Ever since Albert Einstein published his general theory of relativity in 1916, which revolutionised the world of physics, scientists have been testing it with ever tougher experiments. It’s accepted in the world of science that no theory (or “Law”, to the lay person) is ever fully descriptive of the universe, and that each new theory is merely more accurate than the one that came before. NASA’s Gravity Probe B (GP-B) is the latest attempt to test one of the more obscure predictions of Einstein’s theory: That a large object like the Earth will not only distort space-time simply by existing, but that it actually drags and twists space-time around itself as it rotates!
The experiment is simple in principle: Put a satellite in polar orbit around the Earth, so that it will alternately pass through distorted and non-distorted regions of space-time. The satellite is equipped with four ultra-precise gyroscopes, all carefully aligned with each other. The satellite itself sets its sights on a particular star, and uses that star as a guide to ensure that it’s orientation does not change. In a Newtonian universe, the gyroscopic action of the gyroscopes will ensure that they remain perfectly aligned no matter what happens. According to Einstein, however, the gyroscopes will twist and turn along with the distorting space that they occupy. And this is exactly what the science team behind the experiment observed happening!
So there we have it. The theory of relativity continues to be the most accurate view of the universe yet!
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