As I have started to scratch the surface of Astrophysics I’ve found myself going down the rabbit hole that is gravitational waves. Originally predicted by Einstein in 1916 in his general theory of relativity, it wasn’t until 99 years later that he was proved right.
Something did happen in that 99 year gap that did bring the Astrophysics world a step closer to understanding if gravitational waves did actually exist. Before I go any further I guess it probably makes sense to explain what the heck gravitational waves are – so here’s a simple explanation:
Gravitational waves are ripples (i.e. waves) in space-time caused by insanely high-energy processes like two black holes orbiting each other.
Don’t know what space-time is? Here’s a simple explanation:
Space-time is pretty much exactly as it sounds, the combination of space and time. Three dimensional space you already know, and well, time you know as well, combine them together into a four-dimensional manifold (a collection of points forming a set or grouping) and you have space-time.
Okay, so now that we have these definitions out of the way, I’ll get back to why I find gravitational waves so interesting, and not, it’s not because they are useful to me, or you, in any way. To me what I find so interesting about gravitational waves is that Einstein theorized (using lots of complex math) that they existed back in 1916. It took 99 years until scientists were able to actually run an experiment to prove that Einstein was right.
So beyond the science I think the existence of gravitational waves, to me represents just how powerful math is at explaining how the world works. I mean, just think about it for a second, in 1916 a brilliant scientist/mathematician came up with a fundamental theory about how the universe works, proved it with math alone and then, fast forward almost a century in the future and it turns out to be true.
To me that’s just amazing and so awe-inspiring. As to how in 2015 scientists proved that gravitational waves do indeed exist, well I’ll save that for another post.