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The cavendish experiment: then and now

As previously noted, the universal gravitational constant G size 12{G} {} is determined experimentally. This definition was first done accurately by Henry Cavendish (1731–1810), an English scientist, in 1798, more than 100 years after Newton published his universal law of gravitation. The measurement of G size 12{G} {} is very basic and important because it determines the strength of one of the four forces in nature. Cavendish’s experiment was very difficult because he measured the tiny gravitational attraction between two ordinary-sized masses (tens of kilograms at most), using apparatus like that in [link] . Remarkably, his value for G size 12{G} {} differs by less than 1% from the best modern value.

One important consequence of knowing G size 12{G} {} was that an accurate value for Earth’s mass could finally be obtained. This was done by measuring the acceleration due to gravity as accurately as possible and then calculating the mass of Earth M size 12{M} {} from the relationship Newton’s universal law of gravitation gives

mg = G mM r 2 , size 12{ ital "mg"=G { { ital "mM"} over {r rSup { size 8{2} } } } } {}

where m size 12{m} {} is the mass of the object, M size 12{M} {} is the mass of Earth, and r size 12{r} {} is the distance to the center of Earth (the distance between the centers of mass of the object and Earth). See [link] . The mass m size 12{m} {} of the object cancels, leaving an equation for g size 12{g} {} :

g = G M r 2 . size 12{g=G { {M} over {r rSup { size 8{2} } } } } {}

Rearranging to solve for M size 12{M} {} yields

M = gr 2 G . size 12{M= { { ital "gr" rSup { size 8{2} } } over {G} } } {}

So M size 12{M} {} can be calculated because all quantities on the right, including the radius of Earth r size 12{r} {} , are known from direct measurements. We shall see in Satellites and Kepler's Laws: An Argument for Simplicity that knowing G size 12{G} {} also allows for the determination of astronomical masses. Interestingly, of all the fundamental constants in physics, G size 12{G} {} is by far the least well determined.

The Cavendish experiment is also used to explore other aspects of gravity. One of the most interesting questions is whether the gravitational force depends on substance as well as mass—for example, whether one kilogram of lead exerts the same gravitational pull as one kilogram of water. A Hungarian scientist named Roland von Eötvös pioneered this inquiry early in the 20th century. He found, with an accuracy of five parts per billion, that the gravitational force does not depend on the substance. Such experiments continue today, and have improved upon Eötvös’ measurements. Cavendish-type experiments such as those of Eric Adelberger and others at the University of Washington, have also put severe limits on the possibility of a fifth force and have verified a major prediction of general relativity—that gravitational energy contributes to rest mass. Ongoing measurements there use a torsion balance and a parallel plate (not spheres, as Cavendish used) to examine how Newton’s law of gravitation works over sub-millimeter distances. On this small-scale, do gravitational effects depart from the inverse square law? So far, no deviation has been observed.

In the figure, there is a circular stand at the floor holding two weight bars over it attached through an inverted cup shape object fitted over the stand. The first bar over this is a horizontal flat panel and contains two spheres of mass M at its end. Just over this bar is a stick shaped bar holding two spherical objects of mass m at its end. Over to this bar is mirror at the center of the device facing east. The rotation of this device over the axis of the stand is anti-clockwise. A light source on the right side of the device emits a ray of light toward the mirror which is then reflected toward a scale bar which is on the right to the device below the light source.
Cavendish used an apparatus like this to measure the gravitational attraction between the two suspended spheres ( m size 12{m} {} ) and the two on the stand ( M size 12{M} {} ) by observing the amount of torsion (twisting) created in the fiber. Distance between the masses can be varied to check the dependence of the force on distance. Modern experiments of this type continue to explore gravity.

Questions & Answers

what is thermodynamics
wana Reply
thermodynamic is a branch of physics that teaches on the relationship about heat and anyother form of energy
Emmanuel
if l cary box and stop is ther any work
Tamirat Reply
no that because u have moved no distance. for work to be performed a force needs to be applied and a distance needs to be moved
Emmanuel
Different between fundamental unit and derived unit
Alimi Reply
fundamental unit are independent quantities that do not depend on any other unit while derived unit are quantities that depend on two or more units for it definition
Emmanuel
what is nuclear fission
Sadik Reply
hello
Shawty
are you there
Shawty
miss your absence here...
Shawty
what is a vector
Temitayo Reply
vectors are quantities that have numerical value or magnitude and direction.
Muhammad
what is regelation
Oladele
vector is any quantity that has magnitude and direction
Emmanuel
Physics is a physical science that deals with the study of matter in relation to energy
Divine Reply
Hi
Jimoh
hello
Salaudeen
hello
Sadik
Yes
Maxamuud
hi everyone
Muhammad
what is physics
Rhema Reply
physics is a physical science that deals with the study of matter in relation to energy
Osayuwa
a15kg powerexerted by the foresafter 3second
Firdos Reply
what is displacement
Xolani Reply
movement in a direction
Jason
hello
Hosea
Hey
Smart
haider
Explain why magnetic damping might not be effective on an object made of several thin conducting layers separated by insulation? can someone please explain this i need it for my final exam
anas Reply
Hi
saeid
hi
Yimam
Hi
Jimoh
An object made of several thin conducting layers separated by insulation may not be affected by magnetic damping because the eddy current produced in each layer due to induction will be very small and the opposing magnetic flux produced by the eddy currents will be very small
Muhammad
What is thê principle behind movement of thê taps control
Oluwakayode Reply
while
Hosea
what is atomic mass
thomas Reply
this is the mass of an atom of an element in ratio with the mass of carbon-atom
Chukwuka
show me how to get the accuracies of the values of the resistors for the two circuits i.e for series and parallel sides
Jesuovie Reply
Explain why it is difficult to have an ideal machine in real life situations.
Isaac Reply
tell me
Promise
what's the s . i unit for couple?
Promise
its s.i unit is Nm
Covenant
Force×perpendicular distance N×m=Nm
Oluwakayode
İt iş diffucult to have idêal machine because of FRİCTİON definitely reduce thê efficiency
Oluwakayode
It is difficult to have an ideal machine in real life situation because in ideal machines all the input energy should be converted to output energy . But , some part of energy is always lost in overcoming friction and input energy is always greater than output energy . Hence , no machine is ideal.
Muhammad
if the classica theory of specific heat is valid,what would be the thermal energy of one kmol of copper at the debye temperature (for copper is 340k)
Zaharadeen Reply
Practice Key Terms 4

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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