Einstein was right! Gravitational waves detected

Einstein was right! Gravitational waves detected

A undated handout graphic, made available 11 February 2016 by NASA / CALTECH-JPL, showing an artist's impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars. Inset: Albert Einstein
A undated handout graphic, made available 11 February 2016 by NASA / CALTECH-JPL, showing an artist's impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars. Inset: Albert Einstein

Scientists are calling the detection of gravitational waves, confirming Einstein's 100-year-old theory, as being as important as Galileo's invention of the telescope.

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Scientists are busy this morning trying to explain to ordinary people what gravitational waves are, how they were discovered and detected, and why they are important. It isn't easy.

I'll begin with a little news, but then I'll add a Science Magazine video that is really helpful for even a very basic understanding of gravitional waves. First the news from AFP.

LIGO co-founders Kip Thorne (R), and Rainer Weiss (L), speak about their discovery showing the ripples in the fabric of space-time called gravitational waves that scientists have observed for the first time, confirming a prediction of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, February 11, 2016. AFP / SAUL LOEB

Scientists glimpse Einstein's gravitational waves

Washington, Feb 11, 2016 AFP – In a landmark discovery for physics and astronomy, scientists said Thursday they have glimpsed the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time that Albert Einstein predicted a century ago.

When two black holes collided some 1.3 billion years ago, the joining of those two great masses sent forth a wobble that hurtled through space and reached Earth on September 14, 2015, when it was picked up by sophisticated instruments, researchers announced.

"Up until now we have been deaf to gravitational waves, but today, we are able to hear them," said David Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory, at a packed press conference in the US capital.

Reitze and colleagues compared the magnitude of the discovery to Galileo's use of the telescope four centuries ago to open the era of modern astronomy.

Israeli Doctor Roni Grosz, head of The Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, shows the original document (R) written by Albert Einstein related to Albert Einstein's prediction of the existence of gravitational waves, on February 11, 2016 in Jerusalem. The Einstein theory was developed by Einstein 100 years ago, but had never been proved. One document is the first in which Einstein ever presented his theory of gravitational waves, the other is a page from the 46-page Theory of Relativity. / AFP / THOMAS COEX

"I think we are doing something equally important here today. I think we are opening a window on the universe," Reitze said.

The phenomenon was observed by two US-based underground detectors, designed to pick up tiny vibrations from passing gravitational waves, a project known as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO.

It took scientists months to verify their data and put it through a process of peer-review before announcing it on Thursday, marking the culmination of decades of efforts by teams around the world including some 1,000 scientists from 16 countries, according to the National Science Foundation, which funded the research.

Video: Gravitational waves finally detected! (Science Magazine)

It's the discovery of a lifetime: Physicists have spotted gravitational waves, churned up by two black holes, locked in a death spiral deep in space. No one has seen such waves before. And they are about to open new eyes on the cosmos.

Until now, scientists have learned about the universe mainly by studying light and other electromagnetic waves from space. But gravitational waves are ripples in space itself. They are set off by stellar cataclysms – such as massive neutron stars or black holes whirling together.

To sense the waves, physicists use massive L-shaped optical devices called interferometers. Each arm of the L is 4 kilometers long. There are two of these devices in the United States. And together, they make up "LIGO".

To detect the stretching of space, LIGO uses laser light to measure and compare the lengths of the two arms. When a gravitational wave ripples past, it will stretch the arms by different amounts, causing the light to warble out of the interferometer. The measurements are sensitive – to within 1/10,000 the width of a proton.

Physicists hope to use the waves to test Albert Einstein's theory of gravity and also to detect strange objects that until now were completely invisible.

Take the signal that LIGO detected. The black holes responsible are three times as massive as normal – and nobody knows why. It's just the first suprise from what promises to be a whole new type of astronomy.

Video: World Science Festival also has a slightly longer and more detailed video with excellent animations. The animations alone will add a lot to your understanding.

