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Einstein’s new frontier

An artist's concept illustrates a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout

If you pass someone who is utterly beaming with joy this week it is possible they are an Astrophysicist or Physicist.

Einstein’s new frontier

The message has been received; the ‘sound’ of gravitational waves has been detected through the ingenuity and dedication of researchers involved in the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory) project. The first detection of the waves comes from two black holes merging 1.3 billion years ago, sending vibrations of the “shimmering event horizon” rippling across space-time.

 

As Neil deGrasse Tyson explains, the two black stars merging radiate more energy than “all the stars of the universe combined” for just a fraction of a second. It is this moment that has been detected by LIGO through the use of super precise mechanical instruments, the wave changed “the length of two mirrors a fraction a diameter of an atomic nucleus.” Tyson says “it is the most precise measurement made so far”.

Einstein’s theory of relativity is just over 100 years old. His theory explained how mass distorts space; the greater the mass of an object the more gravitational pull it has (very simply put). He believed that there should be evidence of gravitational waves or ripples in space caused by the distortion, but according to scientific publishing group Nature he never believed scientists would ever see them, because the signal of the wave would weaken over distance and time.

[caption id="attachment_847175" align="alignnone" width="640"]Doctors Gabriela Gonzalez, Rainer Weiss and Kip Thorne applaud the announcement of the detection of gravitational waves, ripples in space and time hypothesized by physicist Albert Einstein a century ago, in Washington. REUTERS/Gary Cameron - RTX26ITI Doctors Gabriela Gonzalez, Rainer Weiss and Kip Thorne applaud the announcement of the detection of gravitational waves, ripples in space and time hypothesized by physicist Albert Einstein a century ago, in Washington. REUTERS/Gary Cameron – RTX26ITI[/caption]

 

The ramifications of the new discovery for practical application are unknown as yet, but we can guess from history that it will bring forth new amazing advancements never seen before. Einstein’s theory of relativity accounts for technology that we rely on today like GPS (global positioning system), electromagnetism, TVs, semiconductors and computer chips, nuclear magnetic resonance, MRI imaging, and “particle accelerators leading to beams for cancer treatment.

Scientists tell us that this moment is incredibly significant to scientific advancement because we can see for the first time what happens when two black holes collide. This detection also proves that space is not an empty vacuum but made up of a type of fabric which we can now explore in more depth.

 

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