The Daddy-Daughter Talk… About Gravity Waves

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Graphic Source: NASA.gov

Graphic Source: NASA.gov

On the morning of Thursday, February 11, 2016 at a press conference in Washington DC, an international team of scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced the discovery of Gravity Waves. Long sought after, this phenomenon was first postulated by Albert Einstein more than a century ago in his seminal 1915 paper on the General Theory of Relativity. While the major media jumped on this “universe changing” story, the reports were not adequate to fully explain the concept of Gravity Waves and the implications of their discovery. Leave it, then, to the innocent questions of a young daughter to her wise father to explain The Facts of Life and Gravity Waves. What follows is the transcript of the actual conversation that occurred through Facebook messaging on Friday, February 12, 2016:

Daughter: [Friday 3:20pm] “Gravitational Waves Detected, Confirming Einstein’s Theory” (New York Times, February 12, 2016) “Scientists say they heard the faint chirp of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, fulfilling Einstein’s general theory of relativity.” (nytimes.com, accessed February 12, 2016)… did you see this? A lot of my friends liked this story, but they don’t know what it means.
Daddy: That’s because it’s not something tangible. We can’t really “see” a physical “wave.” What we’re doing is detecting radio waves – i.e., sounds. This branch of astronomy, called “Radio Astronomy” has been around for a while (it took off in the 1960s when a couple of Bell Labs engineers accidentally discovered it wasn’t pigeon poop, but Continue Reading “The Daddy-Daughter Talk… About Gravity Waves”