Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It's sure as the law of gravity, you say? Well, check the refund policy ...

In "Newton, Einstein Lost in Space?" Robert Lee Hotz has some fun with the idea that Newton and Einstein might have been wrong about gravity. Russian-born astrophysicist Slava Turyshev, working at Jet Propulsion laboratory, noted the "Pioneer anomaly",
Beyond the edge of the solar system, something has gradually dragged two of America's oldest space probes -- Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 -- a quarter-million miles off course. Astrophysicists have struggled 15 years in vain to identify the infinitesimal force at play.
It's just a tiny anomaly, but radio wave physicist John Anderson, also of JPL, who does not overlook small deviations,
monitored the trajectories six years before calling attention to the matter. "I'm a little like an accountant," Dr. Anderson said. "We have Newton's theory and Einstein's theory, and when you apply them to something like this -- and it doesn't add up -- it bothers me."
Does it mean anything? We don't know yet. But Turyshev hints,
"We would expect the two spacecraft to follow Newton's law of gravity," Dr. Turyshev said, "but they in fact fail to confirm Newton's law. If Newton is wrong, Einstein is wrong too."
For now, I will put my cash on the dead white males being right about gravity and similar stuff (it's what they do best). Still, I can't help quoting from The Spiritual Brain, re anomalies:
In science, small, persistent effects cannot be ignored. Sometimes they force a revision of major paradigms. For example, Lord Kelvin remarked in 1900 that there were just “two little dark clouds” on the horizon of Newtonian classical physics of the day, namely, Michelson and Morley’s measurements of the velocity of light and the phenomenon of blackbody radiation. Kelvin was certain that these troubling little clouds would be blown away shortly.149 Yet all of modern physics—relativity and quantum mechanics—derives from these two little dark clouds. (P. 173)
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