Scientists from Leibniz University Hannover and the University of Bremen have made a significant breakthrough in confirming Einstein’s equivalence principle. Through their research, they have used lunar laser ranging data to provide the most precise evidence to date that all properties of mass are equivalent. This finding further strengthens Einstein’s theory of relativity, which is built upon the equivalence principle.
The equivalence principle is a fundamental assumption in physics, stating that various properties of mass, such as weight, inertia, and gravitation, remain the same in relation to each other. Without this equivalence, Einstein’s theory of relativity would be contradicted. However, quantum theory postulates a violation of this principle, leading scientists to conduct more precise tests.
The research team, consisting of scientists from the ZARM at the University of Bremen and the IfE at Leibniz University Hannover, examined the equivalence of passive and active gravitational mass. They analyzed lunar laser ranging data gathered over a 50-year period, a process that involves pointing lasers from Earth at reflectors on the Moon to measure the round trip travel times of laser beams.
The team’s findings revealed no effect, indicating that passive and active gravitational masses are equal to approximately 14 decimal places. This estimate is a hundred times more accurate than any previous study conducted on the topic. The research was conducted within the framework of the Cluster of Excellence “QuantumFrontiers” and was published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters as a highlights article.
The Institute of Geodesy at Leibniz University Hannover played a crucial role in this study, utilizing their expertise in analyzing laser distance measurements to the Moon and testing general relativity. The researchers involved in this groundbreaking study include Vishwa Vijay Singh, Jürgen Müller, Liliane Biskupek, Eva Hackmann, and Claus Lämmerzahl.
This research confirms the validity and importance of Einstein’s equivalence principle, further expanding our understanding of the fundamental laws of physics. The precise confirmation of this principle provides a stepping stone for future advancements in areas such as quantum theory and general relativity.