The Mystery of Gravity: An Exercise of the Imagination

Reference & EducationCollege & University

  • Author Robert Depaolo
  • Published March 1, 2024
  • Word count 2,539


This article discusses confusing aspects of the gravitational force, in particular how it can exert its influence when celestial bodies- supposedly attracted to one another according to Newtonian mathematics and Einstein's "warped fabric of space model" are not on the same plane, are traveling through space and time at a rapid pace and exist in a three-dimensional configuration.

Einstein's model of gravity held that objects are attracted to one another because space has a fabric-like quality that warps in proportion to the mass of celestial bodies. and that less massive, more proximal bodies essentially fall into that warp or indentation to create what is called gravitational attraction. Meanwhile, Newton's calculations demonstrated that gravity could be measured by factoring in the relative mass of bodies and the distance between them. More specifically he demonstrated that a more massive planet or star would attract a less massive one, and the gravitational pull would be determined both by how far one was from the other and by the difference in mass between the two objects.

Einstein relied initially on his superb imagination in developing the blue print for his physical explanation of gravity while working in a patent office in Switzerland. While his model has been proven accurate via observation, particularly regarding the tendency of space to warp and alter even the path of light, questions still can be asked about the underlying premise of his theory. Like Einstein this can be done through use of the imagination.

Einstein's model was based on a process called space dragging, which refers to celestial bodies creating a warp in space due to their spinning. The analogy is to a sheet or fabric comprising space with an elastic quality. The action of the spin creates a suction effect that drags proximal bodies toward it. Observations seem to have confirmed this idea. However this introduced a new variable because gravity then becomes not only a function of mass and distance but of spin - ostensibly in the form centripetal force as it sucks in proximal bodies rather their falling into the warp.

Sometimes in the field of science a model can be confirmed by observation even though the underlying premise is questionable.

For example, the capacity of any material entity (including elastic space) to warp depends on its initial state. If it is like a sheet or fabric it would have to be initially linear - twisting occurring only because of the effect of the spinning motion. The usual description of gravity likens the process to placing a flat sheet over four poles, then dropping objects onto the sheet; one large (like a basketball) the other small (like a ping pong ball). The latter will invariably sink toward the latter within the indentation of the sheet. That seems reasonable enough. However, in that instance the ping pong ball would not only be attracted (sink toward) the basketball but would collide with it.

Now, rotational forces and the fact that objects in space are moving forward at a rapid pace prevent that from happening but for that reason gravity would have to be defined as more than one force. It would have to be considered a combined effect in its regulatory influence, including the centripetal force, the force typically referred to by cyclists as "drafting" (which is a lessening of interference due to a low resistance vacuum/tunneling effect resulting from the proximity of one object to (usually behind) another, and the relative acceleration of objects flying apart from one another as the result of cosmic expansion. Absent that conglomerate effect small planets would indeed collide with larger ones. In that context, there might well be an uber-regulatory process involved in how the universe is formed and how it attained its current state of relative stability

Even more interesting is the question of whether gravity could be considered a "force." In terms of Einstein's concept is not a force, rather a mechanism. Spin is not pull, rather leads to it. There is no presumed separate entity causing attraction. Instead, attraction is deemed a byproduct of a space warp which is a mechanical, process - unless one chooses to equate gravity and the centripetal force. Interestingly, while gravity is currently defined as one of the four forces in physics, the man who discovered the nuts and bolts of gravity did not necessarily conceive of it as a force.

Another confusing aspect of gravity is the "sheet" or "fabric" model. For that to be accurate all objects in the universe would have to be initially on a single plane. Clearly they are not. Objects attract one another from every angle. Spin can go in different directions. If planet A is spinning one way - this creating a vortex, and planet B is spinning in another direction there should be no gravitational attraction even though their masses and distances apart fit the Newtonian formula.

