This will be interesting

Cosmic breakthrough: Physicists detect gravitational waves from violent black-hole merger:

Scientists announced Thursday that, after decades of effort, they have succeeded in detecting gravitational waves from the violent merging of two black holes in deep space. The detection was hailed as a triumph for a controversial, exquisitely crafted, billion-dollar physics experiment and as confirmation of a key prediction of Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

It will also inaugurate a new era of astronomy in which gravitational waves are tools for studying the most mysterious and exotic objects in the universe, scientists declared at a euphoric news briefing at the National Press Club in Washington.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have detected gravitational waves. We did it!” declared David Reitze, the executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), drawing applause from an  audience that included many of the luminaries of the physics world. The briefing was watched around the world by physicists who have long waited for such a detection.

I’m hoping this will lead to the development of “warp drive”.

11 thoughts on “This will be interesting

  1. I think you made a mistake with the LIGO link, because it goes to a page about the Apollo 15 hammer and feather drop experiment.

  2. One of my oldest friends designed the housing that holds the lenses for the LIGO project. as I recall, the housing had to hold dimension so precise that the gravitational pull of the moon could not alter it.
    Way beyond this furniture makers skill and comprehension.

  3. In many ways, it isn’t really a discovery at all. They simply confirmed what Einstein predicted long ago.

    To detect the gravitational waves, they had to measure a distance roughly equal to one thousandth the diameter of a proton at a cost of over one billion dollars and it took many years with hundreds of scientists.

    Contrast this with Thomas Edison. He invented many things that changed our everyday lives. He did it with relatively inexpensive resources that many people could afford today. Besides Edison, the vacuum tube, the radio and the telephone were all huge inventions that were almost immediately applicable to everyday life.

    It feels to me like pushing the envelope of science and technology is getting more and more difficult. The gravity waves took 100 years to detect after their existence was predicted. The application of this knowledge to our everyday lives is still very remote. With all that I have said, I do agree it is interesting and we do live in interesting times.

    • Well, to be fair, William Gilbert invented the electroscope in the late 1500s; 300 years passed before Edison’s use of the phenomena. Though his apparatus may have cost slightly less than LIGO (I didn’t look up the inflation rate). Only time will tell, but I have a hard time believing gravity waves will be as useful as electricity any time soon.

  4. Warp drive? Not bloody likely. What was just “discovered” is that what amounts to the tidal effects of one of the most violent events in the universe can possibly be detected from a great distance.

    I wrote a post on this yesterday. I guess I’ll post it later.

    • But being able to measure gravity waves is the first step to dramatically increased understanding of them. Increased understanding may lead to manipulation of them and their effects. Controlling gravity could lead to some extreme forms of propulsion.

  5. If you’re interested, the LIGO facility in Washington does public tours, and a very special one is coming up next month:

    I took a tour a few years ago as part of a college class, and it was interesting. Back then, one of the arms of the detector was down for repairs, or possibly upgrades, but one of the operators pointed out that the detector was so sensitive, trucks driving by on a distant freeway could pollute the readings for minutes.

  6. When they were building the Hanford LIGO, a local concrete contractor in Kennewick (IIRC) was building the concrete arches that were assembled into the kilometers-long interferometer enclosure. My friend, who was starting his winery in Benton City at the time, kept driving past them and pondering – “Since this is for a government job, they must reject a bunch of these? What do they do with the rejects?”

    He inquired and found out that they had quite a few rejects, often for just minor void spaces or surface defects. Keith bought a bunch of them, did a bit of cut-and-cover construction, and built the first “wine cave” in the state!

    So, in a roundabout way, you can go taste the real fruits of this program now at Terra Blanca Vintners. 🙂

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