Monday, July 04, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 185

The third and final 'Gravity' picture is Sir Isaac Newton of falling apple fame.

The story that Newton’s great idea was inspired by watching an apple fall may be true … but his most likely starting point was the earlier work of French astronomer Ismaël Bullialdus who had suggested the inverse-square law some 40 years before. Incidentally, Newton’s apple came from a tree in the garden at Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire, called a Flower of Kent, a variety developed around 1629. The tree fell over in 1820 but continues to grow. Grafted clones of the tree have been planted outside the world’s most prominent physics labs to remind scientists that inspiration can come from the simplest sources.

Is gravity some kind of energy? Is it a wave? Is it a particle? No one is yet sure although many physicists believe in the existence of an elementary particle called a Graviton. If we could isolate gravitons, it is possible that we could one day invent a way to shield against them and create anti-gravity.

Always popular with science fiction authors, anti-gravity has nonetheless been explored by serious scientists. Towards the end of World War II, German physicists supposedly played around with an anti-gravity generator called the ‘Nazi Bell’. It is alleged that the US Army adapted the Nazi technology during the 1950s to create a triangular anti-gravity based aircraft called the TR-3B (which you saw Einstein driving a couple of days ago on this very blog). The plane used mercury plasma - pressurised at 250,000 atmospheres at a temperature of 150 degrees Kelvin – which was accelerated to 50,000 rpm inside a ring-shaped chamber. This was then exposed to high radio-frequency fields. Some people claim that the resulting magnetic vortex field disrupted or neutralised the effects of gravity on mass by 89% ... but, of course, the vehicle has never been demonstrated in public.

Gravity is a paradox. On the one hand it so powerful that it keeps galaxies together. A Black Hole has such incrediblly strong gravity that absolutely everything, even light, is pulled towards it. Gravity can drag aircraft from the skies and keeps everything on this planet resolutely earth-bound. And yet, its force is so weak that I am defeating it right now by lifting this cup of tea and having a slurp.

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