Last week, an enormous discovery shook the world of science. After having been predicted a 100 years ago, gravitational waves were finally detected by scientists at LIGO.
Einstein predicted the existence of these waves a year before he published his seminal Theory of General Relativity, but even he said that detecting such waves would not be possible. But now, 100 years after, scientists at LIGO have found proof of these waves.
So . . . what is a gravitational wave?
A gravitational wave is a ripple in space-time. When a gravitational wave passes us, all the distances appear to oscillate. We never see this because the gravitational waves that reach earth are minuscule. But if we had a strong gravitational wave pass through, we would see this oscillating distance.
In this case a pair of black holes merging into a bigger one created gravitational waves strong enough to oscillate the path between a pair of LIGO laser beams.
Their discovery is important in part because it confirms a key prediction of Einstein’s general relativity theory. But it also opens a new window into learning about the universe.