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Have you ever wondered where does gravity come from? It seems that this fundamental force is easily taken for granted in our daily lives. We know that anything that everything that goes up must come down at some point and that we are held to the Earth’s surface by this invisible force. Physicists see more than that. When they view gravity the see one of the mysteries to be solved in order to get a complete understanding of how the universe works.
We know from Newton’s law of gravitation that any two objects in the universe exert a force of attraction on each other. This relationship is based on the mass of the two objects. The great the mass or the closer the two objects, the stronger the pull of gravity that they exert on each other. We also know that gravity can work in a complex system. we see that in how the gravity of the planets orbiting our sun actual makes it move in a small orbit of our own. So the compound influence of several objects can happen.
Einstein gave us some of the most important information about gravity. Thanks to him we know how mass is important to gravity. According to his theory of relativity. Gravity is a property of space time. Eintein basically describes gravity as a curvature in space time. To put it simply any object caught in another celestial body’s gravity is so because the space it is moving in is curved toward that object. It is similar to the way a coin would spiral down one of thse penny slot cyclone machines you see at tourist shops.
So Gravity comes from mass warping space around it. This has major implication for astronomy and possibly space travel. Astronomers were able to better understand how stars and galaxies are formed and what accounts for the strange movements of certain celstial bodies. Instead of just observing the phenomena they were able to get the first glimmerings of understanding about how it works. The application for space travel lie in the possiblity of exceeding the speed of light. Einstein himself state that lightspeed barrier was insurmountable becuase it would require an infinite amount of energy. However thanks to the understanding of space time astronomers and physicists noticed something about space that might serve as a key for faster than light space travel. The found that the speed at which galaxies are moving away from one another actually exceeds the speed of light. This baffled them until they realized the warping of space its self allowed for such an irregularity to be possilble. This means that by understanding how gravity warps space, one a warp drive can make possible real time travel to destinations beyond our solar system.
In the end gravity is still a mystery. One thing is that scientists are finding that gravity seems to have many properities. Besides being a characteristic of space time, it is also a force, and a particle. This has made finding a unified field theory hard to complete.
If you’d like more info on Gravity, check out The Constant Pull of Gravity: How Does It Work?, and here’s a link to Gravity on Earth Versus Gravity in Space: What’s the Difference?.
We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Gravity. Listen here, Episode 102: Gravity.