawyers blush. This also means that we’re usually pretty good at figuring out why a government or military functionary would do something out of the ordinary. In this case, I can think of three possibilities: (1) Drs. Pais and Sheehy are both wrong and full of bovine excrement, (2) Dr. Pais is wrong, Dr. Sheehy knows it, but says it works, and (3) they’re both right and the Navy is now lying when it says that the Pais Effect cannot be proven to work.
- Dr. Pais and Dr. Sheehy are both wrong. While possible, this scenario is the least likely for the reasons I stated above. I think it is highly unlikely that Dr. Sheehy, being who and what he is, would have issued a sworn statement saying the Pais Effect worked if it didn’t actually work.
- Dr. Pais is wrong, Dr. Sheehy knows it, but says it works anyway. This is possible. In fact, Forbes.com posited that this could be a disinformation campaign vis-à-vis Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, colloquially known as “Star Wars”, in that if we spend a few million dollars on a project and make wild claims as to its success, perhaps China will futilely waste hundreds of billions searching down the same Pais Effect rabbit hole. In fact, as early as 2017, Dr. Sheehy already said that China is currently investigating the effect. One must wonder, then, if China is doing the same thing in reverse with the Pais Effect idea and now our best and brightest are tearing their hair out trying to develop something that isn’t real.
- Both Dr. Pais and Dr. Sheehy are right, and the Navy is now lying about it. Maybe. Definitely maybe. Despite what the rest of the professional physics community says about the Pais Effect, IF it works, IF Drs. Pais and Sheehy are right, the Navy would have very good reason to deny it. The claimed inventions in and of themselves would radically change the balance of military and political power around the planet, so keeping such information under wraps would allow America to develop the technology and maintain sociopolitical supremacy much as we did by being the first to develop atomic and thermonuclear bombs. Of course, China would have the same motivation and would be much more effective at keeping it secret. “What is this thing called a Freedom Of Information Act request? Off to the reeducation camp with you!”
In other words, the possibilities would boggle the irretrievably-addled mind of a QAnon cult shaman.
Indeed, hope springs eternal in the breasts of geeks, nerds, and retired sailors. Yes, we would dearly love for the Pais Effect to be real, for the dream of having a DeLorean with a Mr. Fusion pumping out the obligatory 1.21 gigawatts (did I mention Dr. Pais also patented a compact fusion reactor and may have worked on a spacetime modification weapons system?).
But no. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, a phrase popularized by Carl Sagan, must be applied here. Until there is hard, publicly-verifiable proof that the Pais Effect (and all its follow-on technologies) works, Dr. Pais’ claims belong on the shelf alongside those of Pons and Fleischmann.