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First speed of gravity measurement revealed
NewScientist.com ^ | 01/07/2003 | Ed Fomalont and Sergei Kopeikin

Posted on 01/07/2003 6:23:34 PM PST by forsnax5

The speed of gravity has been measured for the first time. The landmark experiment shows that it travels at the speed of light, meaning that Einstein's general theory of relativity has passed another test with flying colours.

Ed Fomalont of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Sergei Kopeikin of the University of Missouri in Columbia made the measurement, with the help of the planet Jupiter.

"We became the first two people to know the speed of gravity, one of the fundamental constants of nature," the scientists say, in an article in New Scientist print edition. One important consequence of the result is that it places constraints on theories of "brane worlds", which suggest the Universe has more spatial dimensions than the familiar three.

John Baez, a physicist from the University of California at Riverside, comments: "Einstein wins yet again." He adds that any other result would have come as a shock.

You can read Fomalont and Kopeikin's account of their unique experiment in an exclusive, full-length feature in the next issue of New Scientist print edition, on sale from 9 January.

Isaac Newton thought the influence of gravity was instantaneous, but Einstein assumed it travelled at the speed of light and built this into his 1915 general theory of relativity.

Light-speed gravity means that if the Sun suddenly disappeared from the centre of the Solar System, the Earth would remain in orbit for about 8.3 minutes - the time it takes light to travel from the Sun to the Earth. Then, suddenly feeling no gravity, Earth would shoot off into space in a straight line.

But the assumption of light-speed gravity has come under pressure from brane world theories, which suggest there are extra spatial dimensions rolled up very small. Gravity could take a short cut through these extra dimensions and so appear to travel faster than the speed of light - without violating the equations of general relativity.

But how can you measure the speed of gravity? One way would be to detect gravitational waves, little ripples in space-time that propagate out from accelerating masses. But no one has yet managed to do this.

Measuring the speed of gravity

Kopeikin found another way. He reworked the equations of general relativity to express the gravitational field of a moving body in terms of its mass, velocity and the speed of gravity. If you could measure the gravitational field of Jupiter, while knowing its mass and velocity, you could work out the speed of gravity.

The opportunity to do this arose in September 2002, when Jupiter passed in front of a quasar that emits bright radio waves. Fomalont and Kopeikin combined observations from a series of radio telescopes across the Earth to measure the apparent change in the quasar's position as the gravitational field of Jupiter bent the passing radio waves.

From that they worked out that gravity does move at the same speed as light. Their actual figure was 0.95 times light speed, but with a large error margin of plus or minus 0.25.

Their result, announced on Tuesday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, should help narrow down the possible number of extra dimensions and their sizes.

But experts say the indirect evidence that gravity propagates at the speed of light was already overwhelming. "It would be revolutionary if gravity were measured not to propagate at the speed of light - we were virtually certain that it must," says Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: crevolist; gravity; podkletnov; realscience; science; stringtheory; tvf
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1 posted on 01/07/2003 6:23:34 PM PST by forsnax5
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To: RightWhale; VadeRetro; ASA Vet; vannrox; blam; Physicist; RadioAstronomer
Ping for Gravity fans!
2 posted on 01/07/2003 6:28:21 PM PST by forsnax5
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To: forsnax5
BTTT
3 posted on 01/07/2003 6:29:10 PM PST by Fiddlstix (Hooray! The tag line is Back! (Way To Go, John!))
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To: forsnax5
Pretty wild. I always assumed that gravity was an instantaneous thing.
4 posted on 01/07/2003 6:31:30 PM PST by Excuse_My_Bellicosity
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To: forsnax5
Ping for Gravity fans!

Except that if gravity propagated at the speed of light, the earth would long ago have ceased to orbit the sun. The calculation of orbital trajectories, in order to work, have to be plotted treating the speed of gravity as virtually instantaneous.
5 posted on 01/07/2003 6:33:06 PM PST by aruanan
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To: forsnax5
"But how can you measure the speed of gravity? One way would be to detect gravitational waves, little ripples in space-time that propagate out from accelerating masses. But no one has yet managed to do this.

Measuring the speed of gravity Kopeikin found another way. He reworked the equations of general relativity to express the gravitational field of a moving body in terms of its mass, velocity and the speed of gravity. If you could measure the gravitational field of Jupiter, while knowing its mass and velocity, you could work out the speed of gravity. The opportunity to do this arose in September 2002, when Jupiter passed in front of a quasar that emits bright radio waves. Fomalont and Kopeikin combined observations from a series of radio telescopes across the Earth to measure the apparent change in the quasar's position as the gravitational field of Jupiter bent the passing radio waves."

