Why the Pioneer Anomaly is Worth Investigating

In the short run, knowing the gravitational constant to one more decimal digit of precision or placing even tighter limits on any deviation from Einstein's gravitational theory may seem like painfully nitpicking detail. Yet one must not lose sight of the "big picture." When researchers were measuring the properties of electricity with ever more refined instruments over two hundred years ago, they did not envision continent-spanning power grids, an information economy, or tiny electrical signals reaching us from the unfathomable depths of the outer solar system, sent by man-made machines. They just performed meticulous experiments laying down the laws connecting electricity to magnetism or the electromotive force to chemical reactions. Yet their work paved the way to our modern society.

Similarly, we cannot envision today what research into gravitational science will bring tomorrow. Perhaps one day humankind will harness gravity. Perhaps one day a trip across the solar system using a yet-to-be-devised gravity engine may not seem a bigger deal than crossing an ocean in a jetliner today. Perhaps one day human beings will travel to the stars in spacecraft that no longer need rockets. Who knows? But one thing we know for sure: none of that will happen unless we do a meticulous job today. Our work, whether it proves the existence of gravity beyond Einstein or just improves the navigation of spacecraft in deep space by hunting for a small thermal recoil force with precision, lays down the foundations that may, one day, lead to such dreams.


The effect is tiny, but magnified over great distances, and if we are meticulous now, we make it possible for future generations to traverse the solar system.

Folksonomies: investigation purpose study

/finance/personal finance/insurance/health insurance (0.577309)
/society (0.564110)
/science (0.560174)

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solar system:FieldTerminology (0.860870 (positive:0.101399)), Einstein:Person (0.498279 (negative:-0.342276)), chemical reactions:FieldTerminology (0.397101 (neutral:0.000000)), one day:Quantity (0.397101 (neutral:0.000000)), two hundred years:Quantity (0.397101 (neutral:0.000000))

Gravitation (0.983634): website | dbpedia | freebase
General relativity (0.809377): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Solar System (0.714501): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Universe (0.693783): dbpedia | freebase
Galaxy (0.602551): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Neptune (0.599049): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Mass (0.595440): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Moon (0.575682): dbpedia | freebase

 Finding a needle in the haystack or proving that there may be none
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Toth, Viktor (2009), Finding a needle in the haystack or proving that there may be none, Planetary Society, Retrieved on 2012-05-07
  • Source Material [www.planetary.org]
  • Folksonomies: space