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David Scott (from mission Apollo 15) on the Moon enacting the legend of Galileo's gravity experiment. (1.38 MB, ogg/ Theora format).]] Gravity, or gravitation, is a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass are brought toward (or gravitate toward) one another, including objects ranging from atoms and photons, to planets and stars. Since energy and mass are equivalent, all forms of energy (including light) cause gravitation and are under the influence of it. On Earth, gravity gives weight to physical objects, and the Moon's gravity causes the ocean tides. The gravitational attraction of the original gaseous matter present in the Universe caused it to begin coalescing, forming starsand for the stars to group together into galaxiesso gravity is responsible for many of the large scale structures in the Universe. Gravity has an infinite range, although its effects become increasingly weaker on farther objects. Gravity is most accurately described by the general theory of relativity (proposed by Albert Einstein in 1915) which describes gravity not as a force, but as a consequence of the curvature of spacetime caused by the uneven distribution of mass. The most extreme example of this curvature of spacetime is a black hole, from which nothing—not even light—can escape once past the black hole's event horizon. However, for most applications, gravity is well approximated by Newton's law of universal gravitation, which describes gravity as a force which causes any two bodies to be attracted to each other, with the force proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Gravity is the weakest of the four fundamental forces of physics, approximately 1038 times weaker than the strong force, 1036 times weaker than the electromagnetic force and 1029 times weaker than the weak force. As a consequence, it has no significant influence at the level of subatomic particles. Extract of page 133 In contrast, it is the dominant force at the macroscopic scale, and is the cause of the formation, shape and trajectory ( orbit) of astronomical bodies. For example, gravity causes the Earth and the other planets to orbit the Sun, it also causes the Moon to orbit the Earth, and causes the formation of tides, the formation and evolution of the Solar System, stars and galaxies. The earliest instance of gravity in the Universe, possibly in the form of quantum gravity, supergravity or a gravitational singularity, along with ordinary space and time, developed during the Planck epoch (up to 10−43 seconds after the birth of the Universe), possibly from a primeval state, such as a false vacuum, quantum vacuum or virtual particle, in a currently unknown manner. – discusses " Planck time" and " Planck era" at the very beginning of the Universe Attempts to develop a theory of gravity consistent with quantum mechanics, a quantum gravity theory, which would allow gravity to be united in a common mathematical framework (a theory of everything) with the other three forces of physics, are a current area of research.

History of gravitational theory

Scientific revolution

Modern work on gravitational theory began with the work of Galileo Galilei in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In his famous (though possibly apocryphal) experiment dropping balls from the Tower of Pisa, and later with careful measurements of balls rolling down inclines, Galileo showed that gravitational acceleration is the same for all objects. This was a major departure from Aristotle's belief that heavier objects have a higher gravitational acceleration. Galileo (1638), Two New Sciences, First Day Salviati speaks: "If this were what Aristotle meant you would burden him with another error which would amount to a falsehood; because, since there is no such sheer height available on earth, it is clear that Aristotle could not have made the experiment; yet he wishes to give us the impression of his having performed it when he speaks of such an effect as one which we see." Galileo postulated air resistance as the reason that objects with less mass may fall slower in an atmosphere. Galileo's work set the stage for the formulation of Newton's theory of gravity. Extract of page 11

Newton's theory of gravitation

, an English physicist who lived from 1642 to 1727]] In 1687, English mathematician Sir Isaac Newton published Principia, which hypothesizes the inverse-square law of universal gravitation. In his own words, "I deduced that the forces which keep the planets in their orbs must be reciprocally as the squares of their distances from the centers about which they revolve: and thereby compared the force requisite to keep the Moon in her Orb with the force of gravity at the surface of the Earth; and found them answer pretty nearly."*{{cite book | first= Subrahmanyan | last= Chandrasekhar | authorlink= Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar | title= Newton's Principia for the common reader | date= 2003 | publisher= Oxford University Press | location= Oxford}} (pp. 1–2). The quotation comes from a memorandum thought to have been written about 1714. As early as 1645 Ismaël Bullialdus had argued that any force exerted by the Sun on distant objects would have to follow an inverse-square law. However, he also dismissed the idea that any such force did exist. See, for example,

Equations for a falling body near the surface of the Earth

Under an assumption of constant gravitational attraction, Newton's law of universal gravitation simplifies to F = mg, where m is the mass of the body and g is a constant vector with an average magnitude of 9.81 m/s2 on Earth. This resulting force is the object's weight. The acceleration due to gravity is equal to this g. An initially stationary object which is allowed to fall freely under gravity drops a distance which is proportional to the square of the elapsed time. The image on the right, spanning half a second, was captured with a stroboscopic flash at 20 flashes per second. During the first of a second the ball drops one unit of distance (here, a unit is about 12 mm); by it has dropped at total of 4 units; by , 9 units and so on. Under the same constant gravity assumptions, the potential energy, Ep, of a body at height h is given by Ep = mgh (or Ep = Wh, with W meaning weight). This expression is valid only over small distances h from the surface of the Earth. Similarly, the expression h = \tfrac{v^2}{2g} for the maximum height reached by a vertically projected body with initial velocity v is useful for small heights and small initial velocities only.

