There are researchers who are in search of Albert Einstein’s seemingly non-existent gravitational waves.
In the lush green rural areas of Italy, not far from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the greatest experiment is about to begin. If it turns out to be spot-on, then another one of Albert Einstein’s predictions will have turned out to be true.
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However, keep this in mind that, if it fails then the very laws of physics will need a little reconsideration. Termed Advanced Virgo, the experiment is all about the search for a most mysterious phenomenon of astrophysics.
"Maybe we have the opportunity for the first time to detect gravitational waves on the Earth," Dr Franco Frasconi, from the University Pisa, who is part of Virgo's international team, told BBC. "This would be a clear demonstration that what [Einstein] said 100 years ago is absolutely correct."
This is the first time that we human beings can possibly get a chance to observe gravitational waves on our planet. Were the experiment to be a success, Einstein’s words which he spoke a century before would turn out to have been true to the letter. In 1915, Einstein postulated his field equations.
These entities were the basis of his Theory of General Relativity. Now, General Relativity has pretty much become a solid principle of our modern understanding of physics. So much that we know today begins in this theory which was the brainchild of the genius that was Einstein.
The expanding universe, planetary mechanics and black holes all owe their existence as ideas to Einstein’s creative mind. Yet Einstein also gave us the postulate of gravitational waves. These were ripples of energy that created distortions in the fabric of the space-time continuum.
Gravitational waves are like the expanding circles that appear in a still pond when you throw a pebble into it. If an object has mass, it will generate these waves. But the more massive the object, the greater the effect of these waves. According to Einstein, the universe was riddled with gravitational waves. And while the waves are an inference, they have never been detected.
Violent activity produces these waves in abundance. Some of these waves move at the speed of light. Sources of these waves include black holes and supernovas. The Advanced Virgo experiment is meant to bounce laser beams from the insides of tunnels.
The waves (if there are any) ought to disturb the surrounding light. It doesn’t come as a surprise that gravitational waves cannot be detected. Gravity is in fact the weakest of the four known forces that bind the universe.
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In Italy, the experiment to find out whether or not Einstein was right or wrong regarding what he said a 100 years ago has started. Interferometers will be used. And the overall procedure will not be easy to execute. It is highly sophisticated technology that will get used in the generation of evidence for gravitational waves. And the results (if any) will separate the wheat from the chaff.