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General Theory of Relativity

Illustration of spacetime curvature.

Illustration of spacetime curvature via Wikipedia

Albert Einstein‘s groundbreaking relativity theory includes two subsets—the special theory of relativity (1905) and the general theory of relativity (1916).

The general theory includes the earlier special theory of relativity but goes on to explain accelerated frames of reference. Also, it extends the special theory by proposing a general theory of gravitation.

Einstein understands gravity as arising from a curvature of space and time. The general theory presents the universe as a four-dimensional space-time continuum. So the presence of mass ‘curves’ space so as to create the effect of gravity.

The general theory of relativity has been supported by the orbital motion of the planet Mercury which, from the perspective of Newtonian theory, seems anomalous.

Perhaps even more radical, the special theory predicts that as objects move, time slows down. And the general theory predicts that gravity effects the passage of time. Both of these hypotheses have been supported by atomic clocks and GPS measurements.¹

So, quite unlike idle speculation and imaginary fantasies, Eisntein’s seemingly “weird” ideas are supported by empirical evidence. While other theories of gravitation exist, they tend to have much in common with Einstein’s.

¹  See

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Delta 7925H MESSENGER ignition

Image via Wikipedia

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun in our solar system.

Until recently, our knowledge of Mercury was based mostly on three flybys made by the American probe, Mariner 10¹ in 1974-75.

Another American probe, however, Messenger², did three flybys past the planet in 2008 and 2009, and is scheduled to leave the Sun’s orbit and enter Mercury’s in 2011:

One year from today, March 18, 2010 — starting at 12:45 a.m. UTC — MESSENGER will transition from orbiting the Sun to being the first spacecraft ever to orbit the planet Mercury (Source: NASA).

The planet is believed to have a dense iron core. Mercury is also the name of an element, a silver-white metal and the only metal that takes liquid form at room temperature.

This unique quality of the element mercury attracted medieval alchemists.

In Roman mythology Mercury is the god of merchants and traders and also a swift messenger somewhat akin to the Greek Hermes. From it’s mythological meaning, Merriam-Websters Dictionary notes these psychological meanings:

2 having qualities of eloquence, ingenuity, or thievishness attributed to the god Mercury or to the influence of the planet Mercury
3 characterized by rapid and unpredictable changeableness of mood <a mercurial temper>

For depth psychologists like C. G. Jung, Hermes’ well-known mythic role as a spiritual escort to the afterlife for the recently dead (called a psychopomp) is translated into meaning that he’s also a vitally symbolic bridge between the archetypes of the collective unconscious and consciousness.³

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