General relativity and the biblical creation model received yet another boost on January 8, 2003, at the 201st meeting of the American Astronomical Society. The boost came from an announcement of the first-ever measurement of the speed of gravity.1 Einstein’s theory says that gravity travels at roughly the same velocity as light. Physicist Sergei Kopeikin and astronomer Ed Fomalont verified (within 20 percent precision) that gravity moves through space at close to light’s speed.2 In other words, it’s in the range current big bang models predict.
In the years since Einstein’s equations made this prediction about gravity’s velocity (1916), astronomers and physicists have been eager to test it, but they presumed that to observe gravity’s speed would require the detection of gravity waves, an extremely difficult feat that still eludes scientists. In 1999, however, Kopeikin broke through that technological barrier with a creative approach. He demonstrated that the speed of gravity could be detected by measuring a moving body’s gravitational effects on light or radio waves. Fomalont then calculated that the Very Long Baseline Array (ten radio telescopes distributed across the continental U.S., Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands), combined with the Effelsberg radio telescope in Germany would be capable of making the proposed measurement. This Hawaii-to-Germany link would give astronomers an instrument with the equivalent resolving power of a telescope more than 6,000 miles in diameter, an instrument so powerful it could resolve (measure) the width of a human hair from 250 miles away.
Kopeikin’s measurement depended not just on telescope power but also on an astronomical event occurring only once this decade. On September 8, 2002, Jupiter passed within a short distance (an eighth of Earth’s moon diameter) of Quasar J0842+1835. General relativity predicts that Jupiter’s gravity will bend light from the quasar by a certain amount, depending on gravity’s speed relative to light’s speed. When the day came, the measurement was made, and the results matched the prediction, as indicated above.
This measurement, given that it weathers a challenge raised by one theoretician,3 will provide yet another confirmation that general relativity correctly describes the dynamics of the universe. And if the space-time theorems of general relativity are correct,4 the best explanation for our cosmic beginning is that a causal AGENT beyond the confines of matter, energy, space, and time brought the universe into existence, just as the Bible declares.
Anyone wanting to learn more about this breakthrough discovery can access the January 14 (2003) Creation Update Webcast at http://c450903.r3.cf2.rackcdn.com/2003/cu156.mp3
Note: Some big bang models predict a tiny difference between the velocities of light and gravity. Exploring such a possibility will help astronomers pin down by how much certain cosmic parameters have been designed to permit life’s existence.
- S. Kopeikin and E. B. Fomalont, "Measuring the Speed of Propagation of Gravity," American Astronomical Society 201st Meeting, January 2003, abstract #101.07.
- Dave Finley, Charles Blue, and Matt McGowan, "Speed of Gravity Measured for the First Time," www.aoc,nrao.edu/epo/pr/2003/gravity/, 1.
- Robert Irion, "Confirmation of Gravity’s Speed? Not So Fast," Science 299 (2003), 323-24.
- Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, "The Singularities of Gravitational Collapse and Cosmology," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series A, 314 (1970), 529-48. This is the first of the space-time theorems of general relativity. Discussion on the subsequent theorems with references may be found in The Creator and the Cosmos, 3d ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001), 91-97, 101-02.