When you think of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, you envision a great part of scientific history. Published in 1916, his theory revolutionized the field of physics, completely turning it on its head. This theory may seem staid or like given knowledge now, but the truth is far from that. So far all of Einstein’s predictions have held true. The great thing about science is that it is not satisfied with a handful of truths and call the rest gospel. The theory is constantly being tested in modern times, as technology advances to do so.
So, what is General Relativity?
An extremely abbreviated explanation from this armchair physics enthusiast is simply that heavy objects such as planets and stars physically warp the “fabric” of space time. That this warp is felt as gravity by other objects. It explains the orbit of the planets in our solar system around our much more massive home star. Einstein also posits within the theory that two massive objects that collide, or supermassive objects actually cause waves to ripple out from their point in space.
All About The Waves
So what’s all the commotion? It has everything to do with the waves. While the warping of space-time was proven in a 2011 NASA experiment, the matter of gravitational waves has yet to be conclusively decided. Enter the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory or LIGO. LIGO is equipped with highly sensitive laser interferometers which as stated in a 2014 The Nature of Reality article on PBS by Jennifer Ouellette:
“Here’s how it works: Split a laser beam in two and send each beam down one of two long, perpendicular tunnels, each with a mirror at the end. When the laser beams strike the mirrors they will be reflected back to the same spot, where they will recombine and cancel each other out. But if a gravitational wave happens to be passing through, it will warp the space between those mirrors ever so slightly. One beam will travel a longer path than the other, and when they meet up again, they won’t cancel each other out, producing light that will be picked up by a detector.”
Now To The Rumors
Theoretical Physicist Lawrence M. Krauss excitedly tweeted the following on January 4th:
2016 could bring two discoveries that would color fundamental physics in 21st century: New particles at LHC, and Gravitational waves at LIGO
— Lawrence M. Krauss (@LKrauss1) January 4, 2016
My earlier rumor about LIGO has been confirmed by independent sources. Stay tuned! Gravitational waves may have been discovered!! Exciting.
— Lawrence M. Krauss (@LKrauss1) January 11, 2016
So apparently Dr. Krauss has some inside information on the experimental data and is extremely excited about what he has seen and has been confirmed by outside sources.
It is exciting indeed to imagine that yet another part of Einstein’s 1916 theory on which all of modern physics is based has been proven correct, However this does come with both caution and detractors. Science is not a field of rumor and conjecture. So, while the hard working scientists at LIGO pour over miles and miles of raw data looking for the unmistakable patterns that point to the presence of gravitational waves, we should remain as patient as possible.
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