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How NASA experiment proves Einstein right, again

“Lights All Askew in the Heavens,” proclaimed a headline in the New York Times on Nov. 10, 1919. The reason: results had just come in from the very first test of Albert Einstein's new general theory of relativity. “Men of Science More or Less Agog over Results of Eclipse Observations,” the headline continued, in what passed for breathless excitement back then.

The key theory that had the scientists so giddy was Einstein's claim that space and time were elastic, and could be warped and stretched like taffy. The test that proved it involved observing stars whose position in the sky makes them appear to be close to the sun and measuring whether solar gravity warped space-time enough to distort the starlight slightly.

A 1919 solar eclipse allowed scientists to see the stars clearly and make the necessary measurements — proving that the great man's theories were correct.

You might think that when a scientific finding hasn't been seriously challenged for 93 years the matter would be pretty much settled, but experimentalists have been poking and prodding Einstein's premises ever since.

There's more than just stubborn skepticism at work: some of relativity's more esoteric implications are fiendishly hard to confirm, so the physicists keep devising more and more sensitive and difficult studies — even though the theory keeps passing them all.

--Seven cancellations

After no fewer than seven cancellations, followed by seven reprieves, the space agency's orbiting Gravity Probe B mission, or GP-B for short, has at last confirmed not one, but two of relativity's more subtle predictions — and it took only 51 years and three-quarters of a billion dollars to do it.

To understand what the probe found, you first need to know about space-time, the four-dimensional stage on which everything in the universe plays out. What we think of as gravity, Einstein said, isn't a force that pulls two objects toward each other. Rather, it's a warping of space-time itself that makes objects want to move. The classic real-world analogy is a bowling ball on a trampoline: the ball makes the trampoline's surface dip. That's something vaguely like the way a star or a planet makes space-time warp.

The big difference is that space-time isn't a flat surface, but something that fills the universe. This makes the warping pretty much impossible to visualize, even for physicists, so don't try.

In any case, if you roll a marble close to the bowling ball, it will naturally fall into the depression — just as a passing meteorite falls to Earth.

That's part one. Part two is that since the bowling ball represents Earth, it isn't just sitting but spinning, which makes the surface of the trampoline twist a little in the direction of the spin. The same goes for the space-time surrounding our spinning planet. What GP-B did was to measure both the dip and the twist.>


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The editor does not pretend to understand the concepts of space-time, but does find several passages in The Urantia Book that may be illuminating:

42:11.4 Motion and universe gravitation are twin facets of the impersonal time-space mechanism of the universe of universes.

115:1.2 Conceptual frames of the universe are only relatively true; they are serviceable scaffolding which must eventually give way before the expansions of enlarging cosmic comprehension. The understandings of truth, beauty, and goodness, morality, ethics, duty, love, divinity, origin, existence, purpose, destiny, time, space, even Deity, are only relatively true. God is much, much more than a Father, but the Father is man’s highest concept of God; nonetheless, the Father-Son portrayal of Creator-creature relationship will be augmented by those supermortal conceptions of Deity which will be attained in Orvonton, in Havona, and on Paradise. Man must think in a mortal universe frame, but that does not mean that he cannot envision other and higher frames within which thought can take place.

118:3.1 Only by ubiquity could Deity unify time-space manifestations to the finite conception, for time is a succession of instants while space is a system of associated points. You do, after all, perceive time by analysis and space by synthesis. You co-ordinate and associate these two dissimilar conceptions by the integrating insight of personality. Of all the animal world only man possesses this time-space perceptibility. To an animal, motion has a meaning, but motion exhibits value only to a creature of personality status.

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