Then again, perhaps all that they really measured was the speed of the radio waves bending around Jupiter...

6 posted on 01/07/2003 6:34:46 PM PST 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: forsnax5
It's amazing that Einstein's theories, unprovable when he was alive, are still being shown to be right.

I remember in 1995 when they discovered that Einstein-Bose Condensate was just like Einstein (and Bose) predicted it would be in 1925.

7 posted on 01/07/2003 6:35:05 PM PST by Excuse_My_Bellicosity
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To: Excuse_My_Bellicosity
I always assumed that gravity was an instantaneous thing.

You're in good company. So did Isaac Newton...

8 posted on 01/07/2003 6:36:31 PM PST by forsnax5
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To: forsnax5
Gravity particles bump.
9 posted on 01/07/2003 6:39:52 PM PST by blam
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To: forsnax5
Fascinating stuff.
10 posted on 01/07/2003 6:40:06 PM PST by conservativemusician
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To: forsnax5
Geeze, we all knew that. It HAS to.

*burp*
11 posted on 01/07/2003 6:40:10 PM PST by MonroeDNA
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To: forsnax5
What Gravitas!
12 posted on 01/07/2003 6:41:34 PM PST by NEWwoman
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To: forsnax5

Of course you realize this ping is entirely redundant..

13 posted on 01/07/2003 6:42:39 PM PST by Jhoffa_
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To: forsnax5
You're in good company. So did Isaac Newton...

I would think that measurements of earth's acceleration toward the sun that show a direction that is 8.3 minutes ahead of the apparent position of the sun in the sky also demonstrate a propagation speed that is virtually (at these distances) instantaneous. That is, the earth is not accelerating toward where "gravity waves" are supposedly reaching the earth together with the photons that left the sun 8.3 minutes previously but toward where the sun actually is.
14 posted on 01/07/2003 6:45:59 PM PST by aruanan
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To: Excuse_My_Bellicosity
Pretty wild. I always assumed that gravity was an instantaneous thing.

What, then, would prevent the use of gravitational waves as a faster-than-light communications medium?

15 posted on 01/07/2003 6:47:53 PM PST by supercat (TAG--you're it!)
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To: *RealScience; Ernest_at_the_Beach
http://www.freerepublic.com/perl/bump-list
16 posted on 01/07/2003 6:49:17 PM PST by Libertarianize the GOP
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To: forsnax5
[thoughts]: (1) Do photons interact gravitationally with each other? (2) Do gravity waves have mass?
17 posted on 01/07/2003 6:51:02 PM PST by supercat (TAG--you're it!)
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To: forsnax5
Perhaps there is a minimum distance -- a quantum of space -- and a minimum amount of time -- a quantum of time. There is a speed limit on light because it cannot take less than one quantum of time to travel across one quantum of space. Do I know what I'm talking about here? Absolutely not. But I don't think anyboody else does, either.
18 posted on 01/07/2003 6:52:46 PM PST by Nick Danger
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To: Nick Danger
You got it nonetheless. The "Planck" distance and the "Planck" time. Values very small in each case. Everything is grainy when you get small enough.
19 posted on 01/07/2003 6:55:46 PM PST by VadeRetro (Indian name: "Argues with Nutcases")
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To: forsnax5; SavageRepublican
I love gravity!

Columbia, Missouri (actually Ashland, Missouri)

20 posted on 01/07/2003 6:55:51 PM PST by rface
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To: Libertarianize the GOP
Thanks for the ping!

How did Einstein figure all of this out, just amazing!

21 posted on 01/07/2003 6:57:54 PM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach
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To: forsnax5
If gravity travels at the same speed as light is it an electromagnetic wave or is it the medium that it travels through that limits the speed of propagation of all forces?
22 posted on 01/07/2003 7:06:03 PM PST by Gary Boldwater
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To: aruanan
You are confusing instantaneous with continuous.

The effect of Gravity as a field is based on a continuous "warping" of space based on the presence of mass. And mass such as the sun does not instantaneously dissappear, as in the thought experiment cited of a vanishing sun. Every "now" is based on the influence of where everything elsewhere "was" at this moment's light-horizon...

