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theory of relativity •

Depiction of gravitational waves originating from the collision of two black holes.

(Mirror Daily, United States) – For over a week, since the Gravitational-Wave Laser Interferometer and the Foundation of National Science announced the discovery of gravitational waves, the scientific community is restless. But why are gravitational waves so important?

The scientific community is exhilarated because of the discovery of gravitational waves. But there are still a lot of people who asks themselves: why are gravitational waves so important? Don’t we have gravity already?

It is important to differentiate between gravity and gravitational waves because they are a different kind of forces that act in the universe. Gravity is what made the apple fall on Newton’s head, what makes the ice cream fall off the cone when somebody accidentally brushes against us on the street. Gravitational waves are a sort of ripple effect, one of the ideas that stood on the basis of the theory of relativity devised by Einstein.

So one of the answers to the question “why are gravitational waves so important?” is the fact that their discovery confirms Einstein’s general relativity theory. If the waves hadn’t been discovered then all the work based on the relativity theory would have proved useless.

As Elizabeth Garbee points out in this article, gravitational waves are much more fluid, they are rare occurrences on this side of the galaxy and we were incredibly fortunate to detect them.

In order to better understand the difference between the old-fashioned gravity and the newly discovered gravitational waves, we will head back to our ice cream cone example.

Replace the flat surface that the ice cream lover was walking on with something more fluid, like a lake. Every step that he or all other passersby make generates ripples on the surface of the fluid plain. If two of the passerby would collide and fall down, the ripples generated by the event would be substantially larger. Like when you throw a small stone into a lake versus a very large one.

The ripples created by the collision would travel a significantly longer distance. This would allow another passerby to observe the ripples and be aware of the collision without actually witnessing it.

Now, in order to fully understand the way in which gravitational waves work, you must replace the people walking on the fluid surface with black holes. The collision between the two is called a merger between binary black holes and the fluid surface is nothing but the “space-time” that Einstein described in the theory of relativity.

The chances of the collision happening and us detecting the waves were next to nothing. This is why the discovery is so important.

Now that the “why are gravitational waves so important?” question was answered, the general public will be able to participate in the scientific community fiesta. Also, the news that we might be able to analyze gravitational waves originating from the Big Bang will sound much sweeter.

Image source: YouTube

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