Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Horizon - What's wrong with gravity

I actually had some free time to watch something I recorded on my PVR namely BBC's Horizon subtitled "What's wrong with gravity" now bear in mind this is a 50 minute programme.

We learned -

Gravity has been examined by the Ancient Greeks, Gallileo, Newton and Einstein.
Newton had an apple fall on his head and realised that the force got stronger when the masses got larger and weaker if they were further apart.
He then wrote F=(Gm1m2)/r2 this didn't tell us what gravity was just how it operated. The how he left to God.
We used this Law to get to the Moon and put down some snazzy mirrors
Then using said snazzy mirrors we could accurately measure the distance from the Earth to the Moon over a long period of time.
Plotting this orbit we find that using Newton's Law the Moon is in the wrong place by several metres compared to the observations.
Luckily Einstein (greatest physicist ever) did a neat trick and combined space and time. 'Gravity' he said 'was a result of the warping of space-time'.
Knowing this we should be able to detect gravity waves from spinning pairs of neutron stars (very dense) and this is why we have a two really long tubes set in an L shape with lasers shining down them.
Gravity waves will stretch us one way, but not another.
They haven't found any yet.
Gravity also messes up time so all the GPS satellites 'tick' faster then the ones on Earth and require adjusting.
Einstein's equations don't work with very small things. This is bad.
To get them to work we need to find something called a Graviton.
To do this we send a proton down one tube really fast and hit it with an anti-proton going the other way.
They haven't found one yet.
Not to worry they'll try and find it by not finding it. The amount of energy before the collision should equal the amount of energy after the collision if there's some missing it indicates something they can't detect which could be a graviton.
They still haven't found anything (or not found anything?) it may be that the graviton 'escapes' into a different dimension.

And that's it folks. Now how long did it take to read all that? 5 minutes, 10 minutes tops. Programme length equals 50 minutes. So how did they do that; easy.

A good percentage of the programme was of the James Blunt look-alike particle physicist driving around in USA. We see him driving to Newton's orchard (not in America) where he then gets the story wrong and 'spontaneously' asks for a piece of paper to write down the famous equation. There follows a neat clockwork olde-style representation of the planets in their orbits.

We then see him driving across the US to get to the observatory used to shine a laser onto the Moon mirrors, interspersed with shots of the Moon landing and Bluntathon's reminiscing (he was aged one at the time). Then we have a chat to someone about the mirrors used, followed by an exciting look at the telescope and the occasional flash of green laser light and some numbers and fuzzy images of the Moon.

Then we have some graphics of the Moon's orbit and are told it just doesn't add up. To highlight this they flicker the Moon around to different positions.

Then we get good old Einstein and lot's of archive footage of the great man himself, we also get what are surprising good graphical representations of the warping of space-time. Totally serious here damn good graphics.

Off to the great big L-shaped tube in crocodile country. We get to admire the tube and see screens showing us the inside of the tube we're just not told exactly how the tube works. It measures gravity waves. We then get three attempts to explain what a gravity wave is with only partial success; and we're still not told how the tube works.

Now for some reason we're off to GPS headquarters, using ironically a sat-nav guidance system that takes him to a field. We're told that because of this space-time warping clocks 'tick' differently; if they're not adjusted it can lead to errors of several kilometres. We then watch the military in charge demonstrate why the EU is funding their own GPS system "We don't really think about civilians", call a Tom-Tom a Sam-Sam, then have six people shout orders to each other in order for one of them to press a button to adjust the time. Then the Bluntathon appears to insult them -

'I was using a sat-nav system and it directed me to a field'
'All I can say is the satellites work'
'So what you're saying is 'You're an idiot'!' (i.e. the soldier is saying that Bluntathon's an idiot)
VO: 'and on that note I left'

More driving to Fermilab and the best bit of the whole programme candid clips of Bluntahon in the car -
'It's not enough to just tell them the facts oh no they have to feel them'
'Let's have lot's of footage of me driving around'

Fermilab home of the big ring and where Bluntathon used to work apparently. Things spin around, hit other things, turn into lots of smaller things, the end; oh and they're all moving to Geneva where they've a much better ring.

So what's wrong with Gravity? Ummm.

See that's how to make a blog entry programme last.


Invisible said...

…and by the time I got to the end of that post, I felt lost! LOL.

FlipC said...

Heh you should have seen the programme you'd be pointing out the same things as me.

Did you spot in my summary how it was implied that Einstein came up with the concept of space-time after the Moon landing and all the orbit measurements? That's the order in which it was presented.

It really wasn't up to the standards you'd expect from the BBC. They had another one last night on drugs, not had chance to see it yet though.

Anonymous said...

So Newton was wrong. How dare this young upstart presenter criticize someone who, at a time when measurements were nowhere near as accurate as they are now, came up with a formulae that gives us a 10m error in over a quarter million miles. I note that the actual formulae were not mentioned in the program. The works of people like Newton were stepping stones for today scientist and he deserve more respect than was given in this program.

FlipC said...

Okay this being a year ago so down the memory hole it goes, but I don't think the implication was that Newton was wrong, merely that according to his formula the Moon should be here when it was in fact there.

As I said wasn't the best from the BBC and in fact seemed to be the start of a trend to groovify science.

Anonymous said...

He was a Plagerist dimwit... My spelling is as good as your researching skills...

Anonymous said...

Have you ever thought that the moon is artificial and isn't controlled by gravity and perhaps magnetic fields, oh yeah it only appeared on Australian TV last night....
Common sense don't need the controlled media to inform the illuminated...

FlipC said...

@Anonymous 18:07: Einstein or Newton? Both have been accused of plagiarism. So Newton vs Hooke or Einstein vs Poincaré?

@Anonymous 18:14: Did they also mention that the Moon is hollow and filled with aliens? Sounds about the right level.