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specfiction Posted - 06/02/2008 : 09:32:25
Years ago I worked on Gravity Probe B (GPB). This morning on NPR there was a podcast detailing the demise of the experiment. GPB is a satellite with very sensitive gyros that was tasked with verifying an exotic aspect of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. In the podcast, NASA spokesman said that "other" experiments in the 40 years that GPB was designed and launched in 2004 have verified Einstein's GTR. Oh, and what experiment might that be? But like many news reports, this one didn't answer any of the fundamental questions being asked.

The central question that GPB is supposed to answer is: Is Frame Dragging real? And what is Framing Dragging (FD)? FD is an incredible prediction of GTR that I don't believed has ever been addressed by any other experiment (I believe the NPR interview was inadequate, because like many of these kinds of interviews, the interviewer didn't know enough about the real issue to ask the most important questions). This is why many areas of science, from Global Warming to Evolution, are so confused and misunderstood. Back to FD. Imagine a very massive shell--lets say as massive as the Earth--a hollow Earth. Imagine that inside the shell there is a perfect vacuum (absolutely nothing inside, not even one atom). Now imagine at the very center of the hollow shell there is a metal rod, let's say a meter long for the sake of being specific. Both Shell and rod are at rest with respect to each other--nothing is moving. Now spin the shell--as the Earth spins. Einstein predicts that slowly the rod inside the shell will start to spin also! How?--you might ask. Since the shell is perfectly symmetric, there are no net forces on the rod--it won't move. There is nothing inside the shell to transmit motion to the rod by the shell through friction, so how come the rod moves?

Well, here's how cool GPB is. What's happening is that the massive shell is actually dragging Time-Space around with it. And since the rod is "embedded" in Time-Space, it starts to rotate too! So is this real? Does Time-Space really exist in this demonstrable way? This is a very profound question--god type question in fact. Well, I guess we'll never know cause NASA doesn't have a few million dollars to spare after 40 years of work (although we're spending 12 million a minute in Iraq for absolutely nothing) and the news media is so watered down that they can't ask the right questions to garner any interest. And so life goes on...

And for your listening pleasure here's the GPB Podcast.

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specfiction Posted - 06/03/2008 : 08:48:17
"Where could someone go to get a better understanding of some of these "time/space" concepts without the heavy headed math?"

As a first step, try the story Parallax in Worlds In Transition!

For a formal reference try: The Road to Reality by Roger Penrose.

Aeryion Posted - 06/02/2008 : 17:46:48
Priorities, huh... and gas is still climbing over $4.00!

I've heard of frame dragging before but never truly understood it until your example. I've been toying with a "time/space" themed story for awhile but quite honestly haven't committed myself to the level of research I feel would be responsible for a well authored effort. I am actually quite intrigued by Zeno's Paradox (have been since Carl Sagan's Contact and Cosmos) and would love to find a way to weave an interesting adventure around that concept... what resides in the spaces between spaces type of thing.

Where could someone go to get a better understanding of some of these "time/space" concepts without the heavy headed math? Can you recommend some easy reading resources that are trustworthy yet simple?

Believe it or not, I get most of the basic modern theories on quantum physics (I guess you either do or you don't)... but some of the more classic time/space relations elude me. I also believe that there is room for both in our understanding of the universe. It IS, indeed, all "relative"... don't ya' think?

Dare to question, yet have the courage to listen.

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