Person silhouetted in mid-air jump against sunset. Person silhouetted in mid-air jump against sunset.

Is Gravity Just a Theory? What is The Controversy

 

This is a very frequently asked science question, which is supported by evidence and experiments but still has a lot of theories around it. And as a science student myself in high school, I was led to believe that gravity is a fact – but with new scientific research and debates, it got me thinking.

Now, I wouldn’t disagree – it is one of the most important concepts of classical physics, but some people call it ‘just a theory ‘ So, let’s dive deep into the universe and find an explanation that explains gravity.

Theories for Explaining Gravity

According to Newton’s law,

“Every particle in the universe attracts every other particle with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers”

Newton

However it stands corrected for all phenomena of everyday life, but when we consider the entire universe and take into consideration the black hole, movement of the planets in the solar system, and the binary pulsars then the Newtonian theory of gravity does not do justice.

So, to understand the expansion of the universe we have to consider general relativity.

According to the theory of relativity, rather than invisible gravitational fields, there is gravity which is a curving or warping force, so it describes gravity not as invisible waves but a warping force that increases as the size of the object increases as it is more massive and can warp more space around it.

Although any theory that we might consider to explain or describe gravity will not hold constant for all objects or all positions in the universe. Also, with the passing of time better technologies and discoveries are made.

Why People Believe that Gravity is Only a Theory?

People believe that there are a lot of flaws when we consider the laws of gravity so they believe that these are just theories and that is not how gravity works.

While Newtonian physics offers a solid framework for understanding gravitational interactions in most everyday situations, it’s the peculiarities observed in black holes and cosmic expansion that highlight the limitations of classical mechanics and the need for a relativistic perspective.”

Prof. Liam Zhang, Theoretical Physicist

Some examples explain the same; according to the mass of the earth and sun, if we consider the theory of gravity the gravitational force of the sun would be more than that of the earth which implies that the moon should go around the sun and not the earth.

Similarly, when we are considering Earth’s gravity, we have to understand that the gravitational forces must be working on asteroids, meteors, and comets as well, so with the gravitational pull acting on them exerted by the Earth they would destroy it by now, which does not stand true.

Even the rotation of the moon on its axis is absurd, because if it does rotate then how come we see its same face on the earth?

If we go further, the whole idea of having planets revolve around fixed orbits around the sun also does not make a lot of sense, but we believe otherwise.

Our textbooks tell different stories we can say, but laws rarely change and things fall due to gravity. Objects attract each other, other forces are also present in the natural world and even between celestial bodies.

“The evolution of gravity from a force to a curvature of spacetime exemplifies the dynamic nature of scientific discovery. As our understanding deepens and new evidence emerges, theories evolve, underscoring the importance of keeping an open mind in the pursuit of knowledge.”

Prof. Sarah Kim, Historian of Science

Considering all this, gravitational theory just looks like a scientific terminology but it does not agree with us.

As science changes, with new technologies and new evidence, it starts making you feel that such a thing called gravity is not making common sense. But that isn’t necessarily so.

Let’s understand this with an example, we know that force is an inverse square law and also that opposite charges attract each other.

So, if we consider the sun to be having a positive charge and the planets a negative charge then we explain the revolution of the planets around the sun but it is not explained in the same manner by the laws of gravity.

If we consider the electron and nucleus structure of the atoms, where electrons revolve around the nucleus why can we not replicate the theory for the solar system as well? Why do the laws change when celestial bodies are in consideration?

Even anti-gravity has been a very largely debated issue. It is believed that the concept of anti-gravity exists. But it is not accepted by most people or scientists because they want to hold onto their opinion about the gravitational laws and thus they keep rejecting the reverse theory for their convenience.

It is said that a lot of physicists have found problems in their mathematical calculations or theories involving gravity. Isaac Newton’s mathematics didn’t add up so it was made into calculus.

Similarly, with Einstein when his mathematics didn’t add up a whole new branch was again formed which was called tensors. Similar history exists for Newton as well.

How Evolution Changes Everything?

There is one problem that is being overlooked by all the critical analysts of gravity and its physical theory. The scientific method to test a theory is that you conduct tests.

So when you conduct a test and it is consistent with the theory it approves the theory and it stands corrected.

However, if we run a test that is inconsistent with the theory we can say that the theory is not correct and it is disapproved.

But what we need to understand here is that this can be variable for everything in the universe, so the result may be true for say a thousand tests but disapprove just one of them.

This does not make the scientific theory wrong all in all, it just makes the point clear that you can not finitely or so transparently check the workability of any theory.

The second point to be considered is that timing and evolution bring huge changes in all the constants and the variables of any gravity equation. So, Einstein formulated his theory in 1915, today we sit in the 2000s.

So, do we expect that after so much time, new technology, and advancement in science the theories will still fall in the stencils that were created so long back?

We need to understand that new evidence brings changes, discoveries, and new additions to the theory of gravity.

To sum up the entire discussion is gravity a theory or a fact, we can say that it is not a very well-accepted theory.

The theory exists, it is in practice and mathematical calculations are done on the very same basis.

But people believe that the available evidence is not enough for them to buy the whole concept of Universal Gravity. They feel it has a lot of gaps and new, better alternative theories should be there.

Last Updated on April 9, 2024 by soubhik

Author

Anushree Khandelwal
  1. “This article prompts intriguing reflections on the nature of gravity—whether a theory or an established fact. The discourse between theoretical frameworks and empirical evidence is a captivating journey that challenges our understanding of the fundamental forces governing our universe.”

  2. We have learnt much about Einstein’s theory of gravity. It is another concept presented in this article. Feeling amused and as well as surprised. And increased my knowledge as well.

  3. I found this article’s exploration of gravity truly intriguing. The discussion on whether gravity is a theory or a fact, along with the examination of various theories, adds depth to a commonly asked science question. The breakdown of Newton’s law and its limitations in explaining phenomena like black holes and binary pulsars was particularly thought-provoking. As someone eager to understand the complexities of gravity, this article provided valuable insights.

  4. Whether gravity is a theory or a proven fact, this article raises interesting questions. Our comprehension of the underlying principles guiding our universe is challenged by the fascinating journey that occurs between theoretical frameworks and empirical facts.

  5. Very good narrative on gravity. Anushree explained a lot of things in a simple way and without any technical jargon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. Gravity is both a fact and a theory. The fact is that gravity exists as a force pulling objects with mass towards each other, supported by extensive evidence and experiments. However, different theories, such as Newton’s law and Einstein’s general relativity, provide explanations for gravity’s behavior in various contexts, and our understanding evolves with ongoing research and technological advancements. Theories may be refined over time to better describe the complexities of gravity, especially in extreme scenarios like black holes or the movement of celestial bodies.

  7. Gravity is both a theory and a fact. Newton’s law describes gravity as a force between masses, while Einstein’s general relativity views gravity as a warping force in spacetime. Despite the theories, some question gravity’s explanations for celestial movements. Yet, in everyday life, gravity’s reality is evident as objects attract each other.

  8. Certainly the gravity is a fact and theory both . As explained in the article The argument for the fact and as a theory have a enough evidences to accept them both . Mainly the gravity is the force we all feel so that’s why I believe it’s a fact rather believing it as a theory .

  9. The article’s exploration of gravity, sans technical jargon, provided valuable insights, particularly on its status as both fact and theory. Appreciating Anushree’s simple narrative, I now grasp the complexities of gravity better. The article’s argument for gravity as both fact and theory makes sense, backed by convincing evidence.

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