Nov 26, 2012
Faraday could play with magnets and currents to figure stuff out, but without a desktop model of reality, nobody could ‘play’ with gravity to see what happens. This virtual gravitational model apparently adds precision lacking in earlier simulations. The simulation is a quick run-through of what’s available on GravitySim.net courtesy of system creator Alexander Mayer.
According to Mayer: On the left you have the orbiting ‘spacecraft,’ which is the inertial frame of the orange ball at the centroid. In this frame the orange ball experiences *zero* net force so it never moves. An internal view of this ‘spacecraft’ is on the right. Eight other balls (test masses) are each spaced 6 metres apart (Test_Mass_Separation slider control) in the grid. The orange ball has mass (~12.5 metric tons per Orange_Ball_Mass slider control), but all the other balls have negligible mass (1 gram); consequently, they only interact gravitationally with the orange ball and the Earth.
A lot of people would expect all the balls to stay put, because in their mind this is an “inertial reference frame.” However, in reality no such thing exists. There are gravitational tidal forces at work. You see the result, calculated to extreme precision. This is precisely what would happen empirically, if you could set up the identical modeled experiment in reality.
A version of the video with commentary and more detailed annotations will be available on Mayer’s site soon.