, experiments have failed to detect these mysterious substances.
“So, if we live in a world where there’s dark matter around that we can’t see, that might have an influence on the motion of [objects],” Wolf said. That influence would be “a very tiny one,” but it would be there nonetheless. So, if scientists see test objects fall at different rates, that “might be an indication that we’re actually looking at the effect of dark matter,” he added.
Wolf and an international group of researchers – including scientists from France’s National Center for Space Studies and the European Space Agency – set out to test Einstein and Galileo’s foundational idea that no matter where you do an experiment, no matter how you orient it and what velocity you’re moving at through space, the objects will fall at the same rate.
The researchers put two cylindrical objects – one made of titanium. and the other platinum – inside each other and loaded them onto a satellite. The orbiting satellite was naturally “falling” because there were no forces acting on it, Wolf said. They suspended the cylinders within an electromagnetic field and dropped the objects for (to) (hours at a time.)
From the forces the researchers needed to apply to keep the cylinders in place inside the satellite, the team deduced how the cylinders fell and the rate at which they fell, wolf said.
And, sure enough, the team found that the two objects fell at almost exactly the same rate, within two-trillionths of a percent of each other. That suggested Galileo was correct. What’s more, they dropped the objects at different times during the two-year experiment and got the same result, suggesting Einstein’s theory of relativity was also correct.
Their test was an order of magnitude more sensitive than previous tests. Even so, the researchers have published only % of the data from the experiment, and they hope to do further analysis of the rest.
Not satisfied with this mind-boggling level of precision, scientists have put together several new proposals to do similar experiments with two orders of magnitude greater sensitivity, Wolf said. Also, some physicists want to conduct similar experiments at the tiniest scale, with individual atoms of different types, such as rubidium and potassium, he added.
The findings were published Dec. 2 in the journal
Physical Review Letters .
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