Scientists have developed a new way to measure the eternally elusive gravitational constant

(ORDO NEWS) — A team of physicists used a pair of vibrating rods to measure the gravitational constant with incredible accuracy.

Even though the new method has a relatively high uncertainty, they are hopeful that future improvements will provide a new path. to determine this elusive constant.

The gravitational constant, referred to as G, is the fundamental building block of our understanding of gravity. Isaac Newton first introduced a constant into his equations when he developed his universal theory of gravity over 300 years ago.

The constant tells us about the fundamental force of gravity, or the force of gravitational attraction between two objects. a certain distance from each other and with given masses.

We cannot calculate the value of this constant from any theory. We can only detect it through measurements and experiments.

But since gravity is the weakest of the forces, our knowledge of the value of the gravitational constant is relatively inaccurate.

“The only way to resolve this situation is to measure the gravitational constant using as many different methods as possible,” explains Jürg Dyual, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Process Design at ETH Zurich. Dual led a team that developed a new method for measuring the gravitational constant.

Dual and his team started with a suspended metal rod. They then vibrated the rod and measured how much the neighboring rod vibrated. The two strips did not touch. Instead, when the first rod vibrated, it emitted gravitational waves that set the other rod in motion.

Scientists have developed a new way to measure the eternally elusive gravitational constant 2
The orange rod vibrates, which causes the blue rod to move due to gravitational forces. Four laser devices detect tiny movements of the rods, their paths are indicated by orange dotted lines

This is a new way of measuring the gravitational constant based on a dynamic system rather than a static one.

In static systems, you also have to contend with the gravitational influence of literally everything else in the universe. With a dynamical system, physicists could isolate their measurements much better.

The team’s measurement of the gravitational constant is about 2.2 percent higher than the currently accepted value, but it has a large uncertainty.

“To get a reliable value, we still need to significantly reduce this uncertainty. We are already making measurements with a slightly modified experimental setup so that we can determine the constant with even greater accuracy,” Dual explained.

Dual and his team hope the new technique will pay off by providing a completely independent measurement of the gravitational constant. The improved measurement will help physicists understand everything from gravitational waves emitted by distant black holes to the fundamental nature of gravity itself.


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