With great joy, we pass on news from yesterday of the scientific discovery of brief sounds that emanated from the collision, a billion light-years from Earth, of two black holes, giving us the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that are, in fact, the last prediction Albert Einstein made in his theory of general relativity a century ago.
When the black holes collided, the collision unleashed the energy of a billion trillion suns, and over the next billion years or so, that energy has been dissipating. It took two of the most sensitive detectors for gravitational waves, with L-shaped antennas that are more than two miles long, at centers in Washington and Louisiana.
I find it especially satisfying to know that the evidence of one of our greatest scientific theories came in the form of sound that slowly goes up in pitch until it reaches a frequency around middle C and then subsides. It lasts but a few seconds and was recorded in September by the LIGO, or the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.
A strong appreciation of knowledge, beauty, and truth, for their own sake, is what I think makes us human. From this knowledge, this beautiful and pure science, technological applications may be developed, just maybe not right away. Travel faster than light may be possible after all, and knowing more about space-time might be an important step in a scientific achievement of that magnitude. Knowing gravitational waves exist, we know space and time are indistinguishable; both can, theoretically, be stretched and wiggled. We just have to figure out how.
As we know, the Cosmos can be described using the objective language of science and mathematics, and explaining where gravity comes from has been one of the single most elusive pursuits of physics. How our universe came to exist, we may never know, but to harness its beauty and infinite authority, there’s no need to try to evoke a deity who, if such an entity exists at all, surely must have an imagination and intelligence far beyond that of any human.