Since I’m writing about science at the minute it might seem like a good idea to write about the LIGO discovery earlier this week of gravitational waves, the final prediction of Einstein’s 1916 Theory of General Relativity to be confirmed. This could be tricky, I only have a glancing understanding of relativity, I’ll have a go though.
Space time is a rubber sheet, and gravitational waves chirp
Einstein compared the universe to a single fabric made of space time. Gravity, according to this theory, is caused by objects creating curvature in the fabric, while gravitational waves are caused by ripples in the fabric caused by the movement of large objects, such as the Earth orbiting the sun, or in this case two black wholes orbiting the merging with each other.
LIGO detected the waves from the collision and merging of the two black holes on their sensors in Washington and Louisiana, as a speeding up, slowing down, then speeding up of space time.Translated, it made a chirp. You can hear it on the announcement below.
New Scientist has been covering the story from the moment the rumours first arrived until the announcement and have a great explanation as to why this is important and how it all works. I recommend reading it here.