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October 17, 2011 / 74

Gravity – The Weak Force? I Think Not!

How many times have you heard someone say, “Gravity is the weak force.” What you are hearing is the sound of a person who has not thought the subject through.

They’ll go on about how gravity is so weak, we can overcome the gravity of the Earth with our puny little muscles, and such like idiocies. And while such thoughts are true as far as they go, I believe that they have at the same time missed the truth.

Here’s why. Gravity is not weak – it’s STRONG – possibly the strongest force in the universe. Why do I say that? Because gravity, present to some degree throughout the universe, is dispersed throughout the universe instead of being localized like “stronger” forces. So when you measure the gravity on the surface of Earth, you aren’t measuring the total gravity. You are only measuring the DIFFERENCE between the level of gravity on Earth, and what I’ll call background gravity.

Consider – The Platte River in Nebraska is a shallow stream. I’ve been told that in some places, you can step across it without getting your shoes wet. But that’s for most of the year. In the Spring, when the rains come and the snow melts, it’s quite a different matter. Then an enormous amount of water flows down the Platte… and raises the water level. In pioneer days, the story went that during the Spring floods, in some places the water would get as deep as a foot or two! Ten miles wide, one foot deep. You could still walk across it – and it had very little force to it.

But say all that water were to be channeled down to a narrow opening between rocky cliffs! Suddenly you have a raging torrent, a half mile wide and twenty feet deep! (If you don’t like my math, do your own! ;-D) While you would say that the flood waters on the flats have no force, would the exact same amount of water (and force) STILL be said to have no force when focused, when concentrated in a smaller area? What if the water started out to be 20 feet deep all the time – and in the spring, you only added two feet to it? Would you even notice the difference?

Likewise gravity. Focus it, accumulate a small pile of it around a planet and it becomes a significant enough force that it requires a lot of energy to overcome it! Now consider the gravity exerted by a star’s core material! Greater density seems to focus gravity and make it locally stronger – but only relative to the background level of gravity.

And in deep space, it’s possible that local foci of gravity could cancel each other out, leaving you with an apparent lack of gravity… but only relatively.

Of course, the problem is, the level/strength of the total gravity in the universe cannot currently be measured. So… from our perspective we can refer to it as a weak force – but by doing so we introduce a conceptual error that may well keep us from properly understanding the force and its nature.

So… gravity as a “weak” force? I think not. You just have to properly appreciate the context that the measurement is being taken in.

(Also published Apr 6, 2011 in my old blog.)

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