(an excerpt from The Man Who Mastered Gravity)
Gravity & Electricity, Space & Time
(Notes from the Rabbit Hole #5)
“I am not crazy; my reality is just different from yours.”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Modern science tells us that there are four fundamental forces1 – called interactions – at work across the universe: gravity, electromagnetism, the ‘weak force’ (the energy released when unstable atoms decay, producing nuclear radiation) and the ‘strong force’ (which binds like-charged protons into atomic nuclei; also the energy released when atomic bombs go bang).
Mankind has achieved some measure of control over three of these forces. Only gravity remains untamed. Despite hydrogen bombs and trips to the Moon, despite computers and satellites and hand-held geo-positioning systems, gravity remains pretty much a mystery. Any attempts to actually harness its motive power have gone for naught or been the subject of ridicule.
. . .
With the publication of his General Theory of Relativity in 1916, Albert Einstein turned Newton’s universe inside-out. In Einstein’s telling, massive objects like stars and planets bend, or warp, the space around them, and other planets or moons are held in their orbits by the resulting curvature. The most common illustration of this theory depicts a celestial body like our sun suspended in the elastic fabric of space, as a rubber membrane would stretch if a ball were placed on its surface. In the resulting curved space, planets assume their orbit around their stars, and moons assume their orbits around their planets1.
Einstein gave us an explanation of how gravity works in the cosmos, but General Relativity lacks the kind of practical utility that men like Faraday and Maxwell gave us with the electromagnetic force. A century later, we can still do little with gravity besides fall down or drop things.
In the remainder of his life, Albert Einstein struggled to articulate a Unified Field Theory, the mathematical commonality in all the known forces in the universe. In particular, he sought to find the theoretical link between gravity and electromagnetism. Such a linkage would infer the ability to produce artificial gravity with electricity, and consequently the synthetic means to ‘bend’ space.
In his General Theory of Relativity, Einstein unified the three dimensions of space with the fourth dimension of time, redefining the fabric of the cosmos as ‘the spacetime continuum.’ So: if one can manipulate gravity with electricity, and that infers the bending of space, does it not also stand to reason that electrically induced gravity also implies the bending of time?
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