Applauding New Thinking on Gravity

Does Gravity Exist? Our Physics Tutors Weigh In.

There are certain truths that dictate the way we view the world. The earth is round.  It rotates around the sun.   The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening.  Gravity keeps us firmly on the ground.   Or does it?   Last week the New York Times published this fascinating article –  “A scientist takes on gravity.”  We asked our physics tutors to comment and got three just as fascinating articles back.   Take a read and tell us what you think.

Once Richard Feynman said “If you can’t explain something to a first year student, then you haven’t really understood it.” And that is what Erik Verlinde, a 48-years-old Dutch physicist, most likely pretended when he decided to write the article that has been recently commented in the digital edition of the New York Times science column. He has tried to explain what actually gravity is to the community of physics scientists around the world who don’t seem to be particularly happy to see gravity not considered as the fundamental force we all learned about since our school days. According to Verlinde gravity is nothing more than a byproduct of a system maximizing entropy (or the capability to create disorder) and this system happens to be the universe itself.

However this seemingly new idea is based on the pioneering work of Stephen Hawking, Jacob Bekenstein, and Ted Jacobson – three physicists who more than 30 years ago already proposed a connection between the laws of gravity and the laws of thermodynamics – and the work of Juan Maldacena who has also proposed that the universe is a hologram in which the laws of gravity are mirrored from the boundaries of the universe which is a bidimensional scenario where thermodynamical laws may actually apply.

There have been positive and negative reactions to the work of Verlinde. Some say it allows a fresh insight to quantum gravity theories (the theories which pretend to unify the most important theories of the 20th century: quantum mechanics and general relativity) but some say it has been already proved that such thermodynamical views are not right at all.

Nonetheless the true virtue of the work of Verlinde resides in all the discussions that it has inspired in the physics community. Might it proven right or wrong it will let young physicists realize that traditional scientific views are not eternal truths but dynamic theories in which we all can take part as creative thinkers.

Adolfo A. has been with Tutor.com since 2006 and tutors physics. Read more comments on this  New York Times article by other Tutor.com tutors.

One Response to Applauding New Thinking on Gravity

  1. Rodger Gibson March 23, 2011 at 11:08 PM #

    Just my thoughts

    What if gravity is a byproduct of a ( so call dark mater). Look how our weather works. Energy is constantly in motion moving from low to high and high to low. If the univers is just a single continent(the universe as we know it) and is part a of a much bigger picture, this dark mater is the weather system that is moving through our universe and acting on the elements thats it encounters. Pushing it faster and faster as it passes. This energy puts presser on all atoms in our space. pushing it faster and faster. The electron is getting excted by this engry and the by product is gravity. Gravity is a byproduct of (this dark matter/energy), thats why we can only see its after effects. If the big bang happend and it created a low pressure, then this (dark matter) is moving in and affecting the elements that we see today. And what it the elements that we see today are the slug of the big ban. Thats why there is so little of it. One more question, what if this matter is traveling at the speed of light or just maybe just a little faster than light. That would change a lot of things.

    Just my thoughts.
    r

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