Gravity waves

The detection of gravity waves a hundred years after Albert Einstein predicted them, and after previous fruitless searches for them, represents a major breakthrough in physics and in our understanding of the physical world.  Contrary to the classical Newtonian view that gravity is the attraction between two objects, Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity in 1915 speculated that the origin of what we term gravity is in fact due to the warping of space-time.

Space-time consists of the continuum of space and time.  It was earlier thought that space and time are separate, but Einstein pointed out that you cannot measure space outside time, while you are measuring space, time is also passing. How to test his idea that gravity warps space-time?  This was done in 1919 by the British astronomer Arthur Eddington when he showed that the apparent positions of stars were moved when the light from them passed close to the sun during an eclipse.  The deviation observed precisely fitted Einstein’s calculations. This proved Einstein’s theory and elevated it to a law of the universe.  According to this view the earth warps the space-time continuum as it passes through it.  It would be like a large ball running down the middle of a sheet.  But, of course in reality this takes place in four dimensions.

But, Einstein also predicted that massive objects could cause gravity waves to ripple out through the universe.  But, the effects at the earth would be so small as to be almost impossible to detect.  It has taken until now when a truly massive gravitational perturbance was observed in a  galaxy far, far away, namely two black holes circling each other and combining in a huge cataclysmic explosion.   Using two laser light beams of several kilometers length at right angles to each other and then looking for interference between the two reflected beams, the researchers were able to detect the effect of the gravitational waves. The very large consortium of international groups that were involved in this research included an Israeli group.  This finding confirms Einstein’s theory and the observation of gravitational waves will lead to a clearer understanding of the workings of the universe.

 

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