Breaking: Physicists Confirm Discovery of Gravitational Waves

Thursday, 11 February 2016 - 10:34AM
Astrophysics
Thursday, 11 February 2016 - 10:34AM
Breaking: Physicists Confirm Discovery of Gravitational Waves
In one of the most significant scientific discoveries in recent memory, scientists from the the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) have confirmed the detection of gravitational waves. At a press conference today, LIGO laboratory executive director David Reitze broke the big news:

Opening quote
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have detected gravitational waves. We did it."
Closing quote

The discovery was rumored last month, when ASU cosmologist Lawrence Krauss claimed that gravitational waves had finally been found, but this is the first confirmation of the news. LIGO physicists had previously predicted that they would detect gravitational waves by January 2017, which means they wildly surpassed even their own expectations.

Opening quote
"These gravitational waves were produced by two colliding black holes, which came together and formed a single black hole by 1.3 billion years ago. They were detected by LIGO, the most precise measuring device ever built."
Closing quote

Reitze went on to explain that on September 14, 2015, the two LIGO observatories received nearly simultaneous signals with a distinctive quality: their frequencies increased over time. This is exactly the type of signal that Einstein's theory of relativity would predict if two massive objects, such as black holes, violently merged together. According to Einstein's equations, this event would send ripples in spacetime out into space, and they would travel for 1.3 billion years before reaching Earth. When they pass through Earth, they distort spacetime, which can be detected in the form of the signals that reached the interferometer. After months of checking their results, the scientists are convinced that these signals are proof of gravitational waves.

You can listen to the sound of two black holes colliding here:


Gravitational waves have long been the "holy grail" of astrophysics, as they are a key prediction of Einstein's theory of relativity. Scientists from the BICEP2 collaboration previously claimed they had found gravitational waves back in 2014, but their results were discredited after peer reviewers found that they had not accounted for confounding variables, such as space dust. If these results are confirmed, it will change the face of science as we know it (and there might be a few Nobel prizes up for grabs as well).

Opening quote
"What's really exciting is what comes next," said Reitze. "400 years ago, Galileo turned a telescope to the sky and opened the era of modern observational astronomy. I think we're doing something equally important here today. We're opening a window on the universe--the window of gravitational wave astronomy."
Closing quote


The detection of gravitational waves is groundbreaking, as it provides evidence for inflationary theory which, in turn, serves to confirm the veracity of the Big Bang. Inflationary theory states that, in the first few moments of the Big Bang, the universe expanded exponentially. According to Einstein's theory of relativity, this would cause ripples in spacetime, or gravitational waves. 

In most models of the universe, the discovery of gravitational waves would also go a long way towards confirming the multiverse theory. Essentially, the inflation process would be so potent that it would be unlikely to happen just once, but would happen many times in many different universes. This would lead to many different universe coexisting, like bubbles existing in different regions of spacetime.
Science
Space
Astrophysics

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