Was Newton right? A search for non-Newtonian behavior of weak-field gravity
1 Department of Physics, University of Washington, Seattle Washington, USA
2 Department of Physics, University of California Irvine, Irvine, California, USA
Published online: 11 June 2014
Empirical tests of Einstein’s metric theory of gravitation, even in the non-relativistic, weak-field limit, could play an important role in judging theory-driven extensions of the current Standard Model of fundamental interactions. Guided by Galileo's work and his own experiments, Newton formulated a theory of gravity in which the force of attraction between two bodies is independent of composition and proportional to the inertia of each, thereby transparently satisfying Galileo's empirically informed conjecture regarding the Universality of Free Fall. Similarly, Einstein honored the manifest success of Newton’s theory by assuring that the linearized equations of GTR matched the Newtonian formalism under “classical” conditions. Each of these steps, however, was explicitly an approximation raised to the status of principle. Perhaps, at some level, Newtonian gravity does not accurately describe the physical interaction between uncharged, unmagnetized, macroscopic bits of ordinary matter. What if Newton were wrong? Detecting any significant deviation from Newtonian behavior, no matter how small, could provide new insights and possibly reveal new physics. In the context of physics as an empirical science, for us this yet unanswered question constitutes sufficient motivation to attempt precision measurements of the kind described here. In this paper we report the current status of a project to search for violation of the Newtonian inverse square law of gravity.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2014
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