Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Gravity Does Not Exist

Gravity Does Not Exist: A Puzzle for the 21st Century

Vincent Icke
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Gravity Does Not Exist
    Book Description:

    Every scientific fact begins as an opinion about the unknown-a theory-that becomes fact as evidence piles up to support it. But what if two theories exist that correspond perfectly to observed phenomena and they cannot be reconciled with each other? Can theory become fact? Such is the dilemma in contemporary physics. In seeking to understand the mechanisms of the universe, physicists have arrived at two conflicting theories: one explains the mystery of gravity through a precise model of space and time, and the other explains the mystery of matter via the behavior of quantum particles. Each theory reigns in its own domain. But 13.8 billion years ago, when the universe first came into being, gravity and matter belonged to a single realm. Can these theories be united, and if so, what facts will be revealed? This, contends Vincent Icke, is the central puzzle facing physics in our century. Combining Icke's expertise with a robust argument and intellectual playfulness,Gravity Does Not Existmakes a notoriously difficult subject accessible to all readers interested in a deeper understanding of the universe in which we live.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1704-6
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. 7-8)

    This is a Small Book about a Big Question, not a textbook of known physics. Or perhaps it’s about a Big Opinion – or a small opinion, depending on one’s perspective. It’s a book about unknown physics. Every scientific fact was born as an opinion about the unknown, often called a ‘hypothesis’. Opinion gradually becomes fact when evidence piles up. By perceptive and diligent work, it is

    … possible to attain a degree of probability that quite often is hardly less than complete certainty. Namely, when the things that one has deduced from the supposed principles correspond perfectly to the...

  2. The Process of Measurement
    (pp. 9-13)

    With measured tread, Johan Cornets de Groot climbed the many steps to the first tier of the tower. He did so solemnly, as seemed proper for his rank as burgomaster of Delft in southern Holland. De Groot had been invited to witness a physics experiment proposed by Stevin,¹ the Flemish engineer, polymath and private physics instructor to Maurits, Prince of Orange.

    This is the way it happened in my imagination. What these two men actually did has not been recorded, except for the setup and outcome of their experiment. The year was 1585, in an era when the scientific acceptance...

  3. The Process of Progress
    (pp. 14-16)

    Do facts exist? Simon Stevin would have answered ‘yes’ without any hesitation. He did an enormous number and variety of experiments, including the crucial one on that tower in Delft: this is a historical fact. His experiments were quite repeatable, both during his time as well as today, and were often repeated and improved.⁶ These are physical facts.

    Do laws of nature exist? Not that we know of. Theories evolve, facts remain. Stevin’s demonstration of the most remarkable property of falling bodies is as striking today as it was four centuries ago, even though in our time we see it...

  4. Laws Ain’t
    (pp. 17-22)

    One of the beauties of Stevin’s setup is that it uses a familiar, everyday effect. The result of the test triggers the most basic characteristic of the brilliant researcher. This isn’t curiosity, as is commonly thought, butperceptiveness: the ability to see what everyone else can see, too, only better, or more connected to other things, more cleverly abstracted from circumstantial clutter, or more broadly generalized.

    As an example, consider the statementThe sky is dark at night. This truism is, on closer inspection, quite remarkable and non-obvious. Another example of a fact that is so strange that it borders...

  5. Motion
    (pp. 23-25)

    With five centuries of hindsight, it seems that the development of mechanical theories proceeded predictably. In the year 1600, however, it was by no means clear where to begin, what to study or what questions to ask. One of the key items on the physics agenda waschange. The ancient Greek philosophical dictum,panta rhei(‘everything flows’)28, lacked precision and was unacceptable inexperimentalphilosophy as an explanation for change.

    Change presents itself in many ways, the most obvious being the motion of objects. In 1600, common sense seemed to show that motion needs an agent to produce and to...

  6. Huygens’s Relativity
    (pp. 26-34)

    Christiaan Huygens was the first to prove explicitly that Galileo’s argument about ‘natural motion’ is wrong. He replaced this idea through a number of steps. First, he postulated a ‘principle of relativity’ that he supposed to be valid for all motions. He did not introduce this item as an axiom, like a mathematician or a classical philosopher would, but as a summary of what he perceived as the most striking characteristic of motion – without, of course, including some sort of ‘natural motion’ from the start.

    From that, he deduced what later came to be called the ‘law of inertia’:...

  7. Acceleration
    (pp. 35-41)

    If I ask the train personnel, ‘Conductor, does the Cambridge railway station pass by this train?’ I’m being a bit strange, but not wrong, because velocities are relative. However, saying, ‘Conductor, does the Cambridge railway station stop at this train?’ makes no sense in our Universe.

    Because position is relative, we must use thechangeof position in order to describe motion. This change we callvelocity. But velocity is relative as well; therefore we must use thechangeof velocity in order to describe motion. This change we callacceleration. This is, in fact, an observable, as every cyclist...

  8. Gravity
    (pp. 42-44)

    In classical mechanics, the acceleration of objects has to be prescribed before the resulting motions may be computed. In fact, the mathematical formula that specifies how objects respond to forces, the ‘equation of motion’, can be read in this way:The acceleration experienced by any object is equal to the net force exerted on that object, divided by its mass.

