As we all know, any physical object existing warps the “fabric” of space-time around it.
Einstein came up with that one, and he certainly seems to be right.
However, Einstein’s theories don’t explain everything – particularly very, very tiny things – in the subatomic.
Being neat and tidy, many of us like to have everything make sense, no matter which way we look at it. And not only do we want it to make sense, but we want it to be the right answer.
Stanford and NASA have a nifty probe orbiting Earth right now called the Gravity Probe B. It has very, very sensitive gyroscopes on board, and it has its eye fixed on a star to make sure it’s always pointing the same way.
As it orbits the earth, moving through spacetime, the gyroscopes will tilt ever so slightly from the warping of the spacetime around the mass of our planet.
This is just great. But there’s a good point to it. Earlier I mentioned M-Theory (String Theory). It helps unify Einstein’s “grand” perspective with the tiny Quantum perspective, which normally don’t get along.
Scientists will be able to use what they learn from Gravity Probe B to determine the gamma variable – which pretty much corresponds to the curvature of 3-dimensional space.
If gamma turns out to be exactly “1” then Einstein’s theories are spot-on. However, if it turns out to be slightly less than one, then M-Theory gets one of it’s first experimental successes.
String Theory needs gamma to be slightly less than one because it predicts a “new” scalar field – a previously unknown gravity-ish force.
However, if gamma turns out to be more than one, a lot of scientists around the world will suddenly turn bald from a mass hair-ripping. Such a thing would be just damned crazy.
The results of this experiment can be found in the piece written 6 years later, “Space is Like Honey: Cold, Smooth Balls Pay Off Big (which wouldn’t surprise Einstein)“