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Have scientists detected gravitational waves?


Posted on Tuesday, 12 January, 2016 | Comment icon 33 comments

The control room at the LIGO facility. Image Credit: Philip Neustrom
Recent rumors suggest that gravitational waves may have been directly detected for the first time.
Gravitational waves - ripples in the fabric of space-time that carry energy across the universe - were first proposed by Albert Einstein as a consequence of his General Theory of Relativity back in 1916.

While strong circumstantial evidence for these waves has existed for years, scientists have never been able to directly detect them. Now however, an experiment known as the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), might have actually found something.

While details are sketchy at this point, cosmologist Lawrence Krauss has indicated that he has received confirmation about a possible discovery and that more details should be coming soon.

"They will be extremely cautious," he said regarding the LIGO team. "There’s no reason for them to make a claim they are not certain of."

Confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves would be one of the most important scientific discoveries in years and could open up a whole new window on the universe.

"Gravitational waves are generated in the most exotic, strange locations in nature, such as at the edge of black holes at the beginning of time," said Krauss.

"We are pretty certain they exist, but we’ve not been able to use them to probe the universe."

Source: The Guardian | Comments (33)

Tags: Gravitational Waves

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #24 Posted by barbco196 on 13 January, 2016, 19:03
Gravity doesn't exist though. If you can't SEE it, touch it. It must not be real, right?
Comment icon #25 Posted by skookum on 13 January, 2016, 19:59
Gravity doesn't exist though. If you can't SEE it, touch it. It must not be real, right? Along with we know everything about everything. Lets face it if we have not discovered or tested it yet it must be impossible.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 13 January, 2016, 20:13
Along with we know everything about everything. Lets face it if we have not discovered or tested it yet it must be impossible. I fairly certain barbco196 was joking, with you I'm not so sure. Please tell me you were joking.
Comment icon #27 Posted by barbco196 on 13 January, 2016, 20:16
I fairly certain barbco196 was joking, with you I'm not so sure. Please tell me you were joking. I was joking
Comment icon #28 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 13 January, 2016, 20:18
I was joking Yep, I was pretty certain of that. It was skookum I was unsure of.
Comment icon #29 Posted by sepulchrave on 13 January, 2016, 23:46
Indeed. The suggestive aspect that gravitational waves necessarily "stretch and compress space-time" infers a nonlinearity. Or maybe I have that wrong. Either way, it's curious to be sure, even though I don't know squat. No, that is not the non-linear aspect. In the context of waves, ``non-linear'' means that the waves do not obey the principle of superposition. If wave A and wave B cross paths, is the behaviour at the region of intersection A+B ? If yes, the waves are linear. If no, the waves are nonlinear. Inside a material, electromagnetic waves are often nonlinear (to varying degrees), but... [More]
Comment icon #30 Posted by Aftermath on 14 January, 2016, 14:56
One can describe gravitational waves as linear, but only if one assumes gravitational energy is nonexistent. In 1957, Hermann Bondi demonstrated that gravitational waves indeed carry energy, so in order to carry energy (and momentum) gravitational waves must be nonlinear. Here, http://arxiv.org/abs/0809.2911, is a paper that discusses that gravitational waves must be nonlinear to carry energy and momentum. You can click the PDF link on the right side of the website under Download; skip down to page 12 (Final Remarks) to get to the explanation. The linked physics letter (http://www.sciencedirec... [More]
Comment icon #31 Posted by sepulchrave on 15 January, 2016, 12:11
Good links, Aftermath, thanks. I was not aware of those arguments... I took a course in GR as an undergraduate but since then have devolved to being a ``wiki scholar'' on the subject. I find section 2.3 on page 4 of the arxiv paper to be a very clear and succinct explanation for the nonlinearity in gravitational waves compared to electromagnetic waves, and I recommend any other interested readers of this forum to take a look at it. (Math-shy readers can feel free to ignore the equations, it is the second paragraph that really nails it in my opinion.)
Comment icon #32 Posted by pallidin on 17 January, 2016, 18:47
Just curious... So, if gravitational waves "stretch and compress space-time" would this infer that atomic clocks "lose time, gain time, lose time, gain time, etc. in rapid event succession"? Or is the event (gravitational waves) so weak or too oscillatory rapid under current circumstances to have any measurable effect?
Comment icon #33 Posted by sepulchrave on 18 January, 2016, 10:41
Just curious... So, if gravitational waves "stretch and compress space-time" would this infer that atomic clocks "lose time, gain time, lose time, gain time, etc. in rapid event succession"? Or is the event (gravitational waves) so weak or too oscillatory rapid under current circumstances to have any measurable effect? I think you have the correct idea with regards to atomic clocks in a gravitational wave. I believe that any gravitational waves in our galactic vicinity should have very low amplitude (the maximum time lost and gained is small) and very long wavelengths (it takes a long time for... [More]


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