Curvature of space-time measured using ‘atomic fountain’

In 1797, English scientist Henry Cavendish measured the strength of gravity with a contraption made of lead spheres, wooden rods and wire. In the 21st century, scientists are doing something very similar with rather more sophisticated tools: atoms.

Gravity might be an early subject in introductory physics classes, but that doesn’t mean scientists aren’t still trying to measure it with ever-increasing precision. Now, a group of physicists has done it using the effects of time dilation — the slowing of time caused by increased velocity or gravitational force — on atoms. In a paper published online today (Jan. 13) in the journal Science, the researchers announce that they’ve been able to measure the curvature of space-time.