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NASA Gravity Probe Confirms Two Einstein Predictions

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the I-hope-it-feels-so-good-to-be-right dept.

NASA 139

sanzibar writes "After 52 years of conceiving, testing and waiting, marked by scientific advances and disappointments, one of Stanford's and NASA's longest-running projects comes to a close with a greater understanding of the universe. Stanford and NASA researchers have confirmed two predictions of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, concluding one of the space agency's longest-running projects. Known as Gravity Probe B, the experiment used four ultra-precise gyroscopes housed in a satellite to measure two aspects of Einstein's theory about gravity. The first is the geodetic effect, or the warping of space and time around a gravitational body. The second is frame-dragging, which is the amount a spinning object pulls space and time with it as it rotates."

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139 comments

I'm tired of Matt Welsh (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033044)

Please, can somebody restore the fortune database? Thanks.
Uh, and First Post.

Re:I'm tired of Matt Welsh (1, Offtopic)

hcpxvi (773888) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033108)

Uh, what he said. I'd mod him up if I had any mod points. Not that I have had any for months, despite excellent karma. The new Slashdot: too buggy to be fit for purpose.

Re:I'm tired of Matt Welsh (5, Informative)

rhook (943951) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033308)

The new Slashdot: too buggy to be fit for purpose.

I have to agree with this, several bugs. The most annoying one is having the comments scroll to the top of the page when I click anything.

Re:I'm tired of Matt Welsh (0)

nwmann (946016) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033650)

i tried to click the like button... but i agree i hate having to rescroll or hope i remember a key enough phrase to search for

Re:I'm tired of Matt Welsh (1)

nanospook (521118) | more than 2 years ago | (#36034268)

I know this is off topic, because I need glasses, I use the + and - keys in Opera to zoom the screen a bit. But now ./ does something to ignore those keystrokes. I have to go to Options and toggle filter controls. It doesn't seem to matter if it's on or off, I have to just toggle it to another state. Then it works. A day or so later, I have to do it again..

Re:I'm tired of Matt Welsh (3, Insightful)

amaupin (721551) | more than 2 years ago | (#36034508)

I have to agree with this, several bugs. The most annoying one is having the comments scroll to the top of the page when I click anything.

Links are now unclickable, at least on the first 4 or 5 tries. Each time you click a link in someone's post, the page jumps and/or another post expands/collapses. The sheer level of ignorance and/or lack of interest in their own site on the part of the Slashdot owners is mind-boggling.

(Click on links? I must be new here.)

Seriously, Slashdot, fix your goddam site.

Re:I'm tired of Matt Welsh (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 2 years ago | (#36034808)

I'm curious why /. looks like shit while using IE8 or Firefox but looks pretty good on my Droid X's native browser. I was browsing from my phone during a phone conference yesterday and couldn't believe how functional the page looked.

Re:I'm tired of Matt Welsh (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#36035864)

Um, maybe the developer uses a Droid X for development work.

That would explain quite a lot actually...

Re:I'm tired of Matt Welsh (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#36036374)

Mark slashdot.org as untrusted.
Switch to classic discussion mode in your preferences.

mod points (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033640)

Totally off topic, I know, but I for one think it's a good thing that we can't mod stuff up so easily anymore.

Good posts still get modded up (eventually), and you can use the slides to select the level you want to read. At least, the score is now a way to select the posts. It used to be a matter of just getting a post in quickly, which would get modded up simply because everybody had mod points. And to be read, you had to get 5 points.

Now, good posts might have only 2-3 points. 4-5 points are excellent posts.

Re:I'm tired of Matt Welsh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033328)

I missing the fortunes as well.

Re:I'm tired of Matt Welsh (4, Funny)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033992)

Please, can somebody restore the fortune database? Thanks.
Uh, and First Post.

Restore it? It works fine for me, here:

Are Linux users lemmings collectively jumping off of the cliff of reliable, well-engineered commercial software?

In fact, I've been seeing that for a few days!

Protip: Say that quote while walking the halls. You will immediately know who your fellow /.ers are by the snickers. If your boss laughs, then you're in trouble.

Re:I'm tired of Matt Welsh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36034898)

Why? The sentiment is correct. I have always seen freetards as people who intentionally deprave themselves of a reliable and consistent user experience... For no apparent reason. As far as cost goes, all of you know how to get a copy of Windows 7 for free. There is no point in making yourself suffer. You people don't even like Microsoft, anyway.

first comment! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033046)

first comment!

