Gravitational wave breakthrough proves final Einstein theory

U.S. physicists say they've detected gravitational waves for the very first time, marking a discovery that proves one of Albert Einstein's last unverified theories about the universe.

See Full Article

Einstein theorized that gravitational waves are tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time created by all objects moving through time and space. Researchers from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory revealed Thursday that they've detected some of these ripples, created by the collision of two gigantic black holes.

The discovery is expected to open up a whole new avenue for physicists to examine the nature and history of the universe, by allowing them to observe the gravitational properties of massive bodies in space.

The discovery comes 100 years after Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves, as part of his theory of relativity.

What is a gravitational wave?

The simplest way to grasp the idea of gravitational waves is to picture all of space-time as a big, stretchy trampoline. (Space-time, by the way, is our three-dimensional existence, plus time. Just as something can be located at an X, Y and Z coordinate in the three-dimensional world, it also has a time coordinate in space-time).

If all of space-time is like a trampoline, then a large object, such as the sun, is like a bowling ball weighing down a spot on the trampoline. For comparison's sake, the Earth would be like a marble, spiraling in circles around the large depression made by the bowling ball (i.e. the sun). These objects send out gravitational waves as they move across space-time, like ripples moving through the fabric of a trampoline. They're very, very minute, but they're there, and scientists believe they've learned how to detect them.

But because the waves are so hard to detect, the LIGO researchers had to look for something that would make a massive wave, such as the collision of two black holes. It would be like putting two elephants on the trampoline at the same time.

How did they detect the waves?

According to Einstein's theory, gravitational waves stretch and squeeze reality ever so slightly, so that we can't even see it happening. However, light doesn't play by the same rules, so it actually appears to warp as it travels past large objects – although it's actually reality changing, not the light. Astronomer Arthur Eddington confirmed that element of Einstein's theory in 1919, when he observed light "bending" as it travelled past the sun.

The LIGO project is based on this theory that a gravitational wave will bend all of reality, except light. The LIGO set up twin detectors in Livingston, La., and Hanford, Wash., with lasers shining down four-kilometre tunnels. Researchers then waited for a massive gravitational wave to pass through Earth, warping space-time ever so slightly, and thereby changing the relative distance traveled by the lasers. According to Einstein's theory, the change would be incredibly minute, so the instruments had to be very precise in order to detect and measure it.

Is it for real?

The scientific community has already had a false positive when it comes to detecting gravitational waves, so scrutiny of this new discovery will be intense.

In 2014, a team of Harvard researchers claimed to have detected gravitational waves triggered by the so-called "Big Bang" that theoretically started the universe. However, that discovery was debunked early last year, when closer analysis revealed that cosmic dust was responsible for the phenomenon.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Google's AI wins Go match in China, but blocks online broadcast

    Tech & Science CBC News
    ?Internet users outside China watched a computer defeat its national go champion, but few Chinese web surfers could see it. Censors blocked access to Tuesday's online broadcast by Google, which organized the game in a town west of Shanghai during a forum on artificial intelligence. Source
  • Rare piebald moose caught on video in western Newfoundland

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A photographer in western Newfoundland captured what he calls a "once in a lifetime" encounter with an unusual patterned moose this week. Gerard Gale, who runs his own photography business, was in Black Duck Siding near Stephenville on Monday when he spotted a large mostly-white moose having a snack on some bushes. Source
  • China blocks online broadcast of computer Go match

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING -- Internet users outside China watched a computer defeat its national Go champion, but few Chinese web surfers could see it. Censors blocked access to Tuesday's online broadcast by Google, which organized the game in a town west of Shanghai during a forum on artificial intelligence. Source
  • Scientists may have found out why whales are so big

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Scientists think they have answered a whale of a mystery: How the ocean creatures got so huge so quickly. A few million years ago, the largest whales, averaged maybe 15 feet long. Source
  • Canadian students win big at robotics world championship

    Tech & Science CTV News
    For the second time in 15 years, Canadian students excelled at a global robotics competition. Toronto’s Bayview Glen School came in first out of 32,000 teams at the FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) LEGO League world festival, held in St. Source
  • Egypt moves bed, chariot of King Tut to new museum

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAIRO -- Egypt has safely transported two unique items, a funerary bed and a chariot belonging to the famed pharaoh King Tutankhamun from a museum in central Cairo to a new one on the other side of the city. Source
  • Flood prediction, climate change impacts on water studied at new Canmore lab

    Tech & Science CBC News
    At a new research lab in Canmore, Alta., scientists are studying the impact of climate change on water, glaciers and snow, and developing tools to predict and warn people about future floods. The Coldwater Laboratory, led by John Pomeroy, recently moved from the Barrier Lake Field Station in Kananaskis Country to the Bow Valley. Source
  • Battery boast, better viewing angles for refreshed Microsoft Surface

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Microsoft is refreshing its Surface Pro tablet with longer battery life and faster processors. The new, fifth-generation device — simply called Surface Pro — won’t look or feel drastically different from its predecessor. But Microsoft is hoping its under-the-hood improvements will help it compete with newer laptop-tablet hybrids from Samsung and others. Source
  • Trump budget cuts funding for clean air and water programs

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The Trump Administration budget released Tuesday slashes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by nearly one-third, laying off thousands of employees while imposing dramatic cuts to clean air and water programs. The White House's proposed spending plan for the EPA amounts to less than $5.7 billion, a 31 per cent cut from the current budget year, according to a briefing provided in advance to the media. Source
  • Spacewalking astronauts tackle urgent station repairs

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Spacewalking astronauts are making urgent repairs at the International Space Station. Commander Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer went out Tuesday morning, three days after a critical relay box abruptly stopped working. Source