Monday, March 28, 2005

Confirming Einstein's Theory of Relativity

Picking on Einstein

By Patrick L. Barry, Dr. Tony Phillips
Science @ NASA

By measuring the shape of space with exquisite precision, NASA's Gravity Probe B aims to confirm Einstein's theory of relativity ... or provide the first evidence against it.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of a revolution in our notions of space and time.

Before 1905, when Albert Einstein published his theory of special relativity, most people believed that space and time were as Sir Isaac Newton described them back in the 17th century: Space was the fixed, unchanging "stage" upon which the great cosmic drama unfolded, and time was the mysterious, universal "clock in the sky."

Even today, people commonly assume that this intuitive sense of space and time is correct. It's not.

Einstein's 1905 paper, along with another one he published in 1915, painted an entirely different and mind-bending picture. Space itself is constantly being warped and curved by the matter and energy moving within it, and time flows at different rates for different observers. Numerous real-world experiments over the last 100 years indicate that, amazingly, Einstein was right.

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