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Einstein's Theory Passes Strict New Test

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the ha-ha-england-ha-ha dept.

Space 243

FiReaNGeL writes with an excerpt from a story at e! Science News: "Taking advantage of a unique cosmic configuration, astronomers have measured an effect predicted by Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity in the extremely strong gravity of a pair of superdense neutron stars. Essentially, the famed physicist's 93-year-old theory passed yet another test. Scientists at McGill University used the National Science Foundation's Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) to do a four-year study of a double-star system unlike any other known in the Universe. The system is a pair of neutron stars, both of which are seen as pulsars that emit lighthouse-like beams of radio waves."

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243 comments

And that, boys and girls, (4, Insightful)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053555)

...is the value of good old-fashioned study.

Re:And that, boys and girls, (1)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053621)

What use is this study if his theories don't agree with themselves? Call me when they find crucial discrepancies, not similarities.

Re:And that, boys and girls, (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24053673)

Um... now why didn't they think of that?

Re:And that, boys and girls, (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24054843)

This was also predicted by those who are researching the invisible pink unicorns. This experiment is a boon for fighting Global Warming and the disappearance of pirates from the world ecology.

Re:And that, boys and girls, (4, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053985)

You do realize that is what they're doing, right? They're looking out into the Universe for ways to test the theory against real live data.

Re:And that, boys and girls, (5, Funny)

megaditto (982598) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054443)

I think what he's saying is that since these scientists's job to to disprove relativity, or kill cancer, or cure AIDS, and they failed at their job, then they should not get their paycheck next month.

Seems perfectly logical to me.

Can't be right (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24053625)

Because quantum mechanics is right. Exhibit A, the computer you are typing on.

Re:Can't be right (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24053875)

I hate it when people discuss science in this banal way. It is as if they think that the physical theories are what cause nature to act (the Laws of Nature). This is wrong. These physical theories only describe how nature appears to act. Quantum mechanics is a classic example. Look at all the different formulations that describe how the state vector or wave function or whatever you want to call it acts (Heisenberg's, Schrödinger's, Dirac's, Feynman's, etc.). They are all good theories because they explain the experimental evidence, they are simple, and they can predict things. Take a look at the so-called wave-particle duality. A photon, for example, doesn't act as a wave or as a particle. It acts as a photon (paraphrasing Feynman). We only describe it as acting as a wave or a particle.

The truth about science is that it may very well not be possible to understand why the Universe acts as it does. It may not even be possible to understand the most basic laws governing it. But we can certainly study and try to understand its behavior where we can observe it. General relativity does that well, and quantum mechanics does that well. Calling one right and the other wrong sort of loses its meaning in this context when both theories describe their data exceptionally well for the ranges that they observe. Neither of them proposes to govern nature, nor should we ever expect that of a physical theory.

Re:Can't be right (4, Interesting)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053903)

Feynman's take was that light is *always* particles. He was unequivocal about that.

Re:Can't be right (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24054123)

Yeah, I think you are correct. I thought I remembered hearing a Feynman lecture (perhaps the New Zealand lecture) we he was discussing which of the many formulations of QM was correct and where he described that nature acts as it wants to and that our physical theories only describe it to the best degree that we can reason and that they are all equivalent in the sense that they correctly describe how nature appears to act. But since I can't find a quote online, this argument probably came from another physicist.

Re:Can't be right (5, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054161)

Calling one right and the other wrong sort of loses its meaning in this context

      I agree. Once again science... REAL science, is never about "right" or "wrong". It's about "can I use what you just told me in a predictable manner?". If it's BS and it doesn't work, then leave me alone I have stuff to do. :)

Re:Can't be right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24054397)

"The truth about science is that it may very well not be possible to understand why the Universe acts as it does. It may not even be possible to understand the most basic laws governing it."

