What if the speed of light is a constant only most of the time? What if gravity sometimes pushed instead of pulled? Scientists are increasingly asking what would seem like far-out questions regarding the laws and rules of physics after discovering conditions and materials where the rules dont quite apply. Take the Doppler effect.
The Doppler effect is in use everywhere, everyday. Police use it to catch speeders. Satellites use it to track space debris and air-traffic controllers use it to monitor aircraft. The Doppler effect explains why the pitch changes from high to low when a police siren passes you on the street. As the siren moves toward you, it is catching up to and compressing the sound waves it produces, thus the higher pitch. When it passes, the sound expands to fill the increasing space between you and the noise. The sound waves are longer and the pitch is lower.
The inverse Doppler effect is not something you can hear, but understanding it could one day lead to important advances in optics and communications equipment.
Dan van der Weide | EurekAlert!
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