Just a quick note here as I’m on deadline for a piece on this stuff, but today we got the official announcement of the worst kept secret in physics. Here, via the Guardian, is the TL:DR version of what was said:
On 14 September 2015 at 9:50 GMT, the two detectors of the newly upgraded Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected a signal.
It was unambiguously a gravitational wave signal because it matched the predictions from Einstein’s general theory of relativity almost precisely.
This is huge news, as it is, among other things, the latest and most elusive (so far) direct confirmation of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, a theory of gravity that describes what we feel as a force holding our feet to the floor is in fact the local warping of spacetime by matterenergy. (In the case of our feet and our floor — that warping is the dent in spacetime created by the mass of the earth.)
It is as well a triumph of virtuosity in observation and measurement. The detection of a gravity wave is a simply wondrous an act of human hands and mind. It is a joy to witness, at least for me.
More after I get the paying work done….
Update: As noted by commenter Michael Bersin, you can think about gravity waves as acoustic ones — sound. As it happens, a couple of my students in a course I teach on making science documentaries are all over this. Check out Sasha Chapman’s and Allan Adams’ audio piece over at The Atlantic’s joint in which MIT physicist Scott Hughes sings the crash of black holes.
Image: J. W. M. Turner Storm at Sea 1851 or before.