Gravitational waves

By | Science & Technology
Gravitational Waves Credit @ Werner Benger via Flickr.com

Throughout time, many people have been interested in how our world, and indeed the universe, works. Aristotle theorised that our solar system was geocentric, meaning the planets orbit around the Earth, and many others have followed in his footsteps to learn more about our planet and the area surrounding it. In recent times, the work of Stephen Hawking and the discovery of the Higgs Boson have been communicated to a much wider audience than in the past.

Nearly everything that occurs in our universe can be expressed by a physical law. Examples such as the conservation of momentum and the conservation of charge are seen every day. So are the effects of gravity, which keeps us and all our belongings safely on the ground. These classical laws of physics are easily explained and always abided by.

There are though some corollaries that are more challenging to be observed, one of these is relativity. Relativity is linked to the speed of light, and how travelling at this speed can cause time to slow down and distances to shorten. Space-time is different to this, as this is an overlapping map of time throughout space, and is said to be the fourth dimension. Einstein’s theory of general relativity states that a mass can cause a curvature of space-time. The curvature is greater nearer to the volume of mass, and if an object of mass is accelerating through space-time, this can cause a rapid curvature causing waves called gravitational waves. One reason for these waves occurring could be the big bang, which created our planet and all the planets and stars around us. The waves though could have also formed due to the collisions of stars or black holes, so the amount of energy these waves have is how they are distinguished. Telescopes at the North Pole may have found proof of these waves, hopefully proving Einstein’s original theorem.

Starburst Cluster Credit @ NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre via Flickr.com

Starburst Cluster Credit @ NASA Goddard SFC via Flickr.com

The BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarisation) telescope was used to try and detect these waves, hopefully telling us more about how our universe was created. It works by detecting microwave energy, which is a form of electromagnetic wave such as infrared and ultraviolet, yet with a higher energy. The telescope detects only the frequencies of this radiation to reduce the amount of background readings to make the investigation more accurate. This has allowed a signal to be produced that scientists think dates back to the big bang.

If this is indeed the case, this will be a huge discovery. It will allow us to learn more about how the universe was created and where we came from. The detection of gravitational waves will also help us to understand how events such as the collision of stars effect space-time, and what else causes these waves. The signals produced from the experiment will help us to understand the big bang, and it has also provided a proof for the theory, almost a century old, of one of the most influential physicists of all time.

As technology develops even further, we will keep getting a clearer picture into the creation of the universe, as well as other events which happen in space millions of miles away from Earth. As we are in an era where scientific discoveries are shown in the media for all, instead of just scientists and other academics, this investigation, and others like it, may hopefully attract greater numbers of younger people to the sciences and astronomy, possibly leading to more unlikely theories in the future.

Now we know more about space-time, what else is there out there to be discovered?

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