Orbiting at warp speed

Published 11:49 pm Monday, October 25, 2004

By Staff
Arthur McLean
You don't have to be a trekkie. If you've absorbed even a nanosecond of American popular culture, surely you're familiar with it. I'm talking about that phrase, or countless variations of Capt. Kirk's order "Warp speed, Scottie."
Well, forget the 24th century and extremely rational dudes with pointy ears. According to a new study, we're already travelling at warp speed. I have a feeling most parents would readily agree with that statement, but I'm talking about the blue marble, the planet.
According to a study released by the people who study such things, the earth actually warps space around it as it spins and orbits in the solar system. Thought space was a vacuum? I guess not.
The earth, and other space bodies that have large masses also warp time, the study said. Please no fat jokes. I'm very sensitive.
Of course, there was a theory before there was evidence. In this case, a couple of physicists came up with the theory working from Einstein's theory of relativity.
So, how did they do this? They bounced lasers off of two giant, reflective spheres, balls, that were put into orbit around the earth for just this purpose.
So, why should all this matter to you? Right now, it probably shouldn't. Someday, who knows what we'll use that knowledge to do.
But it shows that scientists often have to work out crazy plans, do things that no normal person would think up and endure questions and some skepticism along the way to discovery.
Think about it. Galileo was condemned for heresy when his scientific observations of the universe revealed the earth was not the center of universe. It wasn't even the center of the solar system.
Edison went through 10,000 different materials before he came upon a working solution for the electric incandescent light bulb.
By many accounts, Nicola Tesla is most kindly described as eccentric, but his tireless experimenting gave birth to the alternating current motor.
Think about how the work just these last two men have affected our lives.
No doubt they all had to endure some ridicule, questioning, doubt and even fear. But they succeeded. And the world advanced because of it.
Arthur McLean is the editor of the Atmore Advance.

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