Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Good Day to Live

It's a good day to be alive, especially if you like science. A couple of months back, the Higgs Boson was finally detected, thus filling in a crucial piece of the quantum mechanical puzzle that has eluded experimental physicists for decades. And today, a collaborative efforts between over a thousand researchers confirmed the existence of gravity waves - about a century after Einstein first theorized them (although he wasn't really very sure about it). To those who only see the regular rigmarole of life, these seem inconsequential, even a waste of time and money. Scientists have given their lives to gravity waves without ever being sure that they were even real - till now.

Why does this matter? Because this is more than an observational discovery - it is a diagnostic discovery, a whole new realm of Physics that seems to be born straight from science fiction. Everything we know about our universe is based on electromagnetic energy. Black holes are black because we can't see through them (OK, that's not really true). Dark matter is dark because we can't see it (again, not exactly true). Our scientific knowledge and intuition of the universe is based almost wholly on what we can see or sense in the electromagnetic spectrum. Until now, when we know that space-time can also propagate gravity waves, which are in a sense, mechanical waves traveling at the speed of light and distorting space-time.

As of now though, these waves are so small that it took a spectacular cosmic event to make even the smallest detection. But as far as science goes, I am hugely optimistic that we will eventually be able to harness this to peer further out into the universe. Just as acoustic emissions redefined the way we use micro-fracture mechanics in engineering, gravity waves have the potential to really change the way we perceive our universe. And who knows, maybe we will find out that we really are in an endless cycle of creation and destruction? 

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