Study: Trapping atoms in a laser beam offers a new way to measure gravity

BY HARRY MARCOLIS
Posted on NOV 10, 2019

The technique can measure slight gravitational variations, which could help in mapping terrain.

Trapping atoms in a laser beam may offer scientists a new way to study gravity.

According to a newly published study in Nov. 8 Science, scientists could better probe the gravitational forces exerted by small objects via lasers. The discovery may provide scientists with new insights into gravity and help test Einstein's theory of gravity.
"Very impressive," says physicist Alan Jamison of MIT. "It's quite a challenge to work on these drop experiments, where you have a 10-meter-long tower," he says. "Magnetic fields are hard to shield, and the environment produces them all over the place all the electrical systems in your building, and so forth. Working in a smaller volume makes it easier to avoid those environmental noises."

The discovery provides scientists with a solution to interference from stray magnetic fields. With a new tabletop setup, physicists can gauge the strength of Earth's gravity by monitoring atoms suspended a couple millimeters in the air by laser light.