On Thursday the 11th of February 2016, the world was taken aback – 101 years back; to be precise. In 1915 Albert Einstein proposed the theory of General Relativity – and stirred the biggest ‘controversy’ in the scientific community of his time. He suggested that the universe consists of space and time which are interwoven and dynamic, able to stretch, shrink and jiggle; contrary to what the world had accepted for nearly 200 years when Newton had laid out the framework of the universe as static and fixed.
A team of scientists based in Washington State and Louisiana called LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) announced that they had recorded the sound of two black holes colliding. Thereby, providing evidence to the last set of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Honestly, was there ever anything that this man said that would someday not come true?
The science behind all of this was published in a paper with over a 1000 authors – some team I must say; I am sure they are glad the alphabetical order is widely accepted or I would be worried as to how they would decide the order of citing the authors. The LIGO team consisted of engineers and scientists from all over the world but what gives me great pride as a student at UoS is that some of the members belonged to our University.
In the video below, Dr. Ed Daw from the department of Physics and Astronomy explains this phenomenon and gives us an insight into how the LIGO set-ups work. His passion for this project is clearly seen by the excitement with which he describes the journey of this theory.
On September 14th 2015 at 4a.m the detector recorded a flickering light and turned it into a sound wave and a loud signal came through at the Livingston site. Seven milliseconds later, the signal hit the Hanford site. Now, this may just seem to be pure coincidence, but the scientists at LIGO mathematically determined that the chance of such signals landing simultaneously by pure chance was virtually impossible.
The sound recorded by the 2 set-ups sounds like a chirp which is the echo of the mirage of the two black holes that merged billions of years ago.
“Everything else in astronomy is like the eye,” said Szabolcs Marka – Columbia University Professor, “Finally, astronomy grew ears. We never had ears before.”
Hearing a gravitational wave has opened up a new kind of astronomy - for the first time we are using our ears along with our eyes to unravel the mysteries of the space. Now, since our ears have been tuned to the mysterious music of the cosmos we might be able to hear and interpret more sounds than we had ever imagined before. All in all, this discovery has paved way for a wide range of brainstorming in the scientific world because this sheds more interest into topics such as teleportation, time travel, parallel universes, multiverses and what so and what not…
…because if the fabric of space time can be bent who says it can't be folded, twisted and connected?