Gravitational Waves: What Are They And Why Do They Matter?

        There has been much anticipation among the scientific community over the last couple of days as LIGO, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory believes they have discovered gravitational waves for the first time in history. This is something that Scientists have been searching for since their proposal back in 1915 by none other than the grandaddy of them all, Mr. Albert Einstein during his research into the theory of relativity.

That’s right, you know the guy. Here he is in all of his bushy-headed glory

        Obviously, anything that gives us further understanding of the theory of relativity is obviously going to be a big deal in the scientific community, but what exactly does it all mean? Well, to put it simply, these are the ripples in the fabric of spacetime that occur when extreme gravitational occurrences happen out in space, such as on the event horizon of a black hole and when two stars smash together. Think of them as the ripples produced by a drop of water on the surface of a lake or river, except in this instance the drop is a black hole and the lake is the fabric of the universe. It would essentially give astronomers a new way to view things happening out in space, as well as further proof of aspects of the  theory of relativity. It would also provide much needed support for the theory of inflation (the theory that at the beginning of the universe all matter was sent through a astronomically huge expansion aka the basis of the Big Bang). Needless to say in astronomical circles, this would be HUGE.

        Now, to be fair, nothing has been announced yet. The LIGO group is currently having their findings backed up by independent researchers, and will then go through the painstaking process of writing a scientific paper and backing up their findings and having it reviewed. However, at times like this, no news is good news as that means that things are going forward as planned and diligent work is being done to verify all results. Good luck to all those at LIGO, hopefully they have something for us soon!

-CDL

For more on the developing story, click here and here.

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