What is the space around us? Space is passive in Newton’s view, but dynamic in Einstein’s view. The entanglement of space and time determines the motion of objects. Therefore, after Einstein, space is no longer static, space is just like an actor, performing all kinds of performances in the space theater.
It’s one thing to imagine space as vibrant and resilient as fabric, but really? Is it just a metaphor or a description of the universe? One way to understand Einstein’s theory is to go to the edge of black holes.
It came from a strange place, the staff pool at the University of Stanford. In 1959, lenoshev met two colleagues there, William Fairbank and Bob cannon. Lenoshev was very excited to see the advertisement of a high-tech gyroscope. Although its appearance is different, its basic principle is the same as that of a children’s toy. The three men decided to launch the device on the spot. The axis of the gyroscope generally points in a fixed direction. But if the earth is really pulling space, then the axis of the gyroscope will also be pulled, pointing to change, so it can also be measured.
This calculation is very simple, with only one problem. Einstein’s theory predicts that the rotation of the earth will only cause a slight distortion in space, and its degree is like the height of a penny 100 kilometers away. After more than two years of trying to figure out how to make such a precise measurement, lenoshev finally made a plan to connect four free floating gyroscopes to a telescope. If space is distorted, then as time goes by, the gyroscope will no longer aim at the star because it is deep in the vortex of space. In 1962, they applied to NASA for assistance, and then received the gravitational probe B for one million dollars.
Initial members thought the plan would take three years. Gravitational probe B has become the longest experiment in history with its expanding scale. Ten years later, it successfully launched the telescope into space and produced the smoothest gyroscope.
The project took more than 40 years, cost 750 million dollars, and was almost canceled by NASA at one time. Finally, in April 2004, the team witnessed the launch of the telescope. In 1949, there were only three people sitting by the pond, still visible at a glance.
Gravity Probe B has been flying around the earth for more than a year, and the team nervously monitored its every move, trying to determine whether the earth has really distorted space. Finally, intelligence began to come in unconsciously, and there were problems. Due to the unexpected slight shaking of the gyroscope, it will cost millions of dollars, and the budget will soon run out. It seems that nearly half a century’s efforts will be in vain.
Then, at the last minute, two additional funds appeared, with private donations from the son of former retired team member William ferban and the royal family of Saudi Arabia. The data problem of the next two years was solved, showing the deviation of the gyroscope axis, which was close to that predicted by Einstein equation.
This experiment provides the most intuitive evidence in history that space does have something of its own, like cloth. If space is nothing, nothing can be distorted.