NSF Grant Extends HSU’s Cutting Edge Gravity Research

Humboldt State Professor C.D. Hoyle, Department of Physics and Astronomy, has received a three-year, $155,746 continuation grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for ongoing testing of Newton’s law of gravity and Einstein’s theory of relativity in HSU’s Gravitational Research Laboratory.

The merit-based grant, through 2016, includes financial support for three undergraduate research students each summer for 10 weeks, plus a stipend and funds for student travel to national conferences.

Two undergrads, Crystal Cardenas of Los Angeles and Dave Smith of Eureka, will work this summer at the HSU lab on the experiment’s design, components and environmental measurements. The third student, senior Holly Leopardi of Salt Lake City, will work in the counterpart facility at the University of Washington, Seattle, which is conducting parallel research but with different experimental apparatus and techniques than HSU’s.

The new money builds on a previous, two-year NSF grant of $117,157 for the HSU research project, which is aimed at a world-leading test of Newton’s law of gravity at extremely short distances, and more precisely than ever before. ‘Extremely short’ means that HSU students are putting gravity on trial across distances half the thickness of a human hair, 10-20 microns, working at the furthest cutting edge of laboratory physics in the Gravitational Research Laboratory. What the undergrads and principal investigator Hoyle are searching for is experimental evidence that could help to resolve mathematical inconsistencies between the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, which characterizes mathematically the structure, motion and interaction of subatomic particles.