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Radically Inept
Thursday, August 19, 2004
  Testing Einstein yet again...

Looks like the closest 'pure' science story I'm going to post on for the week. Much of what I've read lately are more incremental improvements than any real science break throughs, but this one, well, it is SCIENCE. Via KurzweilAI.Net comes Wired News: Probe Set to Test Einstein Theory:
"NASA's Gravity Probe B spacecraft could begin testing Einstein's general theory of relativity as early as this week, according to mission controllers at Stanford University.

The probe, said to be one of the most precise scientific instruments ever assembled, was initially scheduled to begin taking measurements within 45 to 60 days of its April 20 launch into Earth orbit. But mission controllers were forced to delay operations time and again after discovering minor malfunctions in the spacecraft's microthrusters and observing unexpected behavior from its four gyroscopes."
But they were able, through excellent redundancies built into the probe, overcome these issues.

And now we are ready (okay, they are ready) to further test Einstein's Theory of Gravity:
Though many of the theory's underlying concepts have been tested and proven in the 89 years since Einstein first published them, the proof for two concepts has remained elusive.

The first concept suggests that Earth -- and almost any body in space -- creates a dimple in the universe's so-called space-time fabric. The second suggests that the rotation of the Earth twists that fabric.

Gravity Probe B will attempt to measure those effects by aligning itself with a distant star and then measuring tiny changes in the direction of its four spinning gyroscopes with respect to the line of the star. If Einstein was right, the twist in the space-time fabric should push the spinning spheres at the center of the gyroscopes ever so slightly off their axes. According to project scientists, the angle of that shift would be so small that if the spheres' axes were a kilometer long, the ends would only move by the width of a human hair.

To make measurements this small, Gravity Probe B engineers had to ensure that the spheres in each of the spacecraft's four gyroscopes would not wobble enough to ruin the measurements. To do this, they designed and developed some of the most perfect spheres ever created by humans. Composed of fused quartz, the objects the size of a Ping-Pong ball have no imperfections greater than 40 atomic layers in height. In other words, if the spheres were the size of the Earth, there would be no hills or valleys taller or deeper than 12 feet.
The engineering is awesome, but now I look forward to the results. I will certainly post here as soon as I find them.

Proving Einstein correct, yet again, is a good possibility, but perhaps the more intriguing results would be if they turn up something unexpected. I don't think negative results would 'disprove' the theory, as they would more likely look to a lack of experimental precision as an explanation as opposed to an out right refutation of the theory. But, what if there's more effect than currently thought possible, or even more fun, the movement is measured in the opposite direction than predicted. Ah, then we would see some headlines breaking through the Kobe/Peterson crap. 
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