Moreover, bodies do not "fall into" a warp even with spinning effects. An object can be below, above or to the side of another object and still exhibit attraction. That is because the universe has volume. It is not a flat sheet but a sphere. Gravity occurs in three dimensions. That means the warp factor is a complex phenomenon. Einstein explained this with his concept of geodesic geometry but the question remains as to how an entity with volume can "warp" in a way that leads to predictable, calculable attractions.

A counterargument comes to mind - without undoing the essential principle of general relativity. It is that gravity is not only the result of a space warp but also of a phenomenon with which bike racers are familiar - drafting. When a bike is racing ahead and is followed closely by another a kind of low resistance tunnel-effect is created between the lead and second bike. It produces what is tantamount to a partial vacuum and in a vacuum resistance is either low or non-existent. According to the principle of inertia any object moving at a certain speed will either continue at that speed or increase its speed to infinity. In other words, as Aristotle suggested, movement is in itself eternal and only slows down or ceases when an object encounters friction or resistance. This concept would be similar to the space drag model proposed by Einstein while adding the factor of cosmic expansion to the model.

As discussed above, Einstein's model was based on a steady state universe - a notion that was challenged by Hub bell's discovery that celestial bodies are in fact moving through space at an incredibly rapid speed. Because of that movement it would seem difficult for objects to relate position ally to one another based on indentations in spaces they occupy. In fact, they do not occupy specific spaces, which makes gravity a relative phenomenon. Space drag would have to occur on the fly - and one more thing. For the fabric of space to be elastic, it would have to be internally linked - i.e. one "sheet' with material continuity. The only way for a warp to occur in 'space" would be for space to be one piece of matter uninterrupted. For that to occur the particles would have to be juxtaposed in a virtually perfect alignment - with exactly the same number of negatively and positively charged particles to create a material synthesis, i.e. single sheet. If there were separations or repulsions among the spread of matter the spin effect would lead to fractionalizing and spilling out of some particles while others not connected to the overall sheet would be unaffected.

It is possible the power of the spin could galvanize disparate particles but that would seem to be less related to the mass of the spinning object than to the rate of the spin. The spin or rotation of a body (seen in the equation V=2nr/T) depends on many elements, including the circumference of the body, the material of which the body is composed, it angulation, and other factors. Gaseous bodies display different rotation speeds for example. Given the variability inherent in spin rates, one might presume the law of gravity might involve more than mass and distance.

A model of gravity based on the idea of bodies following each other through space and time and being attracted to one another based on mass differentials and distance is conceivably explainable as the result of combined forces in the context of a "race through space." For example, since more massive planets create a larger partial vacuum (higher draft) in their path that would serve to speed up smaller bodies in their path by creating a partial vacuum/tunnel effect. That would reduce resistance for the smaller body. Conversely, a smaller body would not create a vacuum effect for a larger one, which is why gravitational pull typically goes in one direction. It would not require material uniformity in the space fabric.

Yet, another perplexing aspect of gravity is that smaller objects do attract more massive ones. For example, the moon is less massive than the

earth but influences the tides and other phenomena on earth. It appears gravity entails some degree of reciprocity. The question is why; especially if one relies on the space warp model. Indeed, why would a spinning basketball fall into the indentation on a sheet created by a spinning ping pong ball? It wouldn't

That raises another question. What is that material- i.e. the voluminous fabric? Is it dark matter? And if so, why is the law of gravity constant (that is, mathematically predictable) when seldom is the density of matter in various locations in the cosmos exactly the same? If it is matter that is warping, are the molecules, particles etc aligned and distributed in precisely the same proportion and density everywhere in the cosmos? If not, and if instead the density changes from locale to locale why is the attraction equation predictable? Is John Wheeler's idea of the universe as a computer-like mechanism accurate and is everything to entangled as to be self-regulatory and formulaic?

Finally, what about black holes - the quintessential example of the law of gravity? It has always seemed curious that in discussing this phenomenon little or no distinction is made between attraction and compression. A positively charged particle which has spin is attracted to a negatively charged particle but one does not crush the other during this attraction and in the process eliminate their substance or chemical identity.

