In a Skype conversation with GaryK yesterday (one of the first in my planned series of conversations with smokers), I was trying to explain to him my new theory of gravitation. I’m not sure I succeeded.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve been slowly constructing a computer simulation model that uses Newton’s laws of gravitation and motion to model the orbits of the Sun and planets. Newton’s law of gravitation gives the force of attraction F acting between two bodies (like the Sun and the Earth) as a function of their masses, m1 and m2, and the inverse square of the distance between them, r.
But why should there be a force acting between two bodies? “Hypothesis non fingo,” Newton said: “I don’t know.”
And I don’t know either. I’ve never had the slightest clue.
Waves of light emanate from the Sun, and this light exerts a slight pressure, radially outwards from the Sun, on everything it strikes. It’s so small that it exerts a minuscule force on the Earth, but it is sufficient to expel tiny particles of dust from the Solar System – that’s why planets like Jupiter and Mars are visible in the night sky, and not obscured by clouds of dust. But this solar radiation pressure acts in the opposite direction to the force of gravity, pushing bodies away from the Sun, rather than pulling them towards it. So it can’t be used to explain gravity (although attempts have been made to do so).
But the light coming from the Sun arrives in waves. Different coloured light has different wavelengths. I think of it as being like ocean waves that start off somewhere where the water has been disturbed, and propagate slowly as ripples on the surface of the ocean, slowly spreading in circles, until they meet some shoreline somewhere, on which they break as waves. It takes many hours for these waves to cross oceans. And it takes about 10 minutes for the waves of light emitted by the Sun to reach the Earth (actually, 8 minutes and 20 seconds). Do these waves exert any force on the shorelines they impact? I suppose that every time a waves breaks on a shoreline it must exert force as it strikes, but it also exerts force as recoils away from the shore (which is why tsunamis suck stuff out to sea). So waves breaking on a seashore are pushing against them. and then pulling back. And the combination of pushing and pulling probably adds up to zero net force.
But then I started thinking, a month or so ago, that these waves propagate in a medium – water. And they propagate in the same way as vibrations in plucked string – e.g. a guitar string. When you pluck a string on a guitar, you displace it sideways. And as you displace the string sideways, you stretch it slightly. And when you release it the string vibrates back and forth. In the image at right, a string is stretched between two points, A and B. When the string is plucked (1), it is displaced at the centre, and it is also stretched. As it vibrates the string contracts to its original length (2) and then stretches out again to its mirror image (3) of its plucked state. Then returns back to state 2, and then 1 again. So it goes 1 → 2 → 3 → 2 → 1 → 2 → 3 → 2 → 1… and so on. And the frequency of the sound it makes is however long it takes to complete a cycle of going from state 1 back to state 1 again.
But here’s the important thing: while the string is vibrating, it’s always in higher tension than it is when it’s not vibrating. So when a guitar string is plucked, it must be pulling on each end more strongly than when it’s not being plucked.
Guitar strings are always in tension, even when they’re not being plucked. But if one may imagine a guitar whose strings are not in tension, then as soon as it is plucked, and its strings are stretched, the strings will be in tension, pulling at the two ends of the string.
And the same must be true of any other medium – like water. If you ‘pluck’ the water in a placid pond by dropping a stone into it, raising ripples that spread out across it, it must create a slight tension in the surface of the water, that pulls on the banks around the pond. The same must be true in a cup of coffee into which a sugar lump is dropped.
And assuming that the Sun and planets are immersed in a vibrating aethereal medium through which light waves propagate, then this aether must be in tension, pulling everything together. But to do so, it must be vibrating. If it stopped vibrating, the tensile forces would vanish.
And that’s my new theory of gravitation. It’s the only one I’ve ever had. It requires restoring the aether that modern physics has banished, of course. And it raises all sorts of other questions that I can’t begin to answer. And there may be some terrible contradiction inherent in it that nullifies it completely.