'Stranger Things?' Scientists Find That Sound Waves May Be Able to Create a Real 'Upside-Down' With Negative Gravity

Monday, 13 August 2018 - 12:44PM
Physics
Monday, 13 August 2018 - 12:44PM
'Stranger Things?' Scientists Find That Sound Waves May Be Able to Create a Real 'Upside-Down' With Negative Gravity
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Scientists have made some wild claims in 2018, including that the only necessary ingredient for real-life time travel is copious amounts of money and a study that examines what would happen "if the entire Earth was instantaneously replaced with an equal volume of closely packed, but uncompressed blueberries," but a new paper written by a team of physicists from Columbia University may take the cake: according to their (highly theoretical) research, sound waves can create "negative gravitational fields."

There's a lot of mind-blowing ideas to unpack here, but let's get one thing straight here: this doesn't mean playing a certain sound can create anti-gravity for humans (though acoustic tractor beams might do the job). First and foremost, the team is trying to argue that sound waves can effectively be treated as particles with mass, despite not having mass in the traditional sense: "We showed that, contrary to common belief, sound waves carry gravitational mass, in a standard Newtonian sense: they are affected by gravity, but they also source gravity." On top of that, they claim that these particles (called phonons), under very specific circumstances, seem to generate "negative" gravity that pulls them in the opposite direction of normal gravity: "In a gravitational field phonons slowly accelerate in the opposite direction that you would expect, say, a brick to fall." How does a particle create a negative gravitational field? Simple: by having negative mass.

Though it sounds counterintuitive, scientists have already created a fluid with negative mass, which accelerates in the opposite direction of the force applied to it, so particles with negative mass aren't actually that crazy. What is a bit harder to believe are the results of the Columbia paper, which claimed to observe phonons' trajectories bending upwards in defiance of gravity. According to Science Alert, "The effect is too small to measure with existing technology, and there are also other potential explanations for this trajectory that have nothing to do with gravity." However, if the team is right, then their work may revolutionize how scientists view sound waves, not just in labs, but in everyday life.

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