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Vocabulary

  • animation: a film or cartoon using a series of drawings that are shown quickly one after another so that they look as if they are moving - ภาพเคลื่อนไหวได้, ภาพการ์ตูนที่เคลื่อนไหวได้
  • announce: to tell people something officially, especially about a decision, plans, etc - ประกาศ, แจ้ง, แจ้งให้ทราบ
  • archive: a collection or historical records, photographs, documents, etc. - ข้อมูลที่ได้มีการบันทึกไว้ (an archivist is someone who works in an archive organising and preserving such items which are also known as archival materials)
  • astronomy: the scientific study of the stars, planets, and other objects in the universe - ดาราศาสตร์
  • basic: of the simplest kind or at the simplest level - พื้นฐาน, อันดับแรก, สำคัญ
  • black hole (noun): an area in space that nothing, not even light, can escape from, because gravity (= the force that pulls objects in space towards each other) is so strong there - หลุมดำ (ดาราศาสตร์)
  • capital: the most important town or city of a country, usually where the central government operates from - เมืองหลวง
  • cataclysm (noun): a sudden disaster or a violent event that causes change, for example a flood or a war - การเปลี่ยนแปลงที่รุนแรง
  • century: a period of one hundred years - ศตวรรษ
  • churn: to move water, mud, etc. around violently - หมุนวนอย่างแรง
  • colleague (noun): someone who works in the same organisation or department as you do or someone you know who has the same type of job - เพื่อนร่วมงาน
  • collide: (especially of moving objects) to hit something violently - ชน,กระแทก
  • cosmos (noun): the universe, especially when it is thought of as an ordered system - จักรวาล
  • culmination: the final result of a process or situation - ผลสุดท้าย
  • data: facts or information, especially when examined and used to find out things or to make decisions - ข้อมูล, ตัวเลข, สถิติ
  • deaf: unable to hear - หูหนวก
  • decade: a period of ten years - ทศวรรษ, ระยะเวลา 10 ปี
  • detect: to find or prove that something is present using scientific methods - พบ
  • detector: a device used to find particular substances or things, or measure their level - เครื่องตรวจจับ
  • direct: going straight to a place without delays or detours; in a direct line or manner; immediately - โดยตรง
  • discover: to find somebody/something, or learning about something that was not known about before - ค้นพบ
  • discovery: an act or the process of finding somebody/something, or learning about something that was not known about before - การค้นพบ
  • document: a paper or set of papers with written or printed information, especially of an official type  - เอกสาร
  • electromagnetic waves (noun): waves having both electrical and magnetic characteristics (or properties) - คลื่นแม่เหล็กไฟฟ้า
  • equally (adv): same as; evenly; the same for all - อย่างเท่ากัน
  • era: a period of time that has a particular quality or character - ยุค, สมัย
  • executive director (noun): a chief executive officer (CEO) or managing director of an organization, company, or corporation - ผู้อำนวยการบริหาร
  • existence: the state of being a real or living thing, or of being present in a particular place, time, or situation - การดำรงอยู่,การมีอยู่,การมีชีวิตอยู่,ความเป็นอยู่
  • fabric (noun): the basic structure of something - โครงสร้างของสิ่งที่เป็นรูปธรรม
  • foundation: an organisation that provides money for things such as medical research or for a charity - มูลนิธิ
  • fund: to provide money for something - ให้เงินทุน
  • glimpse (verb): to take a quick look - กวาดตามองอย่างรวดเร็ว ดูอย่างคร่าวๆ
  • gravitational (adj): connected with or caused by the force of gravity - ซึ่งมาจากแรงดึงดูดของสิ่งที่อยู่ในจักรวาล
  • hurtle (verb): to move very fast in a particular direction - พุ่ง,เคลื่อนไปอย่างรวดเร็วมาก
  • instrument: a tool or piece of equipment used in science, medicine, or technology - อุปกรณ์ เครื่องตรวจวัด
  • invisible: unable to be seen  - มองไม่เห็น
  • laboratory: a room or building used for scientific research, experiments, testing, etc - ห้องปฏิบัติการ, ห้องทดลอง
  • landmark: a major event or achievement that marks an important state in a process and makes progress possible - เหตุการณ์ที่เป็นการแสดงถึงความคืบหน้า
  • lifetime (noun): the length of time that somebody lives or that something lasts - ระยะเวลาที่มีชีวิตได้
  • magnitude: size, either great or small - ขนาด,ความใหญ่,ความสำคัญ
