Einstein’s theory of general relativity emerged victorious from another important test

The equivalence principle as one of the fundamental concepts of Einstein's theory of general relativity has recently successfully passed its most difficult test.

BingMag.com Einstein’s theory of general relativity emerged victorious from another important test

The equivalence principle as one of the fundamental concepts of Einstein's theory of general relativity has recently successfully passed its most difficult test.

Using a special satellite, an international team of scientists has measured the acceleration of a pair of free-falling objects in the Earth's orbit, and the results of this five-month experiment show that the acceleration of the fall of these objects does not differ by more than 1 in 10 to the power of 15. Thus, these results reject any violation of the "weak equivalence principle" to such a scale.

Observing the "weak equivalence principle" is relatively simple. This principle states that all objects regardless of their mass or composition, if nothing else acts on them, accelerate the same in a gravitational field.

Perhaps the most famous demonstration of it, in 1971 And there was a time when the astronaut "Dave Scott" dropped a hammer and a feather simultaneously from the same height on the surface of the moon. Without air resistance to slow down the feather, both objects fell to the moon's surface at the same speed. ) was guided, it was somewhat more accurate than the Scott show and it used a satellite in Earth orbit that operated from April 25, 2016 to October 18, 2018.

BingMag.com Einstein’s theory of general relativity emerged victorious from another important test

Microscope satellite in Earth orbit
Credit: CNES 2015

During this period, the scientific team conducted numerous experiments with the free fall of various objects and collected data for a total of five months. Two-thirds of these data were performed with pairs of objects made of titanium and platinum alloys, and the remaining one-third used objects of the same type of platinum. They used the same to each other. If there was a difference in acceleration, a measure known as the Etvs Ratio, these devices recorded changes in electrostatic forces.

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The initial results of this experiment in 2017 were promising and up to the Otowash parameter -19 in 10 to the power of -15 no violation of The principle of equivalence was not observed. However, the satellite's activity continued, and now its complete data set, increasing the accuracy of the initial results, limits the Autowash parameter to 1.1 x 10 to the power of -15.

This is the smallest interval determined for the same principle. It is considered a weak currency until today and it is unlikely that a more accurate range will be determined for it soon. Now scientists can rely on the theory of general relativity with more confidence than before and put new constraints on the equivalence between general relativity and quantum mechanics, two fields that apparently operate under different laws.

BingMag.com Einstein’s theory of general relativity emerged victorious from another important test

Microscope mission team next to the experiment satellite
Credit: ONERA/Rodrigues

"Gilles Mtris" (Gilles Mtris), an astronomer at the French Cote d'Azur Observatory, said about this study: "Now we have new and much better conditions for the next theories, and we know that these theories should not apply the equivalence principle until now.

Given that equipment designed to work in the microgravity environment of Earth orbit is not tested before launch, this is a very valuable result for the MICROSCOPE project, and the mission team can even build on It will design more precise experiments.

These experiments will help to test the limits of general relativity that describes gravity in physical space-time. He agreed. In the atomic and subatomic scale, general relativity does not apply and it is quantum mechanics that takes over the power. Scientists have been trying to resolve the contradiction between the two for a long time, and accurately identifying where general relativity is not the answer can be effective in this field. - Does not occur for weak equivalence. With further improvements in future experiments, this scale can be scaled down to the 1 in 10 to the power of -17. However, this progress will not be made in the near future.

As "Manuel Rodrigues" (Manuel Rodrigues), a physics engineer at the French National Center for Aerospace Research (ONERA), said in this regard: "At least for one or maybe two decade, we will not see any progress in testing space satellites, but we think that the existing results will be enough for now." /p>

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