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Last week NASA launched Gravity, a space probe to stage experiments relating to the impact of gravitation on Einstein’s concept of space and time. The importance of Einstein theory to the modern scientific world view is paramount. The world harmony is going to crumble without it. The theory has been around for 90 years though it’s never been tested experimentally. Besides, some theoreticians of today find faults at Einstein’s theory while trying to paint a different picture of the world. The dispute can be settled by experiment only.

World’s most mysterious paradox refers to Albert Einstein. It has to do with the theory of relativity he formulated. Everybody seems to have heard of it while just a few people understand it. The issue belongs more to metaphysics than physics. It doesn’t matter that the value of Einstein theory was out of reach for the majority of the world population a hundred years ago. The situation is unlikely to change in another hundred years. A public opinion poll was recently conducted in the U.K. The question put to the public read: “Who would you like to clone?” The result show that Einstein topped the list with 20% of the vote. Jesus Christ fell behind with 12% while Mozart got 8% and Elvis Presley got 7%. I wonder who would have won had the poll been carried out in Russia?

The probe Gravity was put into orbit on the tip of Delta-2 booster launched April 17 from Wandenberg, an air base in California. There’re four spherical gyroscopes onboard the satellite. The equipment enables scientists to find out whether Earth’s revolution is causing any impact on space and time. The gyroscopes are sitting inside a soundproof vacuum bottle cooled off to nearly absolute zero – the Dewar vessel, to ensure that the equipment is safe against the environmental attack. Such a big vacuum cavity has been deployed into orbit for the first time. The highly polished balls measuring 4 cm each in diameter are also a novelty in space. The spheres are made of pure quarts and coated with the finest layer of niobium. They rotate in a electromagnetic suspension at 10 revolutions per minute. The gyration will go on for 16 months as long as the probe is in orbit.

The experiment to measure the curvature of space has been waiting in the wings since the 1960s. Scientists first came up with it at the start of the space exploration era. But they had to wait for new technologies that became available only in the 21st century. But the technologies had to be backed by the money which was tight to find in U.S. Congress. Finally, the funds to the tune of $700 million were allocated. Now the satellite is soaring 640 km above the ground.

The experiment is based on a gyroscope’s properties to maintain the axis’s direction of revolution when still. Children can get to know these properties well when playing a whirligig or a humming top. The gyroscope is used for orientation purposes of the space stations. A space station is normally equipped with a dozen large gyroscopes. The gyroscopes onboard the probe are protected against the undesirable impacts: neither temperature, no noise fluctuations or surface imperfections. However, heavy Earth can make space curve should the theory of relativity happen to be true. This deformation will impact the gyroscopes inside the probe as shown by a tilt of the axes of revolution. The change can be detected at a micron level. It was Albert Einstein who put forth the concept of space-time being curved due to the impact of heavy objects’ gravitation.

Gravitation is ubiquitous. It affects all living and non-living bodies. The apples from an apple tree still fall down because of it even there’s no Newton under the tree, and the planets don’t fly away from the Sun thanks to gravitation even another Einstein is yet to be born. Still, gravitation is a mysterious thing. According to Kip Thorp, professor with Technological Institute of California who took over the department of theoretical physics after the famous Richard Feinman, scientists monitor two out of three aspects of the gravitational deformation of space-time theorized by Einstein. These two aspects include the cases of space curvature (rays in the vicinity of massive astronomical objects) and time slowing (cosmonauts can hardly feel the latter due to low speeds they travel). The deformation of both time and space occurring at a time has never been recorded. The phenomenon is even more difficult to achieve when covering small terrestrial distances. The issue is a must for understanding the Universe and the nature of matter. NASA agreed to conduct the experiment back in 1964, five years after it had been brought to light at Stanford University.

“We’ve no right now to speculate whether Einstein’s theory is right or wrong,” says Francis Everitt, chief NASA project coordinator. “We should be playing it fair and square. I hope that our experiment being one of the many attempts to test the theory will be able to score the highest amount of credibility with scientists. But I wouldn’t dare predict the results.”

So no commotion whatsoever expected in the scientific community if the probe experiment proves the Einstein formula. The “black holes” sucking in all the star bodies will be still regarded the most mysterious objects of the Universe. The “black holes” is a direct consequence of the theory of relativity, it’s the most radical development of the space-time curvature. Any object of the Universe is either doomed to perish in a “black hole” or become one. That’s the dialectics

A new theory will have to be produced if the results of the test differ from the theory estimates. Perhaps Einstein himself wouldn’t be much surprised at such an outcome since he viewed quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity as a temporary description of the world to be in effect until a full description of reality is available. He even devised one “force of repulsion” trying to break free from the contradictory components of the theory. As by the latest theories, the existence of the force appears increasingly possible.
Maybe the findings produced by the probe will gather evidence to back up a controversial theory of super strings. The number of scientists who favor it has been on rise lately. The theory predicts the existence of a new particle – graviton, a photon of sorts. The number of dimensions in the Universe involving gravitons is higher than we know about, though they exist in convolution. Corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexei Starobinski explains that the dimensions are rolled in a circle and very hard to penetrate. Living in our miserable three-dimensional world we just can’t see the beauty of a multidimensional world. According to theory of super-strings, gravitation travels faster than the speed of light via additional dimensions without contradicting the principles of the theory of relativity.

Most probably the accuracy of readings taken by the probe won’t be high enough for making the final decision on the theory of relativity. The data accuracy was part of the problem behind the Kopeikin-Fomalont experiment conducted in 2003 in the USA. It was aimed at measuring the speed of gravitation diffusion.

But all the above refers to physics. By no means the reputation of Albert Einstein can be harmed from the metaphysical point of view. It makes no differences if he’s right or wrong. He’s one of a kind, anyway.


© Рудаков В.Г. - NEKTO 2009г.

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