What are the future implications of the confirmation of gravity waves?

15 April 2014

Question

What are the future implications of the confirmation of gravity waves?

Answer

Tamela - Yeah. So, you're eluding to the BICEP2 result which is a telescope down the South Pole run by the Harvard Smithsonian Centre and they announced, as you say, these primordial gravitational waves had been detected in the cosmic microwave background. This is a signal that we theoretically expected to find and people were looking for it and sure enough, there it was. The biggest result of that is really that our theory of inflation, this idea that the universe expanded massively very soon after the Big Bang it's a strong confirmation of that theory. It's very difficult to imagine a very, different theory that allows the same sorts of gravitational waves and the patterns that we see in the background. So, that's a big thing for cosmologists and definitely gives us a bit more information to play with about the beginning of the universe.

In terms of the future for other gravitational wave detections, obviously, this sort of thing wants to be followed up by other experiments and peer review. A lot of people are still really keen for a direct measurement. What they just did was looking out back to the furthest reaches of the universe and back in time. we would love to see a ripple in space-time because of some very massive event that happened coming through Earth and we'd love to see that detected and we've got a couple of experiments. LIGO is the big one. It's from the US and it's this interferometer that's based on the ground. It's got this laser shining between very long arms distances and it's waiting for a gravitational wave to pass through it and it'll just distort that light a bit and delay it slightly. You can imagine this is a really sensitive detector. It requires a lot of fine-tuning in subtracting background noise. So, that's something they haven't yet discovered anything with, but they're advancing it next year. They're releasing advanced LIGO. LISA is a space-based version of that and that may also launch in some form or another in a few decades, so a lot coming on-board.

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