Experts advisory: York scientist can discuss detection of gravitational waves


TORONTO, February 11, 2016 – Scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced today that they have detected gravitational waves, upholding Einstein’s century-old theory of general relativity. It was one of the last pieces of the puzzle.

“This is huge. It was the missing link in the theory of relativity,” said York University physics and astronomy Professor Matthew Johnson. “It proves we have the right theory of gravity.”

Gravity is this highly polygamous force that interacts with anything that has mass. When a gravitational wave goes by, it causes everything to move in a squishing motion. “Take an orange, for example. Gravitational waves will compress it in one direction, then the other,” said Johnson. “The same squishing motion happens in the LIGO experiment, which is how gravitational waves were detected.”

The problem is it’s incredibly difficult to detect the slight squishing motion of gravitational waves. “The experiments by scientists at LIGO in the United States and VIRGO in Italy are now sensitive enough to plausibly see something,” said Johnson.

In this case, LIGO scientists in the United States were able to observe the merging of two massive black holes, each about 30 times the mass of the Sun creating strong enough gravitational waves to be detected.

Johnson is available to discuss today’s finding, from 12:30 to 3:30pm and after 4:30pm, by Skype or phone.

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