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Berkeley Lab Physicist Challenges Speed of Gravity Claim
spacedaily.com ^ | 23 Jun 03 | staff

Posted on 06/23/2003 9:25:12 AM PDT by RightWhale

Berkeley Lab Physicist Challenges Speed of Gravity Claim

Berkeley - Jun 22, 2003

Albert Einstein may have been right that gravity travels at the same speed as light but, contrary to a claim made earlier this year, the theory has not yet been proven. A scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) says the announcement by two scientists, widely reported this past January, about the speed of gravity was wrong.

Stuart Samuel, a participating scientist with the Theory Group of Berkeley Lab's Physics Division, in a paper published in Physical Review Letters, has demonstrated that an "ill-advised" assumption made in the earlier claim led to an unwarranted conclusion. "Einstein may be correct about the speed of gravity but the experiment in question neither confirms nor refutes this," says Samuel. "In effect, the experiment was measuring effects associated with the propagation of light, not the speed of gravity."

According to Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, light and gravity travel at the same speed, about 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) per second. Most scientists believe this is true, but the assumption was that it could only be proven through the detection of gravity waves. Sergei Kopeikin, a University of Missouri physicist, and Edward Fomalont, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), believed there was an alternative.

On September 8, 2002, the planet Jupiter passed almost directly in front of the radio waves coming from a quasar, a star-like object in the center of a galaxy billions of light-years away. When this happened, Jupiter's gravity bent the quasar's radio waves, causing a slight delay in their arrival on Earth. Kopeikin believed the length of time that the radio waves would be delayed would depend upon the speed at which gravity propagates from Jupiter. To measure the delay, Fomalont set up an interferometry system using the NRAO's Very Long Baseline Array, a group of ten 25-meter radio telescopes distributed across the continental United States, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands, plus the 100-meter Effelsberg radio telescope in Germany. Kopeikin then took the data and calculated velocity-dependent effects. His calculations appeared to show that the speed at which gravity was being propagated from Jupiter matched the speed of light to within 20 percent. The scientists announced their findings in January at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Samuel argues that Kopeikin erred when he based his calculations on Jupiter's position at the time the quasar's radio waves reached Earth rather than the position of Jupiter when the radio waves passed by that planet. "The original idea behind the experiment was to use the effects of Jupiter's motion on quasar-signal time-delays to measure the propagation of gravity," he says. "If gravity acts instantly, then the gravitational force would be determined by the position of Jupiter at the time when the quasar's signal passed by the planet. If, on the other hand, the speed of gravity were finite, then the strength of gravity would be determined by the position of Jupiter at a slightly earlier time so as to allow for the propagation of gravitational effects."

Samuel was able to simplify the calculations of the velocity-dependent effects by shifting from a reference frame in which Jupiter is moving, as was used by Kopeikin, to a reference frame in which Jupiter is stationary and Earth is moving. When he did this, Samuel found a formula that differed from the one used by Kopeikin to analyze the data. Under this new formula, the velocity-dependent effects were considerably smaller. Even though Fomalont was able to measure a time delay of about 5 trillionths of a second, this was not nearly sensitive enough to measure the actual gravitational influence of Jupiter. "With the correct formula, the effects of the motion of Jupiter on the quasar-signal time-delay are at least 100 times and perhaps even a thousand times smaller than could have been measured by the array of radio telescopes that Fomalont used," Samuel says. "There's a reasonable chance that such measurements might one day be used to define the speed of gravity, but they just aren't doable with our current technology."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Philosophy; Technical
KEYWORDS: crevolist; einstein; fomalont; kopeikin; samuel; stringtheory; tvf
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Should shifting the reference frame make any difference in measurements?
1 posted on 06/23/2003 9:25:12 AM PDT by RightWhale
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To: RightWhale
That would sort of contradict the special theory of relativity, wouldn't it? I had the same reaction.

But read closely, it only says he SIMPLIFIED the calculations by computing from the Jupiter frame of reference.

Apparently the mathematics were considered intractable prior to this, and the fellow thought of a clever way around the problem.

