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A simple observation regarding the equivalence of acceleration and gravity

  1. she's on to something

  2. vaguely stimulating, but pointless

    0 vote(s)
  3. flogged to death a century ago

  4. burn the infidel

  1. Feb 15, 2007 #1
    This is not an attempt at refuting the validity of relativity, i adore Einstein like most girls love their fave rock star.

    To me, there is a glaring discrepancy between Einstein and Newton and it behooves me, out of shear respect, to make this right in my mind.

    Take the very simple explanation that Einstein gave, regarding the equivalence of gravity and acceleration, remember, the one with the little man in the room. Okay, i know there have been problems with precisley proving his rightness, but if you've ever driven in a vehicle, you've experienced the effect he is talking about, so there must be more then a little accuracy to his observation. Also, Newton, in his genius ascribed gravity to all masses. So, if the acceleration of the room accounts for the rooms gravitational pull, then musn't we also acclerate the little man in the opposite direction to account for his own gravitational pull? What happens then?

    okay, i'll tell ya. As the man acclerates, his resistance to being accelerated in the opposite direction by the room increases, as does the kinetic energy or force experienced by both, and yes, this happens even if the man is accelerating very little compared to the room. Our experience of gravity is not so. Otherwise, by sometime next year i might weigh 2000 lbs or more, without actually having grown an inch.

    Also, interestingly enough, if both the room and the object start off as the same mass and accelerate at exactly the same rate, neither would move, yet both would experience all the effects of acceleration.

    I know it sounds elementary, but i am finding this very problematic in my reasoning. Any ideas from the rest of you bored geniuses?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 15, 2007 #2


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    Can you please elaborate on this:

    "As the man acclerates, his resistance to being accelerated in the opposite direction by the room increases..."

    I don't think you're understanding what's happening; I think we should break it down a bit.

    Under a constant acceleration, you will feel a constant force. Drive in a car, starting from zero, keeping the acceleration constant. You will remain pushed back in your seat by the same amount for the duration. It's not like by the time you reach 60mph, you are being flattened...
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2007
  4. Feb 15, 2007 #3
    If i push something along in an attempt to accelerate it, it's resistance to being accelerated is it's mass, but if it is being accelerated the opposite direction as i'm pushing, would i not have to push harder then?
  5. Feb 15, 2007 #4


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    What do you mean when you say "the acceleration of the room accounts for the rooms gravitational pull"? Einstein says there is an equivalence between what is felt in a room at rest in a gravitational field, like one sitting on Earth (where the gravity felt inside the room is due to the Earth's gravitational pull, not the room's), and what is felt in a room that is being accelerated at a constant rate in deep space with no significant sources of gravity. If there's a man in the accelerating room in deep space, then as long as his feet are on the floor, he's being accelerated at the same rate and in the same direction as the room, not the opposite direction.
  6. Feb 15, 2007 #5
    okay bear with me. the room's acceleration towards the man accounts for the rooms gravitaional pull on the man.

    the man must have his own gravitational attraction towards the room, non?
    that is why we would then have to accelerate him towards the roomas well. otherwise the attractive force can only be ascribed to the room , and not to the man inside of it.

    why it must be in the opposite direction should be clear.
  7. Feb 15, 2007 #6


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    No, it accounts for the feeling that there is an external gravitational field pulling on both the room and the man, as there would be in the case where the room + man were at rest on Earth (in which case the external gravitational field would be the Earth's).
  8. Feb 15, 2007 #7
    i really need help with this.
  9. Feb 15, 2007 #8


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    Can you say what it is about my explanation that you don't understand/disagree with? When I feel gravity standing in a room on Earth, this is because of the Earth's gravitational pull, not the room's, isn't it?
  10. Feb 15, 2007 #9


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    I'm really not trying to be haughty, I'm just explaining why I don't think your argument makes sense. I can't help further unless you clarify why you think my response is wrong or why you think I'm missing the point you're trying to make. I hope you would not reject any response that dismisses your argument (in a reasoned way, not an unthinking 'dismissive' way)--surely the fact that all these physicists haven't seen a problem with the equivalence principle for almost a century should lead you to take seriously the idea that there might be some fundamental error in your reasoning?
  11. Feb 15, 2007 #10
    Seems like a blind application of ideas heard in SR (and which only apply there for special reasons) to a more general situation (curved spacetime).

