How Gravity Works And How It Affects Our Life!

What is gravity? Learn about G-forces, microgravity, artificial gravity, and the terrifying power of black holes.

Video of the day December 9th 2019

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What Is Gravity?

So what exactly is gravity? I’m sure you have your own little explanations as to what it is, and what it isn’t, but the technical definition is that it is: “a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass or energy—including planets, stars, galaxies, and even light—are brought toward (or gravitate toward) one another.”

To put it in a bit more simpler terms, every object, even you and I, have our own personal gravity field. The problem is that while we do exert our own gravity, it pales in comparison to what the Earth’s is. Thus, when two people stand close to one another, the shorter person, or the lighter person, doesn’t get pulled directly into the other person, because Earth’s gravity overrides that.

The Earth as a whole has such a strong gravity that it not only is able to keep the moon in the space around it, but also bring it into an orbit. Through that orbit we get a lot of things happening, including day and night. Which is due in part to gravity.

Just as important, the sun in our solar system, and virtually every star in the universe, exerts gravity around it in such a way that it creates solar systems by exerting its own gravity in such a way that it causes the other planets (which again have gravities of their own) to fall in line and go into an orbit that it dictates. So as you can see, gravity has a lot of effects, even if you don’t witness it firsthand.

The Effects Of Gravity Both Positive And Negative

There are many ways to define gravity, including stating that it’s a “force” in the universe exhumed by massive objects. Albert Einstein went so far as to say that it was a “consequence” of the bending of spacetime. But no matter which way you like to see it, or like to say it, the point is that gravity impacts just about everything in its path. Which is why it’s no doubt one of the most important fundamental forces in the universe, and does a lot more than you might think.

First, there’s the obvious one, the Earth’s gravity keeps you in check and keeps you on the ground. Should that not be the case, then you would literally float up into the sky, and then into space…where you would die…not fun. It’s also keeps the gasses that you breathe in the confines of its atmosphere. Without gravity there wouldn’t be any air to breathe because it would keep going out into space versus going in a cycle of sky to ground.

But how about the moon? That’s another thing that has gravity and it exerts it on the Earth in its own way. How? Well, while it doesn’t affect us as people per se, it does affect the oceans of our world. Depending on the closeness of the moon and what “phase” it’s in, it can drastically affect the waters and cause massive waves, huge storms, and more.

If you recall the movie “Bruce Almighty” there is a scene with Jim Carrey where he (using the powers of God) pulls the moon closer to impress Jennifer Aniston. He thinks it’s cool, and she thinks it’s romantic. Until the next morning when he finds out that massive tidal shifts harmed a lot of people, and even killed some of them. Oops. Fantasy? Not so much, there are events known as “Supermoons” where the moon gets so close to the Earth that it causes massive disruptions in the oceans. One of these events was even caught on camera during the series Deadliest Catch where the waves were much bigger than they should’ve been.

Another downside to the gravity of the Earth is that it makes it rather hard to get out of the atmosphere. Obviously we can’t just jump out, or even slingshot out. We have to go incredible speeds in order to break through Earth’s gravity and the atmosphere to get into space. It’s about Mach 33, and space shuttles and craft have to make sure they go that fast otherwise they crash and burn. Not fun.

Also not fun is what happens when you realize all the effects gravity has on you…when there is none around…

Space And Microgravity

There are some things you can only learn via trial and error and testing. Such was the case when humans were exposed to microgravity in space in the long-term thanks to the international space station that lies in orbit above the Earth.

When you think about it, humans had only been exposed to zero or microgravity for a few days, or maybe a week during the initial space missions and even the Apollo space missions that took people to the moon. On the surface, it didn’t affect them that much because there is very much a “buffer zone” for what the body can endure without any gravity around.

But upon experiencing it for longer via the International Space Station it was revealed that microgravity can cause your bones to become brittle. Didn’t see that coming, did you? You see, the Earth’s gravity puts pressure on our bodies, and especially our bones. This helps them to stay strong long term. Since Earth’s gravity is constant, you being on the planet means your body gets stronger knowing that it has to deal with the power of gravity weighing down on it.

So the longer you are in space, or in microgravity, the more brittle and weak your bones, and thus your body, will get since there’s no gravity to weigh you down in the literal sense.

But there’s no need to panic, because after humanity discovered this, they were able to figure out how to work around this. Including having astronauts on the ISS do rigorous exercise to counteract the effects of microgravity. And further tests are being done to help prevent this when we got to colonize other worlds.

Let this be proof to you though that while gravity may seem annoying at times, it’s helping keep your body together and strong. Without it? Weird things can happen.

earth

G-Force

As noted, Earth’s gravity is a constant force. However, there are times, and are ways, to manipulate gravity in order to push it to its limits, and even change how the human body is affected by it. In counterpoint, the ways to manipulate Earth’s gravity can also cause the human body to experience things known as G-Forces.

G-Force is defined as “a measurement of the type of force per unit mass – typically acceleration – that causes a perception of weight, with a g-force of 1 g equal to the conventional value of gravitational acceleration on Earth, g, of about 9.8 m/s2.”

