Sunday, April 15, 2007

Einstein, Electrons, and Jim Carrey

Watch this video!

The formal session at the April meeting kicked off yesterday morning with a pair of talks from two of the most notable physicists around today - Francis Everitt and Gerald Gabrielse.

Everitt gave us some early results from one of the most challenging tests of general Einstein's General Relativity ever attempted - Gravity Probe B. So far, the experiment has confirmed the geodetic effect, and preliminary glances at the data suggest that it will also confirm frame dragging. The heart of the experiment includes four gyroscopes in the form of spinning spheres that are the most perfectly spherical objects ever made.

The difficulty of analyzing the data, particularly in light of some unforeseen sources of noise, means we won't get the full results until December. But Everitt has been working on this experiment for over forty years, out of its fifty year history. What's a few more months to a guy with that sort of dedication?

For those of us who aren't relativity experts, he brought along a handy little visual aid to explain one of the ways the Gravity Probe B gyroscopes are affected by gravity as the experiment orbits the earth. Notice that the orientation of the arrow changes due to the shortened path that the probe follows as a result of the warping of space.

Gabrielse, on the other hand, has made a stunningly precise measurement of the electron's magnetic moment.

It turns out that Jim Carrey and Conan O'Brien are versed on his research. They discussed Gabrielse's Penning Trap on Late Night a while back. Although NBC has taken the video off of YouTube, Gabrielse played it for us. It was surprisingly accurate, and hilarious. These are a couple of shots of Gabrielse with Jim Carrey on screen behind him.

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