Re:first comment! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033104)

Uh oh.

Looks like someone didn't account for gravitational time dilation.

Picking nits (-1, Redundant)

mork (62099) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033048)

You can't confirm or prove theories, you can only gather supporting evidence or disprove a theory.

Re:Picking nits (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033062)

But you can confirm predictions....

Re:Picking nits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033072)

But you can confirm predictions. RTFS.

Re:Picking nits (4, Informative)

error_logic (1160341) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033074)

Note that the posted description makes no mention of proving anything, unlike the original submission... Confirming just means that further evidence was in line with expectations; not conclusive by any means. It's always good to hear that our understanding of physics is sound, even if new mysteries are more exciting!

Fail (3)

Mascot (120795) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033090)

It doesn't state the theory has been confirmed, it says two of the predictions made by the theory has been confirmed.

Re:Fail (1)

Mascot (120795) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033116)

Funky, one case in which the summary is more accurate than TFA. Never thought I'd see the say.

Space.com goofed its article title. Rather obviously just a goof though, since the article content itself doesn't make the same mistake.

Re:Fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033260)

Stupid s key, too close to d..

Re:Picking nits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033092)

You can't confirm or prove theories, you can only gather supporting evidence or disprove a theory.

Why, if you disprove the theory "A is so and so" you have just proven the theory "A is *not* so and so"!

Re:Picking nits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033124)

No, you have only proven that "A is not *neccesarily* so and so".

Re:Picking nits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033230)

Don't think so.
Theory : There is ALWAYS 2 oranges in a bag.
Observation : A bag containing 5 oranges.
Theory is disproved.

New theory : There is not *necessarily* 2 oranges in a bag.

Re:Picking nits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033416)

You didn't disprove the theory. The word "always" can also mean "at least". Your observation actually proved a bag that contains 5 oranges contains at least 2 oranges as well.

The problem is you don't "believe" there are still 2 oranges in the bag(typical climate change logic). Yoda said it well, "That is why you fail." Seriously you don't understand logic. You sure as hell don't go around changing a theory based on 1 observation. You also don't make new "theories" based on that same 1 observation(although climate change groupies like to muddle the word "theory" as much as possible so they can claim they are always right). This is also why many "scientists" make claims in English rather than using mathematical logic expressions, so they always have an out. Maybe you do understand the problems with describing logic with natural language, preferring to muddle the issue and claim absolute truths, knowing full well they are not.

Re:Picking nits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033620)

ok - I agree , my mistake. I wasn't pedantic enough.

I should have said 'ALWAYS EXACTLY 2 oranges'
And now I have a bag with 1 orange.
So now 'at least exactly 2 oranges' is false.

There is no *necessarily* involved.
  Where exactly did this theory 'A is not *necessarily* so and so' spring from. Sound a bit natural language and muddled to me.

Interesting. Can't change a theory on one observation ? Is there some ISO specified number of times that an observation must be seen to be counted ?
I have seen 1 and 5 oranges in a bag. 2 results - is that enough.

And WTF does climate change logic have to do with this ? Yoda say 'Shoulder chip on you may have'.

BTW. You spelled *neccesarily* (sic) wrong.

Re:Picking nits (3, Funny)

Andrewkov (140579) | more than 2 years ago | (#36036488)

Theory : There is ALWAYS 2 oranges in a bag.
Observation : A bag containing 5 oranges.

Conclusion: 2 oranges in a bag can reproduce

Re:Picking nits (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#36034124)

We have disproved part of your assertion with an example of empirical confirmation here. Namely, there was an opportunity for using this observation to distinguish between the general relativity (GR) hypothesis and some situations that looked like GR according to older experiments, but weren't under this subtler observation.

Re:Picking nits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36034536)

There is so much wrong with this article I don't know where to begin. I think it will suffice to say that looking for evidence to support what you *want* to be proven correct will often get in the way of gathering evidence for what is truly correct.

On little pet peeve, who is to say earth is spinning the magnetic field, and not the magnetic vortex spinning the earth?

