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Space Science

Einstein's Theory Passes Strict New Test 243

FiReaNGeL writes with an excerpt from a story at e! Science News: "Taking advantage of a unique cosmic configuration, astronomers have measured an effect predicted by Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity in the extremely strong gravity of a pair of superdense neutron stars. Essentially, the famed physicist's 93-year-old theory passed yet another test. Scientists at McGill University used the National Science Foundation's Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) to do a four-year study of a double-star system unlike any other known in the Universe. The system is a pair of neutron stars, both of which are seen as pulsars that emit lighthouse-like beams of radio waves."
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Einstein's Theory Passes Strict New Test

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  • by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:01PM (#24053555) Homepage Journal the value of good old-fashioned study.
    • by Hojima ( 1228978 )

      What use is this study if his theories don't agree with themselves? Call me when they find crucial discrepancies, not similarities.

    • by Xiroth ( 917768 )

      Yeah. Although it is sort of depressing that we can't find the flaws in the theory; I mean, no theory is supposed to last forever - they're always stop-gaps until flaws are identified and we need to find a new one. Where's the fun in a theory that's always right?

      I'm know it won't last forever, but with every new experiment there's always the hope that maybe this one will finally reveal a flaw to work on.

    • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @10:36PM (#24054301)

      It's the value of good old fashioned visual thinking and geometry actually, einstein's theories were so powerful correct BECAUSE he was an excellent visual thinker and thought in terms of geometry. Geometry is highly under-rated in mathematics and physics in my opinion.

      • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @12:39AM (#24055119)
        How is geometry underrated? Calculus starts with the study of low dimensional curves. Linear algebra is the study of simple geometrical transformations (rotations, translations, dilations) in high dimensional geometry. Functional analysis is basically the study of infinite dimensional flat geometry. Partial differential equations are implicit equations for small patches of curves and surfaces. That's about half the usual curriculum in undergraduate mathematics, and I haven't even mentioned differential geometry (generalized theory of curves and curved spaces) and algebraic geometry (generalized study of the properties of curves defined by polynomial equations).
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          It's not just about what is taught it's about how one thinks about problems:

          Even more vivid was Albert Einstein's explanation how human reasoning includes visual thinking.

          "The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be 'voluntarily' reproduced and combined .... this combinatory play seems to be the essential feature

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by khallow ( 566160 )
          In how many of those fields is the geometry emphasized rather than hidden? It certainly is hidden in traditional linear algebra, calculus, PDEs, and functional analysis.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          How is geometry underrated? Calculus starts with the study of low dimensional curves. Linear algebra is the study of simple geometrical transformations (rotations, translations, dilations) in high dimensional geometry. Functional analysis is basically the study of infinite dimensional flat geometry. Partial differential equations are implicit equations for small patches of curves and surfaces.

          Having studied all of these fields, I can safely say that the average undergraduate curriculum or textbox in any of

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        Actually, it seems that Einstein worked out the equations and most of the geometrical analogies came later, from other people. Einstein at first thought it was unnecessary complication.

    • I'm getting sick of Einstein's theories continually being proved right.

      We already know that there is something wrong with it on the quantum end of the scale. When are we going to get some tests which prove it wrong in a way that will help us refine it? Doesn't anyone have any tests they can do that will give us that information?
  • Pulsars (Score:2, Funny)

    An overview presentation of the capabilities of Pulsars has been uploaded to Youtube [].

  • And yet... (Score:4, Funny)

    by FlyingSquidStudios ( 1031284 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:14PM (#24053659) Homepage
    Einstein has yet to prove why hot dogs and hot dog buns come in inequal quantities.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @10:12PM (#24054119)

      Einstein has yet to prove why hot dogs and hot dog buns come in inequal quantities.

            I guess relativity explains that again. It depends on your country. In my country, you get 8 buns in a package and 8 sausages in a package. However my country is probably closer to the equator than yours, therefore our frame of reference is a lot faster than yours. Therefore the parity increases as a function of velocity. I would probably have to weight the buns and sausages to figure out any discrepancies in mass, but presumably the optimum is reached asymptotically when approaching the speed of light.

    • Buy the bun-length hot dogs. Come in 8 packs instead of 10 packs.