Gravity and astronomy

.]] The application of Newton's law of gravity has enabled the acquisition of much of the detailed information we have about the planets in the Solar System, the mass of the Sun, and details of quasars; even the existence of dark matter is inferred using Newton's law of gravity. Although we have not traveled to all the planets nor to the Sun, we know their masses. These masses are obtained by applying the laws of gravity to the measured characteristics of the orbit. In space an object maintains its orbit because of the force of gravity acting upon it. Planets orbit stars, stars orbit galactic centers, galaxies orbit a center of mass in clusters, and clusters orbit in superclusters. The force of gravity exerted on one object by another is directly proportional to the product of those objects' masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. The earliest gravity (possibly in the form of quantum gravity, supergravity or a gravitational singularity), along with ordinary space and time, developed during the Planck epoch (up to 10−43 seconds after the birth of the Universe), possibly from a primeval state (such as a false vacuum, quantum vacuum or virtual particle), in a currently unknown manner.

Gravitational radiation

According to general relativity, gravitational radiation is generated in situations where the curvature of spacetime is oscillating, such as is the case with co-orbiting objects. The gravitational radiation emitted by the Solar System is far too small to measure. However, gravitational radiation has been indirectly observed as an energy loss over time in binary pulsar systems such as PSR B1913+16. It is believed that neutron star mergers and black hole formation may create detectable amounts of gravitational radiation. Gravitational radiation observatories such as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory ( LIGO) have been created to study the problem. In February 2016, the Advanced LIGO team announced that they had detected gravitational waves from a black hole collision. On 14 September 2015, LIGO registered gravitational waves for the first time, as a result of the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion light-years from Earth.live|url = https://www.theguardian.com/science/across-the-universe/live/2016/feb/11/gravitational-wave-announcement-latest-physics-einstein-ligo-black-holes-live|website = the Guardian|date=2016-02-11|access-date = 2016-02-11|first = Stuart|last = Clark}} This observation confirms the theoretical predictions of Einstein and others that such waves exist. The event confirms that binary black holes exist. It also opens the way for practical observation and understanding of the nature of gravity and events in the Universe including the Big Bang and what happened after it.

Speed of gravity

In December 2012, a research team in China announced that it had produced measurements of the phase lag of Earth tides during full and new moons which seem to prove that the speed of gravity is equal to the speed of light. Chinese scientists find evidence for speed of gravity, astrowatch.com, 12/28/12. This means that if the Sun suddenly disappeared, the Earth would keep orbiting it normally for 8 minutes, which is the time light takes to travel that distance. The team's findings were released in the Chinese Science Bulletin in February 2013. In October 2017, the LIGO and Virgo detectors received gravitational wave signals within 2 seconds of gamma ray satellites and optical telescopes seeing signals from the same direction. This confirmed that the speed of gravitational waves was the same as the speed of light.https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/page/press-release-gw170817

Anomalies and discrepancies

There are some observations that are not adequately accounted for, which may point to the need for better theories of gravity or perhaps be explained in other ways. .]]
  • Extra-fast stars: Stars in galaxies follow a distribution of velocities where stars on the outskirts are moving faster than they should according to the observed distributions of normal matter. Galaxies within galaxy clusters show a similar pattern. Dark matter, which would interact through gravitation but not electromagnetically, would account for the discrepancy. Various modifications to Newtonian dynamics have also been proposed.
  • Flyby anomaly: Various spacecraft have experienced greater acceleration than expected during gravity assist maneuvers.
  • Accelerating expansion: The metric expansion of space seems to be speeding up. Dark energy has been proposed to explain this. A recent alternative explanation is that the geometry of space is not homogeneous (due to clusters of galaxies) and that when the data are reinterpreted to take this into account, the expansion is not speeding up after all, Dark energy may just be a cosmic illusion, New Scientist, issue 2646, 7 March 2008. however this conclusion is disputed. Swiss-cheese model of the cosmos is full of holes, New Scientist, issue 2678, 18 October 2008.
  • Anomalous increase of the astronomical unit: Recent measurements indicate that planetary orbits are widening faster than if this were solely through the Sun losing mass by radiating energy.
  • Extra energetic photons: Photons travelling through galaxy clusters should gain energy and then lose it again on the way out. The accelerating expansion of the Universe should stop the photons returning all the energy, but even taking this into account photons from the cosmic microwave background radiation gain twice as much energy as expected. This may indicate that gravity falls off faster than inverse-squared at certain distance scales.
  • Extra massive hydrogen clouds: The spectral lines of the Lyman-alpha forest suggest that hydrogen clouds are more clumped together at certain scales than expected and, like dark flow, may indicate that gravity falls off slower than inverse-squared at certain distance scales.

Alternative theories

Historical alternative theories

Modern alternative theories

See also



Further reading

External links

"green air" © 2007 - Ingo Malchow, Webdesign Neustrelitz
This article based upon the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity, the free encyclopaedia Wikipedia and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Further informations available on the list of authors and history: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gravity&action=history
presented by: Ingo Malchow, Mirower Bogen 22, 17235 Neustrelitz, Germany