- Dan.

sell new ipad 2th wifi+3G 64gb only: $330 USD (-1, Offtopic)

addtostock3 (2113030) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033088)

http://www.addtostock.com/ [addtostock.com] Apple mac books: 280- 520 USD Iphone 4: 260 USD Ipad 2 64gb + wifi + 3G : 330 USD New Ipod touch 64gb: 120 USD Dell Alienware M17x: 700 USD Dell Alienware M15x: 500 USD MacBook Pro ( MC024 LL/A )17-inch 2.66GHz Intel Core i7: 510 USD MacBook Pro ( MC373 LL/A )15.4-inch 2.66GHz Intel Core i7: 485 USD BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105: 350 USD Nikon F 6 - SLR camera - 35mm: 685 USD Nikon D3000 (with 18mm-55mm and 55mm-200mm lens): 315 USD Nikon D3X : 985 USD Canon EOS 5D Mark: 565 USD Playstation 3 PS3 Metal Gear Solid 4 80GB Bund: 220 USD

Re:sell new ipad 2th wifi+3G 64gb only: $330 USD (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033294)

I love this sort of post; spewing text from start to finish. I know I'll part with my cash after reading an advert of this nature. The amount of effort displayed in the advert will equal the amount of effort I'll receive in supply and customer service, and that means you have a sale!

Please spew some more numbers in my direction. I can't get enough of them.

Re:sell new ipad 2th wifi+3G 64gb only: $330 USD (1)

phonewebcam (446772) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033516)

And please, keep up the good work of including the URL so its real easy to add to the ban list. Then, if this ever becomes a real business with useful, well-priced products it will still go bust because no-one will know about it.

Re:sell new ipad 2th wifi+3G 64gb only: $330 USD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36035998)

It's search rank manipulation spam, not a direct advertisement. They don't care about the formatting or human readablity since it's just raw data to mess with search engine algorithms.

Honey? (3, Funny)

mangu (126918) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033112)

"Imagine the Earth as if it were immersed in honey," Francis Everitt, GP-B principal investigator at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., said in a statement

Doh, this is Slashdot, we want a car analogy, please. And have the numerical results expressed in libraries of congress per football field. Thanks.

Re:Honey? (1)

orange47 (1519059) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033244)

hmm, it would be interesting to see what happens if two large, fast-spinning objects were close and spinning in same direction.

Re:Honey? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033364)

"Imagine the Earth as if it were immersed in honey,"

I thought that we were already immersed in honey . . .

I'm not sure where that comment should go . . . tip the veal, try the waitress . . .

Re:Honey? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36034148)

Lets call this honey aether

Re:Honey? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36036438)

Nope, just the USA - "Land of Milk and Honey!"

Re:Honey? (2)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#36034320)

"we want a car analogy"

Imagine a Dodge Daytona Charger as if it immersed in STP...

Re:Honey? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36035216)

imagine going mudding in a F-150 heavy duty....

Nasa Warp Drive Project (1)

Mattness (636060) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033126)

OK, geodetic effect, check. Frame-dragging, check. Commence dev. project warp drives

Re:Nasa Warp Drive Project (4, Funny)

roger_pasky (1429241) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033332)

Agreed, make it so. Geordi, estimate developement period from current stardate. Data, start doing some calculations. Wesley, contact Dr. Sheldon Cooper and piss him off.

Re:Nasa Warp Drive Project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033402)

Being serious here, wasn't there an actual project on NASA somewhere to do with warp engine research?

I seem to remember this from somewhere, but I'm not 100% sure. It could well have been me dreaming.

Re:Nasa Warp Drive Project (1)

roger_pasky (1429241) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033524)

We don't know how to CREATE gravity yet. If we were able, it should be needed as much gravity as entire Earth offers to feel a warp effect as weak as the registered by the experiment in a period of 52 years. Even if the (yet to be discovered) Higgs Boson particle offers a way to manipulate gravity and inertia, there is no (safe enough) energy source to use in space to handle it. It is not impossible, but it is unfeasible nowadays and for a looooong time.

NASA and the USA (5, Insightful)

mustPushCart (1871520) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033158)

I am not an American, but I have seen both the blue pearl image and the pale blue dot image. I have read about how long these projects have run and the astounding quality of the instruments that must be on satellites like these along with the massive foresight it must have taken at launch time to make them relevant decades later. You can criticize the USA all you want for their wars, and I have heard some harsh criticism of NASA too but the most astounding images and discoveries have always come from the here because they are on the pinnacle of space exploration. The world would be a lot less interesting if it wasn't for them.