Unfortunately, for our reasoning and thinking to work at all, there has to be some baseline access to absolute truth of how the universe works, otherwise science is a completely pointless exercise. Not to mention the evidence of technology tends to contradict your statement, while our MODELS of reality are not perfect. They do give us partial truth to how something works at the level of reality we can access, because our math or language doesn't describe something perfectly, doesn't mean the embedded general relationships don't exist. Either the relationships exist (yes) or they don't (no). Think of it like existing on the surface of the earth say 2000 years ago, before the advent of chemistry and whatnot, you could understand general relationsihps (i.e. truths) about food and the animal world without having to have a fucking PHD or any kind of formal education. If reality doesn't give us any kind of baseline absolutely true data then our lives would simply be impossible.

Re:And that, boys and girls, (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24053661)

I'm not sure if you're talking about Einstein or the present-day researchers. If you're talking about Einstein, it goes much deeper than study.

Take a brilliant mind, give it to Jewish parents, and then try to crush it under the intense pressure of early 20th century Germany. The result is an explosion.

Re:And that, boys and girls, (1)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054127)

Yeah. Although it is sort of depressing that we can't find the flaws in the theory; I mean, no theory is supposed to last forever - they're always stop-gaps until flaws are identified and we need to find a new one. Where's the fun in a theory that's always right?

I'm know it won't last forever, but with every new experiment there's always the hope that maybe this one will finally reveal a flaw to work on.

Re:And that, boys and girls, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24054411)

Well, general relativity fails badly at predicting our observations of how gravity behaves at interstellar distances. That is, unless you believe in "dark matter", for which there is absolutely no evidence (except that general relativity fails).

Re:And that, boys and girls, (5, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054301)

It's the value of good old fashioned visual thinking and geometry actually, einstein's theories were so powerful correct BECAUSE he was an excellent visual thinker and thought in terms of geometry. Geometry is highly under-rated in mathematics and physics in my opinion.

Re:And that, boys and girls, (4, Interesting)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#24055119)

How is geometry underrated? Calculus starts with the study of low dimensional curves. Linear algebra is the study of simple geometrical transformations (rotations, translations, dilations) in high dimensional geometry. Functional analysis is basically the study of infinite dimensional flat geometry. Partial differential equations are implicit equations for small patches of curves and surfaces. That's about half the usual curriculum in undergraduate mathematics, and I haven't even mentioned differential geometry (generalized theory of curves and curved spaces) and algebraic geometry (generalized study of the properties of curves defined by polynomial equations).

this is getting boring (1)

HappyEngineer (888000) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054379)

I'm getting sick of Einstein's theories continually being proved right.

We already know that there is something wrong with it on the quantum end of the scale. When are we going to get some tests which prove it wrong in a way that will help us refine it? Doesn't anyone have any tests they can do that will give us that information?

ha-ha-england-ha-ha (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24053559)

What's England got to do with it, though?

Re:ha-ha-england-ha-ha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24054647)

This comment is not off topic, it's a reasonable question. I would like to know what the "ha-ha-england-ha-ha" referred to too.

For us plebs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24053563)

could someone explain?

Re:For us plebs... (5, Informative)

CDMA_Demo (841347) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053605)

in summary:

1. GE says two objects can cause a wobble in each other's axes due to gravity
2. Measurement of this wobble wasn't possible earlier
3. With this star system, since they are massive and pulsate, and that they are aligned in a manner that makes a measurement possible, astronomers took the plunge
4. Prof...proved.

Re:For us plebs... (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053737)

what is the mechanics that cause gravity to produce wobble?

Re:For us plebs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24054337)

waves

Re:For us plebs... (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054655)

Now THAT is a summary (perhaps with the exception of point 4 which gets -1:redundant). Take note slashdot editors.

I might as well be asking for millions of dollars to fall out of the sky.

Too bad I can't mod you up.

Re:For us plebs... (5, Informative)

Raenex (947668) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054815)

Now THAT is a summary

Actually I recommend reading the article. It's short, understandable, and contains other cool facts about these neutron stars.

Also, as for that last "proved" bit, the article ends with:

"It's not quite right to say that we have now 'proven' General Relativity," Breton said. "However, so far, Einstein's theory has passed all the tests that have been conducted, including ours."

