If you have any interest in universe physics, and most of us do, you have had some time to think about the gravitational waves discovered through the Advanced LIGO detector sometimes ago. Based on this incredible discovery, here are some more things you need to know about gravity waves.
#1 THEY DON’T HAVE TO APPLY TO YOUR LIFE
Every time there are media reports that scientists have discovered something great, people tend to ask, ‘how can this play into my life, how can we use it?’ Well, unless you’re a super-physics scientist yourself, or are bent on a course to build an anti-gravity machine or something like that, gravity waves will probably never mean a lot to you. Scientists have spent decades theorizing, conducting practical experiments and researching gravitational waves, but not so that they can make some cool new machines or stuff. Gravitational waves are important because they help increase our understanding of the universe. Still, this discovery might help some creative minds predict technologies that society will use in the future. For instance, when the laser came to be in the 1960s, people didn’t know what it was really for. Nowadays, there are scores of machines and advanced technologies that are based on the laser.
#2 THERE’S NO PROOF YET THAT GRAVITATIONAL WAVES EXIST
You probably are mad at me for coining this one, but it’s generally true. Science is not about proving anything to be true, it’s about creating models. These models are then compared with real data. If they agree – that’s super awesome. But that’s not necessarily to say that the model is true. On the other hand, if there’s data that disagrees with the model that proves that your model is wrong. Back to the point, LIGO didn’t really prove that gravitational waves exist. It just collected evidence/data that supports the gravitational wave model predicted by Einstein a century ago. LIGO isn’t the first project to collect evidence on gravitational waves. In 1193, two scientists (Joseph H. Taylor, Jr, and Russell A. Hulse) won the Nobel Prize in physics for discovering a binary pulsar, based on gravitational waves as in Einstein’s general relativity theory.
#3 ADVANCED LIGO MADE THIS HAPPEN
LIGO wouldn’t (probably) have detected this signal. Advanced LIGO greatly increases the sensitivity of detectors. Considered that gravity waves tend to degrade in strength with distance, a highly sensitive detector makes it possible to ‘see’ further into the universe. Typical LIGO (not advanced) would probably be able to detect events (e.g. colliding neutron stars) that are much closer to earth. Now that Advanced LIGO has increased the observational distance, there’s a higher likelihood that future events will be detected.
#4 LIGO WAS QUITE A SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENT
The National Science Foundation started work on gravity waves way back in the 1970s. Since then, the project has sucked over $1.1 billion in investments. In contemporary terms, that’s huge deal of money being spent for a long time. It’s good to understand that scientific research projects may take a massive amount of time and resources with little progress. Judging from what it has led to, LIGO is definitely worth the money, time, and resources that have been committed to it.
#5 PUTTING A GRAVITATIONAL WAVE DETECTOR IN SPACE?
Certainly – there are plans to put a detector in space. Space-located detectors could be able to pick signals more efficiently without the bother of ground noise. Since there’s already a vacuum in space, a gravitational observatory there would be much larger. There are more technical difficulties associated with this endeavor, but that’s not to say we aren’t headed there!
There are other brilliant teams of scientists trying to understand gravitational waves and the universe through other approaches, such as radio telescope. LIGO people are probably happy that they came first.