Re:NASA and the USA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36034398)

Yes, and the Russians did most of that first, with WWII German skills spurred on by Oberth, Thiel and Ehricke. USA! USA! uhh... usa...

Re:NASA and the USA (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 2 years ago | (#36034642)

the massive foresight it must have taken at launch time to make them relevant decades later,

The satellite we're talking about here was launched in 2004. The project ran for much longer, that time was spent developing the technology. FTFA:

Decades of research and testing led to groundbreaking technologies to control environmental disturbances that could affect the spacecraft, such as aerodynamic drag, magnetic fields and thermal variations. Furthermore, the mission's star tracker and gyroscopes were the most precise ever designed and produced.

Very impressive research, yes. 'Massive foresight', not so much.

Re:NASA and the USA (1)

mustPushCart (1871520) | more than 2 years ago | (#36035636)

This was more of a comment on NASA and the US and not on this particular satellite mission. What I actually was thinking of when i wrote it was the voyager craft.

Re:NASA and the USA (1)

slashtivus (1162793) | more than 2 years ago | (#36036240)

You don't think building a satellite that can withstand the harshness of space, using the best tech that was available at the time back before the 2004 launch date, (it was built long before then) and results are still being evaluated, and .... there was no foresight??? Wow. Seems to me there were some smart cookies that work on these things and they thought a lot of this through as best they could using "decades of research and testing" to their best advantage. Oh, that's right, its USA, bash on.

get more comments (0, Offtopic)

kiddygrinder (605598) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033200)

why the fuck is this called get more comments? i'm guessing it actually refreshes for new comments, i was thinking it actually showed more of the truncated comments for this story like it does on every other fucking site.

Re:get more comments (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033252)

Yep. Absolute shite.

The only way I can get it working reasonably is to drag the sliders to the left - displaying nothing but 'Get more comments' - then get more in blocks of 50 (WTF)
Drag sliders to right to display.

Re:get more comments (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033312)

Welcome to Web 2.0; Slashdots d2 sucks more space time than a super massive black hole! You can turn javascript off and the majority of slashdot comments will be inaccessible... but it's still better than slashdots javascript.

Re:get more comments (4, Informative)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033404)

The Slashdot D2 discussion system sucks. Turn it off in your account options and use the old D1. That's what I do. I much prefer to be able to see all the comments at one time.

thermal thur.; fairly precise vision, ?weather? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033216)

doesn't match any guessed out einsteinic or gyroscopic estimates previously unheard of. it would be safer to disarm, & see if more folks staying alive restores our balance, solidness, atmosphere, gravivity etc....

the truth will set us back, on course. accept no more substitute murder & mayhem ringmaster fauxking lies.

rivers overflow, big jets spray more rainclouds (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033316)

unthinkable? yes, but not unobservable, unless one already lives down under, in southern hillary, where the darkness becomes one's only friend, whilst waiting in the 3X6 airtight citizen bunkers, to be floated on to mebotuh, as was promised, in the land contracts.

disarm. before the weather 'takes itself back' arbitrarily, without warning? hot is better than rot. if we turn off a few 100 thousand hummers etc... for a few years, the atmosphere will repair itself, & the atmostfearinc walking dead will have flewn. thank you

David de Hilster (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033218)

Have you seen the comments in TFA by this David de Hilster guy? What a fruitloop. Check out his picture [newiki.org]. Want some love particles, baby?

Re:David de Hilster (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36033422)

Oh dear! Before I'd really thought about why, I'd found myself compelled to spend all of 20 seconds assembling this terrifying image. [imageshack.us]

Observer effect - did it mention this? (1)

kundi (2036962) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033736)

That's great... but given a quantum physics and that little bugger of a concept known as the observer effect (basically ALL experience is subjective to the observer - even scientific ones...) how do we know the results we are recording are actual vs what we believe we should be experiencing and therefore are willing to see? Sure I could be wrong in what I am saying, but let me know and I'll entertain it in my field of awareness as possibility and perhaps I'll experience it differently...or maybe not. ;) Yes, quite a bugger that little observer effect concept is!