In any event, just how central is the speed of gravity to the general theory of relativity? Is it in the hard core of the theory, is it a supporting assumption? a mathematical consequence? I'd be curious to know. I'm well versed in the special theory but only superficially knowledgeable of the general theory.
2 posted on 06/23/2003 9:32:14 AM PDT by PonyTailGuy
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To: PonyTailGuy
It is thought that Einstein said that nothing can exceed the speed of light. Gravity waves would therefore move no faster than c. However, I don't know that Einstein actually said that. Minkowski did say that, and much of the popular conception of special relativity is due to Minkowski. I don't see the problem, since we're talking about appearances of electromagnetic phenomena, not the reality behind them.
3 posted on 06/23/2003 9:41:04 AM PDT by RightWhale (gazing at shadows)
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To: PonyTailGuy
In Einstein's General Theory of Gravity the speed of gravity is assumed to be equal to the speed of light. If it is found to be different then his theory must be changed for something better. That is evolution!
4 posted on 06/23/2003 9:46:14 AM PDT by AdmSmith
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To: RightWhale
Albert Einstein may have been right that gravity travels at the same speed as light

That explains why I never see this coming. <|:)~

5 posted on 06/23/2003 9:54:36 AM PDT by martin_fierro (A v v n c v l v s M a x i m v s)
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To: RightWhale
"In effect, the experiment was measuring effects associated with the propagation of light, not the speed of gravity."

That is *precisely* what I said back in September here on FR, that all they were measuring was the propagation speed of Light, not Gravity.

6 posted on 06/23/2003 9:57:54 AM PDT by Southack (Media bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: RightWhale
The quasar signals may have broken the speed of the sound of loneliness...
7 posted on 06/23/2003 10:07:29 AM PDT by martin gibson
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To: RightWhale
Hmmm, it seems to me (by no means a physics guru) that reversing the refernce frame would may not be viable. I mean, Eart is moving, Jupiter is moving, even the Sun is moving. And all at different speeds. It seems to me the best frame of reference (locally) would therefore be the Sun. I mean, reversing the reference from Earth to Jupiter does help in observing effects from afar, but you then still muct wonder about the Sun's effects upon gravitational attraction, and how to subtract the difference based upon Earth's motion, (plus the reference point on Earth moving in revolution).

What we gotta do, is get the smartest person on Earth (a Senator from NY, as I recall), put her is a ship, and fire it at the closest star at a constant velocity, then measure increases in velocity at predetermined ranges. She can report back her observations to a device.

8 posted on 06/23/2003 10:25:24 AM PDT by theDentist (So. This is Virginia.... where are all the virgins?)
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To: RightWhale
AFAIK nothing with MASS can exceed or equal the speed of light. Massless objects can, which is why light (massless) can go lightspeed and not really really really really close to it :)
9 posted on 06/23/2003 10:28:21 AM PDT by ruiner
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To: RightWhale
Einstein said that nothing can be accelerated beyond the speed of light in a vaccum.
10 posted on 06/23/2003 10:30:58 AM PDT by Brellium
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To: ruiner
You are correct, if Einstein had it right. I drove my physics TA nuts asking him what would happen if Einstein was wrong. I'm certainly not saying I know one way or another. I just got my book lurnin' and all...
11 posted on 06/23/2003 10:33:59 AM PDT by Mr. Bird
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To: RightWhale
Gravity propagates in "waves?" I thought it was simply a curvature of space around a mass. </sigh>
12 posted on 06/23/2003 10:36:12 AM PDT by 10mm
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To: AdmSmith
But is that really how science works? Not every proposition in a theory exposes the theory to extinction by disproof. Those in the HARD CORE of the theory certainly do, but these are the cardinal propositions in the theory, not auxiliary laws, models, etc.

For example, the field of genetics is based on the cardinal rules governing of combinations of genetic "factors". Should someone find that alleles do not in fact combine in accordance with those rules, it's bye bye to Mendel.

But the precise mechanism of the joining of alleles does not have to be hard-wired in genetic theory. Someone can find that a commonly held view of crossover and mutation is not accurate, and the hard core of Mendel's theory would still hold.

One must distinguish between these cardinal, essential propositions in a theory, and the outer ring of ad-hoc or weak principles that merely support the theory or explain its mechanisms in some cases.

This is why I framed my question in terms of the relative place of the speed of gravity proposition in the general theory.
13 posted on 06/23/2003 10:44:34 AM PDT by PonyTailGuy
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To: PonyTailGuy
If they really wanted to measure the propogation of gravitational waves, why would Jupiter passing thru the light waves coming from the Quasar even enter into it?

They could simply measure the timed arrival of the light waves as Jupiter approached these waves, as it passed thru these waves, and as it continued passing by these waves to see if the aberrations in the light waves are the same approaching and leaving the light wave.

If the light wave has a constant distortion before and after Jupiter passes thru, then gravity has an infinite speed. If the ligth wave has a gradual distortion as Jupiter approaches and leaves the wave, then the speed of gravity could be calculated.

