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Testing Einstein 101

In 1915, Albert Einstein published an article in which he outlined his general theory of relativity. Amongst its many predictions, or predicted consequences, was that light should be deflected by a gravitational field. This idea, certainly radical at the time, seemed impossible to detect. However, scientists at the Royal Astronomical Society of London soon proposed an experiment that they believed would test Einstein’s prediction. The experiment would be performed on March 29, 1919 at two separate locations: in northern Brazil and on an island off the west coast of Africa. On that day, at those sites, a total eclipse of the Sun would be observed. The drawing below shows the position of the star as seen during the eclipse and the actual position of the star as had been established six months earlier. Study the drawing (exaggerated for clarity) and the answer the following questions.

drawing of observed and actual star positions

This activity is based on one found in the book Physics Principles and Problems by P. Zitzeitz, et al.

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This page last updated: Thursday, 21-Nov-2002 11:20:10 EST