Robot shows it’s possible to swim in the vacuum of the spinning universe: ScienceAlert

If the astronauts suddenly drifted into the interstellar void, they would have to propel their bodies to safety, kicking and swinging their limbs skyward into the void.

Unfortunately for them, the physics are unforgivable, leaving them floating around hopelessly forever. If only the universe had been warped enough, their defeat would not have been in vain.

Centuries before leaving Earth, Isaac Newton briefly explained why things are happening. Whether expelling gas, pushing it into solid ground, or spinning a fin against liquid, the speed of action is maintained by the number of elements involved, causing the reaction that moves the body. .

Eject the air around the bird’s fins or the water around the fish’s tail, and the effort of each flap will continue in either direction, causing the poor animal to flap without any net movement towards its destination.

At the beginning of the 21st century, physicists see this as a loophole in the law. If the three-dimensional space in which this motion occurs is curvilinear, then changes in shape or position of objects do not necessarily obey the normal laws of exchange of motion, meaning there is no need a pattern. .

The distorted geometry of spacetime can only mean a distortion of an object – a straight kick, a pulse, a pulse – only that you can see a subtle net change in its position.

On the other hand, the idea that the curvature of spacetime affects motion is as simple as watching a stone fall to the ground. Einstein talked about it in his theory of general relativity more than a century ago.

But showing how hills and valleys in a windy space can affect the body’s ability to propel itself is another ballgame.

To make it work without getting to the nearest space warp, a team of researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology, Cornell University, University of Michigan, and University of Notre Dame created a model of curved space in the laboratory.

The mechanical version of their circular chamber consists of a set of motorized blocks that move along a curved train track. Attached to a rotating arm, the entire setup is positioned to minimize gravitational pull and frictional drag.

A “space” swimmer who moves in a spinning arm trajectory. (Georgian Technology)

Although the mass does not break with the physics that dominates our rather flat universe, the system is balanced, so a twist in the path would have a dramatic effect similar to a space war. At least, the team hoped so.

As the robot moves, a combination of gravity, friction, and bending is combined in motion with unique properties that are best described by the geometry of space.

“We let our shape-changing object study motion in the simplest curved space, a sphere, a systematically curved space,” says Georgia Tech physicist Zip Rocklin.

“We learned that the expected effect, which is so reversed that some physicists have refuted it, has occurred: when the robot changes shape, it moves around the sphere in a way that cannot be attributed to environmental interactions. Can go.”

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Even if the effect is small, using experimental results consistent with this theory could help better position the technology in areas where the curvature of the universe is significant. Even in gentle regressions such as Earth’s gravity, understanding how restricted motion can alter ultrafine space in the long term may be even more important.

Of course, the physicists made the trip without fuel. “Impossible engine” first. Experiments have their own way of coming and going from small imaginary powers, leading to endless debate about the validity of the theory behind them.

Further research using more precise machines could reveal more information about the complex effects of flutter at the faster edges of the universe.

For now, we can only hope that the faint tint of vacuum surrounding the hapless astronaut will be enough to get him to safety before the oxygen runs out.

This research was published in PNAS,

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