This article discusses why the colloquial expressions such as “That’s why I gravitate towards you”, “I’m falling for you”, and “She is attracted to me” can be quite scientifically accurate. The following article muddles up the meanings of casual words like “falling” and “attraction” with the currently accepted theories, studies, and findings of physics on the related matters. I’ve done something like this before , similar in fashion to how the word “God” is poetically and figuratively used in relation to the “religious” views of Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and other physicists . This time, it’s love. 🙂
First we have Space-Time
Space-time or spacetime is a mathematical model that you get when you combine the 3 dimensions of space with a 4th one, the dimension of time. In a nutshell, space-time is similar to a landscape where a point locates an event i.e. a 3 dimensional location + the time when it happened, instead of just a usual, spacial point in space like in maps, even if it’s a 3D map. Since space-time involves 4 dimensions, even most scientists find it very hard to imagine what 4 dimensions would look like, since us humans are accustomed to only 3 dimensions of our space. We always look at time as something that is fixed and unchanging. Newton certainly did when he wrote the laws of motion. One of the most impressive feats of Einstein was that he showed this was not so, and that time is as maleable as space.
To see this graphically, observe the image above. Since scientists are only humans, they have difficulties imagining warped 4 dimensions, and so 2 dimensional analogs are used, which are enough to illustrate the point. The image above shows a distortion in space-time. These imaginations of space-time were first thought of as what are famously now known in science as thought experiments, with one of the most popular users being Albert Einstein himself.
Then there’s Gravity
General relativity describes gravity as a curvature in space-time and that, again in a nutshell, gravity is a dent in space. To further picture this, consider again the image above. Ordinary matter, which makes up everything we see in the universe, causes space-time to warp and bend around it. The more matter there is in a given object or point, the more warping, denting, and bending of space time, and therefore the stronger the gravity. The image shows the Earth, which is relatively quite massive, making a dent in the space-time continuum, thus creating a gravitational effect which pulls us, the moon, and other objects in space towards it, even including the Sun. The Sun of course has the strongest gravity or pull in the Solar system, since it’s the most massive object in it. Again, remember that the image is just a 2D analog of a 4D space-time continuum. The Earth does not immediately plummet towards the Sun since the Earth has its own gravity, which counteracts the Sun’s pull. But nevertheless the Earth is slowly circling down the drain/dent of the Sun in the space-time continuum (Sun’s gravity) and in a few billion years, the Earth and everything less massive than the Sun will quite likely plummet towards it. In other words, gravity is just an illusion since we can’t quite really conceive a 4th dimension in our minds, and that gravity is really just a warping of the space-time continuum.
You can then further imagine or create a thought experiment that other less or more massive bodies than the Earth in the Solar system create their own dents or warps in space-time. These include the other planets, asteroids, and even us humans, albeit in a very minute fraction only.
In fact, one of the suggested ways of mitigating a future asteroid impact on Earth is based on the premise that mass causes denting or warping in space-time. The gravity or gravitational tractor, as it is known, deflects an asteroid many years prior to its impact on Earth, by simply hovering or “parking” beside the asteroid. This form of asteroid mitigation does not really require cutting edge scientific discoveries or engineering feats, it does not need to physically contact the asteroid, and does not necessitate the need for the mechanical and structural composition of the asteroid in advance. Simply put, it works by allowing the relatively massive object, the gravity tractor, to “pull” the asteroid towards a direction which will lead it away from a future Earth impact. The “pull” comes from the fact that, slowly but surely, the tractor’s warping of space imposes a pull, albeit tiny, to the nearby asteroid.
Finally, Falling in Love
So, by now perhaps you’ve already surmised my coy and sly use of the words “falling” and “attraction” with respect to falling in love, as well as how physics currently views gravity and space-time. In other words, geeks and nerds like me often joke about how a girl could “fall” for you if you simply sit near her, since you do have mass, however minute. That mass of yours will eventually make her notice you, or perhaps not, but it will certainly impose a “pull” on her towards you, or vice versa. Of course technically speaking, it will take millions to billions of years before the more massive one between you two finally pulls the other. In this case, it’s better if you just ask her out, and that sometimes physicists, geeks, and nerds like me don’t really give that much good an advice. Still, as I mentioned earlier in this article, phrases such as “I’m falling for you” and “We’re attracted to each other” are quite scientifically accurate. Ah, love in geek or nerd speak. So romantic. 🙂
Which brings to mind the fascination of some men in today’s times to skinny women. Based from what I’ve pointed out here, it’s physically (by this I mean in physics) understandable why some men would prefer heavier or more massive women, but what about skinny women? I suppose the social sciences have more to learn and discuss in these matters. 🙂
Resources, references, and further reading
- The source of it all, The Project Gutenberg EBook of Relativity, Albert Einstein Reference Archive, ‘Relativity: The Special And General Theory’ by Albert Einstein (1916).
- Wikipedia article on space-time and General relativity.
- Wikipedia article on the gravity tractor, which is one of the many suggested ways to mitigate an asteroid impact on Earth.
- Best selling science book with easy to understand explanations of the cosmos, which includes descriptions of space-time, ‘A Brief History of Time‘ (1988) by Stephen Hawking, Bantam Books. .