    The cause of the acceleration is not part of the system proper. It must be specified separately, put in from the outside, so to speak. When the science of mechanics was developed, this requirement led to a wild variety of...

  9. Absoluteness Theory
    (pp. 45-49)

    Classical mechanics is a true theory of relativity.Motus inter corpora relativus tantum est; position and velocity are not properties of an object, only relative positions and velocities are observable. The equations of motion, called ‘second-order differential equations’, are the expression of this observation. It follows, too, that constant-velocity motion is the ‘ideal’, ‘natural’ or ‘inertial’ state of motion.

    In Huygens’s relativity, it makes no difference whether one is moving with constant velocity or standing still: according to themotusline, there is no way to decide between the two. The mere existence of an object is indistinguishable from its...

  10. Gravity Does Not Exist
    (pp. 50-59)

    The speed of light is always the same. Because this speed is absolute, time is relative: a moving clock is seen to tick more slowly than the same clock standing still with respect to the observer. This is called time dilation, and the equation describing it shows that the speed of light is the maximum speed attainable in the Universe.

    Consequently, instantaneous actions or connections over a finite distance are impossible. In our Universe, all things are always under way, whatever they are. No two events in space-time may be linked instantly; the news that something has happened always takes...

  11. Reflections
    (pp. 60-67)

    The main reason why mechanics was a very good candidate for the title ‘Theory of Everything’ is probably that it feels so definitive, not only in its strict and transparent mathematical structure, but also in its workings. If we want to know the future, all we have to do is specify the positions and velocities of all material at some initial time, and then the remainder of eternity can be computed, at least in theory. With a theory of everything, we can say with Leibniz: let’s calculate!Calculemus!Voltaire wrote:

    All occurrences are produced by one another. […] Under the...

  12. Jes’ Rollin’ Along
    (pp. 68-75)

    Computing the net result of all possible alternatives is a monumental task, even in apparently simple cases. This is not a physics textbook, but it may be useful here to give some indication of how quantum motion is computed. This will show how far from everyday experience quantum behaviour is, and how unlike the classical motion we saw in Galileo’s parabola and Huygens’s spinning circle.

    Motus inter corpora relativus tantum est, said Huygens: movement between objects is relative in all aspects. The absolute velocity of an object does not exist. Any dispute about the ‘true’ state of motion of a...

  13. Feynman’s Web
    (pp. 76-83)

    Stevin’s leaden ball experiment, the theme that runs through this story, has now broken up into two parts: the equal acceleration of the two different masses, and the structure and behaviour of matter. The equal-acceleration behaviour of ‘gravity’ is explained by the properties of space-time discovered by Einstein. Next on the agenda are those leaden balls or, more generally, any matter.

    To understand the structure and behaviour of matter, we must delve a bit more deeply into the world of particle physics that is too small to be seen with an optical microscope. This will give us more insight into...

  14. A Twist to the Tale
    (pp. 84-93)

    The paper-cutting experiment above illustrated Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. It showed that the motion of an object is determined by the structure of space-time: curved space gives curved orbits. The relationship between matter and space-time is mutual. On the one hand, the orbit of an object is due to the structure of space-time. On the other hand, that structure is determined by the arrangement of the massenergy-momentum of matter. We also saw that the state of motion of quantum particles is determined by the coupling at a Feynman vertex.

    This raises the question:what determines this coupling?Or, in...

  15. Questions for the 21st Century
    (pp. 94-102)

    Where are we now, having covered four-and-a-quarter centuries of physics? At every point, what was the key observation or experiment? What was the problem associated with that? How did it get solved?

    In 1585, Stevin performed his leaden ball experiment in Delft. The associated problems were the pronouncements inherited from Aristotle on falling objects. Stevin, a hero in the vanguard of ‘experimental philosophy’, was not impressed (or, in any case, not deterred) by this ancient stuff.

    The solution of the problems surrounding falling objects was reached tactically by ‘separation of difficulties’. On one front, Galileo performed his lengthy studies of...

  16. Small Moves, Ellie
    (pp. 103-109)

    During one of my visits to CERN, the European research institute for particle physics in Geneva, I met Elmajid Nath-Kaci-Uvutmar, a Touareg from North Africa. As a boy, he fell seriously ill and was nursed back to health by the ‘White Fathers’ in a desert monastery. They renamed him Majid Boutemeur while he stayed there for his education until he was about 14 years old. He found work on a small boat, cleaning fish, until one day in Marseille he decided to stay in France to be trained in physics. I met him at CERN where he was working on...

  17. Thanks
    (pp. 110-111)

    Contrary to what the cynics may say, many non-scientists are captivated by the same Big Questions that keep physicists and astronomers so busy. This book is an attempt to share my fascination with them. I am grateful to the people at Amsterdam University Press for encouraging me to do so. Even though this book is primarily meant for the general public, I wish to hold it to the professional standards of a scholarly work. I am most grateful to six scientists for the time and effort they spent in assessing an earlier version of my book. It is customary that...