Lawrence Krauss Tweets about Insider Information That We Finally Found Gravitational Waves

Jan 12, 2016

Excited rumors began circulating on Twitter this morning that a major experiment designed to hunt for gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of spacetime first predicted by Albert Einstein—has observed them directly for the very first time. If confirmed, this would be one of the most significant physics discoveries of the last century.

Move a large mass very suddenly—or have two massive objects suddenly collide, or a supernova explode—and you would create ripples in space-time, much like tossing a stone in a still pond. The more massive the object, the more it will churn the surrounding spacetime, and the stronger the gravitational waves it should produce. Einstein predicted their existence in his general theory of relativity back in 1915, but he thought it would never be possible to test that prediction.

LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) is one of several experiments designed to hunt for these elusive ripples, and with its latest upgrade to Advanced LIGO, completed last year, it has the best chance of doing so. In fact, it topped our list of physics stories to watch in 2016.

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7 comments on “Lawrence Krauss Tweets about Insider Information That We Finally Found Gravitational Waves

  • What is the basic technique to tell the difference between a gravitational wave from far away and some local effect that is creating micro tremors? Do you need widely separated detectors in space?

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  • Would be nice to see gravity waves verified. They’re still going to need a collider that puts more energy into a collision than a super black hole puts on particles, before they’ll confirm what tiny bits cause gravity in a lab.

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  • There has already been one ‘false alarm’ where they detected the wrong waves. It may have been from a more local effect than they were looking for. As Roedy asks, how do they know which waves they’re looking at?
    As far as I knew they were trying to see waves left over from the big bang. Since gravity waves could travel through a plasma, unlike the electromagnetic ones astronomers more usually look at.
    Maybe we shouldn’t get too excited if Lawrence Krauss is only giving it a 10 to 15% chance of being right.

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  • As Roedy asks, how do they know which waves they’re looking at?

    They are not ‘looking’ at anything. Gravitational waves are not like sound waves or part of the electromagnetic spectrum, but they do distort spacetime. The detectors are looking to detect tiny changes in length. LIGO is actually 2 detectors, 3000km apart. The idea is that if they were mistakenly detecting vibrations from local sources, the vibration would not be the same at each detector.

    LIGO’s Dual Detector

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  • I’ve heard that there has already been a claim of this discovery having been made at one institution, but that it was as the result of a deliberately faulty experiment, run to test the verasity of the methods employed by that organization’s staff.

    However, I can’t recall where or when this occurred, but I expect someone here will.

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  • I’m informed that, apparently, a scientific institution ran a deliberately faulty experiment on this very subject, in order to test the verasity of its scientists’ methodologies; as I recall, and as would be expected, the participants came through with flying knickers. I can’t remember when or where this occurred, but I expect someone here will be able to recall it.

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  • Europe is now designing space experiments to follow up on this!
    The formal test programme has begun on the technologies required to detect gravitational waves in space.

    Europe’s Lisa Pathfinder (LPF) probe is engaging in a series of experiments roughly 1.5 million km from Earth.

    The project has heightened interest, of course, because of the first sampling of the “cosmic ripples” made by ground-based detectors last September

    A successful demo for LPF would pave the way for a fully operational orbiting observatory in the 2030s.

    This would likely be known simply as Lisa – the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.

    “It’s a wonderful time right now,” said Paul McNamara, the European Space Agency’s (Esa) project scientist on Lisa Pathfinder.

    “I’ve spent my entire career in this endeavour, and for years we were told – even ridiculed in some cases – that gravitational waves don’t exist, or that we’d never find them.

    “Well, now we have found them, and we’re about to take the next big, big step towards building a mission that could detect them in space,” he told BBC News.

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