Albert Einstein created the General Theory of Relativity to explain and mathematically model gravity. As he was finishing it, he had an oh-shit moment and realized it wouldn’t balance out properly unless he shoved in an arbitrary number that he called the Cosmological Constant. Without this number, his theory would show that the universe was expanding instead of being static. Years later, physical evidence was obtained that the universe was, indeed, expanding. This evidence was the “red shift” – the color shift towards the red of the returning radiation from distant stars in comparison to closer stars. This shift is due to the Doppler Effect. This is the same effect that causes an ambulance’s siren to sound differently to us when it is coming at us than when it is traveling away from us. Eventually, Einstein acknowledged his mistake and removed the constant. The funny thing about this is that he was originally right, but then a simple assumption of the way the world worked did him in.
Einstein’s theory about gravity has something to do with curved spacetime and other nifty things like that. It’s odd but it is well proven experimentally and universally accepted these days. I have a different way of looking at it, one that is not mathematical but conceptual and probably quite wrong, but I am sharing it just the same. I want to stress that this is not generally excepted science and I am just pulling a theory out of my ass. Still, although it certainly has its flaws, you may find it intriguing.
At the heart of my theory is the very thing that Einstein fudged, the expansion of the universe. If you believe that the universe is expanding, that is, everything in the universe is traveling away from everything else, then you might suppose that at one time everything was all lumped together in one very tight, very dense blob and then “exploded” away from each other. This is a crude rendition of the Big Bang Theory. I’ll discuss that in another article. For now, let’s not worry about the origin, but concentrate on the here and now. If you want to visualize our expanding universe, put a few thousand dots on an un-inflated balloon. Start to blow it up and watch the magic as all the dots move away from each other.
So what is gravity? Gravity is a force brought on by acceleration. When you mash down on the gas peddle of your car, you feel a force pull you back in your seat. Gravity works the same way, but how? First, we must accept that everything exerts its own gravity, but the small items we encounter from day to day don’t exert enough for us to notice. This means that as far as gravity is concerned, fat chicks are more attractive than skinny ones, but we don’t notice either way. We certainly notice the gravity of Earth, though.
So where is all this acceleration coming from? How is the Earth accelerating in all directions at once? Wait, we just said that the universe is expanding in all directions at once. Ah, that’s how it’s doing it!
But wait, that’s crap, right? Shouldn’t we be “expanding” away from Earth just like everything else is expanding away from everything else? Not quite, and here is why: The matter in the universe is distributed unevenly. I’ll get into why I think this is so in another article, but let’s just deal with the implications for now.
You are expanding right now. Your body is expanding, the cells that make up your body are expanding, the atoms that make up your cells are expanding, the electrons, protons and neutrons that make up your atoms are expanding, the quarks that make up those particles are expanding, and I’m sure whatever undiscovered crappy particles that make up quarks are expanding as well. The outside of your body, however, is expanding faster than its component parts. How? To visualize this, put your hands by your side. Now push your hands out towards your sides at a constant rate. We will call that the expansion of one of your cells. Now, put your hands back down at your side and have a nerdy friend stand beside you. Hold hands. Now kiss. Sorry, just kidding. Hold hands, then both of you push your hands out towards your sides at the same constant rate that you just did alone. You’ll have to side-step away from each other as you do this. Your hands moved apart at the same rate and your friend’s hands moved apart at the same rate, but your outer hand and his/her outer hand moved apart twice as fast! If you had a hundred people doing this on rollerblades (wheels pointed to the side) and everyone shoved at two miles an hour, the guys on the end would be doing close to two hundred miles an hour away from each other. Now that’s a fun Saturday afternoon. So anyway, the hands of the dudes at the end would be the outside of your body. Get the picture?
So here we are, a small, expanding object on the surface of a much bigger object, the Earth, which is expanding much faster than we are. It is pushing us out of the way, accelerating us! And to some extent we are pushing back, but not a hell of a lot. But we notice the difference between how much one object pushes versus another. We call it weight. An object with twice as much mass weighs twice as much. This is because the heavier object has twice the number of little people pushing their hands out in all directions. Tada! Gravity.
Now consider that it is believed that the universe will eventually stop expanding and start to contract. What happens when the universe lets the air out of our balloon? What will happen then? Even though the universe would be contracting, objects like, say, the Earth and us may go flying off in different directions! We’ll probably have to start gluing stuff together and staking it all down to the ground.
I hope you enjoyed my explanation of gravity. Now please forget it because it is silly.