If a massive sun implodes into a black hole it is perfectly understandable that not even light can escape if its mass reaches a certain point. But why do the elements within the chemical/material complex compress? If gravity results from a space warp there is no reason the indentation itself should create compression of objects falling into it. The basketball dropped on a sheet will fall into the sheet and create a warp but the material in the basketball will not continue to compress. Either the causative factor is external (material warp) or it is internal (which contradicts the classic description of gravity). A force can be said to act on an object. Change its rate of acceleration. Its mass depending on how fast it travels, and its time-lapse, but the force is still acting on the object from an external vantage point.

It is conceivable the compression in a black hole could occur because the speed of the objects is so great via enhanced gravitational pull that its mass changes. Einstein demonstrated that the mass of an object increases with its rate of speed. However to increase its speed requires traversing space. In a black hole there is less and less space and that limits its acceleration. In short, while theoretical physicists claim to have observed black holes and appear confident about describing how black holes behave there are aspects of this mega version of gravity that seem paradoxical.

There are esoteric (arguably fanciful) possible resolutions to the gravity conundrum. For example, is it conceivable the universe has a regulatory capacity, that it is so fundamentally entangled that after the big bang it began to coalesce into its original homeostatic state. Is it a kind of cosmic elastic band- referring not only to specific bodies but the overall universe? Does it have memory, as David Bohm implied in his description of the universe as one giant electron? Another possibility is that gravity is (as discussed earlier) actually the result of combined forces, whereby systemic attraction (rather than chaotic collisions) occur because of interactions involving acceleration, inertia, drafting/vacuum phenomena, centripetal force and particle interactions to create a geometric, positional compromise called gravity?

Clearly there are still things about gravity that remain a mystery. Newton captured the "what" of gravity. Einstein captured part of the "how" but neither seems to have captured the 'why." That is why many theoretical physicists believe in the graviton as the hidden (true) force that, rather then mere space warping, creates attractions. But even that explanation has proved elusive. Scientists have been able to describe the behavior of the tiniest particles. They have looked into the infinitesimally small nucleus of the atom to find the dimensions of the strong force that binds all things together. However, they have not been able to observe or describe the particle/force known as the graviton - that supposedly emanates from celestial bodies as vast as Jupiter and the sun. Such confusion led Einstein to initially presume the gravitational force was really a larger manifestation of electromagnetism. He was wrong, even though this made sense.

In the final analysis gravity remains a puzzle. It is the ultimate paradox; on one hand completely predictable and useful (we couldn't get to the moon without adhering to its lawful structure) but on the other hand it is undefined and a virtual absurdity. While it is described as the weakest of the forces it is the only force that extends to the vastness of the universe and can give the sun a capacity to pull an object as massive as the earth into its orbit. For the time being it seems gravity is, despite its predictability, less a principle than a question. Is it a force or a spatial mechanism?

Does the fabric of space simply fold up via spin suction to accommodate massive objects or is there a tangible, energy-driven force creating attractions so that mass is not a constant determinant? The irony in all this might be that because of its mathematical elegance and usefulness in space travel scientists will remain content to merely rely on gravity rather than further explore its mysterious, inner properties.


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Bohm, D. (1980) Wholeness and the Implicate Order. London, Routledge

Outfield, S. Tillman, N.T. Bartels, M. (May 14, 2023) What is the theory of general relativity?

Muller, A. (October 2, 2022) What is quantum entanglement: A physicist explains Einstein's "spooky action at a distance" Astronomy

Strogatz, S. (May 4, 2023) Where do space, time and gravity come from. Einstein's description of curved space doesn't easily mesh with a universe made up of quantum wave functions/ Quantum Magazine article

Weule, G. (2020) Space warping star system proves Einstein's general theory of relativity right. ABD Science

Robert DePaolo, MS Clinical Psychology, Author of 8 books and many articles on psychology, science, religion and politics. email adress is

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