Gravity is one of the most familiar everyday phenomena, yet it has mystified scientists and laymen for centuries. Even today, although the current official position on gravity is a continual "space-time warping" around objects - a claim from Einstein's General Relativity theory, it is also still widely considered an endless attracting force emanating from objects, as claimed in Newton's gravitational theory. Setting aside the troubling implications of two different physical descriptions of gravity in our science for the moment, it turns out that the behavior of a simple spring may hold the final answer to this age-old mystery.
Consider what happens when a loosely coiled spring is stretched apart from both ends while laying on a tabletop, as shown below in the left-hand frame. The opposing forces spread equally across the spring, causing an equal coil spacing across the spring, which also occurs whether either force pulls fully from the very end or is divided to pull directly on each coil:
spring_tabletop_1 by Roland Michel Tremblay
However, with only a single continual pulling force on one end, shown on the right, the coils stretch more at the leading end as they strain to continually accelerate the ongoing resisting inertia of the rest of the spring. In this case, there is successively less stretch toward the trailing end as there is successively less trailing-coil mass to cause inertial drag.
This deceptively simple experiment has enormous implications for both Newton's gravitational force and Einstein's "warped space-time' theory of gravity - and for understanding the true physical nature of gravity itself. The first important point is that it highlights a widely overlooked but critical error surrounding Einstein's famous "space elevator" thought experiment, which forms the foundation of his Principle of Equivalence and his later associated General Relativity theory of gravity.
The Erroneous "Principle of Equivalence"
Einstein claimed that all experiences and experiments occurring inside a constantly accelerating elevator moving upward in deep space - far from any gravitational influence - would be indistinguishable from them occurring under the influence of Newtonian gravity on Earth. This claim is known as the Principle of Equivalence, and forms the cornerstone of gravitational physics in today's science; however, the simple spring experiments just discussed can be used to show that this is an erroneous claim, with enormous implications for our understanding of gravity.
Similar to the left-frame tabletop experiment above, a hanging spring on Earth should have two opposing forces distributed across it, equally spreading its coils - the force of gravity pulling downward and the restraining force that effectively pulls upward. However, as in the right-frame of the above tabletop experiment, a spring attached to the ceiling of Einstein's continually accelerating deep-space elevator, far from Earthly gravity, should exhibit the unequal coil distribution of a spring pulled from only one end:
spring_hanging_2 by Roland Michel Tremblay
So, this shows that Einstein's claimed "Principle of Equivalence" between Newtonian gravity and pure acceleration in deep space must be wrong - the effect of being accelerated upward in space must differ from an attracting force emanating from a planet. If Einstein had remained faithful to his original "space elevator" inspiration, rather than developing his General Relativity theory for equivalence to Newton, he would have produced a new understanding of gravitational physics that clearly differed from Newton's, and which could be easily tested by a simple hanging spring experiment. Instead, Einstein effectively abandoned his space-elevator inspiration in favor of a mistaken "Principle of Equivalence" to Newton, and a related "warped space-time" proposal for the physics of gravity in his General Relativity theory.
A Verifiable Revolution in our Understanding of Gravity