    Girl, should an accelerated object gain kinetic energy (or speed, or inertial mass) if measured only by an observer who also accelerates (as to remain equidistant from the object)?
  12. Feb 15, 2007 #11


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    Seems like a misunderstanding of the equivalence principle from GR, not ideas from SR...what ideas are you thinking of?
  13. Feb 16, 2007 #12
    clearly, the model was included in GR, not SR, but i think i get what he is saying and the reason the inertial mass increases is because the man is contained by the room, he is not merely observing it.

    So we all know the story , i won't rehash it.

    The problem is that in Einsteins model the man is completely passive. The force he experiences is due entirely to the room's acceleration. According to Newton, the man must not be passive. He must have his own force, which is why he must have his own rocket pack to accelerate him the direction of the floor of the room. This is the opposite direction the room is accelerating in.

    If i am pushing on something in an attempt to accelerate it, and it starts accelerating back at me, the force required to move it increases. Also the resistance i would experience from said object would increase.
  14. Feb 16, 2007 #13


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    When you say "according to Newton", can you be specific about which Newtonian law you're thinking of? In Newtonian physics, the only force on the man would be the force of the floor pushing his feet in the direction the room was accelerating, he wouldn't need a separate force from a rocket pack or something. Imagine instead of a man, you have a spring, and when no forces are acting on it the spring has a natural relaxed length L. If one end of the spring is attached to a surface, like the floor of the room, which is accelerating in the direction of the spring's unattached end, and this is the only force acting on the spring, then the spring will become compressed to a length shorter than the relaxed length L, according to Newtonian physics. Do you disagree? If not, then something analogous is happening with the man, he feels heavier than in zero G because his body is being slightly compressed by the acceleration in a similar way, he has to maintain tenseness in his muscles or the compression would cause his joints to bend and make him fall over.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2007
  15. Feb 16, 2007 #14
    i know that it seems ridiculous that no one else noticed it before me. In fact for a while i figured that someone else must have pointed this out before. That doesn't automatically mean i'm wrong.

    i don't mean to get so irritated, i just am frustrated. and i am very bad at expressing myself constructively, i'm sorry for that. i'm just totally hung up on this stupid thing and it seriously keeps me up at nights, no lie. i really love physics that much.
  16. Feb 16, 2007 #15
    The squishing of the spring bit. That would be proportional to the rate of acceleration, OR how fast it is nearing C. What's the point? Other than to get me off track and make me look a fool.

    Does the squishiness of the spring have anything to do with what i'm saying?
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2007
  17. Feb 16, 2007 #16


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    I wasn't talking about Lorentz contraction in relativity, a frame-dependent phenomenon where the length of an object moving at close to light speed relative to me will be measured to shorten in my rest frame (even though its length will remain unchanged in the object's own rest frame), but rather about real physical compression of the spring as measured in its own rest frame due to being accelerated by the floor, a phenomenon that can be explained in purely Newtonian terms with no reference to relativity.
    I think the problem here is a misunderstanding of Newtonian physics, rather than of relativity. It's true that all masses gravitate, but the gravitational force is not the only one at work in Newtonian physics, and for small objects like springs and rooms the gravitational force can be treated as negligible. For example, if the room is being accelerated by some external force like a rocket, and the floor of the room is pushing on the bottom of the spring, this has nothing to do with the gravitational force of either the room or the spring, it's due to the electromagnetic force between the atoms of the floor and the atoms of the part of the spring in contact with the floor. This force, pushing the spring away from the floor if they are mashed together (either because the spring is pushed downwards or because the floor is pushed upwards), is far more powerful than the gravitational force between the spring and the floor pulling them towards each other. And there are similar forces between atoms within the spring throughout its entire length, which is why the spring pushes outward when you compress it to shorter than its relaxed length.

