Fun_People Archive
10 Feb
Gravity Faeries

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 98 10:56:07 -0800
To: Fun_People
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Subject: Gravity Faeries

Forwarded-by: jmorton@euler.Berkeley.EDU (John Morton)
Forwarded-by: Dawn Karuna Erb <>

[This is from the webpage for my physics class... ]

A student wrote:

My high school physics teacher told us that the earth itself  did not  cause
gravity, it is gravity fairies. Billions and billions of tiny fairies so
small that it is impossible  to  detect  them.  Whenever  an  object  loses
contact with the ground, the gravity fairies would work together  to  pull
the  object  back  to  the ground.  The gravity fairies are infinitely fast,
so when objects crash into the ground they are able to get  out  from
underneath the  object  so they don't get crushed.

Since gravity fairies are too small  to  be  detected  using  any method,
my  class  was  not   able  to  disprove  our  teacher's theory. How do we
know that gravity fairies do not exist? What if they  do  exist  and  all
the   standard physics  we  are  being taught are untrue? Would you be out
of a job?

Prof. Seidler responds:

I shall give two answers to your questions. The  first,  I  hope, will
satisfy  you.  The  second,  I hope, will satisfy your high school teacher.

Answer #1: A fundamental premise of the  scientific  endeavor  is that  all
theories  must be potentially testable. In particular, any 'theory' which
either does not allow (or actually forbids) an experiment  to  test  its
veracity is not part of science. Hence, the existence or non-existence of
gravity faeries probably  isn't going  to  show  up  in the next edition of
RHK. The existence or non-existence of gravity faeries is irrelevant  for
physics.  As for your final question, I don't know if I would be out of a
job, but I would sure sue the little suckers for  pulling  me  down  a
flight of stairs last week.

Answer#2: Assume the existence of  gravity  faeries.  It  follows then  that
gravity faeries must work under a variety of hazardous conditions, from
underwater, to high altitude, to  distant  solar systems.  Faced  with
regular exposure to such conditions in the workplace, there is little doubt
that they would form a labor un- ion.  {Your  high  school  teacher  will
understand labor unions reeeeaally well, trust me on this.} History shows
that after for- mation of the UGFI (Union of Gravity Faeries
Interplanetary), one can expect lobbying and subsequent legislation reducing
the hours that  gravity faeries must work, and placing limitations on work-
place exposure to excessive heat, cold, vacuum,  or  physics  121

Now  we  get to the crux of the argument. As the  universe  would
necessarily  be  a 'union shop' ( i.e. only  members of  the UGFI can supply
gravity), the limitations  on  hours  worked  together with   the  UGFI's
policy  of  limiting  membership  "to prevent a  glut  of  gravity on the
market", would be certain  to  result in  either  frequent  gravity outages,
or else legislation to de- crease  the  legal  standard  of g=-9.8m/s^2y-hat
(near  earth's surface).

However, there are no  reports  of  widespread  gravity  outages, nor  is
there any evidence that lobbyists from the UGFI have made contributions to
any political party in an  attempt  to influence the  new  legal value of
g. It therefore follows that the assump- tion of the existence of gravity
faeries must be incorrect.

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