14 posted on 06/23/2003 11:04:21 AM PDT by keithtoo (Tax Cuts - A robber who doesn't steal from you isn't GIVING you a VCR!!)
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To: PonyTailGuy
Tha assumption that the speed of gravity is equal to the speed of light is a cardinal assumption. If the experimental data are different and these data are found to be correct then the theory of gravity according to Einstein is finito and must be replaced by something better.

That is what happened with Mendel's theory as well (it has been refined as you mentioned)

Science is always evolving, no Final Theory exists.
15 posted on 06/23/2003 11:34:16 AM PDT by AdmSmith
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To: RightWhale
I don't believe in gravity. I say gravity and EM are one and the same.
16 posted on 06/23/2003 11:43:26 AM PDT by Flightdeck
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To: PonyTailGuy
This may be a completely uninformed question (I'm an EE, not a physicist), but gravity is a force, right? Light is a particle, right?

Or have we moved on, and discovered that gravity is now a particle, and so is light?

I already realize that there are no such thing as particles (part waveform, part particle).

Gravity, being a force is related to acceleration, not speed. mass times acceleration equals force.

Is this stupid? (Probably)
17 posted on 06/23/2003 11:49:27 AM PDT by RinaseaofDs
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To: RightWhale; Victoria Delsoul; PatrickHenry; Quila; Rudder; donh; VadeRetro; RadioAstronomer; ...
((((((growl)))))


18 posted on 06/23/2003 11:51:07 AM PDT by Sabertooth
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To: Flightdeck
gravity and EM are one

While electromagnetic, weak, and strong are similar enough to be combined mathematically, gravity is a different species mathematically and refuses to be combined with the others.

19 posted on 06/23/2003 11:52:11 AM PDT by RightWhale (gazing at shadows)
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To: VadeRetro; jennyp; Junior; longshadow; *crevo_list; RadioAstronomer; Scully; Piltdown_Woman; ...
Cornucopia of pings. [This ping list is for the evolution side of evolution threads, and sometimes for other science topics. FReepmail me to be added or dropped.]
20 posted on 06/23/2003 11:56:59 AM PDT by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas.)
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To: RinaseaofDs
This may be a completely uninformed question (I'm an EE, not a physicist), but gravity is a force, right? Light is a particle, right?

There are four fundamental forces in nature:

Strong force
Weak force
Electromagnetism (EM) Light is an electromagnetic wave
Gravity

All of the fundamental forces are considered Exchange Forces. In other words the force involves an exchange of one or more particles.

The exchange particles are as follows:

Strong – The pion (and others)
Electromagnetic (EM) – The photon
Weak – The W and Z
Gravity – Believed to be the graviton

An addition by Physicist:

Note: The pion does mediate the inter-nucleon force. That force isn't fundamental, however. The fundamental force is the inter-quark force that binds the quarks into hadrons (such as protons, neutrons and pions), and that is what we usually mean by the strong force, nowadays. The force between hadrons is a residual color dipole interaction that is analogous to the Van der Waals force in electromagnetism.

21 posted on 06/23/2003 12:08:34 PM PDT by RadioAstronomer
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To: 10mm
Gravity propagates in "waves?" I thought it was simply a curvature of space around a mass

Exactly - that's the whole basis of the miracle bra / underwire theory.

22 posted on 06/23/2003 12:14:46 PM PDT by talleyman (If you don't mind, it don't matter)
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To: PonyTailGuy
In any event, just how central is the speed of gravity to the general theory of relativity?

If the speed of gravity were infinite you could use gravitational effects to synchronize the clocks in two different frames. This leads to contradictions to the principle of relativity, even in special relativity.

For example, if spaceships pass each other moving in opposite directions, each appears to be contracted relative to the other.

However, by stationing observers at opposite ends of both ships with synchronized clocks, we could determine which ship was "really" contracted and which merely appeared contracted by observing the times at which observers on each ship passed their counterparties.

23 posted on 06/23/2003 12:24:07 PM PDT by wotan
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To: RightWhale
Eddington (innocent of General Relativity) and certain obtuse individuals today argue that gravity must propagate at infinite velocity.

The argument has superficial plausibility but has been convincingly refuted by (e.g.) Prof. Carlip at UC Davis.

The basic argument relies on something like the inverse of the Poynting-Robeson (spelling?) effect. Light moving radially from the sun encounters Earth moving 'forward' and thus falls at a slight angle relative to the radius vector from Earth to Sun. The effect of this is to exert a slight retrograde pressure due to Earth's motion relative to the radial lines from the Sun.