If the sun exploded from its center in an emmense explosion such that all the remaining mass of the sun was accelerated into a spherical shell expanding at near light speed from the center of the sun, once this shell of matter passed the earth, what was left of the earth would proceed in an essentially straight line - no longer an orbit - based on the long-recognized zeroing out of the gravitational attraction of matter outside a sphere, modified by the reaction of the collision of the expanding debris impacting the earth, and physically propelling it in a slightly different direction...
23 posted on 01/07/2003 7:09:37 PM PST by muffaletaman
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To: Nick Danger
Perhaps there is a minimum distance -- a quantum of space -- and a minimum amount of time -- a quantum of time.

I gave myself a headache on one rainy saturday thinking about the ramifications of quantum time. It's a very interesting idea.

If you imagine a quantum of space like a square in a checkerboard (and make it a cube so it's 3-dimensional) and a quantum of time as how long it takes a quantum of light to pass from one quantum cube to the next, and then you imagine that space can be deformed, so that one quantum is not the same physical size as the next, and that the time quantum doesn't change with the space quantum, then...

HEADACHE!


24 posted on 01/07/2003 7:11:34 PM PST by forsnax5
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To: rface
I love gravity!

It keeps the salt in the shaker.

25 posted on 01/07/2003 7:16:36 PM PST by facedown (Armed in the Heartland)
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To: forsnax5
Only one tiny thing they forgot to mention in the article: No one knows what gravity is.
26 posted on 01/07/2003 7:18:50 PM PST by Semper911
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To: forsnax5
........they worked out that gravity does move at the same speed as light.......

Okay, I'm confused.

We are always shown the picture of the Einstein space/time continuum: a marble (representing a planet) rolling around on a cross-hatched sheet, circling a steep central drop-off (representing a black hole). The momentum of the marble keeps it from falling inward.

Gravity, in this model, is the curvature of the sheet (the space/time continuum).

Isn't the curvature "felt" instantaneously by the marble because gravity is embedded in the very "fabric" of the space/time continuum?

Damnit Jim, I'm a biologist, not a physicist!

27 posted on 01/07/2003 7:20:30 PM PST by DoctorMichael (My brain hurts.)
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To: Southack
perhaps all that they really measured was the speed of the radio waves...

Yes, you are on the right track, since radio waves travel at the speed of light.

Isn't that a co-inky-dink.

28 posted on 01/07/2003 7:21:03 PM PST by Semper911
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To: muffaletaman
Likewise the importance that as near as it can be measured, inertial mass and gravitational mass are exactly equal.

In the supposed experiment measuring the weight of an object suspended over a rapidly spinning superconducting disk, and finding the claimed finding that weight of the object is lessened...

(1) either a repulsive electromagnetic effect is generating a force upward... normal action/reaction is occuring, nothing more...

(2) or a method of shielding the gravity field is being generated, which if true can be engineered into a warp drive someday allowing interstellar travel vis-a-vis star trek (i.e. if gravitational mass and inertial mass can be caused to become different and the difference manipulated, then perhaps an inertial bubble can be created, and the bubble accelerated by a generated polar flux in the universal G-field - one direction of the entire universe attracts, the opposite direction repulses. Thus, though the object within the bubble never exceeds local light speed within the bubble, the bubble itself can be moved at warp speeds, multiples of the speed of light)...

(3) or... (fill in the blank yourself...)
29 posted on 01/07/2003 7:24:29 PM PST by muffaletaman
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To: forsnax5; Southack
Of course I should add my usual disclaimer:

What I don't know about physics could fill a book. (Hundreds of them, actually)

30 posted on 01/07/2003 7:24:51 PM PST by Semper911
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To: PatrickHenry; Physicist; ThinkPlease
gravity speed bump!
31 posted on 01/07/2003 7:26:04 PM PST by longshadow
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To: forsnax5
But the assumption of light-speed gravity has come under pressure from brane world theories, which suggest there are extra spatial dimensions rolled up very small. Gravity could take a short cut through these extra dimensions and so appear to travel faster than the speed of light - without violating the equations of general relativity.

Their actual figure was 0.95 times light speed, but with a large error margin of plus or minus 0.25.

How fast do the "Brane World" theorists think light might travel? Could gravity travel at 1.20 times the speed of light for them to be correct? Or would it be 10,000 or 100 times the speed of light for them to be correct?

