In 1797, British scientist Henry Cavendish gravity It is equipped with equipment made of lead balls, wooden rods and wires. In the 21st century, scientists are doing something very similar with atoms, which is a fairly sophisticated tool.
Gravity may be an early subject in an introductory class of physics, but that doesn’t mean that scientists aren’t trying to measure it more and more accurately.Now a group of physicists did it using the effect of Time dilation — A slowdown in time caused by an increase in velocity or gravity — an atom. In a paper published online today (January 13) in the journal Science, researchers announced that they were able to measure the curvature of space-time.
This experiment is part of a scientific field called atom interferometer.It utilizes the principle of Quantum mechanics: Just as a wave of light can be represented as a particle, a particle (such as an atom) can be represented as a “wave packet”. And just as light waves overlap and cause interference, wave packets can be a problem.
In particular, if the wave packet of an atom is split in two and recombinated after it is ready to do something, the waves can become misaligned. That is, the phase of the wave changes.
“We’re trying to extract useful information from this phase change,” Albert Roura, a physicist at the Center for Quantum Technologies in Ulm, Germany, who wasn’t involved in the new research, told Space.com.Ruler I wrote a work of “Prospect” About a new study published online in the same issue of Science today.
Gravitational waves The detector works on a similar principle. By studying particles in this way, scientists can fine-tune the numbers behind the main functions of the universe, such as the behavior of electrons, the strength of gravity, and how they change subtly over relatively short distances. ..
Chris Overstreet of Stanford University and his colleagues measured that final effect. New research.. To do this, they created an “atomic fountain”. It consists of a 33-foot (10-meter) high tube decorated with a ring around the top.
Researchers controlled the fountain by firing a laser pulse at the fountain. In one pulse, they fired two atoms from the bottom. The two atoms reached different heights before the second pulse shot them down. The third pulse captured the lower atom and recombinated the wave packet of the atom.
Researchers have found that the two wave packets are out of phase. This indicates that the gravitational field of the atomic fountain was not perfectly uniform.
“that is… General theory of relativity, In fact, can be understood as the effect of the curvature of space-time, “Lula told Space.com, referring to one of Albert Einstein’s most famous theories.
The elevated atoms are closer to the ring, so we experienced more acceleration thanks to the gravity of the ring. In a perfectly uniform gravitational field, such effects are offset. That’s not what happened here. Instead, the wave packet of the atom is out of phase, and due to the effect of time dilation, the atom that experienced more acceleration was slightly out of phase with the corresponding atom.
The result is a very small change, but the interferometer is sensitive enough to pick it up. Scientists also have control over the placement and mass of the ring, so Roura told Space.com that “these effects can be measured and studied.”
The technology behind this discovery, atomic interferometry, may seem esoteric, but someday atomic interferometry will. Detect gravitational waves And help us Navigate better than GPS, The researcher said.
Curvature of space-time measured using “atomic fountain”
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