Sunday, January 28, 2007

They Get Paid To Do This?

What happens when a genius creates incompatible -- not to say contradictory -- theories? A whole cottage industry springs up in the groves of academe to examine the disparities. Some portion seek to reconcile. Some scour assumptions for error. Such is the battle of the incompatibity between Einstein's theories of gravity and those of quantum mechanics which grew out of his General Theory of Relativity. A group of scientists is bouncing laser beams off reflectors placed on the moon in order to measure the precise distance from the Earth to the moon. If that varies by so much as a minim of a smidgen of a gnat's eyelash then Galileo's grand tossing of cannon balls off the tower of Pisa will be proven inaccurate.
The Economist tells the tale:
If the equivalence principle were violated, the moon's orbit around the Earth would appear skewed, either towards or away from the sun. So far, Dr Murphy told the conference, these experiments have merely confirmed the equivalence principle to one part in 10 trillion. Dr Murphy and his colleagues hope that even more precise measurements could ultimately show general relativity to be only approximately correct. This would usher in a new revolution in physics.(my emphasis)
Just sitting there, playing laser ping pong with the moon, with a chance to achieve physics immortality thrown in, and tenure too.
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