Scientists say they may have challenged one of Newton’s fundamental laws of physics – conservation of momentum | Science & Technology News

Sir Isaac Newton first formulated the laws of motion in his Principia Mathematica in 1687 and today those laws are taken as fact – that when one thing moves it must repel another.

But a new study may have fundamentally challenged the law of conservation of momentum – at least in curved space.

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US have published a research paper that proves the opposite – that when objects exist in curved space, they can move without resisting anything. what.

The peer-reviewed findings are published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In paperResearchers led by Zeb Rocklin have created a robot confined to a spherical surface with what they describe as an “unprecedented degree of isolation from its environment” so that only the effects of globular.

“We let our shape-shifting object move across the simplest curved space, a sphere, to systematically study motion in curved space,” said Rocklin.

“We learned that the predicted effect, which was counter-intuitive that some physicists rejected, did indeed occur: as the robot changed shape, it inched forward around the sphere in a way that was not attributable to environmental interactions.”

Discovery certainly won’t immediately lead to permanent motion machines – the effects are extremely small.

However, the effect caused by curvature could have enormous practical value in the field of precision robotics – similar to how the detection of gravity changes the frequency of satellite communications.

But as Einstein’s work has shown, space itself is curved, and the researchers believe that “ultimately, the principles of how to exploit the curvature of space for motion could allow spacecraft to navigate highly curvilinear spatial direction around a black hole”.

Real life experiment of a swimmer on a ball with motors actuated on a freely rotating boom arm.  Pic: Georgia Tech
Real life experiment of a swimmer on a ball with motors actuated on a freely rotating boom arm. Pic: Georgia Tech

What does the experiment really involve?

To put it mildly, to consider an object on a sphere that does not exchange momentum with the medium is extremely difficult.

To do this, the scientists allowed several motors to drive on curves in a system connected to a rotating shaft so that the motors were always moving on a sphere.

The shaft itself is supported by bearings and air bushings to minimize friction and it is then even aligned so that it adjusts to Earth’s gravity to further minimize that residual force.

They found that these motorized robots move gravity and that friction exerts a slight force on them, but these forces appear to combine with the curvature effect “to create an uncanny dynamic with the characteristics of the curvature.” impossibility of self-creation”.

“The study provides an important demonstration of how curved space can be achieved and how it fundamentally challenges the laws of physics and intuition designed for flat spaces,” the scientists said.

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