How fast does gravity travel? When I was young I thought “instantly” while once I had some univeristy-level physics I thought: “at the speed of light” (like everything does, it seems sometimes). It’s actual speed has never yet been definitively measured by science.
If the gravity force was instant then if we were clever we could devise a machine to sense the gravity waves given off by a distant moving object, a gravitational radio. With one, we could send information faster than light (FTL), and from there its a slippery slope to full FTL travel.
I was recently startled to learn of some scientifically uncontested observations that naively suggest that gravity is instant, or near enough.
We live 8 light minutes from the Sun. So when you look up into the sky each day, the sunlight you see is 8 minutes old. And, because we move relative to the sun, its observed position slightly differes from its actual (supposed) position “right now”.
The startling thing is that when they measure the direction of the gravity coming from the sun, it’s coming from where the Sun is right now! Not where it was 8 minutes ago. Implying an instant speed for gravity. Seriously. Its been measured and there is little dispute of the observations.
Of course, there’s still debate on the Hows and Whys. The mystery goes under the name “Gravitational Abberation”, and it yields another puzzle: Analyses show that if the gravity did come from where the sun was 8 minutes ago, that all the solar system’s orbits would not be anything like what they are today. Their current stable configuration implies an instant speed for gravity.
Despite this, mainstream physics still seems to think gravity waves move at c. The explanation is yet to be clearly articulated, but seems to involve some miraculous cancellation caused by “velocity dependent interactions“. Another exotic concept Gravitomagnetism also seems to implicated. My takeout was that if one tried to ever make use of gravity to send a message, equal and exactly opposite forces will leak out of the walls of reality and into the equations to frustrate you.
In 1910 or 1920, the predictions of relativity (ie warping of time and space) must have seemed either crazy or impossibly abstract. Since then ,we have a hundred year to come up with analogies and mental tools to handle the stuff, so that “time warps” are now covered in in every uni level physics textbook. I suspect for Gravitational Abberation, we are waiting for a smart communicator to formulate an explanation for us masses to consume.