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14 February 2016

This is the most profound explanation I've heard of what it means to detect gravitational waves

"We can hear the cosmos."
The scientific world is still reeling over the first ever detection of ripples in the fabric of space-time, called gravitational waves.
Albert Einstein predicted their existence 100 years ago but never believed we'd actually detect the waves. So right now if you hang around physicists, who can't contain their excitement, you're bound to hear some profound scientific poetry.

One scientist from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) experiment, which announced the detection of gravitational waves on February 11, shared what is perhaps the most beautiful and poignant description Tech Insider has heard so far.

Physicist Szabi Marka, a LIGO collaborator based at Columbia University, gushed about the coming scientific revolution to a crowded Columbia lecture hall in New York.

"The skies will never be the same," Marka told the audience, mainly physics students. "Gravitational waves will let us listen to the music of the cosmos."

NASA
Marka's use of the word "listen" is no accident.
Sound travels as waves, and so does a gravitational wave. Except instead of air or water or some other matter, gravitational waves move through a medium that permits everything in it — you, me, the Earth, the stars — to exist at all.

What's more, when something calamitous happens in outer space, like the truly awesome collision of two black holes, the waves warp space as they pass by. Until September 2015, when LIGO first recorded this "music," it was entirely out of reach of humankind.

No telescope that detects light of any wavelength — radio, microwave, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, X-ray, or gamma — could have detected such an event.

NASA
"Imagine that you can touch, you can smell, you can taste, you can see, and one day, one day you can hear. That day is a glorious day," Marka said. "You can appreciate Beethoven … Your life will never be the same again. This is what happened to us. This is what happened to us as a community."
Marka finished: "From today, we can hear the cosmos. We can see the unseen."

Many researchers, like Marka, told us the discovery of gravitational waves is just the beginning of a revolution in science. It's such a radically new paradigm that the detection itself brought with it a (growing) list of firsts.

"We're humans, we're curious, and on a quest to understand such weird things that are a big part of our universe," Kip Thorne, a physicist at Caltech and a cofounder of LIGO, told Tech Insider. "It's a quest that's part of dream of humanity that goes back to a child's earliest days."

This is the most profound explanation I've heard of what it means to detect gravitational waves
By Dave Mosher, businessinsider.com
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