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Student Voice Volume 102, Issue 10

General Relativity's Astronomical Effects

By Trevor J. Hoglund, November 18, 2015

This post was published in Student Voice Volume 102, Issue 10 as “Thinking about theory of relativity can garner many impactful realizations.”

Four score and another score ago, Einstein introduced the idea of general relativity. Well, that’s when he presented the results at the Prussian Academy of Science. Unlike previous models for gravity and such, this relativity thing actually accounted for reality. Consequentially, a lot more science was able to be understood thereafter. Karl Schwarzschild, for instance, went on the following year to calculate the Schwarzschild Metric, which allows us to describe gravitational collapse (i.e. black holes).

This was arguably one of the greatest leaps in science during the twentieth century. Having all these new calculations let all this physics and stuff happen. Ergospheres are a pretty cool thing, black holes and whatnot.

Everyone needs to stop and think about black holes more often. Now that you’ve stopped and are thinking about black holes, consider some more stuff. Gravity, for instance, is so strong that the escape velocity is greater than the speed of light. Light being the fastest thing in the universe (besides the universe itself, obviously). I think I may be getting off topic. Something, something, black holes, something, something, relativity… oh yeah, that’s what this was about. Humor the thought of black holes a little longer though.

Dragging everything back into the more localized sectors of the galaxy now. Everyone knows Pluto isn’t a planet, at least, everyone is supposed to know because it is a fact. Planets are apparently a very hot topic these days. Astronomy, which studies such things, actually has a pretty good example of why general relativity is so important. Regular old Newtonian gravitational models just don’t cut it in the real world. There was once a theoretical planet called ‘Vulcan,’ theorized to account for the peculiarities in Mercury’s orbit (Urbain Le Verrier proposed this idea). Mercury, however, is actually the closest planet to the sun. Einstein’s general relativity actually explains the previous miscalculations (because science, Google it). Now we don’t have to go around making up planets and other arbitrary parameters to fix our silly mistakes. Today, we actually accommodate for the properties of space before trying to calculate things within it.