STATES CHRONICLE – Even if you wanted to, it’s highly unlikely that you missed the huge scientific breakthrough that was announced in February. A whole century after Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves, we were finally able to detect them in what was most likely the most important scientific breakthrough of the decade.
As expected, the whole event was broadcasted worldwide, with many of the most brilliant minds of our century stating their opinions regarding the importance of the discovery. And now that we know that gravitational waves are real, the whole world began working on detecting even more of them in the hopes of gathering as much information about them as possible.
After Japanese researchers led by Nobel Prize winner in physics Takaaki Kajita announced that they are contributing to the world’s search for gravitational waves via their KAGRA telescope, India decided to also join in on the action – with the help of the United States.
After United States scientists confirmed the existence of the gravitational waves via LIGO (the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), they now want a third detector in India so as to get a better understanding of how the waves propagate. And LIGO is also going to go through an upgrade in order to improve its gravitational wave detection capabilities.
But with all this talk about what comes next and how important a breakthrough the discovery is, many have actually missed out on the scientific and practical part of the gravitational waves. So what exactly are they, put in laymen’s terms?
Well, they are basically ripples in the fabric of space time. Defined by Einstein in his theory of general relativity a century ago, these ripples appear when there is enough acceleration or deceleration of a pair of masses contained within the fabric, leading to a huge amount of energy and to a major disturbance.
Scientists managed to detect them as two huge black holes located some 1.2 billion lightyears away from Earth fused, gaining a mass 62 times bigger than our Sun’s. This massive event sent the space-time ripples away from the black holes at the speed of light, reaching Earth.
For a more grounded explanation, imagine a big rock falling into a lake. The amount of energy released by the rock impacting the water sends the ripples all the way to the shore. This is basically what happened with the two black holes, only on an enormously grander scale.
So this is the deal with Einstein’s gravitational waves. It might sound like very complicated physics talk, which it actually is, but the benefits we could get from figuring them out are pretty much endless. Not only could we get a far better understanding of the Universe around us, but we could perhaps implement a physical law by which they work to finally figure out the pesky hyperspace.
Image source: Vimeo