One of these days... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24053619)

we're bound to prove him wrong, dammit!

And yet... (4, Funny)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053659)

Einstein has yet to prove why hot dogs and hot dog buns come in inequal quantities.

sage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24053695)

This discrepancy has been solved for two decades.

Re:And yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24053885)

Buns? You eat buns with your Hot Dogs?!?! What kind of sick, depraved soul are you?

Re:And yet... (4, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054119)

Einstein has yet to prove why hot dogs and hot dog buns come in inequal quantities.

      I guess relativity explains that again. It depends on your country. In my country, you get 8 buns in a package and 8 sausages in a package. However my country is probably closer to the equator than yours, therefore our frame of reference is a lot faster than yours. Therefore the parity increases as a function of velocity. I would probably have to weight the buns and sausages to figure out any discrepancies in mass, but presumably the optimum is reached asymptotically when approaching the speed of light.

Re:And yet... (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054173)

Buy the bun-length hot dogs. Come in 8 packs instead of 10 packs.

But why are you eating hot dogs, when real men eat bratwurst? Now those typically come 5 or 6 on a foam tray, and I have yet to see the bun counterpart.

Invariance! (1)

ilikepi314 (1217898) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054175)

No, but I'm pretty sure it was proved that they are invariantly unequal under any Brand Name and Store You Buy Them At transformation. What a triumph!

Re:And yet... (1)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054265)

What are you doing wrong? My hot dogs and buns have come in pack of 8 each for like... at least 10 years.

Re:And yet... (2, Interesting)

cjsm (804001) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054625)

Simple really. Its because of collusion between the hot dog and bun companies.

1. You run out of buns, but still have hot dogs.
2. Buy more buns to eat the leftover hot dogs. Have buns leftover.
3. Buy more hot dogs to use the leftover buns. Have hot dogs left over.
4. Goto 2
5. Profit!

Re:And yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24055163)

Einstein has yet to prove why hot dogs and hot dog buns come in inequal quantities.

purely a market reaction by the suppliers of bread to engage in price fixing by artificially distorting the ratio of available hot-dog buns to hot dogs, thereupon gaining a proportional increase in sales by selling more hot-dog buns than actual hot dogs and continue to screw the proletariat for the wants of the Bourgeoisie

Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope? Bah! (0, Troll)

Doctor Morbius (1183601) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053671)

Nothing annoys me more than vain politicians having things named after themselves. Especially scientific instruments. Robert Byrd is one of the biggest pork barrel spenders in congress and in my opinion nothing should be named after him.

Re:Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope? Bah! (1)

tizan (925212) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053741)

And that is why it is named after him. The telescope was build with some of the pork he brings to WV.

Re:Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope? Bah! (0, Flamebait)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054091)

Except maybe the Robert C. Byrd Anti-Nigger Foundry.

Re:Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope? Bah! (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054831)

Robert Byrd [wikipedia.org] was a Kleagle and Exalted Cyclops in the Ku Klux Klan, and opposed desegregation of the armed forces to such an extent that he did not volunteer for service during World War II.

It is also worth mentioning that he opposed the Iraq War resolution vociferously, as well as the creation of the Homeland Security department, and has endorsed Barack Obama for president, despite Obama's loss in Byrd's home state in a rather race-baiting campaign.

Re:Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope? Bah! (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054263)

Term limits. That's all I ask for when it comes to Congress. Reps longer than Sens. How anyone could look me in the eye and say someone like Strom Thurmond was still in touch with todays society at his age when he retired compared to when he was first elected, IHNI.

Re:Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope? Bah! (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054365)

Being out of touch with today's society is one of the most important functions of the Senate.

Re:Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope? Bah! (0, Redundant)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054545)

Someone mod parent +1, understands the reasons for the existence of the United States' bicameral legislature

It's a shame really (2, Interesting)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053683)

That there isn't any type of classification in between LAW and THEORY

Makes things like this sit in the same bucket as one of my drunken musings. "I have a theory that.... in..... etc". There should be a state of a theory where they can say "Well, we can't yet prove all of it, but we have managed to prove x amount, or in x years of testing, it has yet to be unproven".

