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Is General Relativity Right?

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  • Is General Relativity Right?

    Table of Contents
    .......The Elegant Universe
    THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE, Brian Greene, 1999, 2003
    ```(annotated and with added bold highlights by Epsilon=One)
    Chapter 3 - Of Warps and Ripples
    Is General Relativity Right?
    No deviations from the predictions of general relativity have been found in experiments performed with our present level of technology. Only time will tell if greater experimental precision will ultimately uncover some, thereby showing this theory, too, to be only an approximate description of how nature actually works. The systematic testing of theories to greater and greater levels of accuracy is, certainly, one of the ways science progresses, but it is not the only way. In fact, we have already seen this: The search for a new theory of gravity was initiated, not by an experimental refutation of Newton's theory, but rather by the conflict of Newtonian gravity with another theory—special relativity. It was only after the discovery of general relativity as a competing theory of gravity that experimental flaws in Newton's theory were identified by seeking out tiny but measurable ways in which the two theories differ. Thus, internal theoretical inconsistencies can play as pivotal a role in driving progress as do experimental data.

    For the last half century, physics has been faced with still another theoretical conflict whose severity is on par with that between special relativity and Newtonian gravity. General relativity appears to be fundamentally incompatible with another extremely well-tested theory: quantum mechanics. Regarding the material covered in this chapter, the conflict prevents physicists from understanding what really happens to space, time, and matter when crushed together fully at the moment of the big bang or at the central point of a black hole. But more generally, the conflict alerts us to a fundamental deficiency in our conception of nature. The resolution of this conflict has eluded attempts by some of the greatest theoretical physicists, giving it a well-deserved reputation as the central problem of modern theoretical physics. Understanding the conflict requires familiarity with some basic features of quantum theory, to which we now turn.
    Table of Contents
    .......The Elegant Universe
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