Anyone who's ever seen a ball drop knows it's obvious that gravity exists—right? Not so fast, says a prominent string theorist who has called into question 300 years of science with a new paper arguing that gravity is merely an illusion. Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde says gravity is not a basic force itself, but rather a sort of "cosmic frill," as the New York Times puts it, which emerges from some deeper force the way stock markets emerge from the decisions of individual investors.
If you have trouble following Verlinde's theory, so do some of the best physicists in the world. “Some people have said it can’t be right, others that it’s right and we already knew it," a Harvard physicist noted, adding that the theory is "a very interesting collection of ideas that touch on things we most profoundly do not understand about our universe." Verlinde himself claims gravity is a kind of emperor's new clothes. “We’ve known for a long time gravity doesn’t exist," he insists. "It’s time to yell it.”