# Principle of Equivalence

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Physik
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JoVE Core Physik
Principle of Equivalence

### Nächstes Video14.22: Space-Time Curvature and the General Theory of Relativity

A space shuttle orbiting the Earth is in a free-fall motion, bound by the Earth's gravitational force. However, an astronaut inside the space shuttle feels weightlessness, as if no force is acting upon him.

Suppose the space shuttle accelerates upwards at 9.8 m/s2; the floor of the space shuttle room will move up towards the floating astronaut. However, to the astronaut, it appears as if he is accelerating downwards towards the space shuttle floor at 9.8 m/s2.

For him, the acceleration creates a pull in the space shuttle, similar to gravity on the Earth's surface. Sitting inside the closed space shuttle room, the astronaut cannot distinguish whether he is on the Earth or accelerating in space.

Einstein, therefore, stated that there is no difference between a uniform gravitational field and a uniform acceleration in the absence of gravity. This is known as the Principle of Equivalence.

He concluded that gravity is not a force between two masses but emerges from the interaction of matter and space.

## Principle of Equivalence

According to Albert Einstein (1897-1955), free-falling and feeling weightless are intrinsically linked. If a person were in free-fall under gravity, for example, diving towards the Earth from an airplane, they would feel completely weightless. Similarly, a person descending in a lift may feel partially weightless. Broadly speaking, it is assumed that an object in a uniform gravitational field and an object undergoing constant acceleration in the absence of gravity are under the same experimental conditions (i.e., no experiment can differentiate between the two scenarios). This statement is called the principle of equivalence.

The principle addresses a fundamental assumption of Newton's law of gravitation: The masses that determine the gravitational force of attraction between two objects are assumed to be the same masses that determine their reaction to the forces via Newton's laws of motion. However, these two masses, sometimes called the gravitational mass and the inertial mass, can be different in practice. The consequences of assuming them to be the same, and so the results of combining Newton's law of gravitation with Newton's laws of motion, agree with the experiments. In other words, the assumption turns out to be experimentally valid. However, the reason for this consequence is not understood.

According to the principle of equivalence, this is not a coincidence. Fundamentally, uniform acceleration and gravitation are the same.

By relating uniform acceleration with gravitation, Einstein proposed that gravitation is not a force between two objects. Instead, it is an effect of the two objects on the space-time around them, which in turn determines their dynamics. He made these ideas mathematical in his general theory of relativity in 1915.

This text is adapted from Openstax, University Physics Volume 1, Section 13.7: Einstein's Theory of Gravity.