It is an exciting time for science! In the past few months several, but not limited to, incredible advancements have been made, such as the successful launch and landing of a reusable rocket by SpaceX, the successful creation of hydrogen plasma via nuclear fusion bringing us closer to creating a nuclear fusion reactor and so much more.
A couple days ago big news arrived that gravitational waves have been detected for the first time ever by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO for short.
What are Gravitational Waves?
Gravitational waves are a prediction made by Albert's Einstein theory of General Relativity. General Relativity, to put it simply, is a theory of gravity that results from the unification with the principles of Special Relativity, where there is no acceleration, to account for both acceleration and gravity.
According to General Relativity, gravity is not a force but rather a curvature of space-time. As a consequence of this, when we are on the surface of Earth, we are constantly accelerating up, which is why we have normal forces acting on us. In a sense gravity and acceleration can be thought to be the same thing. This is called the equivalence principle.
Many parallels can be drawn between mass and electric charges, such as the forces they act on each other obey inverse-square laws, their interaction can be explained by the concept of a field etc.
According to electrodynamics, an oscillating electric charge will produce an electromagnetic wave. So it is not unreasonable to think that an oscillating mass will produce a gravitational wave. This is predicted by General Relativity as the oscillation of space-time.
Unfortunately, because gravity is such a weak 'force', gravitational waves predicted are very weak, making them extremely hard to detect. That is why it took physicist a century to build an extremely sensitive equipment to detect it.
The gravitational wave detected is produced by a very powerful interacting of two merging massive black holes.
Where to go from here?
The discovery of gravitational waves without a doubt is a great triumph of physics, as a purely theoretical entity is now a confirmed existence.
This discovery will opens many possibilities in which physics can be developed. Here are a few possible future advancements that can be made: