General Question

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

In layman’s terms is gravity created, the cause and effect, the byproduct of mass, density, or time travel?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (21146 points ) February 3rd, 2014

It seems you can find many ideas of where or how gravity is created, produced, etc. and not all agree. Some rightly even say they have not a clue how it works, while others believe it involves gravitons, (which would be an interesting question unto its own). If gravity is due to mass that would mean if I had the ability to cobble together in space enough cotton balls to make a sphere 300,000,000 miles in diameter, I would create gravity? If due to density then how did stars get created if it were all gas of equal density (notwithstanding how gravity supposing pulled the cloud together making the center dense), where or how did the genesis gravity start, was created, generated, or manufactured to start pulling things together. If time, if instead of time space continuum being a sheet with a bowling ball in the middle causing smaller ball, baseballs, cue balls etc. to be pulled towards the center, what if it were stretched over a upturned table, then any cue ball placed on the outside would go away from the bowling ball in the center because the table leg would disrupt the bulge made by the bowling ball on the sheet. What makes them so sure there is no upturned table or even ridges, or ruffles on the sheet that would catch the cue ball before it made it to the bowling ball? In layman’s terms, gravity is caused, made by what, and this is how?

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30 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

No one knows. That’s why there are a number of different hypotheses that try to explain the phenomenon. One of the interesting problems is that on a sub atomic level gravity is very weak almost negligible, the forces that hold atoms and molecules together are exponentially greater. However on a macroscopic level gravity is very strong, and we have yet to come up with an explanation that covers both extremes.

Rarebear's avatar

Gravity is a byproduct of the curvature of spacetime around matter. Basically, as you sit in the chair reading this response, you are in a field that is undergoing acceleration because of the curvature of the Earth. Gravitons are the theoretical force particle that carries the information.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Rarebear Basically, as you sit in the chair reading this response, you are in a field that is undergoing acceleration because of the curvature of the Earth.
Which means what, the Earth is in a field that is undergoing acceleration because of the curvature of the sun which in turn is in a field by the curvature of something else? Acceleration to where or what?

Rarebear's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central No, the mass of the Earth itself causes spacetime to curve. It has nothing to do with the Sun. If the Earth were a solitary planet somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, and you were sitting in a chair, you’d still sit in the chair.

You’re not accelerating “to” anywhere. You’re in a field that is accelerating. It is the nature of General Relativity that this field causes the effect caused gravitation.

It’s a very difficult concept to understand, and an even harder one to explain. Let’s say that you’re in an enclosed transparent box in space. This box isn’t moving, and you toss a ball. The ball moves straight, bounces off the opposite wall and comes back to you.

Let’s say that you have an observer outside the box who is watching the ball, not you. To the observer, the ball moves in a straight line.

Now, let’s say that the box starts accelerating. You throw the ball again. Now, to you, the ball looks like it curves down and hits the “floor” of the box. You now have an orientation of “up” and “down”. But the observer outside, just watching the ball, still sees the ball move in a straight line until the floor hits it.

So to you, the ball is moving in a curved line, but to the observer it’s moving in a straight line.

That’s the essence of general relativity. When you’re in the box, things that move straight to an outside observer, move curved to you. And that’s what a gravitational field is. Mass curves spacetime to create exactly the same environment of what happens inside that box. An object moving straight actually curves to your perspective. And if the observer and you were to start off with perfectly synchronous stopwatches, Your stopwatch will move slower in either case.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Rarebear . . . for something hard to explain i think you did a pretty fair job of explaining it.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Rarebear Excellent explanation.

gary4books's avatar

You many be confused because mathematics is the proper language for this discussion – not English. Our language is not precise enough. Gravity seems to be a property of matter. When we understand the particles involved we will know how it is generated. But we do now about its actions and how matter can generate it. Just not what it really is.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Rarebear , That was well explained, but where does the Higgs boson fit in?

Rarebear's avatar

Thanks guys.