Maybe term it Conjecture [thefreedictionary.com] ? It's the fitting word to use.

Re:It's a shame really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24053745)

Suppose we had a system of "Law > Foo > Theory > Hypothesis"

You'll then be saying its a shame that there's nothing between "law" and "foo"

Re:It's a shame really (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24053779)

That's exactly how "theory" is used in science. It doesn't carry that connotation of "this is just some stuff I'm guessing at" that it does in colloquial use. This is why creationists always talk about how "evolution is just a theory" when in fact, that indicates it's well-accepted among scientists.

Laws and Theories (4, Informative)

Morosoph (693565) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053787)

Law doesn't mean "confirmed theory", but is rather an element of a theory, typically characterised by its simplicity.

Consider, as examples, Newton's laws of motion, or the laws of thermodynamics. Newton's theory of motion is deduced from his laws; the conventional theory of thermodynamics, likewise.

I say this because there are plenty of non-scientists who deliberately attempt to exploit confusion induced by popular use of the terms "law" and "theory" so as to imply that scientific theories, notably the theory of evolution, are held tentatively.

Re:Laws and Theories (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24054913)

Yes, that's a great observation! However, the lack of testable laws of evolution are one telling sign that the theory of evolution is not in the same league as other theories.

I'm not disputing that life changes over time, I'm just noting that the theory of evolution is not as developed or as clearly defined as other theories. That statement is controversial because it suggests that there may be an alternative explanation that is not purely naturalistic.

Re:It's a shame really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24053795)

Wouldn't it just be a proof? As in a Mathematical Proof [wikipedia.org]

Re:It's a shame really (4, Insightful)

sjhs (453964) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054179)

You can't prove things in physics.

No, really.

Re:It's a shame really (1)

bh_doc (930270) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054483)

Depends on how you define "proof", of course. If you use the mathematical sense of "is derivable via logic", then no, things in physics can't be proved. But if you use the more commonly accepted colloquial "demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt", then there are a whole bunch of things in physics that are proven. (Technically, I should qualify this statement by talking about quantified uncertainty (error bars), but I'm lazy).

Re:It's a shame really (1)

FilterMapReduce (1296509) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053865)

Maybe term it Conjecture [thefreedictionary.com] ? It's the fitting word to use.

I believe "conjecture" is usually used in scientific contexts as a formal way to basically say "guess". It is also has a well-established meaning in mathematics, which is somewhat analogous to "hypothesis" is the natural sciences.

Re:It's a shame really (4, Informative)

Mr. Flibble (12943) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053949)

Some time ago, I took a "History of Science" course. My memory is fuzzy around the dates, but originally, anything in science was granted the term "law". IIRC, "Caloric Theory" which was superseded by the theory of heat and thermodynamics was originally called a "law".

Around the 1700's, it was decided to call all new science a "Theory". In deference to previous conventions, the things still held over previously known as laws retained the name. Hence the apparent difference between the two terms.

Re:It's a shame really (2, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054079)

Makes things like this sit in the same bucket as one of my drunken musings. "I have a theory that.... in..... etc".

Not really the same. Theories have been tested and are supported by facts. A drunken musing, valid scientific starting point though that may be, is merely a hypothesis which then must be tested. If it survives the test, it then becomes a theory. And if it survives the test of time, it may become a "Law". There are very few scientific "laws", however. The gas laws are pretty much the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. Everything else is stuck at "theory".

Re:It's a shame really (1)

MyNymWasTaken (879908) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054985)

A theory never becomes a law, because they are entirely distinct. A law is a description, i.e. "what", whereas a theory is an attempt at an explanation, i.e. "how".

hypothesis - 1 of 4 scientific terms (5, Informative)

MyNymWasTaken (879908) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054427)

The word you are searching for is hypothesis.