Gravity, it is argued, would have the same vector triangle except that it would be of opposite sign (since gravity 'sucks' and light 'pushes'). This, says the argument, should cause an acceleration of Earth relative to the Sun, which in a remarkably short period of time (a few thousand years) would result in a doubling of Earth's orbital distance, and in millions of years would fling us out of the solar system entirely. Therefore gravity must propagate at infinite speed, QED.

The problem is that it can be shown that under General Relativity, gravity waves are radiated which exactly equal the increased energy due to the 'couple'. The extra momentum, in other words, is leaked away via gravity waves and the solar system remains stable.

--Boris

24 posted on 06/23/2003 12:27:21 PM PDT by boris
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To: RadioAstronomer
The force between hadrons is a residual color dipole interaction that is analogous to the Van der Waals force in electromagnetism.

Glad you cleared that up.

25 posted on 06/23/2003 12:28:13 PM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets ("ALL THE NEWS THAT FITS, WE PRINT")
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To: RinaseaofDs
You are getting too series.
26 posted on 06/23/2003 12:30:26 PM PDT by cinFLA
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To: RightWhale
I thought it was proven by liberals that the earth doesn't have gravity -- it sucks.

27 posted on 06/23/2003 12:31:55 PM PDT by Lee'sGhost (Crom!)
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To: boris
gravity waves are radiated

Assuming this is going on, should we expect to be able to detect these gravity waves somehow? They would be coming from all directions and we ought to notice them if they are 'bright' enough and perhaps even form images. Or are they so weak and smooth that we can't devise instruments sensitive enough to register them?

28 posted on 06/23/2003 12:40:11 PM PDT by RightWhale (gazing at shadows)
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To: RightWhale
Hey, nobody knows yet. When I get to be real smart, I plan on uniting EM and gravity using a new branch of topological math or non-euclidean geometry. Then I'll spend the Nobel money on fast cars and fast women.
29 posted on 06/23/2003 12:46:02 PM PDT by Flightdeck
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To: boris
gravity must propagate at infinite velocity

Maybe gravity waves propagate at a finite speed. However, they are unlike light in that: light is generated by various reactions and must be generated or it goes out, ceases, whereas gravity is always just there, static, not necessarily propagating at all. Maybe gravity waves are possible, but just an ancillary phenomenon, something that gravity can do but doesn't need to do.

30 posted on 06/23/2003 12:50:14 PM PDT by RightWhale (gazing at shadows)
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To: Flightdeck
I'll spend the Nobel money on fast cars and fast women

You'll probably be just like Einstein and give all the money to your first wife.

31 posted on 06/23/2003 12:52:06 PM PDT by RightWhale (gazing at shadows)
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To: RightWhale
Is Five Trillionths of a second a big deal when measuring something traveling 186,000 miles per second? I say we call it a tie and move along.
32 posted on 06/23/2003 12:56:35 PM PDT by Normal4me
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To: RightWhale
You'll probably be just like Einstein and give all the money to your first wife.


You mean this Einstein?

33 posted on 06/23/2003 1:00:46 PM PDT by balrog666 (When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain)
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To: cinFLA
But the topic is hugh!
34 posted on 06/23/2003 1:03:57 PM PDT by RinaseaofDs
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To: RadioAstronomer
Exchange forces require particles, so by referring to light, they might has well been referring to electromagnetic force,

right?
35 posted on 06/23/2003 1:05:50 PM PDT by RinaseaofDs
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To: AdmSmith
Your assessment cannot be correct. In many creationist threads, when creationists assert that evolution is only a "theory", I would throw back that gravity is also a "theory". They would 'refute' my by telling me that gravity is establihsed, proven, a Law. Therefore gravity cannot change. It's been proven. Creationists said so.
36 posted on 06/23/2003 1:09:05 PM PDT by Dimensio (Sometimes I doubt your committment to Sparkle Motion!)
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To: RightWhale
We cannot judge the science without first asking the race of the scientists involved. If black, we must add weight to their arguments.

- The Supremes
37 posted on 06/23/2003 1:21:12 PM PDT by Uncle Miltie (Racism is the codified policy of the USA .... - The Supremes)
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To: RinaseaofDs
Now my brain hurts...why do I enter these threads?
38 posted on 06/23/2003 1:30:55 PM PDT by Florida_Freeper
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To: PatrickHenry
Gravity is not pull..it's push...sxpansion of space/time.
39 posted on 06/23/2003 4:43:17 PM PDT by metacognative
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To: PatrickHenry
cornucoptic placemarker
40 posted on 06/23/2003 5:03:41 PM PDT by longshadow
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To: Flightdeck
"Then I'll spend the Nobel money on fast cars and fast women."

