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Cheating Einstein’s Equivalence Principle

“One of the tenets of Einstein’s theory of general relativity is that an observer, carrying out local measurements, cannot determine if they are being accelerated in the absence of gravitational fields or stationary but in the vicinity of a large gravitational field.

That is to say, if you are in a locked laboratory with no way to examine the outside, you could not tell if you were sitting on a beach on Earth, or in the back end of a spaceship speeding up at a rate of 32.2 feet per second per second. Some new thought experiments, however, suggest that the “simple” act of measuring temperature may throw this truism into turmoil….

Numerous experiments, measuring all types of phenomena, have proven that the equivalence principle holds. However, a new thought experiment published in a recent version of Physical Review Letters demonstrates that, depending on how you measure temperature, a scientist in the sealed laboratory could tell where she is.

On the surface, this result would seem to suggest that the equivalence principle it not valid under all conditions, but there is a wrinkle—the researchers here suggest making a local quantum mechanical measurement. The fact that quantum mechanics is an inherently non-local phenomenon may provide a way of cheating the prerequisites that Einstein put on his equivalence principle.”

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