Gravitational waves, Einstein’s ripples in spacetime, spotted for first time

Long ago, deep in space, two massive black holes—the ultrastrong gravitational fields left behind by gigantic stars that collapsed to infinitesimal points—slowly drew together. The stellar ghosts spiraled ever closer, until, about 1.3 billion years ago, they whirled about each other at half the speed of light and finally merged. The collision sent a shudder through the universe: ripples in the fabric of space and time called gravitational waves. Five months ago, they washed past Earth. And, for the first time, physicists detected the waves, fulfilling a 4-decade quest and opening new eyes on the heavens.

  • Everyone Else

    how many gravitational waves can dance on the head of a pin

  • FactsWillOut

    The fact is, pretty much every single elementary particle except for the electron and the photon were predicted to exist before they were ever detected.
    Better and more sensitive gravity wave detectors could eventually help find out if the holographic principle is true.

  • Scotch_Pine

    Do you think we could surf one of those gravitational space-time waves
    to say, February 2017, and skip the rest of 2016? Because I really don’t want to wait that long to see President Trump give the Iranians and a whole lot of other people a real good attitude adjustment.

  • Maurice Miner

    How much has this four-decade experiment cost the community, and for exactly what purpose? Just imagine if all the money wasted was instead focussed upon education, reparations, income support and sail foams for all?

    • FactsWillOut

      It was focused on education. The education of the entire species.
      Now we have a gravity-wave detector.
      Have you no curiosity about the universe?

      • Maurice Miner

        I do not have a gravity-wave detector, but I surely do have a sarcasm-wave detector!

        • FactsWillOut

          Seems mine was on the blink for a minute there.

  • It is a big event for science. It will revolutionize our understanding of the universe, because it will allow us to detect things about it invisible to all other means of detection.

    • FactsWillOut

      from the prediction of the existence of radio waves to the first voice transmission by radio was about 35 years. It took 100 years from the predicted existence of gravity waves to detect them, and we are a far cry from being able to generate them, as we don’t have any 30 solar mass black holes handy to collide.
      Still, we will be able to see entire new aspects of the universe, and peer ever closer to the big bang, once we get good at detecting them.

      • My personal speculation is that we will eventually discover that what we today call the universe (from the big bang to now) is just a puny speck of dust in an infinitely larger universe in which billions and trillions of such specks of dust exist (each with its big bang and history. They are out there but so far apart, so far away from us, we can’t even detect them (yet). It makes no sense to me that there is only this 13.7 billion light years universe in existence.

        • FactsWillOut

          Those have already been predicted, as “meta-stable vacuua” in the string theory landscape.
          Leonard Susskind has some great courses about it on youtube; he suggests around 10^500 universes.

        • H

          The only question is why is there anything and not nothing. How much of that anything isn’t so important

          • Big question. Expect no answer – ever. Why? Because to explain is to posit something before – which then needs explanation. Not to explain is to take eternity for granted. Either way you have eternity, it seems. I personally assume God (a spiritual being) was eternal and created the rest of the universe (the material part) at some point. that way I have my cake and eat it too.

          • FactsWillOut

            The string theory landscape of meta-stable vacuua is atemporal. There is no need for any kind of first cause.
            Given that there are at least 10^500 of them, if they can exchange just 1 bit/year each, that makes for an information processing system around 10^200 times richer than our universe, which allowed beings such as ourselves to come into being. What sort of complex patterns/goals/minds could exist in such a huge system? A mind that exists outside of and permeates our little bubble of space-time…? God?

          • I replied to H above incompletely (wanted to shut down my computer). What I should have said is: an even bigger question than “why is there anything and not nothing?” is: how come consciousness exists, that which perceives matter and asks the question about its origin?

            Consciousness cannot (or at least, certainly has not) been explained from matter (no experimentally demonstrable mathematical formula like Relativity has been put forward to explain consciousness). It cannot be taken for granted to be a natural epiphenomenon of matter, as materialist scientists nowadays tacitly do. Consciousness is not to be confused with the material sense-organs and brain involved in its function within this world.

