There has been a flurry of excitement in the world of Physics as rumours regarding the culmination of the search for gravitational waves surfaced on Twitter. The search for gravitational waves, or proving the existence thereof, has been going on since 1916 when Albert Einstein declared their existence.
According to Einstein, gravitational waves are ripples in spacetime that take place when two celestial bodies collide. Their impact on the galaxy can be related to the impact that a stone has on the surface of a still water body: tiny ripples on the surface. Einstein made this prediction in his theory of general relativity. Einstein believed that it was impossible to test the existence but there have been several experimental programs dedicated to the finding of these ripples in spacetime. One of these is LIGO or Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory. LIGO, established and functional since 2010, has been updated several times and with its latest update last year, it has a good chance of hunting down gravitational waves.
Earlier on, there were rumours about a LIGO discovery on Twitter by Arizona State University Physicist, Lawrence Krauss. In an interview with Nature magazine, Gabriela Gonzalez, spokesperson for LIGO stated that they were “analyzing the data”. On January 11, 2016, Krauss reportedly tweeted the following:
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
Earlier, Krauss tweeted this in September
Rumor of a gravitational wave detection at LIGO detector. Amazing if true. Will post details if it survives.
— Lawrence M. Krauss (@LKrauss1) September 25, 2015
Later, Alan Weinstein, who heads the LIGO group at Caltech confirmed the official statement that they were analyzing data and that they would share the news when ready. Robert McNees, University of Loyola physicist, expressed more or less the same kind of sentiment regarding the experiment.
The discovery of gravitational waves would be a huge contribution to the fields cosmology and physics. However, due to the fact that gravitational waves are a result of collisions that take place between massive, colossal celestial objects, the ripples they cause are very, very faint. If and when these waves are detected, they can prove to be instrumental in studying the Dark Side of the Force…sorry, the Universe.
Black holes and neutron stars do not emit light and are therefore difficult to study. Gravitational waves are able to pass through these objects and may even help us understand the phenomena hidden in Dark Universe. Another benefit of this discovery is an added understanding of gravity and energy and how gravity works on a large cosmological scale.
The rumour about LIGO has yet to be confirmed by the scientists and until then *fingers crossed*