Saturday, January 19, 2008

Kasevich's Great Gravity Experiment

I just read that Dr. Kasevich and crew at Stanford, are designing an experiment to test the theory that objects fall at rates independent of their mass, to a precision of 20 decimal places.

Now, Galileo already did this atop the Leaning Tower, but these Stanford guys are serious. Serious to 1 part in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000. No kidding. So, if it's successful, they can proclaim, "Galileo was right!"

As a gedenken experiment,

Define m1= mass of Stan Laurel
Define m2= mass of Oliver Hardy
Assume that m2/m1=2

Assume Laurel is spherical and Ollie is cylindrical and that m2/m1=2

Assume that the acceleration differs between Stan and Ollie by 1 part in 10^20, the precision of the present experement.

Assume also that the acceleration is constant, for both.

Then, in order that Ollie hit first by one diameter (assuming a spherical Hardy, as aforeto mentioned, R(Ollie)=2 Meters, the distance they must fall is 21 light years.

A light year, if you're still awake, is 5,878,499,810,000 miles or 5.8 TRILLION miles. Heck, that's not even 1 National Debt Ceiling.

Sometimes it is helpful to explain the sophistication of these experiments with examples everyone can relate to.

Smith's Cloud

Got my latest copy of Astonomy Magazine. According to the American Astronomical Society, a giant cloud of gas is heading towards our Milky Way Galaxy.

Good news. The Smith's Cloud will collide with our Galaxy with enough energy and material to form a million stars like our own Sun. And around some of these million stars will be planets. And on many of these planets life will form, and on one of THESE planets humans will evolve. And one of these humans might well be a decent Presidential candidate!

Bad news? The collision will occur 40 million years from now, well after the polls close............for good.