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By GAUTAM NAIK Scientists have subjected Albert Einstein's famous theory of gravity to its toughest real-world test so far鈥攁nd it has prevailed.The theory, which was published nearly a century ago, had already passed every test it was subjected to. But scientists have been trying to pin down precisely at what point Einstein's theory breaks down, and where an alternative explanation would have to be devised. Einstein's framework for his theory of gravity, for example, is incompatible with quantum theory, which explains how nature works at an atomic and subatomic level.Consider that for a black hole, Einstein's theory "pre
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dicts infinitely strong grav
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itational fields and density. That's nonsensical," said Paulo Freire, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy in Germany and co-author of the study, which appears in the
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journal Science.And so scientists are testing the general theory not because they think it is wrong but because they are certain it can't be the final explanation鈥攋ust as Isaac Newton's notion of gravitational force was superseded by Einstein's.Einstein's general theory of relativity states that objects with mass cause a curvature in space-time, which we perceive as gravity. Space-time, according to Einstein's theories of relativity, is a four-dimensional fabric woven together by space and time.For example, a bowling ball causes a dent in a mattress, and that dent changes the otherwise straight motion of a nearby marble on the same mattress. Similarly, the mass of the sun distorts the space-time around it. A body with less mass, like the earth, tr
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avels along one path in that distorted space, which we call its orbit.Dr. Freire and his colleagues put Einstein to the test in a cosmic laboratory 7,000 light years from earth, where two exotic stars are c
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ircling each other. One, known as a white dwarf, is the cooling remnant of a much lighter star. Its companion is a pulsar, which spins 25 times every second. Though the pulsar is just 12 miles across, it weighs twice as much as the sun. Enlarge ImageClose
 
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