Solar Eclipse on General Relativity ?
Date: Saturday, September 11, 2004 @ 07:13:52 MST
Topic: Science


An unexplained effect during solar eclipses casts doubt on General Relativity

ASSUME nothing is a good motto in science. Even the humble pendulum may spring a surprise on you. In 1954 Maurice Allais, a French economist who would go on to win, in 1988, the Nobel prize in his subject, decided to observe and record the movements of a pendulum over a period of 30 days. Coincidentally, one of his observations took place during a solar eclipse. When the moon passed in front of the sun, the pendulum unexpectedly started moving a bit faster than it should have done.



Since that first observation, the "Allais effect", as it is now called, has confounded physicists. If the effect is real, it could indicate a hitherto unperceived flaw in General Relativity, the current explanation of how gravity works.

That would be a bombshell, and an ironic one, since it was observations taken during a solar eclipse (of the way that light is bent when it passes close to the sun) which established General Relativity in the first place. So attempts to duplicate Dr Allais's observation are important. However, they have had mixed success, leading sceptics to question whether there was anything to be explained. Now Chris Duif, a researcher at the Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, has reviewed the evidence. According to a paper he has just posted on arXiv.org, an online publication archive, the effect is real, unexplained, and could be linked to another anomaly involving a pair of American spacecraft.

Read whole story at the Economist.






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