32 posted on 01/07/2003 7:26:53 PM PST by Sawdring
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To: DoctorMichael
We are always shown the picture of the Einstein space/time continuum: a marble (representing a planet) rolling around on a cross-hatched sheet, circling a steep central drop-off (representing a black hole). The momentum of the marble keeps it from falling inward.

I saw a model of this in the Los Angeles County Museum of Science and Industry, many years ago. At the time, I thought that showing a model that used gravity to demonstrate the concept of gravity was cheating. ;)

Gravity and magnetism are two of my favorite puzzles. They embody "spooky action at a distance" for me...

33 posted on 01/07/2003 7:30:29 PM PST by forsnax5
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To: forsnax5
Is there a graviton responsible for propagation of mass attraction? With what does the graviton interact to deform spacetime? If two masses attract each other (deform spacetime in a way to influence each other's relative inertial existence), to what location of a mass or spacetime are the gravitons focused? Could it be that gravity is a temporal force/effect not strictly a spatial effect?... Might mass warp the planar 'smoothness' of present time rather than the volume of spatial spacetime?
34 posted on 01/07/2003 7:31:36 PM PST by MHGinTN (It's obvious I'm no scientists, asking such questions)
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To: forsnax5

35 posted on 01/07/2003 7:32:42 PM PST by null and void (And only one with the nawth end of a southron bound haws...)
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To: forsnax5
Very interesting, especially if all the current proposals that the speed of light is variable is true. The implications are stunning!
36 posted on 01/07/2003 7:33:38 PM PST by vannrox
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To: forsnax5
OK someone has to say it :

Gravity Sux! ;-)

37 posted on 01/07/2003 7:34:32 PM PST by commish
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To: forsnax5
Yes but we won't ever get our anti-gravity boots unless we can find out "why" gravity pulls us down. Maybe if we could creat something upon which the mass of a foreign body like the moon would zero in on, therefor countering the the pull of earth, and give us a lift... kind of like a magnifying glass pulling in the reys of the sun, a device could be created that would magnify the gravity pull of the moon.
38 posted on 01/07/2003 7:43:42 PM PST by Godfollow
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To: DoctorMichael
Gravity, in this model, is the curvature of the sheet (the space/time continuum).

Yes. And if you pull the sheet down a little farther in that spot, the curvature won't readjust itself instantaneously across the whole sheet... instead, the increased curvature propagates as a wave outward from the place you pull on, at some measurable rate.

39 posted on 01/07/2003 7:43:58 PM PST by Oberon
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To: forsnax5
Sorry I'm late to the thread! I had to come all the way over from the "I-told-you-so" Department.

;^)
40 posted on 01/07/2003 7:45:36 PM PST by Physicist
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To: forsnax5
Sadly, there are many in this forum who have absolutely no idea of the gravity of this discovery.
41 posted on 01/07/2003 7:47:14 PM PST by One_who_hopes_to_know
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To: aruanan
Except that if gravity propagated at the speed of light, the earth would long ago have ceased to orbit the sun.

The Face on Mars is wearing a really miffed expression, right about now.

42 posted on 01/07/2003 7:49:49 PM PST by Physicist (Can't resist those Tom Van Flandern digs.)
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To: Nick Danger
"...one quantum of time to travel across one quantum of space..."

I had a quantum of Scotch in my cabinet on NYE, but somebody made it empty-space. Them dang FLA-FReepers really know how to party.

Wait-a-sec.....never mind - it was me. Happy new Year, pal...........FRegards

43 posted on 01/07/2003 7:52:15 PM PST by gonzo ("The peasants are revolting, Sire!"........."They certainly are!")
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To: Oberon
.........the increased curvature propagates as a wave outward from the place you pull on, at some measurable rate..........

.......like making a wave in the the sheets when you make your bed by injecting a wave of air underneath them. This I knew, but was somehow having a hard time incorporating this into the model.

However, like photons being responsible for the transference of the electromagnetic force, where then are the Gravitons, the particles responsible for this force?

44 posted on 01/07/2003 7:55:08 PM PST by DoctorMichael (My brain still hurts.)
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To: forsnax5
OK, I'm not a physics major, but this kind of thing has always been interesting to me and the article leaves me with these questions...

If the speed of gravity is faster than light, how could it be measured as such?