      But why are you eating hot dogs, when real men eat bratwurst? Now those typically come 5 or 6 on a foam tray, and I have yet to see the bun counterpart.
    • by Gewalt ( 1200451 )
      What are you doing wrong? My hot dogs and buns have come in pack of 8 each for like... at least 10 years.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cjsm ( 804001 )
      Simple really. Its because of collusion between the hot dog and bun companies.

      1. You run out of buns, but still have hot dogs.
      2. Buy more buns to eat the leftover hot dogs. Have buns leftover.
      3. Buy more hot dogs to use the leftover buns. Have hot dogs left over.
      4. Goto 2
      5. Profit!
  • It's a shame really (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Fluffeh ( 1273756 )
    That there isn't any type of classification in between LAW and THEORY

    Makes things like this sit in the same bucket as one of my drunken musings. "I have a theory that.... in..... etc". There should be a state of a theory where they can say "Well, we can't yet prove all of it, but we have managed to prove x amount, or in x years of testing, it has yet to be unproven".

    Maybe term it Conjecture []? It's the fitting word to use.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's exactly how "theory" is used in science. It doesn't carry that connotation of "this is just some stuff I'm guessing at" that it does in colloquial use. This is why creationists always talk about how "evolution is just a theory" when in fact, that indicates it's well-accepted among scientists.

    • Laws and Theories (Score:5, Informative)

      by Morosoph ( 693565 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:29PM (#24053787) Homepage Journal
      Law doesn't mean "confirmed theory", but is rather an element of a theory, typically characterised by its simplicity.

      Consider, as examples, Newton's laws of motion, or the laws of thermodynamics. Newton's theory of motion is deduced from his laws; the conventional theory of thermodynamics, likewise.

      I say this because there are plenty of non-scientists who deliberately attempt to exploit confusion induced by popular use of the terms "law" and "theory" so as to imply that scientific theories, notably the theory of evolution, are held tentatively.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CTachyon ( 412849 )

        I think that, most of the time anyway, "law" as used in science has an even more specific meaning: a "law" is a relation (often an equation) between two or more variables. For instance, Boyle's Law [] states "for a fixed amount of gas kept at a fixed temperature, pressure and volume are inversely proportional". This is, strictly speaking, not true of reality. It describes an ideal gas with completely elastic collisions, a property that no real gas has. But it's close enough to true with real gases that it

    • by Mr. Flibble ( 12943 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:49PM (#24053949) Homepage

      Some time ago, I took a "History of Science" course. My memory is fuzzy around the dates, but originally, anything in science was granted the term "law". IIRC, "Caloric Theory" which was superseded by the theory of heat and thermodynamics was originally called a "law".

      Around the 1700's, it was decided to call all new science a "Theory". In deference to previous conventions, the things still held over previously known as laws retained the name. Hence the apparent difference between the two terms.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dunbal ( 464142 )

      Makes things like this sit in the same bucket as one of my drunken musings. "I have a theory that.... in..... etc".

      Not really the same. Theories have been tested and are supported by facts. A drunken musing, valid scientific starting point though that may be, is merely a hypothesis which then must be tested. If it survives the test, it then becomes a theory. And if it survives the test of time, it may become a "Law". There are very few scientific "laws", however. The gas laws are pretty much the only ones

      • A theory never becomes a law, because they are entirely distinct. A law is a description, i.e. "what", whereas a theory is an attempt at an explanation, i.e. "how".

      • by Tim C ( 15259 )

        There are very few scientific "laws", however. The gas laws are pretty much the only ones I can think of off the top of my head.

        Newton's Laws, the Laws of Thermodynamics and Hooke's Law are three more (assuming you weren't thinking of thermodynamics when you said "gas laws", in which case I'll throw in Boyle's Law too).

    • by MyNymWasTaken ( 879908 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @10:55PM (#24054427)

      The word you are searching for is hypothesis.

      There are 4 terms that need to be understood in the realm of science - hypothesis, theory, law & fact. They are all separate & distinct, except for the only progression that occurs - hypothesis => theory.

      A fact is what has been carefully observed.
      A law describes that observation.
      A hypothesis is a proposal intended to explain that observation.
      A theory seeks to explain that observation & has been confirmed by considerable evidence and has endured all attempts to disprove it.


      Objects fall at the same rate regardless of mass.

      Law []

      Hypothesis => Theory
      Mass causes a curvature of spacetime which creates the effect of gravity.

      • by Ardeaem ( 625311 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @12:46AM (#24055153)
        The parent is not quite right.