@LostInParadise The Higgs is something completely different. The Higgs Field is a field that puts a “drag” on fermions as they are created. Think of it this way. Let’s say you’re a movie star walking through a crowd. The more star power you are, the harder it is to move through the crowd. That’s the essence of the Higgs field. As fermions (quarks, electons, etc) move through this field, the field puts a “drag” on them, and gives them mass. The bigger the fermion, the higher energy, and the more mass it has. The Higgs Boson is the force particle of that field.

Every field has a force particle paired with it. The gravitational field has the (as yet undiscovered) graviton. The electromagnetic field has the photon. The strong force has a gluon, and the weak force has the W and Z boson. (Actually, at high energies, the electromagnetic and weak forces are the same, but that’s yet another story).

stanleybmanly's avatar

Language can be a murky business, but it must be wrong to regard the assembling of cotton balls as “creating” gravity. It would be like saying that gathering together glowing charcoal briquets is “creating” heat. Concentrating the mass of cotton Intensifies the local field, just as gathering the charcoal raises the local temperature, and we are currently watching proto stars assemble before our eyes. At a critical density, the cotton balls would assemble themselves into an object that would be fun to speculate about. 3 things are certain. The resulting object would not be recognizable in any way as cotton, and the diameter of the resulting mass would probably be a few miles at best. The gravitational effects at the object’s surface would be spectacular indeed.

cazzie's avatar

The cotton ball analogy might be showing a hole in your logic. A ball of cotton 300,000 miles in diameter won’t have the same density, mass or gravitational force, as a ball of iron ore 300,000 miles in diameter.

Gravity is in everything. The ball you drop on the floor is attracted to the ground as much as the ground is pulling it down (relative to their proportions).

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. Suns get their start as masses consisting mostly of hydrogen so large that their gravitational force creates a nuclear plant in their cores, forming helium. As small humans we have a hard time with the concept of mass and energy so large that they set off reactions so intense as to create plasma constantly and erupt in massive electro-magnetic pulses.

Hang on.. I saw a really good video with Stephen Hawking about this very subject….
See here on this… and look at number 12: http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/other-shows/videos/other-shows-into-the-universe-with-stephen-hawking.htm

cazzie's avatar

Also…. have a look at this: http://vimeo.com/41038445 about matter.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@stanleybmanly Language can be a murky business, but it must be wrong to regard the assembling of cotton balls as “creating” gravity
If it is not simply the size of the ”cotton ball planet” that would create gravity is it because the cotton balls are not dense? If I were able to use sneakers instead, being denser, they would create gravity? If the birth of stars game from gasses being draw to a point by gravity how did the genesis gravity get started, what created it?

At a critical density, the cotton balls would assemble themselves into an object that would be fun to speculate about.
What would that be, and how many cotton balls would take for this critical density to occur? What happens to the ”cotton ball planet”, it will become a solid as the cotton impacted on itself? How does it do that unless somehow the cotton in the middle draw it, being gravity for lack of a better phrase?

@cazzie A ball of cotton 300,000 miles in diameter won’t have the same density, mass or gravitational force, as a ball of iron ore 300,000 miles in diameter.
So you are saying only dense objects can produce gravity? All dense objects have some gravity in them, and the more you cobble together like teaming up batteries, you make the force stronger? If that is the case, where does the weak gravity field in the dense object come from, what causes it?

Gravity is in everything
So even the cotton ball, a feather, an ant, or a soap bubble has gravity?

Yeah, yeah, followed the link, not sure if it took me to where you were thinking, and the second I could not get to run for me.

stanleybmanly's avatar

All of the cotton balls are attracting one another. Your original question was about a sphere with a diameter of 300,000,000 miles. But that doesn’t provide us with enough information. The space could contain 50 balls or several billion balls depending on how the balls are distributed and concentrated within the space. I was wondering if you meant 300 thousand miles instead of 300 million. Now that you stipulate 300,000, the entire show depends on the density of the total mass. Are the balls in contact with one another, or floating in a vast spherical cloud. It is the mass of the individual balls combined with the total number of balls in the. sphere that will determine just how spectacular an object you might achieve. The sphere could not remain a solid mass and “cotton” with a diameter of 300,000 miles. The gravitational field would be sufficient to rip apart the molecular bonds and separate the cotton into its component atoms, The atoms would concentrate in layers according to their atomic weights with the heaviest in the center, and the resulting sphere would be a LOT smaller than 300,000 miles.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ My thought was that all of the cotton balls would be butted together with as little space between them as physically possible, other wise I can’t see how they will be a coherent mass.