There are 4 terms that need to be understood in the realm of science - hypothesis, theory, law & fact. They are all separate & distinct, except for the only progression that occurs - hypothesis => theory.

A fact is what has been carefully observed.
A law describes that observation.
A hypothesis is a proposal intended to explain that observation.
A theory seeks to explain that observation & has been confirmed by considerable evidence and has endured all attempts to disprove it.

example:

Fact
Objects fall at the same rate regardless of mass.

Law
http://www.glenbrook.k12.il.us/GBSSCI/PHYS/Class/circles/u6l3c1.gif [k12.il.us]

Hypothesis => Theory
Mass causes a curvature of spacetime which creates the effect of gravity.

Re:hypothesis - 1 of 4 scientific terms (1, Funny)

sdpuppy (898535) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054727)

Moderators, mode this guy up. This is the best explanation of the distinction between fact/law/hypothesis/theory that I've seen.

At least in theory.

No wait that s my hypothesis - oh geez....

Re:hypothesis - 1 of 4 scientific terms (5, Informative)

Ardeaem (625311) | more than 5 years ago | (#24055153)

The parent is not quite right.

An observation is some type of measurement. We could call this a fact if we like, but observation is better because is acknowledges the role of the observer in a way that "fact" does not.

A law is some invariance across multiple observations. See, for instance, Kepler's laws. (They do not, as the parent says, "describe" observations, but rather they postulate invariant aspects of planetary motion)

A hypothesis is a testable prediction based on naturalistic explanation of lawful behavior, typically of smaller scope than a theory and untested or weakly tested. Theories can also lead to hypotheses, through logical implication (ie, "my theory predicts that X, therefore I hypothesize X will occur in this experiment")

A theory is a unified, parsimonious, testable, naturalistic explanation for entire sets of laws. For instance, Newton's theory of mechanics explained all of Kepler's laws of planetary motion, and lawful behavior on earth as well.

Observation: These objects that I have dropped all appear to fall at the same rate regardless of mass, within measurement error

Law: All objects fall at the same rate regardless of mass

Hypothesis and theory Newton's theory of mechanics, or Einstein's theory of relativity

i always thought of the verbiage (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054765)

as a sort of intellectual modesty, a reverence for the pursuit of science and the natural world

of course, this modesty doesn't translate well into a religious culture of simpletons who only talk in arrogant absolute laws on topics, like human sexuality, or crime and punishment, that are inherently subtle and complex. such that all these scientific "theories" to them can't possibly ring true, as flimsy and modestly phrased as they are. what they need is some cruel visage of a god to threaten fire and brimstone before something is respected

loud ugly morons need crude mental hammers in order process their world. morons ruin the world for the rest of us

more proof (1, Flamebait)

Eil (82413) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053749)

More proof that it doesn't pay to doubt Einstein.

Re:more proof (1)

bh_doc (930270) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054597)

Because Einstein was infallible. Just like how he was correct about God playing dice [hawking.org.uk] . Or the cosmological constant [wikipedia.org] (which he later changed his mind about, though its still uncertain which answer to that one is correct).

Don't get me wrong, Einstein surely was a bright cookie, and came up with some very accurate results, but he was a man afterall - can't be expected to have *everything* right first go.

Einstein: Really Smart (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053789)

Usually pop culture gets these people's character pretty wrong. Elvis, for example, is "the King", when he was just a singing truck driver.

But Einstein they got pretty right. Sure, he didn't know everything, was smart really only within his very narrow discipline of mathematical theoretical physics. Einstein himself used to say "I really only ever had 4 good ideas, and 2 were wrong". But the couple he was right about, he was really right.

And with the wild hair, the pacifism, the "same suit every day so I don't have to waste time thinking about it", and the snappy short equations that explain everything, he's probably the coolest smart guy since they all used to wear togas and live on wine and souvlaki on the beach.

Re:Einstein: Really Smart (2, Interesting)

eat here_get gas (907110) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053925)

i'm a new-comer (but fascinated) to the world of quantum vs classical theory, but it seems he had answers to questions we hadn't the knowledge to ask at the time.

