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Comment Re:Why this matters (Score 1) 151

Basically, it mostly matters to the theoretical-physicists-based economy. To all these people for whom the validity of the Relativity is required (together with all what follows to it, like Quantum Mechanics), because in case of being proven wrong (and/or useless), lots of big projects/reputations/money-generations might be lost.

It is true that we don't have a direct application of this at the moment, but most things don't have direct applications when they are initially discovered. Electricity didn't, nor did radioactivity, nor did relativity (which is actually applied in GPS systems). But there are a lot of people who care about this who aren't theoretical physics people (I'm a mathematician for example.) Moreover, there would actually be more likely be money and new big projects if the gravity waves didn't meet the theoretical expectations. It is much easier to get money for research when a field is in a state of complete confusion.

Finally, please note that quantum mechanics doesn't follow relativity, but is essentially orthogonal. One can do quantum mechanics in a completely classical space-time (and in fact that's much easier). Special relativity can be made consistent with QM, but we cannot at this point reconcile quantum mechanics and GR.

Comment buh? there's non-Human scientists? (Score 5, Funny) 151

the first gravitational wave to be detected directly by human scientists

I had to go read the linked story to make sure it wasn't typical /. submitter reading failure.
Please, The Economist, do tell more, I think you buried the lead there.

sigh. At least it's not a Forbes link.

Comment Re:What is a gravity wave? (Score 3, Interesting) 151

Essentially a flexing of space, but it isn't easy to visualize. Imagine a circle as a gravity wave goes through it then the horizontal direction will get flattened and the vertical (direction of the wave) will get stretched out, and then the reverse. The actual equations for what it does to an object though are non-trivial.

Comment Why this matters (Score 5, Informative) 151

This matters for a bunch of reasons. First, it helps close confirm predictions of general relativity. We had a lot of evidence already but more is good. Second, if we get more data we might be able to rule out or narrow down our search space for any eventual quantum gravity theory since they have predictions about how gravity waves should behave (although this would require massively upgrading LIGO). Third, this gives us insight into stellar objects that we normally lack the ability to examine. For example, we don't know much about what the cores of neutron stars are like, but different ideas about them give different predictions about what sort of gravity waves two merging neutron stars will create. So this may give us more data about what exotic objects are actually doing. Fourth, this gives us for the first time a way of getting data from very far away sources that isn't in the electromagnetic spectrum. Right now, we can detect neutrino bursts if they come from a few million light years away but pretty much everything from outside our little galactic neighborhood has to come either from electromagnetic radiation or detecting cosmic rays. But LIGO can already detect gravity waves from events that are a billion light years away. So this gives us a whole new long type of data.

It's Official: LIGO Scientists Make First-Ever Observation of Gravity Waves ( 151

A few days ago, we posted reports that a major finding -- the discovery of the long-predicted gravity waves -- was expected to be formally announced today, and reader universe520 is the first to note this coverage in the Economist : It is 1.3 billion years after two black holes merged and sent out gravitational waves. On Earth in September 2015, the faintest slice of those waves was caught. That slice, called GW150914 and announced to the world on February 11th, is the first gravitational wave to be detected directly by human scientists. It is a triumph that has been a century in the making, opening a new window onto the universe and giving researchers a means to peer at hitherto inaccessible happenings, perhaps as far back in time as the Big Bang.
Reader DudeTheMath adds: NPR has a nice write-up of the newly-published results: "[R]esearchers say they have detected rumblings from that cataclysmic collision as ripples in the very fabric of space-time itself. The discovery comes a century after Albert Einstein first predicted such ripples should exist. ... The signal in the detector matches well with what's predicted by Einstein's original theory, according to [Saul] Teukolsky [of Cornell], who was briefed on the results."

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