Gravitational Waves Discovered

(For those who missed out on both the 2015 announcement and its significance)

Glossary

gravitational waves      ripples in the curvature of spacetime that propagate as waves outward from their source at the speed of light and are without mass (i.e., massless).

spacetime                    any mathematical model that fuses the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into a single, 4‑dimensional continuum. Also called space-time.

superluminal                faster than the speed of light.

wormhole                     a wormhole may connect extremely long distances such as a billion light years or more; short distances such as a few feet; different universes; and/or different points in time. This is proposed in Einstein’s general theory of relativity where the combination of space and time into a single spacetime continuum could theoretically allow one to traverse both space and time using a wormhole with the correct conditions.  Also known scientifically as an Einstein-Rosen Bridge. Wormholes are theoretical and have not as yet been proven to exist.

Background

Ripples in the curvature of spacetime: that’s the official definition for gravitational waves that scientists have been looking for since Einstein proposed his theory of general relativity in 1915.  So, what are they . . . really . . . and why should the reader care?  Well, for one reason at least: they’re weird.  Another reason is that they may be discovered to be one of several proposed means of interstellar travel.  But more about that later.

Two black holes in collision releasing gravitational waves [1]

The Theory

In Einstein’s theory, gravity is treated as a phenomenon resulting from the curvature of spacetime.  This curvature results from the presence of a (large) mass or celestial body (the Sun, for example).  The larger the mass, there will be a greater curvature of spacetime around that mass. Large accelerating masses, under the right conditions, also cause changes in the curvature of spacetime. Those changes in the curvature propagate outward at the speed of light, have no mass and are known as gravitational waves.

Curvature of spacetime around a large mass (Earth shown here) [2]

The Science

Gravitational waves are produced as a result of the collision of two black holes, in-spiraling neutron stars, binary star systems and supernovae.  For example, as two black holes approach and spin around each other, they eventually spiral in and collide.  The collision releases gravitational waves that create ripples in the curvature of spacetime.  Think of spacetime as a fabric.  A fabric can be folded, bent or warped.  For example, spacetime is folded around a planet and the greater the mass of the planet, the greater is the folding of spacetime around that planet.  What scientists want to know is how gravitational waves work. What engineers want to know is how gravitational waves could be used in some purposeful way.  But first, the experiment.

The Experiment

The further away Earth is from the point of collision of two objects (or acceleration of an object), the lesser will be the effect of the waves as they are detected on Earth.  Funded by the National Science Foundation, LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) began working in 1994 to detect the passage of gravitational waves.  Several years ago two teams, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration, built two separate detection observatories at distant locations. On September 14, 2015, LIGO detected the first gravitational waves resulting from the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion light years away.  On June 15, 2016 a second set of waves were detected from another collision of two black holes 1.4 billion light years away.  The third detection of the collision of two black holes was made on June 1, 2017 at a distance of 2.9 billion light years.

How does LIGO work? LIGO has one detector in Livingston, Louisiana and one in Richland, Washington.  An interferometer is basically an instrument that measures the interference patterns of light.  In this case we’re dealing with laser light (or what is called coherent light). Here’s how LIGO works:

LIGO Gravitational Wave Detector [3]

Figure 1: A beam splitter (green line) splits laser light (from the white box) into two beams that are reflected off mirrors (cyan colored).  The reflected beams re-combine and an interference pattern is detected (at solid purple dot).

Figure 2: As a gravitational wave passes through the left arm (yellow), the length of the arm changes the wave’s length and the wave is detected (at purple circle). 

Recent Developments 

As of August 2017, astronomers were searching for a binary neutron star system in NGC 4993, a galaxy about 130 million light years away in the Hydra constellation.  If they find colliding neutron stars, they may also make an optical discovery as well. Colliding neutron stars, unlike black holes, would emit light in the visible wavelengths of the spectrum in addition to gravitational waves.  Perhaps it’s time to reposition and refocus the Hubble Space Telescope.

To date, the results have been puzzling.  It seems that the black holes observed so far aren’t like the ones that we are familiar with in the Milky Way.  “No matter what happens, they don’t look like the ones in our galaxy,” said study author Will Farr from the Birmingham Institute for Gravitational Wave Astronomy. “It will be weird and exciting.” [4]

The Significance

Now we get to the potential application of gravitational waves to exotic innovations that could ultimately affect all of us.  Science has proven that gravitational waves exist.  We have learned that gravitational waves cause spacetime to curve or bend.  If we could create and control gravitational waves (via a gravitational wave “generator”), we could control spacetime.  The control of spacetime would have several applications — all of which are of more than just considerable interest.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? It should as more often than not we have heard about the positive (and negative) theories of the warping of spacetime from more than one source (Lazar [5], Cook [6], McCandlish [7], Rich [8], Loder [9], LaViolette [10], et al) over the last 28+ years.

Perhaps the naysayers are wrong, and less well-known scientists of one of the government’s laboratories were aware of gravitational waves some time ago and have already put them into use. What does that mean, exactly? This means that if one were able to control spacetime, one could travel a few feet away, to the other side of the Earth or to locations billions of light years away.  And, according to the late Ben Rich (former president of Lockheed Martin’s “Skunk Works”), it wouldn’t take years to get there. Essentially, controlling spacetime would allow the traveler to create and travel through the equivalent of an artificial “wormhole” to anywhere.

For his book, Nick Cook interviewed Dr. Dan Markus, a physicist at one of the UK’s best-known universities (Cambridge?).  Dr. Markus was quoted as saying, “When you bend space, you also bend time.” [11]. Hey folks, we’re talking superluminal, starship travel here!  Time to beam me up, Scotty.

Notes:

1 Image courtesy of NASA

2 Image courtesy of Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacetime

3 Image courtesy of NASA

https://gizmodo.com/gravitational-waves-reveal-the-unexpectedly-weird-behav-1798347524

5 Keller, T. L., The Total Novice’s Guide To UFOs, 2ndedition, 2016, digital edition.

6 Cook, Nick, The Hunt For Zero Point, 2002, pp. 117, 121, 229.

7 Keller, T. L., The Total Novice’s Guide To The Secret Space Program, 2017, digital edition.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 LaViolette, Ph.D., Paul A., Secrets of Antigravity Propulsion, 2008, pp. 283-295.

11 Cook, Nick, The Hunt For Zero Point, 2002, page 229.

The author may be contacted at 2FSPress.com.

© T. L. Keller 2019