The Feather, the bowling ball and me
I watched that Stephen Hawking film last night and enjoyed it to an extent. I guess it was more a love story rather than a science story, but hey, it was ok I guess. But anyway, what it did do was make me pick up the Brian Cox book ‘Human Universe’ again, from the side of my bed and re-read the bit about Einstein’s General relativity theory. We’ve all heard of that one haven’t we? E=MC2 and all that. But there was something bugging me. On the Brian Cox program around which the book accompanies there’s this bit where he goes to a NASA vacuum chamber, gets the staff to suck out all of the air out of the chamber and then drops a bowling ball and a feather from a great height down to the ground. Basically they fall together, even though they weigh vastly different amounts. I found this bamboozling. Brian explained that it was because there was no air resistance around them and that it was in actual fact the ground coming up to meet them. I mean, what? How is this possible? So yeah, I read about it patiently in his book, this morning and now it all makes sense, and so i’m excited and have to write about it.
He goes on to explain that when you are on a plane or bus or whatever and there is no turbulence you don’t actually feel as though you are moving. You are ‘at rest’ as Einstein called it. It’s the same when you’re sat down reading a book or sat at the computer or something. We all know that actually we are moving at high speed as the earth is indeed travelling at a high speed around the sun. We are on the ride. We are on a giant bus. And it is this acceleration that is ‘forcing’ us back into the ground as we fly around the sun on this giant rock. So we can see that it makes sense that when they took all of the air out of the vacuum chamber, it was indeed the ground moving up to meet the feather and the bowling ball.
So this is what I get from it all – general relativity suggests that it is this continuous acceleration that keeps the planet together. Every little piece of ground and thing on this planet is being held in place ‘at rest’. Without this, everything would fall to bits. This makes sense in regards to pretty much everything doesn’t it. I mean everything has to go forwards doesn’t. And I mean everything – relationships, civilisation, concepts, ideas, evolution etc. Everything has to go forwards to stay on course, doesn’t it. Everything has to grow.
So we can think of this big ol’ law of nature and admire it’s inherent simplicity and it’s genius, and apply it to our lives, so we never stay still and stagnate – we go forwards and onwards and upwards and follow nature as nature intended.