Another piece of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity has been proven right. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/NASA Science News)

Earth has proven that Albert Einstein was right, reports BBC News. Findings from an experiment more than 50 years in the making have supported the late scientist’s postulation in the Theory of General Relativity that a body as massive as the Earth warps both space and time. Not only that, but that Earth pulls them along for the ride.

Gravity Probe B has produced remarkable results

In a study that will be published online in the journal Physical Review Letters, by a conglomeration of world scientists, it will be shown that NASA’s Gravity Probe B (GP-B) has proven the application of phenomena known as the geodetic effect and frame-dragging to the Earth in space time. Several global scientists led by Stanford University’s Dr. Francis Everitt, who originally conceived of the Gravity Probe B project in the late 1950s – long before the technology to perform the experiment existed – have validated one of the holy grails of physics and opened the door for exciting new innovations.

Four spinning balls and a giant step for physics

Launched via probe in 2004, the Gravity Probe B experiment placed four precisely engineered gyroscopic balls inside a giant vacuum flask filled with super-fluid helium. The balls were chilled to near absolute zero temperature (minus-273 degrees Celsius) and kept in the isolating vacuum in order to avoid external disturbances, other than those anticipated by Einstein. The experiment was conducted in the zero-gravity of deep space, relative in position to the star IM Pegasi (HR 8703).

After eliminating pressure, heat, magnetic field, gravity and electrical charges, a few thousand milliarcseconds (observable width of a human hair at 10 miles) of spin due to the geodetic effect were observed, where the geodetic effect represents curvature of space time on a vector carried along with an orbiting body. The second observed phenomenon, frame-dragging, refers to how the Earth twists space time around it as it rotates.

According to Everitt, the measured results within Gravity Probe B fall within the tolerance for the geodetic effect as defined by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

“The predicted relativity effect is 6,606.1 of these milliarcseconds, and the measured result is a little over a quarter of a percent of that,” he said. “The frame-dragging we’ve measured to a little better than 20 percent.”

Innovations at work

While the findings of the Gravity Probe B confirm numerous larger theories regarding black holes, the expanding universe and Einstein’s theory of gravity, the technology developed during the project has aided humanity in other ways. The project made improvements in the function of GPS and the ability to envision the state the Universe was in less than 1 million years after the theoretical Big Bang.


BBC News:
New York Times:
Physical Review Letters:
Wikipedia – general relativity intro:
Wikipedia – geodetic effect:

NASA news conference on Gravity Probe B

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