stanleybmanly's avatar

But that’s what the entire show is about. When you look up at the night sky, all of those stars were once clouds of particles that existed for perhaps billions of years as mere diffuse clouds. Your cotton balls could be in equilibrium, and be regarded the same way—a collection of extra big particles separated by distances sufficient to allow the “cloud” to maintain its integrity as a “cloud of cotton” but so diffuse that the cloud does not collapse. It’s sort of a balancing game that can easily be upset by the passing “wind” from an exploding star or an object passing near or through the cloud. A few balls “butted together” might just concentrate enough mass to generate a local field strong enough to begin the collapse of the cloud. As the mass grows, the field intensifies, the attraction increases, the crowding becomes more and more dense, the speed of the collapse increases, and the heat in the center climbs rapidly. And here is where your comment about the “balls butting together with as little space between them as physically possible” really comes into play, because that is exactly what happens. The gravity is so intense that it destroys the molecules by crowding the component atoms into the least amount of space. If the rain of cotton balls onto this very hot object continues, a point will be reached where the very atoms themselves will be crowded to the point in the center that they fuse, and you wind up with a very interesting star.

cazzie's avatar

Exactly. @stanleybmanly . The mass doesn’t react the same uniformly. It will be hotter and denser in the middle and the molecular, atomic energy released causes heat because they are being pressed together with more force. Planets are not uniform in density. Our own earth has a very hot molten core. Why? Because the pressure in the centre is at the highest. The larger the mass of the planet or star the more heat and energy from the molecules and atoms collected there. Take the gas giants in our own solar system. We have Jupiter and Saturn. They are so large and have so much gravitational pull and have so much energy that their own molecules can’t stay in solid form. Your cotton balls would not remain cotton balls through the process of becoming a planet because of the pressure and the heat.

gorillapaws's avatar

I propose we solve this question experimentally. Who should I donate all of my used q-tips to?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@stanleybmanly It’s sort of a balancing game that can easily be upset by the passing “wind” from an exploding star or an object passing near or through the cloud. A few balls “butted together” might just concentrate enough mass to generate a local field strong enough to begin the collapse of the cloud.
If there is no exploding star, shooting comet, etc. to upset the balance of the big ball of cotton, the mere size and volume of the cotton ball would not produce gravity, or would the gravity produced just be multiplied as a series of batteries from the inside out?

The gravity is so intense that it destroys the molecules by crowding the component atoms into the least amount of space.
If they already have the least amount of space between them, you are saying they will fuse themselves together or the cotton ball will become a cotton pea, then a cotton BB, and so forth?

While all this is going on how is it curving time to accelerate to where on what curve?

@cazzie The mass doesn’t react the same uniformly. It will be hotter and denser in the middle and the molecular, atomic energy released causes heat because they are being pressed together with more force.
The atomic energy is being squeezed or smashed out of the mass? However, if everything no matter what produces gravity, which in itself is a question to how this gravity is created in even the smallest of things, how does it amass to the point you have a “sphere of gravity” that will then pull everything to it, or it’s center? For simplicity sake of I have a sphere 50,000 cotton balls thick from the center, there are as many cotton balls pulling from below the 25,000 ball level as the last outer ring, but since the outer shell has more cotton balls, and if they are as tightly packed as the inner shells, why would they not have more pull outward because of simply more numbers?

