Gravity Probe B Update
For those who have been too busy to keep track, our colleagues at GP-B have indeed overcome innumerable obstacles over the course of “the longest running, continuous physics research program at both Stanford and NASA.”
As is so often the case in science, the political battles required to sustain sufficient resources to complete the work to the highest possible degree of accuracy and integrity often dissipate vast amounts of energy that could have been far better spent improving the work itself. Unfortunately, it is indeed arguable that we don’t seem to be collectively intelligent enough or creative enough to devise and implement a better system for designing, funding, and executing fundamental research.
This too, I hope and expect shall change in the relatively near future. There are most certainly better ways to manage resources, more creative ways to disperse resources, more efficient ways to manage and maximize the effectiveness of our substantial economic, political, and scientific energies. Just because we have not fleshed out these new methods in complete detail and implemented them YET, it does not mean that such will not very soon become the new norm.
Tectonic change is coming, friends, on more levels than the vast majority of humanity is either willing or able to contemplate.
Here is the email sent to the mailing list, today:
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2008 10:43:12 -0700 From: Bob Kahn Subject: Thanks for your continued support of GP-B
Since May 23, 2008, when I sent out our most recent GP-B email status update and posted the same information on our webiste (http://einstein.stanford.edu), I’ve received too many email responses to reply to each one individually.
Thus, on behalf of the GP-B team, I wish to thank all of you, collectively, who expressed support for GP-B, and assure you that, in the words of Mark Twain, “…Rumors of the demise of GP-B are greatly exaggerated.”
Our science team is continuing to make excellent progress in the data analysis. Members of the team, including several Stanford graduate students, have produced detailed maps of the trapped magnetic flux in all four gyro rotors in order to predict the time-varying signal in the data. This mapping has resulted in a 500-fold improvement in the determination of the polhode motion throughout the duration of the experiment, essentially solving the time-varying polhode motion problem in the data.
This work, in turn, has enabled the team to implement two complementary methods of removing the disturbing effects of the classical torques. With the classical torques properly handled, rather convincing estimates of frame-dragging are now available, but our team is still investigating all possible systematic disturbing effects.
Another meeting of the GP-B Science Advisory Committee is being planned in late August to review our progress in the data analysis since last November. Also, GP-B will be a central contributor in an international workshop on “The Nature of Gravity: Confronting Theory and Experiment in Space” to be held in Bern, Switzerland, 6-10 October 2008, with the following team members as individual invited speakers: William Bencze, Francis Everitt, Misha Heifetz, George Keiser, Barry Muhlfelder & Alex Silbergleit.
Meanwhile, we are vigorously exploring funding sources outside NASA, both through other agencies and private donors, to enable GP-B to complete the data analysis, publish the final results and bring GP-B to a conclusion by early 2010.
We very much appreciate the continued interest and support we have received world-wide, and we will keep you apprised of our status going forward.
Bob Kahn GP-B Public Affairs
– *************** NASA - Stanford - Lockheed Martin Gravity Probe B Program “Testing Einstein’s Universe” http://einstein.stanford.edu
Bob Kahn Public Affairs Coordinator & Webmaster ***************