Re:Einstein: Really Smart (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#24055065)

So far, Einstein has been right about everything, except that quantum mechanics is wrong.

Re:Einstein: Really Smart (4, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054131)

Einstein dabbled a bit outside theoretical physics. For example he had a patent [wikipedia.org] for a refrigerator design.

Re:Einstein: Really Smart (1)

LightningJim2 (1149233) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054143)

Actually, I believe one of the ones he thought he got wrong is actually right (though not in the way it was originally presented): the cosmological constant. It's become a big factor in astronomy today as the universe is accelerating.

Re:Einstein: Really Smart (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054189)

He's tied for the coolest.

Feynman played bongo drums in a Samba (dance kind, not the file system kind) troupe, and hung around strip clubs.

Re:Einstein: Really Smart (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#24055045)

Well, I said Einstein was the coolest since the toga wearing beach partiers. Feynman might have been the coolest since Einstein, or since the togas. Einstein married his cousin, Feynman married the love of his life but partied with strippers (and CalTech coeds) after his wife died young. Your call.

But then, Feynman was so cool that when he met Einstein as their careers overlapped briefly, Feynman was appropriately tonguetied.

Relativity vs QM in a nutshell.

Strict new test? Psh! (4, Funny)

neokushan (932374) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053813)

If they want to REALLY test a theory, they should just post it on slashdot. You know, because mass opinion is what really matters, regardless as to what's right and wrong.

Re:Strict new test? Psh! (5, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054041)

If they want to REALLY test a theory, they should just post it on slashdot.

      No, silly, that's just how you test the server.

Relativity vs. Quantum (1, Interesting)

kjots (64798) | more than 5 years ago | (#24053917)

So, more evidence supporting general relativity, but we still insist on viewing it as an approximation of a quantum-mechanical system (like how Newtonian physics can be viewed as an approximation of relativity).

My understanding is that relativity has been directly observed several times, whereas quantum theory is still just based on the interpretation of a series of controlled laboratory experiments, which mostly amounts to sifting through the wreckage of a high-energy collision and trying to derive the original state from the leftover pieces.

Isn't it about time to abandon the concept of the graviton and just accept that gravity is not a fundamental force, but is simply the observed effect of the curvature of spacetime due to the presence of matter and energy?

There's a saying in engineering: When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

Re:Relativity vs. Quantum (4, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054215)

So, more evidence supporting general relativity, but we still insist on viewing it as an approximation of a quantum-mechanical system (like how Newtonian physics can be viewed as an approximation of relativity).

Um, no, no one insists that you view it that way.

My understanding is that relativity has been directly observed several times, whereas quantum theory is still just based on the interpretation of a series of controlled laboratory experiments, which mostly amounts to sifting through the wreckage of a high-energy collision and trying to derive the original state from the leftover pieces.

No. Relatively and quantum theory are only directly observed on the pages of scientific journals, since they're theories and that's where you observe theories being printed. If you mean the predicted effects of the theory have been observed, this is true, but the same is equally true of quantum theory, in far more contexts that you mention (just as relativistic effects have been observed in more than just the bending of light during an eclipse).

Isn't it about time to abandon the concept of the graviton and just accept that gravity is not a fundamental force, but is simply the observed effect of the curvature of spacetime due to the presence of matter and energy?

Nope. Impatience does not suit science. Easier problems have taken multiple centuries to get right -- quantum theory is barely a century old, and has been one of the most spectacularly successful theories in the history of science. It has rough edges and will take time to work it all out, to be sure, but if it suggests something is right, it takes a bit more than a short period of time looking with inadequate instruments and incomplete understanding to declare it definitely wrong on the subject.

There's a saying in engineering: When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

Of course it does, to an engineer. Engineers rarely have the patience for actual science. Taking a few centuries to hone a tool isn't practical. But science isn't about practicality.

Re:Relativity vs. Quantum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24054223)

There's a saying in engineering: When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

We have a saying in physics: When you have light and matter that works as we observe it to, everything starts to look like quantum mechanics.

