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When they look for violations of Einstein’s general relativity, physicists deliberately plan experiments to find nothing at all.
For Symmetry Magazine:
In 1887, physicists Albert Michelson and Edward Morley performed one of physics’ most famous experiments (at Case Western Reserve University, coincidentally, across the street from where this article was written). Unlike other important experiments, they didn’t find what they were looking for, but unexpectedly their “null” result prepared the way for the theory of relativity.
Sometimes researchers deliberately set out to generate null results—while on the lookout for something new. One type of experiment is looking for deviations from Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
“General relativity has been the staple of gravitational understanding for 100 years,” says Katie Chamberlain, a physics student at Montana State University. “We have to rule out the potential for other existing theories to come in and replace [it].”