# Gravity Well Demo - 1 of 9. Gravity Well Demo

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1 Gravity Well Demo - 1 of 9 Gravity Well Demo Brief Summary This demo/activity in Space Odyssey will give visitors a hands-on feel for how gravity works. Specifically, how Newton interpreted the force of gravity between a planet and a star and how Einstein re-interpreted this same seeming attraction. Equipment Required What you need: 1. Gravity Well Table 2. Fabric of Space-time 3. Different weight and size balls 4. Galaxy Stage projector (optional) 5. Galaxy Stage screens (optional) Gravity Well Table Fabric of Space Time Different balls

2 Gravity Well Demo - 2 of 9 Projector Remote (Only for on /off) Computer Remote Buttons 1 & 2: Scrolls through slide show or the live gravity well projections. Button 3: Toggles between Powerpoint and live camera. Button 4: Toggles the orbit tracks on/off. Educational Strategies Depending on the age and background of your audience, this facilitation can be performed as a series of questions which can use the table to supply the answers (experiment to test hypothesis) or straight scripted lecture. For our youngest visitors, this can be as simple as play time to create a solar system. Main Teaching Points What we experience as gravity is actually a curve in Space-time. Changing your speed will change how the curve affects you. Changing the mass of the object (star, planet, etc.) will change the degree of the curve in space-time Enriching Teaching Points Newton interpreted gravity as a force at a distance. Einstein interpreted gravity through his theory of relativity as a warping of space-time. Set Up 1. The Gravity Well is stored behind the Galaxy Stage. Please remember to raise the stage s backdrop so you do not risk damaging the backdrop.

3 Gravity Well Demo - 3 of 9 Backdrop Down Switch Backdrop Up 2. Roll the Gravity Well down to the audience area. It should be positioned approximately in the center of the audience. *Optional: You can roll the cart out to the front of the galaxy stage area or into the gallery like the other carts 3. There is a metal pin that holds the well in its folded position. Removing this will let you fold the well into place. There are pins on both sides to hold the well in place once open. Metal pin in storage position Metal pin in demonstration position 4. Turn on the projector. Eddie aiming at the projector Where Eddie is aiming 5. Log into the AMX. 6. Stop the Default show and switch the stage computer to the Left and Right Monitors

4 Gravity Well Demo - 4 of 9 (Note: It is possible you will need to go to the computer switcher backstage and make sure the Gravity Computer is selected. The red light should be blinking indicating the Gravity Computer is selected.) 7. Once the projector is on you can position the gravity well. The circular light from the projector should fit the circle of the gravity well.

5 Gravity Well Demo - 5 of 9 8. Lock the Wheels and you are ready to begin. Suggested Ways of Presenting this Demo Show a video of the Earth going around the Sun and ask why this is happening (Button 3 on the remote allows you to toggle to this). Give a brief history of gravity o Things fall down (toward center of Earth) o Galileo figured out that everything falls at the same rate. (Drop two objects to show this.) o Newton postulated that all bits of matter are attracted to each other by gravity. The same force that pulls an apple to the ground also holds the Moon orbiting around the Earth. But he didn t know why. Einstein s Explanation of Gravity o Put one of the large balls in the center of the gravity well to represent a star. o Hand out the balls to visitors and have them take turn rolling the balls around the table. o Balls get faster as they get closer to the center of the gravity well, just as they get faster as they get closer to a star. o Mention that the reason the balls spiral inward is because the friction on our gravity well model. If it were frictionless (as with real planets in space) the balls would stay on their same orbit forever. What causes this curvature of space-time? Einstein said that the presence of matter (like a star) causes the curvature and the more massive the star, the more space-time curves. o Put the fabric of space-time (stretchy fabric on hoop) onto the gravity well. It is better if you drape the extra fabric over the sides. It makes a better image on the camera. o Roll a ball across flat space-time to show it goes in a straight line.

6 Gravity Well Demo - 6 of 9 o Put the smallest of the stars in the middle of the fabric to show how it curves space-time, and then roll a small ball to show how it orbits. Show how the rolling planet affects the motion of the star. They affect each other. o Put a heavier star onto the fabric to show how it curves space-time even more. o Project the grid onto the fabric. Even when the grid appears distorted on the curved space-time, it still seems flat on the screens. In other words, what Einstein interpreted as curved space-time, Newton interpreted as flat space with a force of gravity. o Compare how balls orbit different weights of stars. Operating tips The slides projected on the table can be very helpful, such as the grids etc. Show how you can create what looks like a planet orbiting a star in different ways. o Newton s way: twirl the ball connected to the string and explain that the string represents Newton s force of gravity. (If you let go of the string the ball would fly off.) The problem is this: there isn t really any string holding a planet and star together. So what is this force of gravity? How can a force act at a distance? Even Newton didn t know. o Einstein s way: ASK: Is there any way to get the same motion of a planet going around a star without having a force of gravity holding them together? That is what we are going to try to do. Roll a ball inside the gravity well and show that the ball goes round and round because the plastic walls push it around.

7 Gravity Well Demo - 7 of 9 Questions and Answers What is space-time? In physics, space-time is any mathematical model that combines space and time into a single interwoven continuum which regards space as consisting of three dimensions, and time as consisting of one dimension, the "fourth dimension" Take Down Procedure Return balls and black remote to tote bag. Use the remote to turn off the projector. Log into AMX and press return space to normal Remove the metal pin and rotate the table into its storage position. Lock the table in place with the pin. Unlock the wheels and return the table to its proper place behind the backdrop. Additional Science Content Gravity is the force that causes two objects to attract each other. If there is nothing to stop them, gravity will cause the two objects to accelerate toward each other. The reason we put quotes around the word force is because Newton interpreted this motion as a force of attraction, while Einstein interpreted the same motion as the result of a curvature of spacetime. Even in the time of the ancients, people knew that objects fell downwards. A better way to think of it would be that objects move towards the center of the Earth. Galileo s determined that, if you disregard air resistance, every falling body drops at the same rate although he didn t know why. He did experiments with balls rolling down inclined planes to reach his conclusions. Kepler determined that the planets orbit the Sun in ellipses with the Sun at one focus of the ellipse. He did not know why this was happening. Isaac Newton realized that the force that pulled the apple down out of the tree was the same force that pulled the Moon around the Earth once a month. In other words, what Galileo and Kepler saw were really instances of the same force. Newton called this force gravity and defined it as a force at a distance. Newton explained Galileo s experiment this way: Objects have what he called inertial mass, their resistance to being accelerated. A more massive object is harder to get moving (accelerate) than a less massive one. But, he reasoned, if the more massive object is falling at the same rate as the less massive one, then the Earth must be pulling correspondingly harder on it. In other words, if an object is harder to move, the Earth makes up for that by pulling correspondingly harder. If it is easier to move, the Earth simply doesn t pull as hard. The two properties, how hard an object is to accelerate and how much the Earth pulls on it, exactly cancel out.

9 Gravity Well Demo - 9 of 9 Background materials (websites, videos, articles, digital collections links) - An explanation of Newton and Einstein s theories Web Syllabus, Dept. Physics & Astronomy, University of Tennessee lecture on Gravitation and the General Theory of Relativity - Discussion of an evolving gravitation theory based on a theoretical entity, a graviton, which is a virtual particle that mediates the gravitational force.

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