1 g is Earth’s gravity, so manipulating it in the positive makes you feel like you’re weighing MORE than what Earth’s gravity is usually putting on your body. In contrast, going into the Zero-G or negative makes you feel weightless.

Believe it or not, you feel G-Forces in many different places in the world. Such as in an elevator where if you go down fast enough you think that you’re weightless though obviously you’re not on the ground. You also feel them on roller coasters as you’re speeding down them and around them. The speed you’re going contributes to the extra pressures of your body. And while it may sound fun, it can also be a big pain.

The Effects Of Extra G’s

Ok, I want you to picture yourself on a flat piece of land. Good? Now I want you to imagine that Earth’s gravity suddenly doubled. You would feel it, right? But you’d likely be fine, it’s just take some getting used to. But now, I want you to imagine it tripling, quadrupling, and on and on it goes. The effects on your body would be massive, including feeling that you weigh 1000 pounds when you only weigh 150 under normal circumstances.

This is the power of extra G-Forces on your body. The powers that be have actually done rigorous testing to try and see just how much extra G-Forces a person can take, and it’s more than you might expect. A great example of this is fighter jet pilots. While basic aircraft (like 747’s and WWI planes) don’t exert too much pressure on their pilots, when you get flying with jets that go hundreds of miles and hour and do point-blank turns, the G-Forces get cranked up.

So much so that if they’re not careful, they can black out, as the extra G’s take the blood flow from your head and put it to your feet. Blacking out in a plane is bad, and so specialized G-Suits were made for pilots to help combat this. Due to that, trained pilots can go up to 9 G’s without blackout. Some even claim that they can do more.

Personally though, I never want to feel that. Oh, and another negative effect of positive G’s is that if you get too much too quick? You’ll hurl. Fun!

It’s actually quite interesting how far they’ve gone to test the power of G-Forces, in fact…

Zero-G on Earth?

If you want the feeling of being weightless, you do have a few options. You could go swimming, as that would give a kind of Zero-G effect, but there are ways to do that in a more legitimate sense without having to go to space. There actually is a flight company known as Zero-G that offers a legit zero gravity experience.

” The ZERO-G Experience is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience true weightlessness.  On our specially modified Boeing 727, parabolic arcs are performed to create a weightless environment allowing you to float, flip and soar as if you were in space.”

To put that in a more visual sense imagine the path of the plane moving like a sound wave. It moves in an arc up and then down and then back up again. When it goes down it creates the weightless feeling that allows the people to go and be weightless for a short period of time. But, when they head up to the peak of the arc, the gravity literally comes crashing back down and the passengers witness way more than regular gravity.

Still, it really is a Zero-G experience right here on Earth, and that’s pretty cool. But…it does cost over $5000 per person to get on this flight…so you might just want to stick to being weightless in a pool.

The Gravity Of Other Space Bodies

As noted earlier, the gravity in space is zero, but the bodies that are within space have their own gravity. Which means should we decide to go and colonize other worlds we’d have to adjust to their own gravity and see how we could survive on it.

One entity we have familiarity with in terms of its gravity is the Moon, which has 1/6 Earth’s gravity. This isn’t fully weightless, but, if you weight 150 on Earth, and then you go to the moon, even with your space gear, you’re weighing less than 100 pounds, and within the confines of the Moon you’ll be able to jump much higher into the air. Mars is about the same, as it has 62% less gravity then Earth.

Which again poses a problem because Earthers (that’s us!) were almost literally built to be under the power of 1G, so living on these planets or space bodies will be a problem…unless…

Artificial Gravity

We’ve seen it in many sci-fi movies and TV shows, where a character is on a planet and they’re under less gravity, then they enter a room of sorts and all of a sudden they’re under regular gravity with no issue. Is that really possible?

Theoretically? Sure, there are ways to possibly make it happen, but none of them are available to us right now. In space though, it’s more probable to make “artificial gravity” happen by emulating what planets and stars do…spin. You don’t realize it, but the Earth spinning is one of the big reasons for gravity, and so if a ship was able to spin like that, it could create artificial gravity of its own. The problem is that trying to do that with a ship is not only hard…it’d be disorienting on the crew. So that’s why NASA hasn’t tried it yet.

Still, if they were to figure it out, it would be a huge step forward for colonies in space and more. As well as helping humanity remain healthy on other planets without lots of exercise. Because that can suck…just like…

The Black Hole

If you wish to know about one of the biggest forces of gravity in the universe today, there is only one thing to look at…so to speak. That would be the Black Hole. Black Holes are forces of nature that are created via dying stars (and certain other things) that have gravity so intense that it has literally collapsed upon itself to the extent that it can create a gravity field that makes light unable to escape it.

Yeah, literal light cannot escape the pull of a Black Hole. That’s terrifying. Just as terrifying, anything caught in a Black Hole will find themselves stretched infinitely until they are a string of atoms, all because of the power of its gravity field.

If you still aren’t scared, there are Black Holes all over the universe, and we should consider ourselves lucky there isn’t one immediately close to our solar system, because if there was…yeah, it would be bad.

I wouldn’t say the gravity in this case is evil…but yeah, the gravity of a black hole is evil!

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