Re:Relativity vs. Quantum (4, Interesting)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054321)

My understanding is that relativity has been directly observed several times, whereas quantum theory is still just based on the interpretation of a series of controlled laboratory experiments, which mostly amounts to sifting through the wreckage of a high-energy collision and trying to derive the original state from the leftover pieces.

Oh, just based on a series of controlled laboratory experiments. Unlike relativity??

I have no idea what "directly observed" means, but quantum mechanical behavior is no less directly observed than relativistic behavior. In fact, it is far better studied, since atomic physics is more accessible to experiments than relativistic physics. And it by no means is limited to high energy colliders (which is where you tend to see relativistic effects the most, by the way); atomic spectra, basically all of chemistry, condensed matter and material science, lasers, etc. all depend on quantum physics. Indeed, the quantum theory of electrodynamics is the most precisely verified theory in the history of physics; some of its predictions (like the electron g factor) are accurate to something like 12 decimal places when compared to experiments.

Isn't it about time to abandon the concept of the graviton and just accept that gravity is not a fundamental force, but is simply the observed effect of the curvature of spacetime due to the presence of matter and energy?

If you accept that matter is described by quantum mechanics, then general relativity is wrong, because you can't consistently couple a classical field to a quantum source. (Consider what happens when you want to describe the gravitational field of matter which exists in a quantum superposition of states.) Believe me, if it were that easy to produce a theory of gravity which is consistent with what we know about matter, people wouldn't have been searching for 50+ years for a theory of quantum gravity.

Once you accept that gravity needs to be quantized, then you are inevitably led to something like a graviton: it's what you get when you quantize the linearized approximation to general relativity, and is actually more general than that: any field which couples to stress-energy (which is the source of gravity in general relativity) is described by a rank-2 tensor, which in quantum mechanics means a spin-2 particle (graviton). A theory of quantum gravity won't have gravitons as truly fundamental — the perturbative theory of gravitons is inconsistent — but any such theory (e.g., string theory, loop quantum gravity) will necessarily have graviton-like behavior as a low energy limit, assuming that it also has a relativistic theory of gravity (like general relativity) as a classical limit. That is not inconsistent with GR's description of gravity as curved spacetime: that's the classical behavior of a graviton-like field, although different theories recover that limit in different ways. (String theory has strings which vibrate in graviton-like ways which are observationally indistinguishable from spacetime curvature; other theories try to quantize geometry directly.)

Re:Relativity vs. Quantum (4, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054489)

My understanding is that relativity has been directly observed several times, whereas quantum theory is still just based on the interpretation of a series of controlled laboratory experiments, which mostly amounts to sifting through the wreckage of a high-energy collision and trying to derive the original state from the leftover pieces.

Nope. Quantum mechanics is vastly, overwhelmingly, massively tested. Compared to general relativity, quantum mechanics is easy to test in the lab, and there are many many many experimental validations of it

And general relativity, also, is getting to be well tested.

Both theories have passed all the tests that they have been put to.

The problem is: quantum mechanics becomes important for things that are very small. General relativity becomes important for objects with strong gravity. The only range where you can test both of them together is if you can find objects that are both extremely small, and have extremely high gravity. Unfortunately, that realm is outside the experimental range of any experiments, now or anytime in the forseeable future.

Re:Relativity vs. Quantum (1)

sdpuppy (898535) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054769)

Quantum mechanics is vastly, overwhelmingly, massively tested.

Gee - you're telling me - in chemistry you can hardly move without quantum mechanics rearing its head.

Re:Relativity vs. Quantum (1)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054863)

Isn't it about time to abandon the concept of the graviton and just accept that gravity is not a fundamental force, but is simply the observed effect of the curvature of spacetime due to the presence of matter and energy?

Something still has to transfer the effects of that force. Gravity may not be fundamental but it is a force. For example, the photon particle transfers the electromagnetic force. Mass is considered fundamental but isn't a force however scientists are working on what actually gives an object mass. Their money right now is on the Higg's boson (the God particle).

