There has been an awakening. Have you felt it? You and I may not have registered the incredible event that occurred September 14, 2015, but the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana certainly did. As it turns out, even in those highly-specialized facilities there was only the shifting of a couple of mirrors by a measure of four one-thousandths of the diameter of a proton. You got it, the grand epiphanic moment of recent cosmological science that has scientists and enthusiasts like myself the world over freaking out with joy is all because some fancy mirrors moved less than a smidge of a subatomic particle. Nonetheless, it is that smidge of a budge given to those mirrors that has finally validated one of the most brilliant ideas conceived by one of the most brilliant men who ever lived. I know I often get carried away and speak in hyperbole, but I cannot stress enough how much of a big deal Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity is. One hundred years ago, that set up our current view of physics and helped immortalize Einstein as the man you think of when you hear the word “genius”. This is not without merit, and general relativity is not without its questions from some folks who know their numbers a lot better than I do; however, now the fabric of space-time has shown us its ripples and Einstein is proven right yet again.
This is the exciting opening of another era of scientific exploration. With help from the foremost western newspaper and a terrific YouTube channel, I’ll do my best to help you appreciate the gravity of the situation.
In fact, it is gravity that has got me and many others all worked up. That force of 9.81m/s² downward force here on Earth first worked out by Isaac Newton, is present throughout the ever-expanding universe. What’s more, gravity is able to pulse its way along through the universe and warp space-time as it goes. Amazing. Check it out in these excellent articles from the New York Times and watch the videos too:
And check out SciShow Space’s early, excited announcement of the announcement with a promise for more detail soon.
In case you need a more abbreviated look at what LIGO detects, consult this helpful GIF.
The next space projects to detect gravitational waves from a position in outer space will be similar to the Hubble Space Telescope in that they will have a better vantage point to receive and detect the signals they seek. It is the next phase of scientific discovery for us in finding out more about how our universe works, and it is incredibly exciting!
Thanks for reading! Remember you can reach me for comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also remember to be Cosmically Conscious of your space and those you share it with.