There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding around the issue of the gravito-thermal effect as it appears in the work of scientists such as Hans Jelbring, and Nikolov & Zeller. Without trying to recapitulate their theories in detail, I thought it might be worth going through a few basics in order to dispel some of the fog some people seem to be surrounded by. I’ve thought about a few different ways of doing this, and settled on the style of a Platonic dialogue to give it some continuity, rather than a set of disconnected facts, like you might get in a Q&A, or FAQ. Some people might think I’ve got some stuff oversimplified or just plain wrong. Feel free to offer alternatives in comments below. H/T kdk33 for improved phrasing in the Glickstein section.
So these guys think most or all of the extra warmth there is at the surface of planets with atmospheres compared to those without is due to gravity? Are they serious?
Deadly serious. This is a real scientific theory.
But how can gravity cause heating of anything? It just pulls stuff together – right?
Right, but it’s what happens to the stuff that gets pulled due to other physical laws which come into play that causes the heating, not gravity itself.