            Consciousness implies one who is conscious (call that a soul), and there are many of us, you and me and H, for a start. We are tiny, at least physically and in time. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable to assume we (souls) are other than matter (i.e. spiritual substances). Moreover, since we are small and separate, it is reasonable to ask what we have in common, and to suppose that we are all chips off some common block – that’s what we call God. Etc.

          • luna

            Interesting, as I understand it Buddha took eternity for granted.

          • African

            There is nothing but only consciousness. Without consciousness that understands, there is no space, time or matter. These things depend on consciousnesses, eliminate consciousnesses and there is NOTHING! The real mystery is:

          • FactsWillOut

            The answer to that question lies in studying matter and energy, with things like gravity wave detectors.

          • African

            There is no matter or energy or studies without consciousnesses. The universe is mental or consciousness:
            Hear this ancient teaching:

          • FactsWillOut

            The universe existed before life did.
            We can even see it with telescopes.

          • You cannot not be sure offhand that the material universe anteceded the spiritual phenomena in it (consciousness and the living souls that have it). Our persons could just be meeting points between two domains the material and spiritual. That these meeting points occur in time and space, and are short-lived, does not prove that matter precedes and overrides spirit. Telescopes cannot answer this question.

          • El Martyachi

            … maybe magical hermetic telescopes can.

          • African

            The universe is made by our consciousness. No consciousness No universe! It is an illusion made by our consciousness.

          • Mystical claims are interesting but not indubitable.

          • No. I disagree with you on that. Studying matter will never resolve spiritual questions such as what is consciousness. See my reply to African above.

          • African – I agree in large part with your statement here. See my reply to FactsWillOut above.

            I agree that consciousness is implied by our understanding (to whatever limited degree) space, time and matter. I do not agree that these things could not exist without consciousness – they would just not be perceived by anyone. That is not the same, and it is an unjustified generalization to make the sweeping statement you made. It could be true, but it is certainly not the only conceivable hypothesis.

            As to your question “what is consciousness” it is a good and big question, but I’m afraid one for which there will never be an answer, because I believe that it is something so radically different from anything else that it cannot be reduced to the terms generated by other things.

          • African

            To exist means to be perceived. No perception (consciousness) NO existence!

          • No, that’s an invalid inference – an over-generalization. Many things exist without being perceived. Perceived existence (appearance) is only is a tiny fraction of existence in general. Most existence is unperceived.

        • luna

          What we call the universe is technically the observable universe.

          • Yes. And we know that is not much, since it keeps on getting bigger and deeper and there are still many unanswered questions.

        • DMB
  • Brett_McS

    Space-based detectors will be required to get proper results, but this is a good start. Probably the only really important news of the day.

  • ontario john

    Massive black holes in Canada are called, Liberal budgets, whiny indian demands, and provincial global warming scams.

    • And the presumed brain of a certain prime minister.

      • David Murrell

        Weren’t gravitational waves first discovered by Islamic scientists?

        • Blacksmith

          Yeah probably 1000’s of years ago too……..

          • FactsWillOut

            No doubt by Mo himself in one of his drooling fits…

          • ontario john

            The only black hole mohammad discovered was the rear end of a goat.

          • FactsWillOut


      • Maggat

        Are black holes empty?

  • CodexCoder

    The common zipper, which took 14 years to create, was a bigger accomplishment as it affects everyone on earth. And the margin of error in the gravitational wave undertaking is so difficult to define and measure – surely the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle has a huge bearing here. I am not saying that the waves don’t exist, but one “confirmed” measurement does not a trend make. Call me skeptical (engineer and programmer).

    • I don’t see what Breaking Bad has to do with this.

    • FactsWillOut

      Then you surely understand the meaning of 5-sigma.
      No, the Uncertainty Principle doesn’t apply here.
      That applies only to measuring observables in quantum systems. General Relativity is not a quantum theory.

      • luna

        I think he meant in spirit if not in the letter of the law.

  • simus1

    Other multiverses have much more elegant stacked hundreds strong multiple black hole annihilation events producing really beautiful gravity waves much more often than this example.
    Oops just kidding.

  • Ed

    Imagine. A universe so unimaginably massive, and where are the muslims? HERE!

    • Canadian

      We got all the bad luck!

    • Lol. Just our luck.

  • Xavier

    Gravity is haram!