Detecting Baby Waves


In Einstein’s theory of general relativity, he said that massive objects moving at incredible speeds, or giant objects’ gravity interacting could cause ripples in the space-time fabric, known as gravitational waves. They had been searched by scientists for years, and they had successfully hidden, but not anymore.

A series of experiments taking place in the South Pole have finally provided the scientific community with a solid detection of these elusive waves. The project, called BICEP2, has released its findings today, and are awaiting further revision for official publication.

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The graph showing the primoridal gravitational waves when first detected.

There has been a lot of excitement over these waves, because they are able to prove one of the most popular theories regarding the birth of our universe: inflation. The theory, suggested by physicist Alan Guth, says that a few moments after the universe was created, it suffered a dramatic increase in size (by a factor of 1078). After this, its expansion rate slowed down considerably.

What’s important is that if this theory was correct, the sudden growth would have caused ripples in the space-time, hopefully strong enough for us to detect.

And this is what this amazing team has done. They have detected the gravitational waves that were given off during the expansion, given the fancy name of primordial gravitational waves.

The results are impressive just by themselves. The fact they have caught these waves is already world-changing, but there are even more interesting details that deserve our attention.

The waves they found were stronger than they thought they could be, which leads to a rethinking of the current inflation theory. There are some ‘sub-theories’ that can explain this fact, so many eyes are turning towards these and reconsidering them for answers.

But if there’s something we’ve learnt after all these years is to remain cautious after big discoveries (incredible stem cell method not that incredible after all?). The findings have yet to be backed up by other experiments from other teams, but overall there is a positive feeling towards this data.

If they were to be true, they would prove inflation to be true once and for all, but they could also prove useful in completing quantum mechanics. This field is very effective when working with subatomic particles, but when you add gravity, it all goes to rubbish. An understanding of gravitational waves could be useful and could help scientists find that key they need to wrap it all up.

 

Check out BICEP2’s official website:

http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/CMB/bicep2/science.html

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Project Einstein


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Screenshot of the new website dedicated to the genius Albert Einstein.

This week, the newest project by the Hebrew University at Jerusalem was launched to the Internet. Their work, dedicated to one of the greatest scientists of the 20th Century, Albert Einstein, contained many pieces of his written work and included some personal documents.

As director of the University, Menajem Ben Sasson said, this project shows a more human face of the scientists, and tries to get more people to know about his knowledge. The workers of the university have tried to accomplish this by publishing many of his personal letters, including one to Azmi El-Nashashibi, the editor of ‘El Falastin’, in which the laureate presents his ideas of how to solve the Jew and Arabic conflict, and other passionate letters to Einstein’s lovers.

For those of you who prefer to read it in paper, don’t worry, a paper edition is going to be released at the end of 2012, in a project in which the University of Princeton and the Einstein Paper Projects (EEP), from the University of California, take a great part.

Many other important figures have taken part in this work, as english philanthropist Leonard Polonsky or CEO John Gutfreund.

The website, which you can visit at www.alberteinstein.info, contains near 81,000 pages (and the number continues rising) with a collection of all the documents the physicist has written or read, organized with topics as relativity theory, Hebrew University, private life, etc.