        An observation is some type of measurement. We could call this a fact if we like, but observation is better because is acknowledges the role of the observer in a way that "fact" does not.

        A law is some invariance across multiple observations. See, for instance, Kepler's laws. (They do not, as the parent says, "describe" observations, but rather they postulate invariant aspects of planetary motion)

        A hypothesis is a testable prediction based on naturalistic explanation of lawful behavior, typically of smaller scope than a theory and untested or weakly tested. Theories can also lead to hypotheses, through logical implication (ie, "my theory predicts that X, therefore I hypothesize X will occur in this experiment")

        A theory is a unified, parsimonious, testable, naturalistic explanation for entire sets of laws. For instance, Newton's theory of mechanics explained all of Kepler's laws of planetary motion, and lawful behavior on earth as well.

        Observation: These objects that I have dropped all appear to fall at the same rate regardless of mass, within measurement error

        Law: All objects fall at the same rate regardless of mass

        Hypothesis and theory Newton's theory of mechanics, or Einstein's theory of relativity
        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          Mod parent up. He is more correct than the grandparent.

          Hypotheses do not necessarily lead to theories. This very article is an excellent example. General relativity is a theory. Using the theory, various physicists formulated a hypothesis, that massive bodies in orbit around each other should behave in such and such a way. These astronomers then made an observation, which supported the hypothesis.

          Things can also work the other way. You make some observations, then formulate a hypothesis based on them.

    • as a sort of intellectual modesty, a reverence for the pursuit of science and the natural world

      of course, this modesty doesn't translate well into a religious culture of simpletons who only talk in arrogant absolute laws on topics, like human sexuality, or crime and punishment, that are inherently subtle and complex. such that all these scientific "theories" to them can't possibly ring true, as flimsy and modestly phrased as they are. what they need is some cruel visage of a god to threaten fire and brimsto

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:29PM (#24053789) Homepage Journal

    Usually pop culture gets these people's character pretty wrong. Elvis, for example, is "the King", when he was just a singing truck driver.

    But Einstein they got pretty right. Sure, he didn't know everything, was smart really only within his very narrow discipline of mathematical theoretical physics. Einstein himself used to say "I really only ever had 4 good ideas, and 2 were wrong". But the couple he was right about, he was really right.

    And with the wild hair, the pacifism, the "same suit every day so I don't have to waste time thinking about it", and the snappy short equations that explain everything, he's probably the coolest smart guy since they all used to wear togas and live on wine and souvlaki on the beach.

  • by neokushan ( 932374 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:31PM (#24053813)

    If they want to REALLY test a theory, they should just post it on slashdot. You know, because mass opinion is what really matters, regardless as to what's right and wrong.

  • Einstein, is there anything he can't do?? Mmmmm, Bacon.
  • ... and still they are gonna go without any real proof that the LHC won't kill us, and turn it on.

    Ironic, ain't it?
    • > ... and still they are gonna go without any real proof that the LHC won't kill us, and
      > turn it on.

      Just as I have no proof that folding up my eyeglasses and stuffing them into a paper-towel tube won't create planet-eating stranglets. After all, it's never been done before and the physics that predicts the result is just theory. ...Well, I did it. Are we still here?

    • by bh_doc ( 930270 )
      There will always be someone, no matter what evidence and arguments are presented, that will say we haven't gotten "real proof" until the damn thing is just turned on and we see what really happens.
    • If it's being built in Europe, if anything it's going to be over-safe and cost inflated.
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      The proof that the LHC won't kill us all is roughly equivalent to the proof that you turning on your microwave won't kill us all.

  • I want to know if time slows down for the pulsars. We seem to see them (I rtfa) orbiting around each other every couple of hours... If you were standing on that orbiting pulsar, how long do you think your watch would read? From the outside - earth, you appear to move around every 2 hours...but if you were sitting there, time slows would you think you were there for weeks? oddness. measure that.
  • Model Worshipers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FurtiveGlancer ( 1274746 ) <AdHocTechGuy AT aol DOT com> on Friday July 04, 2008 @02:38AM (#24055707) Journal
    Blasphemers! Model != Reality. The model is our best representation of how reality works. Models are never "proven," they simply have not yet been falsified or have only been falsified under specific conditions. The longer they stay unbroken, the more reliance we place on them. But, at no point do they become the reality they were created to represent. Recant, you unscientific rabble.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard