Black Holes are not so Black (Part 3) - Gravitational Waves

The existence of Gravitational Waves have been confirmed. But you probably have heard that. In this post, we will break down this profound discovery into comprehend-able chunks.

This is going to be a amazing journey. Ready ?

Redefining Gravity

When we usually talk of Gravitation we are bound to think like Newton, where objects are assumed to exerting a force upon each other.

Like imaginary arrows of force in space. But this picture, although good for high school crumbled, with the advent of Einstein’s theory of Relativity.

What is the Space-Time Fabric?

Think of space-time fabric as an actual cloth of fabric. ( An analogy )

When you place an object on the fabric, the cloth curves. This is exactly what happens in the solar system as well.

The sun with such a huge mass bends the space-time fabric. And the earth and all the planets are kept in orbit by following this curvature that has been made by the sun.

Attributing to the various masses of objects, the way they bend this fabric also varies.

What are Gravitational Waves?

If you drop an object in a medium such as water, they produce ripples that propagate as waves through the medium.

Similarly, Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time fabric produced when you drag heavy objects through space time.

And the nature of these waves is that they don’t require a medium to propagate.

How do you make one?

Everything with mass/energy can create these waves.


Two persons dancing around each other in space too can create gravitational waves. But the waves would be extremely faint.

You need something big and massive accelerating through space-time in order to even detect them.

And orbiting binary stars/black holes are valuable in this retrospect.

How can you detect them?

Let’s turn to the problem to detecting them assuming you do find binary stars/black-holes in the wondrous space to suite your needs.

Well, for starters you cannot use rocks/ rulers to measure them because as the space expands and contracts, so do the rocks. ( the distances will remain same in both the cases )

Here’s where the high school fact that the speed of Light is a constant no matter what plays an important and pivotal role.

If the space expands, the time taken for light to reach from A to B would be longer. And if it contracts, the time taken for it to reach from A to B would be smaller.

PC: PHDComics

By allowing the light waves from the contraction and expansion to interfere with each other, such as done in any interferometry experiment we can detect the expansion or contraction. Voila!

And this is exactly what they did! ( on a macroscopic level ) at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory)

14 September 2015

Two Black Holes with masses of 29 and 36 solar masses merged together some 1.3 Billion light years away.

Two Black Holes colliding is the header animation of the ‘Black Holes are not so Black Series’, in case if you haven’t noticed.

The merger of these two black holes results in the emission of energy equivalent to 3 solar masses as Gravitational Waves.

This signal was seen by both LIGO detectors, in Livingston and Hanford, with a time difference of 7 milliseconds.

And with the measurement of this time difference, physicists have pronounced the existence of Gravitational Waves.


All this is most certainly easily said than done and requires meticulous and extensive research, not to mention highly sensitive instruments.

Had they not have measured this time difference, we might have had to wait for the merger for more massive black holes to collide and maybe even build more sensitive instruments to detect these waves.

And Einstein predicted this a 100 years back!

Mind Blown!

Note: Hope you are able to understand and appreciate the profundity of the discovery done by mankind.

** All animations used here are merely for Educational purposes. If you have any issues, please write to us at :
Gravitational waves from black holes detected - BBC News
For the first time, scientists have detected tiny, rhythmic distortions in space and time - gravitational waves - predicted by Einstein 100 years ago.

holy dicks it’s finally happened

“The fact that we are sitting here on Earth feeling the actual fabric of the Universe stretch and compress slightly due to the merger of black holes that occurred just over a billion years ago - I think that’s phenomenal. It’s amazing that when we first turned on our detectors, the Universe was ready and waiting to say ‘hello’” - Professor Sheila Rowan of Glasgow University, MY university I know this famous lady o:

Finding Beauty in the Darkness


With presidential primaries in full steam, with the country wrapped up in concern about the economy, immigration and terrorism, one might wonder why we should care about the news of a minuscule jiggle produced by an event in a far corner of the universe.

The answer is simple. While the political displays we have been treated to over the past weeks may reflect some of the worst about what it means to be human, this jiggle, discovered in an exotic physics experiment, reflects the best. Scientists overcame almost insurmountable odds to open a vast new window on the cosmos. And if history is any guide, every time we have built new eyes to observe the universe, our understanding of ourselves and our place in it has been forever altered.

When Galileo turned his telescope toward Jupiter in 1609, he observed moons orbiting the giant planet, a discovery that destroyed the Aristotelian notion that everything in heaven orbited the Earth. When in 1964 Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Laboratories detected radio waves emitted by celestial objects, they discovered that the universe began in a fiery Big Bang.

One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein used his newly discovered general theory of relativity (which implies that space itself responds to the presence of matter by curving, expanding or contracting) to demonstrate that each time we wave our hands around or move any matter, disturbances in the fabric of space propagate out at the speed of light, as waves travel outward when a rock is thrown into a lake. As these gravitational waves traverse space they will literally cause distances between objects alternately to decrease and increase in an oscillatory manner.

This, of course, is far from the realm of human experience. In the absence of alcohol, your living room doesn’t appear to shrink and grow repeatedly. But, in fact, it does. The oscillations in space caused by gravitational waves are so small that those ripples in length had never been seen. And there was every reason to suspect they would never be seen.

Yet on Thursday, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, announced that a signal from gravitational waves had been discovered emanating from the collision and merger of two massive black holes over a billion light-years away. How far away is that? Well, one light-year is about 5.88 trillion miles.

To see these waves, the experimenters built two mammoth detectors, one in Washington State, the other in Louisiana, each consisting of two tunnels about 2.5 miles in length at right angles to each other. By shooting a laser beam down the length of each tunnel and timing how long it took for each to be reflected off a mirror at the far end, the experimenters could precisely measure the tunnels’ length. If a gravitational wave from a distant galaxy traverses the detectors at both locations roughly simultaneously, then at each location, the length of one arm would get smaller, while the length of the other arm would get longer, alternating back and forth.

To detect the signal they observed they had to be able to measure a periodic difference in the length between the two tunnels by a distance of less than one ten-thousandth the size of a single proton. It is equivalent to measuring the distance between the earth and the nearest star with an accuracy of the width of a human hair.

If the fact that this is possible doesn’t astonish, then read these statements again. This difference is so small that even the minuscule motion in the position of each mirror at the end of each tunnel because of quantum mechanical vibrations of the atoms in the mirror could have overwhelmed the signal. But scientists were able to resort to the most modern techniques in quantum optics to overcome this.

The two black holes that collided, which the LIGO experiment claimed to have detected, were immense. One was about 36 times the mass of our sun, the other, 29 times that mass. The collision and merger produced a black hole 62 times our sun’s mass. If your elementary arithmetic suggests that something is wrong, you’re right. Where did the extra three solar masses disappear to?

Into pure energy in the form of gravitational waves. Our sun will burn for 10 billion years, with the intensity of over 10 billion thermonuclear weapons going off every second. In the process, only a small fraction of its total mass will be turned into energy, according to Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2. But when those black holes collided, three times the entire mass of our sun disappeared in less than a second, transformed into pure energy. During that time, the collision generated more energy than was being generated by all the rest of the stars in the observable universe combined.

Too often people ask, what’s the use of science like this, if it doesn’t produce faster cars or better toasters. But people rarely ask the same question about a Picasso painting or a Mozart symphony. Such pinnacles of human creativity change our perspective of our place in the universe. Science, like art, music and literature, has the capacity to amaze and excite, dazzle and bewilder. I would argue that it is that aspect of science — its cultural contribution, its humanity — that is perhaps its most important feature.

What more can we learn about the universe from a stupefying experimental feat observing a stupefying wonder of nature? The answer is anyone’s guess. Gravitational-wave observatories of the future will be able to explore the exotic features of black holes. This may shed light on the evolution of galaxies, stars and gravity. Eventually, we may be able to observe gravitational waves from the Big Bang, which will push the limits of our current understanding of physics.

Gravitational waves emerge from near the “event horizon” of black holes, the so-called exit door from the universe through which anything that passes can never return. Near such regions, for example, time slows down by a huge amount, as anyone who went to see the movie “Interstellar” knows. (Coincidentally the original treatment for “Interstellar” was written by Kip Thorne, one of the physicists who helped conceive of the LIGO experiment.)

Ultimately, by exploring processes near the event horizon, or by observing gravitational waves from the early universe, we may learn more about the beginning of the universe itself, or even the possible existence of other universes.

Every child has wondered at some time where we came from and how we got here. That we can try and answer such questions by building devices like LIGO to peer out into the cosmos stands as a testament to the persistent curiosity and ingenuity of humankind — the qualities that we should most celebrate about being human.


Today, over 100 years after Einstein proposed his theory of general relativity, we are proud to announce that his final major prediction has been verified! Gravitational waves have officially been detected by LIGO! 

In a brand new video,  PBS Space Time discusses what exactly was seen,what it tells us, and what we can expect for the future.

Then he’d tried believing in the Universe, which seemed sound enough until he’d innocently started reading new books with words like Chaos and Time and Quantum in the titles. He’d found that even the people whose job of work was, so to speak, the Universe, didn’t really believe in it and were actually quite proud of not knowing what it really was or even if it could theoretically exist.
—  Terry Pratchett, Good Omens
Gravitational waves detected 100 years after Einstein's prediction

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

Keep reading
University of Glasgow - University news - Gravitational waves detected 100 years after Einstein's prediction

The University of Glasgow, a key contributor to the detection of gravitational waves, has written an article on the discovery and the confirmation of Einstein’s century-old theory of general relativity. There’s a short video interviewing some of the important figures from the university’s Institute of Gravitational Research where they explain what gravitational waves are, how they found them, and the importance of their discovery.
NASA SEES High School Summer Internship Program
NASA, Texas Space Grant Consortium, and The University of Texas at Austin Center for Space Research Summer Intern Program is a nationally competitive STEM program for high school students. The program provides selected interns with exposure to Earth and space research. Interns will learn how to interpret NASA satellite data while working with scientists and engineers in their chosen area of work.

(did I hear of another STEM summer program? YEP!)


NASA summer internship for High Schoolers in grades 10 and 11!

Eligible students must be:

  • American High School students in 10th and 11th grade
  • passionate about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Things you will need in your application (besides providing general information about yourself)

  • A letter of recommendation from a school principal, curriculum coordinator, school counselor, science teacher or mentor 
  • A short introduction video telling us who you are, where you are from, and why you are interested in becoming a NASA high school intern.
  • Your high school transcript in PDF form
  • An essay (maximum 1000 words) on covering at least the 4 topics provided (meaning you must touch on every topic and then anything else you think is important to talk about) in PDF form

(I could not tell if the deadline is March 19th at 11:59PM or March 20th at 11:59PM, or what time zone, so I suggest submitting the application a few days early!)

Stars at the Galactic Center
Credit: Susan Stolovy (SSC/Caltech) et al., JPL-Caltech, NASA

Explanation: The center of our Milky Way Galaxy is hidden from the prying eyes of optical telescopes by clouds of obscuring dust and gas. But in this stunning vista, the Spitzer Space Telescope’s infrared cameras, penetrate much of the dust revealing the stars of the crowded galactic center region. A mosaic of many smaller snapshots, the detailed, false-color image shows older, cool stars in bluish hues. Reddish glowing dust clouds are associated with young, hot stars in stellar nurseries. The very center of the Milky Way was only recently found capable of forming newborn stars. The galactic center lies some 26,000 light-years away, toward the constellation Sagittarius. At that distance, this picture spans about 900 light-years.

Watch on

From Einstein to LIGO, this terrific New York Times video primer illuminates what this week’s groundbreaking detection of gravitational waves rippling space-time might mean for our evolving understanding of the universe. 

Embedded in the discovery is also a culturally telling tale of how science progresses: Physicist Joseph Weber, who first envisioned gravitational wave detectors in the 1960s, was ridiculed for the idea and just about exiled from the scientific community. And yet his work was a testament to the vital role of intuition and imagination in scientific discovery

In his altogether magnificent book A Sense of the Mysterious, Alan Lightman offers a bittersweet and redemptive account of Weber’s legacy:

In 1960, when no one else was dreaming of detecting gravitational waves, Weber conceived of the idea of a resonant cylinder, a metallic cylinder that would ring like a bell (but an extremely soft bell) when struck by a gravitational wave. One of the problems in building such a resonant cylinder, or any detector, is that it is always expanding and contracting a little bit from tiny random disturbances, such as a truck turning a corner a half mile away. It is extremely difficult to discriminate such noise from the minuscule motions expected from a gravitational wave. So you build two cylinders, thousands of miles apart, and monitor them closely. If both of them begin softly ringing in precisely the same way at the same time, then perhaps they’ve just been struck by a gravitational wave. 

In the early 1960s, Weber built such cylinders [and] claimed to have discovered gravitational waves.

In the following decade, other groups of scientists attempted to duplicate Weber’s results. They built their own cylinders, hooked them up to their own piezoelectrical crystals to measure minute oscillations, compared their own charts of the oscillations in time. No one saw oscillations of the magnitude claimed by Weber, and no one saw simultaneous oscillations of their cylinders except what would be expected by chance. In fact, other detectors were built with a hundred times more sensitivity than Weber’s, and they all failed to find gravitational waves. 

Weber published his results. Other scientists published theirs. Weber dismissed the negative findings of the other scientists. Experimental physicists studied Weber’s results and said he was making mistakes. Perhaps the tape recorders he used to combine the data from the two cylinders were themselves accidentally injecting simultaneous signals. Or perhaps small magnetic fluctuations in electric power lines or lightning bolts could mimic gravitational waves. Weber held his ground. Theorists got in on the act. They calculated the amount of expansion and contraction that would be expected from realistic sources of gravitational waves in space. According to these calculations, Weber’s resonant cylinders were not remotely sensitive enough to detect gravitational waves, even if such waves did indeed exist. Weber passionately held his ground. In telephone conversations, in personal visits, at scientific conferences, he got into scathing arguments. He lost friends and colleagues. Yet, in the face of a mountain of contradictory evidence, he continued to maintain that he was measuring gravitational waves. Clearly, Weber was not behaving in the traditions of science. Joseph Weber was allowing his personal investment to interfere with good judgment.

Then I, a greenhorn essayist, leaped into the fray. I wrote an essay about emotional prejudice in scientists for the magazine Science ’83. The title: “Nothing but the Truth.” In the essay, I ridiculed several scientists, including Weber. I cringe when I reread it. With self-righteous flourish, I wrote, “The white-haired Weber has become something of a tragic figure in the scientific community, continuing to declare his rightness in the face of incontrovertible evidence.” A few months after the essay was published, I found myself ten feet from Joseph Weber at a scientific conference. Some unsuspecting colleague introduced us. Weber’s face immediately turned purple; he snarled something at me and stomped away. Later, I decided that I deserved his contempt, and I hated myself for what I had written. Because Joseph Weber was really a hero… LIGO would not exist without Weber’s seminal work.


Without a powerful emotional commitment, scientists could not summon up the enormous energy needed for pursuing an idea for years, working day and night in the lab or at their desks doing calculations, often sacrificing the rest of their lives. It is little wonder that such a personal commitment sometimes causes the scientist to defend his or her beliefs regardless of facts.

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Cornell astrophysicists and scientists played a vital role to validate the historic news of the first direct detection of gravitational waves – as predicted 100 years by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. 

Image: This computer simulation shows the collision of two black holes, a tremendously powerful event detected for the first time ever by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which detected gravitational waves as the black holes spiraled toward each other, collided and merged. This simulation shows what the merger event would look if humanity could somehow travel for a closer look. It was created by the Cornell-founded SXS (Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes) project. 


Explainer: gravitational waves and why their discovery is such a big deal

Gren Ireson, Nottingham Trent University

Scientists working at the LIGO experiment in the US have for the first time detected elusive ripples in the fabric of space and time known as gravitational waves. There is no doubt that the finding is one of the most groundbreaking physics discoveries of the past 100 years. But what are they?

To best understand the phenomenon, let’s go back in time a few hundred years. In 1687 when Isaac Newton published his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, he thought of the gravitational force as an attractive force between two masses – be it the Earth and the Moon or two peas on a table top. However the nature of how this force was transmitted was less well understood at the time. Indeed the law of gravitation itself was not tested until British scientist Henry Cavendish did so in 1798, while measuring the density of the Earth.

Fast forward to 1916, when Einstein presented physicists with a new way of thinking about space, time and gravity. Building on work published in 1905, the theory of general relativity tied together that what we commonly consider to be separate entities – space and time – into what is now called “space-time”.

Space-time can be considered to be the fabric of the universe. That means everything that moves, moves through it. In this model, anything with mass distorts the space-time fabric. The larger the mass, the larger the distortion. And since every moving object moves through space-time, it will also follow the distortions caused by objects with big mass.

Keep reading


Gravitational Waves Discovered!

Einstein was right!!

I can’t even express how proud and happy I am that the existence of gravitational waves was officially proved by an American and Italian team of scientists.

  • general relativity theory is now 100% proved
  • we have electromagnetic waves’ counterparts: the gravitational ones
  • masses with a weight can produce waves
  • big masses can produce waves that we’re able to hear
  • two black holes can collide and form a even bigger black hole
  • we can hear gravitational waves!!!
  • astrophysics has never been cooler

Also, as an Italian, I’ve got to say that I’m so proud that we’re part of this awesome discovery, since our scientists are so talented and they usually have to go abroad to be able to do their researches because here there’s no money and not many opportunities.