100 years later, science confirms Einstein’s gravitational waves do exist
Around 100 years ago, the genius Albert Einstein predicted “gravitational waves” – ripples in “spacetime” around the universe created by black holes colliding billions of years ago. He nearly predicted Star Wars, too.
Until today, the physicist’s workings had not been confirmed. But on Thursday 11 February, science confirmed it. Scientists have detected gravitational waves for the first time.
The discovery was made at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the US. It’s been a long-term mission, and to complete the task, the world’s most precise device to measure wave frequencies had to be constructed.
The project began more than two decades ago, in 1992. A huge investment was made into the study. It looks that now, finally, it’s paid off.
“This was a scientific moon shot,” LIGO Laboratory executive director, David Reitze, explained at a conference this morning.
“And we did it – we landed on the moon.”
This image is from NASA. You’ll find a more detailed explanation of gravitational waves here.
The instrument that detected the waves consists of two 2.5-mile tunnels in Louisiana and Washington State. Inside these, the ‘measuring stick’ used by the scientists was the speed of light, which is constant. It means the length of the tunnels can be clearly identified and, as such, the waves too.
TechCrunch explains how the gravitational waves were subsequently captured using the tunnels and light.