PRINCETON, NJ — The scientific community has been turned upside down after Princeton University freshman Natalia Chen found that the two-hundred-year-old established value for the acceleration of gravity on earth is incorrect.
Chen’s value of 34.4 meters per second squared differed from the previously held value of 9.8 meters per second squared by 251 percent. Chen’s instructors were quick to praise her.
“An error of 251 percent is very difficult to obtain in science. Chen showed real skill and proficiency in her laboratory techniques beyond her years. Beginning with Isaac Newton’s publishing of his theory of gravity in 1687, many premier scientists have spent millions of dollars and countless hours calculating and testing the previously held value, which was originally calculated by Henry Cavendish in 1782. Her ability to revolutionize fundamental scientific thought in one experiment without the need for repetition is quite extraordinary,” said Michael Howard, Chen’s laboratory instructor and Lewis-Sigler Fellow. “We’re looking into renaming Lewis Thomas Laboratory in her honor, but that is proving difficult for financial reasons.”
Howard lamented that Chen might have to settle with a room being named after her instead.
Chen’s classmates were not surprised by her discovery.
“Her error is always pristine. When we were calculating Avogadro’s number, she got an error of 69 percent without even fudging her data,” Chen’s former lab partner said. “Do you know how long I’ve been trying to get an error of 69 percent?”
“I don’t understand how she did it. I did everything just like she did and got three percent error. She’s just better than us at lab,” another student said.
Chen attributes her success to her unique situation.
“I had slept through lunch and was getting really hungry. I figured if I rushed through the lab, I could make it to Late Meal before the grill special was gone. I think it was that focus that allowed me to perform this groundbreaking research with such accuracy.
Henry Cavendish (1731-1810) could not be reached for comment.
– AV ’18