Dr. Jeff Hall
Dr. Jeff Hall Astronomer, Director, Lowell Observatory
One of our astronomers here at Lowell is a member of the New Horizons science team, the mission heading to Pluto. Now on July 14th, 2015, that spacecraft will fly right by Pluto, exactly when and exactly where we want it to go. And we know it's going to do that. The reason we know is because we understand gravitation pretty well. Isaac Newton got it right. His theory has been refined somewhat since he developed it, but fundamentally, it works really well -- except in certain circumstances.
If you look very carefully, for example, at the motion of Mercury, Newton's laws of gravitation and mechanics can't quite explain it. Mercury gets a little bit off. You need general relativity, developed by Einstein, to fix that. Einstein's work by no means made Newton wrong. It simply amplified it to deal with certain circumstances Newtonian mechanics can't handle. I don't know who it is, but some day, some brilliant person is going to come along who will make the next step that explains things about the universe that even Einstein might not be able to explain. It doesn't make anything that's gone before thrown out the window, but it amplifies what they've done.
This has sometimes been called "standing on the shoulders" of others who have gone before us.
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