    Have you studied the mathematical version of Newtonian physics, where the motion of an object can be calculated by summing the various force vectors acting on it, or is your understanding more conceptual? If you have an understanding of the use of force vectors I can show you a simple example to explain why, in Newtonian physics, a spring attached to an accelerating platform will indeed become compressed. If your understanding is just conceptual, I definitely encourage you to take a course in basic Newtonian mechanics or pick up a textbook to learn the basics yourself, trying to reason about physics in purely verbal terms can often lead to confusion.
  18. Feb 16, 2007 #17


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    See above--I'm not actually talking about anything relating to relativity, just ordinary Newtonian squishing.
    The point I'm making is that I think the reason we "feel" our weight in a gravitational field is somewhat similar to why the string becomes compressed, our body is being somewhat squashed together and so we have to maintain tension in our muscles to avoid having our joints buckle. In fact, almost all the ways in which an accelerating observer would notice obvious "gravity-like" phenomena, including feeling heavy and weighing something on a scale and noticing that dropped objects seem to accelerate towards the ground, can be explained in purely Newtonian terms; relativistic effects, like the fact that clocks closer to the floor tick slightly slower than clocks higher above it (which mirrors gravitational time dilation in a gravitational field), would be too small to be noticeable except with very specialized equipment. And the Newtonian explanation could neglect gravitational forces entirely, since we're talking about a room being accelerated in deep space away from any gravity wells, and gravitational interactions between the room and objects within it would be negligible compared to electromagnetic interactions, since the mass of the room and the stuff inside it is tiny compared to the mass of the planet-sized objects with noticeable gravitational fields.
  19. Feb 16, 2007 #18
    Indeed i am studying the entire volume of the Principia.

    And i'm not saying that the acceleration of the room IS gravity. Niether was Einstein.

    Still the man can not be passive. If he has attributable force he must be moving towards the floor, just as the floor is moving towards him.
    If he moves towards the floor, even at a very small rate of acceleration, at the same time the floor moves towards him, the force will increase over time, as both the room and the man accelerate against each other.

    The only way to make the force constant is to make the man passive, with no motion or force attributable to him.

    Although i am more of an idea girl, i have a respectable understanding of vectors, so shoot away.
  20. Feb 16, 2007 #19
    girlwonder, I think I understand your argument. According to Newton's theory of gravitation, there is a force exerted on the man BY the earth AND a force exerted on the earth BY the man.

    It seems that you are wondering why Einstein's thought experiment included the fact that there is a gravitational force acting on the man but there is no gravitational force acting on the earth by the man.

    I haven't studied relativity formally (I will this semester) but I do know a bit about the general principles and the thought experiment you are mentioning (man in the chest). I think the answer may lie in the fact that the man and the room being accelerated upward SIMULATES one external gravitational field--there is no actual massive body which is exerting a gravitational force on the man (I think you know this too).

    A Newtonian model would say that the force experienced by the man on Earth is GMm/r^2 downward, and the same force would be experienced by the earth from the man (upward). The thought experiment only observes the forces acting on the man from his reference frame. If the man drops a ball, it will appear to him to fall as if there is a gravitational field.

    So, if we think about the Earth in a room, and we accelerate the Earth so that its acceleration is the same as that provided by the man's gravitational force, we are now simulating the attractive force on the Earth by the man. It seems to me that with Einstein's thought experiment, you would have to consider each body (Earth or man) separately like this if you wanted to imagine how the Earth is affected by the man's gravitational force, and you can't consider both of them in the same situation. Essentially, the man in the room being accelerated is simulating ONE external gravitational field (of the Earth), so you can't try and use the same situation to simulate two simultaneous gravitational fields. Instead, you then think about the entire Earth accelerating as a result of the gravitational force by the man on the Earth.

    Maybe I got it, maybe not?
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2007
  21. Feb 16, 2007 #20
    JesseM, I don't know how to show diagrams or math on this cotton picking thing. You are talking about that little diagram that shows how two vectors in different directions combine in that nifty diamond shape with a line through it right?
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2007
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