Re:Observer effect - did it mention this? (4, Interesting)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033938)

The effects of gravity are at macro scales, not quantum scales. From what I understand, the observer effect doesn't really kick in until you start talking about stuff smaller than atoms. The universe is a bit more well-behaved at scale sizes larger than an atom, where chemistry and classical physics kick in. Our other end of non-understanding doesn't start until you get to the very macro, all the dark matter and dark energy floating around out there that no one really knows anything about.

Re:Observer effect - did it mention this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36034640)

If you are referring the quantum version of the double-slit experiment then the observer effect is there even for stuff larger than atoms. AFAIK the biggest particles used for that experiment up to now have been Fullerenes consisting of 60 carbon atoms.

Re:Observer effect - did it mention this? (2)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#36035918)

Exactly. Quantum mechanics only starts to be noticeable about ~50nm or so. In contrast, gravity is normally only noticeable with objects best measured in yottagrams (that's "quintillions of tons", for those of us a bit fuzzy on the extreme SI prefixes).

Now, there's been a huge amount of speculation as to how the two combine, especially from theoretical physicists like Dr. Hawking. However, there have been absolutely no experiments in quantum gravity, for one simple reason: the only time you get that much mass into that small a place is in a black hole or other singularity.

Re:Observer effect - did it mention this? (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | more than 2 years ago | (#36036412)

The effects of gravity are at macro scales, not quantum scales.

The effects are on all scales. Just because nobody can currently describe how a single photon warps space as it travels does not mean it does not occur. We know it does.

Re:Observer effect - did it mention this? (4, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#36034052)

t (basically ALL experience is subjective to the observer - even scientific ones...)

That's not part of quantum mechanics at all. That's a gross generalization made philosophical that arose out of an actual quantum mechanical principle.

Measurement-related QM principles, like wavefunction collapse and Heisenburg, are only meaningful when what you're observing is the size and scale of a quantum state, which is very, very small. Gravitational effects are for the most part (and in this case) for large objects, where QM principles are unimportant.

Re:Observer effect - did it mention this? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36034090)

You need to actually study quantum physics if you want to talk about these things like an adult. It's obvious to everyone that HAS studied quantum physics that you're spouting nonsense and claiming that Science supports you. Quit watching "What the bleep do we know?". It's full of people lying to you to sell you an idea (and one scientist who was duped and every single quote taken out of context).

Re:Observer effect - did it mention this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36034298)

LOL. Dude, it practically jumps one in the face how your whole comment is coming from a purely emotional standpoint of irrationality. Even if you were right, which you aren't, nobody would take you seriously with that comment. How about you actually grow up. Then you don't need to project you own self-hatred at others.

Re:Observer effect - did it mention this? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36034276)

(basically ALL experience is subjective to the observer - even scientific ones...)

That's more a result of relativity theory, but yes.

Funny though, how Wikipedia as a whole still thinks there is an absolute ("objective") truth.... as do many Slashdotters. While it just happens to be their point of view that is the "objective" one. ;)
And if you tell them about how it really is, and why, even those who think they can call themselves educated and scientists, fall in a deep pit of ignorance. It attacks their world view too much for their brain to accept it, while accepting themselves too.

And that's why Wikipedia never worked, and never ever will work.

Re:Observer effect - did it mention this? (1)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 2 years ago | (#36035342)

Well you can argue that the logical consistency of the abstract logical constructs are objective. You can also argue that something is not plainly my point of view if it's independently verifiable, and in fact, I don't need to be alive for the observation to be made.

But if you're just arguing solipsism for your "we're all in the matrix" kicks, then man, don't bother. We're not really even here anyway.

Re:Observer effect - did it mention this? (1)

xehonk (930376) | more than 2 years ago | (#36035110)

The observer effect is not something specific to self-aware observers. It can simply be interaction with other matter - which has then "observed" the item in question.

Now with that out of the way, what you want to happen has no influence on what does happen. That's simply not what the observer effect is about.

Re:Observer effect - did it mention this? (1)

tm2b (42473) | more than 2 years ago | (#36035814)

Sorry, you're making a comment on Quantum Mechanics. I am going to have to ask to see you explain any version of a Schrödinger equation, or ask you to stop.

That should really be a law.

well... (1)

Larryish (1215510) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033754)

I usually bow out of stories like this, but must make one comment:

Anybody who thinks time is important as a metric is seriously missing the point.

