Listen to a Physicist Explain Gravitational Waves (in a Way You'll Understand)


Earlier this month, physicists at LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) announced that, after many decades of searching, they had finally detected gravitational waves. Still not really sure what that means? Theoretical physicist Brian Greene recently stopped by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to make sense of the Earth-rippling news, The Week reports

Albert Einstein first predicted gravitational waves 100 years ago, and Greene tells Colbert that the confirmation of his ideas opens up “a whole new way of exploring the universe.” Using graphics, Greene explains that gravitational waves are the result of massive objects like the Sun causing ripples in the fabric of space, much like a bowling ball on a trampoline or a pebble in a pond. Those waves spread out, passing through other objects in the universe, stretching and compressing them as they do.

In the video above, you can see a model of the device scientists used to detect the waves, though Greene and Colbert use sound waves ("Science!") instead of gravitational waves to trigger the sensor.

If you haven’t picked up on this yet, the discovery of gravitational waves is a huge deal, as we explained on February 11, when the official announcement was made. (Rumors were swirling for months before thanks to a provocative tweet by physicist Lawrence Krauss.) Greene tells Colbert that gravitational waves “herald a revolution in our understanding of the universe” because, for one thing, they can go somewhere light can't: black holes. Gravitational waves might be the key for us to get inside and map what we can't see within those massive question marks in space.

Check out the video above to hear more about the discovery and best of all, a simulation of the sound of two black holes colliding. As Greene says, “those sounds are the future of studying the cosmos.” You can also listen to a more Earthbound remix.

Images via YouTube

[h/t The Week]