The quest for a single theory that unites all of the universes fundamental forces has thus far eluded physicists, but that has not stopped a team of them from clearing the way for nanotechnologists while they look for it.
The group, which includes Purdue Universitys Ephraim Fischbach, has recently completed research that improves our understanding of how tiny objects placed very close together can influence each other. Their experiment, which involves the behavior of a minuscule gold ball as it moves over different substances, shows that gravity behaves exactly as Isaac Newton predicted, even at small scales. Unfortunately for those in search of the so-called "Theory of Everything," the finding would seem to rule out the exceptions to his time-honored theories that physicists believe might occur when objects are tiny enough.
But in the process, the team has measured another, less familiar, force that does influence small objects, and at those scales is more influential than gravity itself. Their precise observations of this Casimir force could make life easier for nanotechnologists, whose tiny creations will be subject to its effects.
Chad Boutin | EurekAlert!
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