The Theory of General Relativity is… Complicated


“Spacetime curvature” by Center for Image in Science and Art _ UL is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

By: Max Harr-Robins, Journalist

The theory of general relativity was created by Albert Einstein in 1916 and shows that space isn’t just a stage that is not moving, but a warping environment that can get “bent”. General relativity is simply a theory of gravity. Masses bend the spacetime around it and the larger the mass, the more bent spacetime is. The gravity that we observe is an object “falling” into the curved spacetime around a mass.

A good example is the solar system. The sun has enough mass to warp the whole solar system and that is why the planets follow a curved path around the sun. It is kind of like how a bowling ball on a mattress warps it. The bending or warping also affects measurements of time.

Image Source: NASA

 We think of time everywhere being the same. One second at the bottom of the Mariana Trench would be one second at the top of Mount Everest. Right? It’s more complex than that. Since space and time are one, if gravity affects one it has to affect the other. If you have a clock on a mountain and you are at sea level, the clock above you will be ticking faster than yours. Additionally, a clock below you would be ticking slower than yours. This happens because of the different strengths of gravity at each place. In conclusion, general relativity is very complicated and can be very difficult to explain. But it can help us understand the universe in better ways than before.