General theory of Relativity


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Special relativity

What complicates things, however, is that the distribution of matter and energy is in turn governed by the curvature of space, leading to a feedback loop and a lot of very complex mathematics. The curving of light was never actually predicted by Newton but, in combination with the idea from special relativity that all forms of energy including light have an effective mass , then it seems logical that, as light passes a massive body like the Sun, it too will feel the tug of gravity and be bent slightly from its course. The theory has been proven remarkably accurate and robust in many different tests over the last century.

General Theory of Relativity - Special and General Relativity - The Physics of the Universe

The slightly elliptical orbit of planets is also explained by the theory but, even more remarkably, it also explains with great accuracy the fact that the elliptical orbits of planets are not exact repetitions but actually shift slightly with each revolution, tracing out a kind of rosette-like pattern. Gravity Probe B was launched into Earth orbit in , specifically to test the space-time -bending effects predicted by General Relativity using ultra-sensitive gyroscopes. The final analysis of the results in confirms the predicted effects quite closely, with a tiny 0. Unfortunately, the variables in this simple equation are far from simple: R is a complicated mathematical object made up of 16 separate numbers in a matrix or "tensor" that describes the distortion of space-time ; G is the gravitational constant; and E is another complicated number, also represented by a tensor, representing the energy of the object or more accurately the 4- dimensional " energy momentum density ".

Einstein’s general theory of relativity passes a supermassive test

Given that, though, what the equation says is simple enough: that what gravity really is is not a force but a distortion of space and time, and that the geometry of space and time depends not just on velocity as the Special Theory of Relativity had indicated but on the energy of an object. This makes sense when we consider that Newton had already shown that gravity depends on mass , and that Einstein 's Special Theory of Relativity had shown that mass is equivalent to energy.

The theorem also showed, though, that general relativity is an incomplete theory in that it cannot tell us exactly how the universe started off because it predicts that all physical theories including itself necessarily break down at a singularity like the Big Bang. The theory has also provided endless fodder for the science fiction industry, predicting the existence of sci-fi staples like black holes , wormholes , time travel, parallel universes , etc.

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Unfortunately, however, such a trick would require the harvesting of vast amounts of energy , way in excess of anything imaginable today. How fast are we traveling through space?? How fast does light travel? How far is it to space, the Moon, the Sun, the stars, etc? If the elevator accelerates quickly enough, the beam visibly bends toward the floor.

Einstein showed the same thing happens to a beam inside a stationary elevator within a powerful gravitational field; the gravity bends the light.


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This prediction proved correct when the stars moved during the solar eclipse. To link acceleration and gravity in this way, Einstein overthrew one of his own heroes: Isaac Newton.

You may have learned that Newton described gravity as a force, an invisible rubber band that pulls together objects with mass. He described it as a curvature of time and space caused by mass and energy.

The German physicist was, too, and he struggled with the theory for nearly a decade. He got help from mathematician Marcel Grossmann, an old friend who shared his notes when a young Einstein skipped class. Their math, laid down in 10 equations, explained how gravity could move around objects via a warped reality, accelerating without ever feeling any mysterious Newtonian forces.

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A phenomenon known as an "Einstein Ring" created when light is bent by gravity around a large object. In this case, the large red galaxy in the middle is causing light from a much more distant blue galaxy directly behind it to be bent around into the shape of a ring.

Time and space are neither flat nor fixed; they are curved and distorted by mass and energy. The effects of gravity are indistinguishable from the effects of acceleration, over a small space.

How to Understand Einstein's Theory of Gravity

Relativity makes numerous bizarre predictions, many of them experimentally verified. By Devin Powell Friday, May 24, An apple feeling no force usually stays in the same place left.


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Gravity is not a force, but rather a distortion of time and space. Waves of light emitted by stars stretch out because of this time bending, and objects closer to a massive object age more slowly. Satellites have shown that rotating celestial bodies twirl the fabric of the cosmos around themselves, like honey twisted by a spoon, affecting the motion of gyroscopes.

General theory of Relativity General theory of Relativity
General theory of Relativity General theory of Relativity
General theory of Relativity General theory of Relativity
General theory of Relativity General theory of Relativity
General theory of Relativity General theory of Relativity
General theory of Relativity General theory of Relativity
General theory of Relativity General theory of Relativity
General theory of Relativity General theory of Relativity

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