Einstein Was Right About This One Too: Gravitational Waves Discovered
When the Large Interferometer Gravitional Wave Observatory (LIGO) captured the first hint of the existence of gravitational waves, theorists around the world engaged in reverence. The idea of gravitational waves was first proposed by Albert Einstein in 1916 and 100 years later, it is revealed that he was right.
The waves captured came from two black holes rotating around each other. What's special about this discovery is that it allows humans to look at the universe in ways that were merely theorized before. An entirely new realm of information is available now.
For example, now we can better understand supernovas in our galaxy. "We will be able to look at the actual dynamics of what goes on inside the supernova," said LIGO co-founder Rainer Weiss of MIT. He went on to note that we would be able to find out what's going on inside of the supernova thanks to one's awareness of gravitational waves.
"It's like Galileo pointing the telescope for the first time at the sky," said LIGO team member Vassiliki Kalogera, a professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University in Illinois, to Space.com. "You're opening your eyes - in this case, our ears - to a new set of signals from the universe that our previous technologies did not allow us to receive, study and learn from."
In an interview on Quora, Peter Graham, a physics professor and gravitational wave researcher at Stanford, also noted how important this discovery is. "Extremely important! This is surely one of the most important discoveries in physics in the past several decades. It is not even so much the confirmation of the gravitational waves themselves, we were very confident that they existed, it is that we now have the ability to observe the universe using this entirely new spectrum. Everything we currently know about astrophysics and cosmology arose from observations of electromagnetic waves. Gravitational waves give us a new and entirely different source of information. We will learn a great deal about the universe that we could never have learned any other way."
The scientists behind the discovery stressed how LIGO's discovery will be remembered in the future, the same way we remember findings during the renaissance.
"I think that cultural gift to our future generations is really much bigger than any kind of technological spin-off, than the ultimate development of technology of any kind. I think we should be proud of what we give to our descendants culturally," said Kip Thorne of Caltech, a member of LIGO.