At least you won't be waisting your money. This saving stuff is over rated.
41 posted on 06/23/2003 5:21:55 PM PDT by dozer7
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To: RightWhale
"Assuming this is going on, should we expect to be able to detect these gravity waves somehow? They would be coming from all directions and we ought to notice them if they are 'bright' enough and perhaps even form images. Or are they so weak and smooth that we can't devise instruments sensitive enough to register them?"

I think your question is probably on the mark: they are so weak we cannot measure them.

Heck, two black holes waltzing around once per minute 100 LY away we can't detect...

--Boris

42 posted on 06/23/2003 5:52:54 PM PDT by boris
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To: RightWhale
"Maybe gravity waves propagate at a finite speed. However, they are unlike light in that: light is generated by various reactions and must be generated or it goes out, ceases, whereas gravity is always just there, static, not necessarily propagating at all. Maybe gravity waves are possible, but just an ancillary phenomenon, something that gravity can do but doesn't need to do."

You know, the standard answer to "how do gravitons get out of a black hole?" is that the field is a "fossil" left over from when the hole was a star.

So the obvious question is: if stuff is falling into the hole, how can its gravity increase?

I've seen answers but have a hard time grasping them.

Evidently the integral of the mass/position of the inflow at the moment it crosses the event horizon averages out and the field intensifies that way. I dunno.

--Boris
P.S. Everything radiates EM (light) unless it is at absolute zero...right?

43 posted on 06/23/2003 5:57:22 PM PDT by boris
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To: RadioAstronomer
PLACEMARKER
44 posted on 06/23/2003 6:45:28 PM PDT by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas.)
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To: boris
Everything radiates EM (light) unless it is at absolute zero...right?

Per Wien's law [yet another law,] the peak wavelength is inversely proportional to temperature [as always, measured relative to absolute zero] so as the temperature approaches absolute zero, the wavelength of the emitted light approaches infinitely large values. At the same time the energy of the wavelength falls rapidly as the wavelength increases, so the intensity of the light emitted near absolute zero is very low. This radiation is probably not going to be called light except on FR since it is way outside the visible spectrum. It's not even in the radio spectrum.
V e r y, . v e r y . l o w . f r e q u e n c y. Even lower than that.

45 posted on 06/23/2003 7:11:53 PM PDT by RightWhale (gazing at shadows)
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To: Dimensio
Gravity has definitely been proven. Just ask any plastic surgeon.
46 posted on 06/23/2003 7:18:29 PM PDT by stanz (Those who don't believe in evolution should go jump off the flat edge of the Earth.)
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To: RinaseaofDs
Exchange forces require particles, so by referring to light, they might has well been referring to electromagnetic force,

I don't quite understand the question.

47 posted on 06/23/2003 7:36:47 PM PDT by RadioAstronomer
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To: Dimensio
Your assessment cannot be correct. In many creationist threads, when creationists assert that evolution is only a "theory", I would throw back that gravity is also a "theory". They would 'refute' my by telling me that gravity is establihsed, proven, a Law. Therefore gravity cannot change. It's been proven. Creationists said so.</>

Gravity is proven as an effect, but the Eisnstein Theory of Gravity is just a theory. Earlier we had the theory by Newton, it evolved to the Einstein variant. There are several competing theories of Gravity. In the future we will (probably) have a unified theory with gravity and quantum mechanics. But this is many years in the future, the string theory although elegant is probably not the Final theory either.

48 posted on 06/23/2003 10:33:10 PM PDT by AdmSmith
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets; RadioAstronomer; PatrickHenry; longshadow
From RA: "The force between hadrons is a residual color dipole interaction that is analogous to the Van der Waals force in electromagnetism."

From LIM: "Glad you cleared that up."

ROFLMAO! RA, you've got more brains than are decent. Would you please explain this in layman's terms? :^)

49 posted on 06/24/2003 11:49:19 PM PDT by Aracelis (Oh, evolve!)
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To: Piltdown_Woman
ROFLMAO! RA, you've got more brains than are decent. Would you please explain this in layman's terms?

What's the problem? Perfectly clear to me.
50 posted on 06/25/2003 12:10:48 AM PDT by jwh_Denver (Female fly to male fly, "Buzz off and go find me some dog crap")
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