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Headlines Is Earth in a vortex of space-time?

Jung

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We'll soon know the answer: A NASA/Stanford physics experiment called Gravity Probe B (GP-B) recently finished a year of gathering science data in Earth orbit. The results, which will take another year to analyze, should reveal the shape of space-time around Earth--and, possibly, the vortex.



Time and space, according to Einstein's theories of relativity, are woven together, forming a four-dimensional fabric called "space-time." The tremendous mass of Earth dimples this fabric, much like a heavy person sitting in the middle of a trampoline. Gravity, says Einstein, is simply the motion of objects following the curvaceous lines of the dimple.

If Earth were stationary, that would be the end of the story. But Earth is not stationary. Our planet spins, and the spin should twist the dimple, slightly, pulling it around into a 4-dimensional swirl. This is what GP-B went to space to check.

The idea behind the experiment is simple:

Put a spinning gyroscope into orbit around the Earth, with the spin axis pointed toward some distant star as a fixed reference point. Free from external forces, the gyroscope's axis should continue pointing at the star--forever. But if space is twisted, the direction of the gyroscope's axis should drift over time. By noting this change in direction relative to the star, the twists of space-time could be measured.

In practice, the experiment is tremendously difficult.

The four gyroscopes in GP-B are the most perfect spheres ever made by humans. These ping pong-sized balls of fused quartz and silicon are 1.5 inches across and never vary from a perfect sphere by more than 40 atomic layers. If the gyroscopes weren't so spherical, their spin axes would wobble even without the effects of relativity.

According to calculations, the twisted space-time around Earth should cause the axes of the gyros to drift merely 0.041 arcseconds over a year. An arcsecond is 1/3600th of a degree. To measure this angle reasonably well, GP-B needed a fantastic precision of 0.0005 arcseconds. It's like measuring the thickness of a sheet of paper held edge-on 100 miles away.

GP-B researchers invented whole new technologies to make this possible. They developed a "drag free" satellite that could brush against the outer layers of Earth's atmosphere without disturbing the gyros. They figured out how to keep Earth's penetrating magnetic field out of the spacecraft. And they concocted a device to measure the spin of a gyro--without touching the gyro.

Pulling off the experiment was an exceptional challenge. A lot of time and money was on the line, but the GP-B scientists appear to have done it.



"There were not any major surprises" in the experiment's performance, says physics professor Francis Everitt, the Principal Investigator for GP-B at Stanford University. Now that data-taking is complete, he says the mood among the GP-B scientists is "a lot of enthusiasm, and a realization also that a lot of grinding hard work is ahead of us."

A careful, thorough analysis of the data is underway. The scientists will do it in three stages, Everitt explains. First, they will look at the data from each day of the year-long experiment, checking for irregularities. Next they'll break the data into roughly month-long chunks, and finally they'll look at the whole year. By doing it this way, the scientists should be able to find any problems that a more simple analysis might miss.

Eventually scientists around the world will scrutinize the data. Says Everitt, "we want our sternest critics to be us."

The stakes are high. If they detect the vortex, precisely as expected, it simply means that Einstein was right, again. But what if they don't? There might be a flaw in Einstein's theory, a tiny discrepancy that heralds a revolution in physics.

First, though, there are a lot of data to analyze. Stay tuned.



http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2005/16nov_gpb.htm?list766847
 

skully

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i read something siilar to this in stephen hawking's book "The universe in a nutshel". It seems really incredible that they can devise an experiment like that . I still dont seem to undersstand how the sphere would move though.
 

UberSkippy

a.k.a. FuckTheBullShit
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skullmaster said:
i read something siilar to this in stephen hawking's book "The universe in a nutshel". It seems really incredible that they can devise an experiment like that though. I still dont seem to undersstand how the sphere would move though.
Think of it like this, if you roll a marble down an incline it goes straight down. If you put a sheet over the incline and put creases in the sheet, the marble will generally go down the incline but anytime it hits a crease it's trajectory will be changed. It's a lot like that. Only WAY more complicated. And WAY cooler.
 

Jung

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I find this interesting because it could be one step further towards proving the theory of space-time, and the theoretical possibility of time travel. Yeah, I know it sounds like sci-fi type stuff, but it's always be held to be theoretically possibly, and this would lend credibility to that possibility.
 

Darklight

Oppressing your posts...
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then I can go back in time and win the lotto! woot!
 
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sorry jungalizm but my gutbrain tells me that if time travel were possible we'd have seen some time travelers already. and my gutbrain's usually right.
 

Jung

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hardFlash said:
sorry jungalizm but my gutbrain tells me that if time travel were possible we'd have seen some time travelers already. and my gutbrain's usually right.
Well I'm sorry, and no offense to you, but your 'gutbrain' offers no proof to these claims. Logically, the reason we've yet to experiment in time travel is because we lack the knowledge of space-time. However, and again logically, time travel has been held to be theoretically possible for quite some time now, by people much smarter than either of us, and your 'gutbrain.' We just lack the hard evidence to embark on such endeavors.

Perhaps you're right, but I'm not inclined to take the 'gutbrain' opinion of a stranger that offers no backing evidence of his claims.
 
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hardFlash said:
sorry jungalizm but my gutbrain tells me that if time travel were possible we'd have seen some time travelers already. and my gutbrain's usually right.
that was SUCH a well though out post [/sarcasm]

Lets think it through logically--we haven't figured out if space time is real or not, thus, we cannot have time travel. We cannot have time travel if we haven't proven space time. We don't know if Space-time exists yet for gods sake. :rolleyes:
 

JLXC

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Fascinating stuff!

I'll be looking forward to reading the results.
 

void

Banned - What an Asshat!
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sorry to be off topic guys but this thread just made me a bit sad, we could always count on JamesP to put in an interesting 2 cents on this kind of thing.. :(
 

tw33k

Theoretical Realist
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junglizm said:
I find this interesting because it could be one step further towards proving the theory of space-time, and the theoretical possibility of time travel. Yeah, I know it sounds like sci-fi type stuff, but it's always be held to be theoretically possibly, and this would lend credibility to that possibility.
We already have had a time traveler from the future! Back in 2000 a John Titor revealed he had come back from the year 2036, after WWW III. They learned to harness the power of microsingularities to make their cars into time machines. My guess woulda been zero-point energy making time travel possible, go figure. He actually had a pretty clever hoax going for awhile. Made for some entertaining reading.
http://www.abovetopsecret.com/pages/the_john_titor_project.html
 

BadEvilWrong

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Even if we could develop the ability to time travel, should we? Anyone care to speculate on what would happen if a time traveler affected something in the past which removed any possibility of said traveler being a candidate for that time traveling trip in the first place?