UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
Home
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Webcasts
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
I think I heard once that Einstein once came up with a formula that showed how much gravity would be created if you had a certian amount of electromagnetic force. Obviously it would be very, very small. I think it had to do with some sort of anomalies when scientists were testing an "anti gravity" device. I could be wrong, but if that formula exists, what is it? I would like to know.
Answer 1:

You heard almost right: It's not electromagnetic force as such, but electromagnetic energy. You already know the equation:
E = m c2
If you take the amount of chemical or electromagnetic energy stored in, say, a car battery (about 45 Amp-hours at 12 Volts):

45 Amp-hours times 12 Volts = 540 Watt-hours = 2,000,000 Joules (roughly)
and convert that to mass (using mass = E/c2, and the definition of Joule = kg*meter2/c26 kg*meter2/s2) / (3*108 meter/s)2 = 2*10(-11) kg = 2*10(-14) g.

You find that the energy stored in a car battery adds 20 femtograms to the car. For comparison, that's about 1/5 of the mass as a 1-atom thick slice from one of your own hairs. The gravitational force of so little mass is immeasurably small.

I chose a large example (a car battery with a lot of energy) because this shows how amazingly little gravity is exerted by pure energy (whether chemical or electromagnetic). To take another example, the total sunlight hitting Earth at any time is 1017 Watts. By the same calculations above, you find that each second of sunshine adds only about 1 milligram of mass to Earth. All that electromagnetic energy, and yet it causes so little gravity!


Answer 2:

Yes, the formula exists: it is none other than the famous E = mc2.

E = energy
m = mass
c = the speed of light in a vacuum = 300,000,000 meters/second.

So, if you want to know how much gravity an electromagnetic field makes, and then takes the energy contained in that field, plug it into the equation, solve for m, and calculate the mass. You can then use Isaac Newton's gravity equation (F = G*m1*m2/r2) to approximate the gravitational force this energy will exert. Note that Newton's formula *is* an approximation. Einstein's theory of general relativity provides a re-working of the theory of gravity, but the math behind it is more sophisticated than anything I know.



Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use