For years testing a theory... (3, Funny)

asCii88 (1017788) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054139)

... and still they are gonna go without any real proof that the LHC won't kill us, and turn it on.

Ironic, ain't it?

Re:For years testing a theory... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054463)

> ... and still they are gonna go without any real proof that the LHC won't kill us, and
> turn it on.

Just as I have no proof that folding up my eyeglasses and stuffing them into a paper-towel tube won't create planet-eating stranglets. After all, it's never been done before and the physics that predicts the result is just theory. ...Well, I did it. Are we still here?

Re:For years testing a theory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24054555)

Well, I did it. Are we still here?

No.

Re:For years testing a theory... (1)

asCii88 (1017788) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054575)

I wasn't particularly taking about strangelets and those for sure are not the only possible threat...
but now that you've been messing with your glasses I feel safer, I mean, like, it's exacly the same thing that'll happen on the LHC, dah!

It's about time for a cars' analogy, but let's better not get anymore "Out of topic" or we'll be modded so.

Re:For years testing a theory... (1)

bh_doc (930270) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054687)

There will always be someone, no matter what evidence and arguments are presented, that will say we haven't gotten "real proof" until the damn thing is just turned on and we see what really happens.

Re:For years testing a theory... (1)

asCii88 (1017788) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054751)

until the damn thing is just turned on and we see what really happens.

The problem arises when the probabilities of seeing what happens if it goes wrong are zero.

Re:For years testing a theory... (1)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054725)

If it's being built in Europe, if anything it's going to be over-safe and cost inflated.

what a crock of shite (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24054153)

in a rotating system, that an unbalanced torque produces precession is old news. what a waste of time and internet space this article is.

time you spent reading that will never come back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24054225)

Ever since I could read the popular science crap in newspapers or magazines, every fucking 6 months some reporter decided to run with the "Einstein proven right" tag and waste 3 minutes of my life. Why do I keep falling for it ? Why do they keep doing it ?

All the stories are the same, some observation was made that surprise, surprise turned out to be consistent with General Relativity. It's not like the theory was "proven", it just survived another chance to be not proven.

Every time I take a shit and it falls into the toilet instead of jumping out and splattering on the ceiling, I don't write a press release about how Newton was proven right.

I guess it is because Einstein is such a popular figure -- if you can hint that somehow there was some controversy about some prediction of his, and he turned out right, people immediately detect a good heart warming story and go to read it.

This time, I did not read the story, and instead chose to waste the obligatory 3 minutes making this post.

Re:time you spent reading that will never come bac (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054605)

You are begging the question that posting that was of more value than reading the article and not posting it...

Re:time you spent reading that will never come bac (1)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054917)

All the stories are the same, some observation was made that surprise, surprise turned out to be consistent with General Relativity. It's not like the theory was "proven", it just survived another chance to be not proven.

Except this time the experiment was to do something that couldn't be done before and in the end they give Einstein's theory a little more credit. A new measurement (observation) matches theory. It's a win-win. You would prefer to only hear of when he is discredited? And their results aren't focused on saying Einstein was right. They already knew he was. They just couldn't properly measure the predicted effects.

From the article:

"Those eclipses are the key to making a measurement that could never be done before," Breton said.

Einstein's 1915 theory predicted that in a close system of two very massive objects, such as neutron stars, one object's gravitational tug, along with an effect of its spinning around its axis, should cause the spin axis of the other to wobble, or precess.

Studies of other pulsars in binary systems had indicated that such wobbling occurred, but could not produce precise measurements of the amount of wobbling.

Time slowing down??? (1)

skogs (628589) | more than 5 years ago | (#24054839)

I want to know if time slows down for the pulsars. We seem to see them (I rtfa) orbiting around each other every couple of hours... If you were standing on that orbiting pulsar, how long do you think your watch would read? From the outside - earth, you appear to move around every 2 hours...but if you were sitting there, time slows down...so would you think you were there for weeks? oddness. measure that.
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