Funny, I was just talking to Nate about this the other day. “The real problem,” I said, “is that so far it hasn’t been possible to create any sort of artificial gravitational field. Without that it would be like developing a theory of electromagnetism if all we had was natural lodestones.” You can imagine my excitement at hearing that researchers measured a gravitational field created by movement, not just by ordinary mass. Better yet, it’s much bigger than predicted by relativity:
Small acceleration sensors placed at different locations close to the spinning superconductor, which has to be accelerated for the effect to be noticeable, recorded an acceleration field outside the superconductor that appears to be produced by gravitomagnetism.
Although just 100 millionths of the acceleration due to the Earth’s gravitational field, the measured field is a surprising one hundred million trillion times larger than Einstein’s General Relativity predicts.
Initially, the researchers were reluctant to believe their own results. “We ran more than 250 experiments, improved the facility over 3 years and discussed the validity of the results for 8 months before making this announcement. Now we are confident about the measurement,” says Tajmar, who performed the experiments and hopes that other physicists will conduct their own versions of the experiment in order to verify the findings and rule out a facility induced effect.
If this turns out to be repeatable, it’s likely to be a big step toward figuring out the relationship between those things we can control (electric and magnetic fields) and those we wish we could (gravitational fields). Exciting stuff!