Theory of General Relativity
Episode #6 of the course “Scientific laws and theories everyone should know”
In 1905, Albert Einstein stated that physical laws are similar to those categorized as non-accelerating observers. He also showed that, in a vacuum, the speed of light was separate from the movement of all observers. As such, he founded the theory of special relativity, which brought a new way of thinking to the field of physics, suggesting new rules about time and space.
For ten years, Einstein attempted to add acceleration to the theory and even shared his general relativity theory in 1915 publicly. He concluded that objects with substantial mass have a space-time distortion, which we experience as gravity. Albert Einstein’s theory forever changed how we experience the universe. Einstein’s valuable findings stated that space-time is not fixed and that gravitational force is not just applied to a mass. Instead, the gravity of all masses bends time and space.
To further understand, think about moving across Earth on a straight path eastward beginning in the Northern Hemisphere. After some time, if someone tried to locate your position on a map, you would end up moving both east and then far south of where you started. The curve of the Earth makes this true. To move due East, you would have to calculate the shape of the Earth and position yourself a little bit north.
Space is similar. To people on board a shuttle going around the earth, it seems like they are going in a straight line through space. But truly, surrounding space-time is the process of bending due to the Earth’s gravity, making them both travel forward and seem to also go around the earth.
This theory applies to planets as well, although Einstein likely wouldn’t have discovered it while he was alive. For example, Mercury’s orbit is gradually shifting based on the sun’s gravitational pull and the space-time effect. In a few billion years, it may even collide with Earth.
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