Through the contributions of Galileo, Newton, and Einstein, we recall the universality of free fall (UFF), the weak equivalence principle (WEP), and the strong equivalence principle (SEP), in order to stress that general relativity requires all test masses to be equally accelerated in a gravitational field; that is, it requires UFF and WEP to hold. The possibility of testing this crucial fact with null, highly sensitive experiments makes these the most powerful tests of the theory. Following Schiff, we derive the gravitational redshift from the WEP and special relativity and show that, as long as clocks are affected by a gravitating body like normal matter, measurement of the redshift is a test of UFF/WEP but cannot compete with direct null tests. A new measurement of the gravitational redshift based on free-falling cold atoms and an absolute gravimeter is not competitive either. Finally, we compare UFF/WEP experiments using macroscopic masses as test bodies in one case and cold atoms in the other. We conclude that there is no difference in the nature of the test and that the merit of any such experiment rests on the accuracy it can achieve and on the physical differences between the elements it can test, macroscopic proof masses being superior in both respects.

On the universality of free fall, the equivalence principle and the gravitational redshift

NOBILI, ANNA MARIA;
2013

Abstract

Through the contributions of Galileo, Newton, and Einstein, we recall the universality of free fall (UFF), the weak equivalence principle (WEP), and the strong equivalence principle (SEP), in order to stress that general relativity requires all test masses to be equally accelerated in a gravitational field; that is, it requires UFF and WEP to hold. The possibility of testing this crucial fact with null, highly sensitive experiments makes these the most powerful tests of the theory. Following Schiff, we derive the gravitational redshift from the WEP and special relativity and show that, as long as clocks are affected by a gravitating body like normal matter, measurement of the redshift is a test of UFF/WEP but cannot compete with direct null tests. A new measurement of the gravitational redshift based on free-falling cold atoms and an absolute gravimeter is not competitive either. Finally, we compare UFF/WEP experiments using macroscopic masses as test bodies in one case and cold atoms in the other. We conclude that there is no difference in the nature of the test and that the merit of any such experiment rests on the accuracy it can achieve and on the physical differences between the elements it can test, macroscopic proof masses being superior in both respects.
Nobili, ANNA MARIA; Lucchesi, D. M.; Crosta, M. T.; Shao, M.; Turyshev, S. G.; Peron, R.; Catastini, G.; Anselmi, A.; Zavattini, G.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11568/256535
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