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central The cloud, collapsing or not has its own gravitational field. Gravity is what gives the cloud its cohesion allowing us to identify it as a cloud of cotton balls. If the cloud collapses to a dense object the gravitational pull of the object is the same as it was when the cloud was diffuse. The total mass of the cloud doesn’t change. An object in orbit around the diffuse cloud would feel no gravitational difference at the cloud’s contraction and would merrily maintain the same orbit as before the collapse. While the total field remains the same, the intensity of the field is no longer at equilibrium throughout the object. In the cloud, the gravitational attraction (field strength ) is the same everywhere. In the collapsed object the intensity of the tug is concentrated at the center, where the field is so powerful that even atoms are deformed.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@stanleybmanly In the collapsed object the intensity of the tug is concentrated at the center, where the field is so powerful that even atoms are deformed.
How atoms can be deformed is another question I would guess, but these deformed atoms is where time is distorted, and just what in the atom contains time where it can be distorted simply by gravity, sense it was implied near the beginning of this conversation.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Perhaps deformed is too harsh, but visualize an atom stripped of its electrons. I regard ions as deformed atoms. Time at the subatomic level is perplexing under any circumstance. An adequate definition of time was difficult even before atoms were discovered or investigated At the atomic level lies. the spooky realm of quantum reality, and “normal” definitions for everything become sticky indeed. There is no question that time is influenced by gravitational effects, but I’m unable to to talk about what time means to an atom. ,

NanoNano's avatar

Gravity is a side effect of mass in space, and more than likely does not really exist as a true “force” of nature.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@NanoNano Gravity is a side effect of mass in space, and more than likely does not really exist as a true “force” of nature.
Force, not a true force, it draws other masses, be they large or smaller to it. If it is just mass then were does density come from? Would a 300,000 square yard ball of goose down have the same gravitational pull as a 300,000 square yard ball of copper? How does any or each reflect on this bending time thing?

NanoNano's avatar

Think of gravity as an “effect” of mass warping space.

Effects are not really things in and of themselves, they are reactions to some sort of behavior.

Density is determined by the number of elementary particles present in an atom, namely the number of protons. So that’s why denser substances like lead, have higher numbers of protons in each atom than say something like oxygen…

Essentially, the denser an object, the more elemental mass is present, hence the greater the distortion it creates in space, or the greater pull it exhibits because of this distortion which like to call “weight.”

In terms of time, keep in mind that Einstein showed that the Newtonian view of the universe was wrong. Prior to Einsteing it was believed the universe was entirely mechanistic and that if you could calculate the velocity and mass of every particle, you could predict all future events. Both Einstein’s relativity theories and quantum mechanics put this to rest.

Einstein showed that space and time are interchangeable, they are aspects of the same thing, just like matter and energy are interchangeable and also aspects of the same thing.

NanoNano's avatar

(Time and space are interchanged based on relative velocity, whereas matter and energy are interchanged wiith the collapse of the wave function).

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Essentially, the denser an object, the more elemental mass is present, hence the greater the distortion it creates in space, or the greater pull it exhibits because of this distortion which like to call “weight.”
Not muddling things too much from here, how is weight a distortion?

NanoNano's avatar

“Weight” is a common euphemism for the effect of mass warping the space around it (gravitational pull).

More correctly, weight could be said to be the acceleration due to gravity, which is a constant in a vacuum, depending on the mass present.

Space is what is being distorted. That effect is known as gravity.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

“Weight” is a common euphemism for the effect of mass warping the space around it (gravitational pull).
How does the Earth have it’s warping, the Moon has it’s and the Sun has it without crossing everything up when the sun is pulling the Earth, and the Earth the Moon?

NanoNano's avatar

Gravitational pull is reduced by the square of its distance. That is, the effect falls off very quickly with distance.

Hence, you end up with some very complex orbital dynamics that tend to work out to an equilibrium over time.

Are you familiar with “La Grange” points for instance? There are approximately five regions between the Earth and the Moon where gravitational pull is balanced between the two bodies. That is, if you put a satellite or a space station into orbit at one of the La Grange points, it will stay there practically indefinitely without having to ever expend fuel to correct its orbit.

They have been a subject of science fiction for many years. Look up La Grange points on Google and it might give you a insight or two into how gravity works. Here’s the Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrangian_point

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