Although it is not possible to travel AT the speed of light, there is no restriction on going faster than the speed of light. In theroy, there are particles that were ejected from the Big Bang at FTL speeds. From this result, these particles would be not be centered on the area that their gravity effects, and the gravity area would always be trying to catch up. How would this effect things like acceleration, mass, inertia etc.?

Could a particle with FTL speed leave it's gravity effect so far behind that they wind up traveling separate paths (FTL particle shoots past a in a straight line, the gravity 'wave' is diverted by the gravity of the star).

How is it known that the speed of gravity is a constant? How do we know that a supermasive object doesn't have a faster or slower speed, or that other conditions don't have any effect?

The speed of light is not constant, it is constant in a vacuum. Light traveling through a different medium (air, glass) has a different speed. What mediums effect the speed of gravity, if any?

If the center of gravity of an object became displaced from the center of the 'gravity wave' it creates, would the object instantly jump to FTL speed as the gravity wave tried to catch up (Warp factor 5 Mr. Sulu!)

Anyway, if you head hasn't blown up by now, good for you.
45 posted on 01/07/2003 7:59:58 PM PST by Grig
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To: DoctorMichael
Gravity, in this model, is the curvature of the sheet (the space/time continuum). Isn't the curvature "felt" instantaneously by the marble because gravity is embedded in the very "fabric" of the space/time continuum?

If the gravitational attractor (say, the Sun) is just sitting there minding its own business, then yes, the gravitational field ("dent" in the space-time rubber sheet) is constant and any other object (e.g. a comet) which wanders by will "feel" the effect of the gravitational curvature "immediately".

But what this discovery describes is how quickly the "rubber sheet" responds to *changes*. For example, if you just plunked the Sun down into a spot of space where it didn't previously reside, the question is how long it would take the resulting "curvature" of the "rubber sheet" to propagate outward. Or alternately, if you start rolling the ball (Sun) north across the sheet, does the rubber sheet instantly adjust as the ball rolls, or does it take a little time for it to "catch up" (i.e., will a spot of curvature 50 yards away instantly feel the change, or will the changing curvature have to "ripple" out there like a crowd doing The Wave?

This is hard to describe will in words, an animation would be ideal, but I don't know of any on the web which show this.

46 posted on 01/07/2003 8:02:32 PM PST by Dan Day
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To: aruanan
I would think that measurements of earth's acceleration toward the sun that show a direction that is 8.3 minutes ahead of the apparent position of the sun in the sky also demonstrate a propagation speed that is virtually (at these distances) instantaneous. That is, the earth is not accelerating toward where "gravity waves" are supposedly reaching the earth together with the photons that left the sun 8.3 minutes previously but toward where the sun actually is.

But where the "sun actually is" doesn't really move that much, relative to the Earth. Don't let the apparent "movement" of the sun across the sky as the Earth rotates fool you.

The Sun pretty much sits in the same spot (i.e., right in the middle of the solar system), so there's no testable difference between the effect its gravity has on our orbit if "instantaneous", versus the effect it would have 8.3 minutes delayed.

If the Sun actually *were* circling the Earth in the way it *appears* to, then yeah, an 8.3 minute difference in gravity would be measurable. But then, it would also be circling us at over two million miles per hour (3% of the speed of light)...

47 posted on 01/07/2003 8:11:18 PM PST by Dan Day
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To: forsnax5
Yeah, sure, but what's the speed of dark?
48 posted on 01/07/2003 8:14:30 PM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets
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To: supercat
What, then, would prevent the use of gravitational waves as a faster-than-light communications medium?

Practical obstacles, mainly.

First, it would be *really* hard to vibrate a mass large enough to produce any non-trivial amount of gravity.

Second, although it seems a strong force, gravity is actually *incredibly* weak compared to electromagnetism, and very, very hard to detect if you're talking about masses less than the size of a moderately large mountain.

Incidentally, this is exactly why researchers have yet to be able to devise an experiment detecting gravity waves, too. If you *could* detect gravity waves, you could make a communication device using them. But to date no one's yet been able to. It's like trying to pick up the sound of a crash-landing mosquito across the Pacific ocean.

49 posted on 01/07/2003 8:17:27 PM PST by Dan Day
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To: DoctorMichael
If there are gravitons, then it would appear these quanta effect spacetime directly rather than the mass in spacetime directly.
50 posted on 01/07/2003 8:21:54 PM PST by MHGinTN (Amazing how lack of specialist edumacation makes asking cogent questions of the experts so hard)
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