  • mass (noun): a large amount of a substance that does not have a definite shape or form - กอง, กลุ่ม, ก้อน
  • massive: very large in size, amount or number - ใหญ่โต
  • normal (adj.): typical, usual or ordinary; what you would expect - ปกติ, ภาวะปกติ
  • observatory: a special building/satellite from which scientists watch the stars, the weather, etc. - หอสังเกตการณ์
  • observe (verb): to see or watch someone or something - สังเกต
  • optical (adj): used to help you see something more clearly; connected with the sense of sight or the relationship between light and sight - เกี่ยวกับสายตา
  • ordinary: not unusual or different in any way - ธรรมดา, ปกติ
  • original: the first of something - เดิม, แบบฉบับ
  • packed: crowded; full of people or things - แน่น
  • peer-review (noun): (of a piece of scientific or other professional work) the process of checking research by other professionals working in the same area -
  • phenomenon: someone or something extremely successful, often because of special qualities or abilities -
  • physicist (noun): a scientist who studies physics - นักดาราศาสตร์ฟิสิกส์
  • picked up (verb): detected; found through scientific methods - ตรวจพบ
  • predict: to say that an event or action will happen in the future, especially as a result of knowledge or experience - คาดการณ์ว่า พยากรณ์จากสถิติว่า
  • prediction: a statement about what you think will happen in the future - คำพยากรณ์,คำทำนาย,การพยากรณ์
  • press conference: an official meeting where someone makes a formal statement about a particular issue or event to journalists and answers their questions about it - การแถลงข่าว
  • process: a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result - แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
  • project: a planned piece of work that is designed to find information about something, to produce something new, or to improve something - โครงการ
  • proton (noun): a very small piece of matter (= a substance) with a positive electric charge that forms part of the nucleus (= central part) of an atom - โปรตอน
  • prove: to use facts, evidence, etc. to show that something is true - พิสูจน์
  • researchers (noun): people who carry out a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - นักวิจัย
  • responsible for: to cause something to happen - ก่อให้เกิด
  • ripple: a small wave on the surface of a liquid that moves outward, especially water in a lake, etc - คลื่นเล็กๆ
  • sense: to become aware of something even though you cannot see it, hear it, etc - สัมผัส, รู้สึก
  • sensitive (adj.): able to measure or react to very small changes - ซึ่งไวต่อสิ่งกระตุ้น
  • sophisticated: complicated and advanced in design - ที่มีการออกแบบให้ซับซ้อน
  • space: outer space; the area outside the earth's atmosphere where all the other planets and stars are - บริเวณนอกโลกซึ่งมีดาวดวงอื่นอยู่
  • space-time (noun): the universe considered as a continuum with four measurements — length, width, depth and time — inside which any event or physical object is located - กาลอากาศ
  • spiral: to move in continuous circles, going upwards or downwards - หมุนเป็นขด
  • spotted (verb): seen; saw or noticed - สังเกตเห็น
  • stellar (adj): connected with the stars - เกี่ยวกับดาว, เป็นดารา,เป็นตัวเอก
  • stretch: to cause something to reach, often as far as possible, in a particular direction - ขยายออก, ยืดออก
  • telescope: a piece of equipment shaped like a tube, containing lenses, that you look through to make objects that are far away appear larger and nearer - กล้องโทรทรรศน์,กล้องส่องทางไกล
  • theory: one or more ideas that explain how or why something happens - สมมติฐาน
  • Theory of Relativity (noun): Einstein’s theory of the universe based on the principle that all movement is relative and that time is a fourth dimension related to space - ทฤษฎีสัมพัทธภาพ
  • universe: everything that exists, especially all physical matter, including all the stars, planets, galaxies, etc. in space - จักรวาล
  • verify: to prove that something is true, or to make certain that something is correct - พิสูจน์ว่าเป็นความจริง
  • vibration: a continuous shaking movement or feeling - การสั่นสะเทือน,การสั่น
  • waves (noun): lines of something that moves across an area - คลื่น
  • whirl (verb): to move, or make somebody/something move, around quickly in a circle or in a particular direction - หมุนเวียนรอบอย่างรวดเร็ว
  • wobble (noun): a slight unsteady movement from side to side - การโอนเอนไปมา, อาการโซเซ
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