Gravitation Theory: Empirical Status from Solar System Experiments

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Science  15 Dec 1972:
Vol. 178, Issue 4066, pp. 1157-1164
DOI: 10.1126/science.178.4066.1157


I have reviewed the historical and contemporary experiments that guide us in choosing a post-Newtonian, relativistic gravitational theory. The foundation experiments essentially constrain gravitation theory to be a metric theory in which matter couples solely to one gravitational field, the metric field, although other cosmological gravitational fields may exist. The metric field for any metric theory can be specified (for the solar system, for our present purposes) by a series of potential terms with several parameters. A variety of experiments specify (or put limits on) the numerical values of the seven parameters in the post-Newtonian metric field, and other such experiments have been planned. The empirical results, to date, yield values of the parameters that are consistent with the predictions of Einstein's general relativity.