Denial (1)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | more than 2 years ago | (#36033888)

Finally I can put an end to all of those naysayers of gravitation theory!

Re:Denial (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#36034166)

Look - it's just at THEORY - you admitted it yourself right in your post. Go find some facts and get back with me. I've got a Bible full of them right here at my desk, and there isn't a single mention of gravity. I can't believe you're still blathering on about this... ;-)

Blah, I Hate This! (3, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#36034254)

Relativity and black holes look like bugs in a not-very-well thought-out physics simulation. This sort of thing makes me wonder if the universe isn't just some extra-dimensional college kid's thesis project on how to find the best way to turn hydrogen into plutonium.

confirmed with existing satellites, Jupiters moons (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#36035100)

However the Stanford satellite supposedly is ten times more accurate

Why it took 52 years (4, Interesting)

rotenberry (3487) | more than 2 years ago | (#36035148)

From what I have heard, the reason it took 52 years to get this spacecraft into space was political, not technical.

There is no doubt that the technology developed to measure these parameters is very impressive. The real question is whether or not it was worth the effort.

When I was at JPL in the 1980s a person who had published numerous papers in both experimental and theoretical relativity explained why scientists within the space program were not supporting this project. Since this conversation took place thirty years ago I must paraphrase:

"No modern theory of gravity predicts anything else, and if the measurements showed anything but the predicted results it would be assumed to be an experimental error. Unlike the technology used to search for gravitational radiation (which is also used to study the atmospheres of planets), the hardware in this spacecraft cannot be used for any other scientific experiment."

So for 52 years the money has been used for other science. For a much more worthy project read about the recently canceled LISA project.

If you wish to read about the politics of how a science project is chosen by NASA I can think of no better description that Steven W. Squyres' "Roving Mars" where he describes how the Mars Rovers were nearly canceled.

Re:Why it took 52 years (3, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 2 years ago | (#36035984)

No modern theory of gravity predicts anything else

Except Moffat's, of course.

And while every experimental anomaly is first dismissed as error, the fact (you remember those things, facts?) is that scientists have an excellent record of poking away at anomalies until a robust, consistent explanation is found. Sometimes the explanation is mundane--the Pioneer Anomaly, for example. Sometimes it is profound--the anomalous precession of the orbit of Mercury comes to mind, which was measured quite precisely in the 1850's, if I recall correctly, some sixty years before the underlying cause was found.

People who say things like this are simply ignorant of the history and timescales on which science actually operates. It is entirely implausible that a group of people who have collectively worked over hundreds of years to account for dozens of tiny numerical anomalies in extremely difficult precision measurements would suddenly throw up their hands and say, "OK, I guess we can ignore the data now!"

Re:Why it took 52 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36036300)

"No modern theory of gravity predicts anything else, and if the measurements showed anything but the predicted results it would be assumed to be an experimental error. Unlike the technology used to search for gravitational radiation (which is also used to study the atmospheres of planets), the hardware in this spacecraft cannot be used for any other scientific experiment."

That's still the current assessment. Given the technical issues GPB has had from the beginning, if they reported anything other than confirmation, no one would believe it. If you wouldn't believe an experiment's results if it didn't give you the answer you want, why should you believe it if it does?

And GPB still didn't reach their design sensitivity.

I'm surprised no one has submitted the recent LISA/IXO/WFIRST cancellations to /. (I can't).

Such a waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36035332)

How much time money and effort has been spent on this useless space endeavor? Scientists should be more focused on trying to solve the problems here on Earth before wasting their time with what's up in space.

Re:Such a waste (1)

akeeneye (1788292) | more than 2 years ago | (#36036146)

It WAS wasteful -> they could have walked down any street in the U.S. and found bodies massive enough to use in this experiment. And given the relative compactness of the bodies they could have immersed them in honey for far less than the cost of doing so with a planet.

Awesome (1)

equex (747231) | more than 2 years ago | (#36035628)

Sometimes I wonder if these great minds that pops up from time to time (Newton, Copernicus, Einstein etc) are really one of us. It's funny how they appear, completely revolutionize a field or offer a world changing new perspective and then disappear, just to have us mere mortals work for years and decades to understand, confirm and accept it. Applause again for Einstein, you are a bit creepy to be completely honest.
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