Relativity and Cosmology


Correspondence With Professors

Authors: Richard J Benish

Given a well-isolated body of matter (e.g., a uniformly dense sphere) with a hole through its center, what happens when a test mass is dropped into the hole? Galileo is perhaps the most illustrious figure to have posed the problem. In his recent book, Going Underground, Martin Beech has echoed the ubiquity of the idea in modern physics, writing that "it has become a right-of-passage kind of question." Unfortunately, the only answers we have are abstract predictions; we have no empirical observations to match the predictions, even though modern technology has for decades made the test quite feasible. Humans have never yet witnessed gravity-induced radial motion through the centers of massive bodies. Since the 1960s several proposals have been made (to measure Newton's constant G) that would have incidentally tested the well-known oscillation prediction. But none of these experiments have ever been performed. For many years I have been urging members of the physics community to at last turn the "right-of-passage" thought experiment into a real experiment. This collection of correspondence comprises a wide range of authoritative responses to my plea. Promising though some of the responses may have seemed, Galileo's experiment yet remains undone. As is often stated in the correspondence, this failure, this gap in our empirical knowledge of gravity represents an unacceptable state of affairs. It is an embarrassment to academic physics.

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[v1] 2019-07-26 20:33:20

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