“The repercussions of Einstein’s scientific legacy continue to this day. One of the predictions of general relativity – one which has no counterpart in Newton’s theory of gravity – is the existence of gravitational waves: ripples in the fabric of spacetime which propagate like waves on the ocean. Detecting such waves, if indeed they exist, is one of the greatest challenges of modern physics. Although there is tantalising indirect evidence, to date they have never been detected directly. To borrow a term from electrical engineering, the ‘signal-to-noise ratio’ is simply too small. Nevertheless, dogged attempts are being made to improve the sensitivity of gravitational wave detectors, and many scientists believe the elusive discovery will be made in the not-too-distant future.” – Andrew May, PhD, in Albert Einstein: pocket GIANTS
The not-too-distant future is now. On February 11 2016 scientists from the LIGO Collaboration published their groundbreaking discovery of gravitational waves. This is the first time the existence of ripples in space-time have been directly detected. Two black holes merging offered waves clear enough for scientists to measure with the programme’s highly sensitive laser interferometers. This exciting finding not only proves that Einstein was correct in thinking that the force of gravity is due to the curvature of space and time, it also opens up possibilities for even deeper investigations into the furthest reaches of our universe.