Gravitational Waves – Your questions answered

Last Friday the world woke up to the announcement that scientists had made an extraordinary discovery concerning gravity waves. It received a great deal of press and interest on places as diverse as The Daily Mail and others. Ever since that bombshell I’ve had ordinary Australians come up and ask for my opinion and I’ve been happy to give it.Ripples in Water

As a result of the enthusiastic responses I’ve received, I’ve agreed to publicly share my knowledge on this amazing subject. So sit back and let me ask myself those questions that you’ve probably been hanging out to know the answer to, or possibly even didn’t know that you wanted to ask until now. A bit like those unknown unknowns from a while back.

Question 1: So Rex, what are these Gravitational waves we’ve been hearing so much about recently? What exactly is a Gravitational wave?

A: Well, thanks so much for the question. And a very good one to kick off with.

So you’ve heard about “waves” right? Like when you drop a pebble in a pond and the waves spread out in circles? Well imagine now a much bigger volume of water like say the ocean. And you’re standing looking out at it. Those waves that you see have come from a long-long way away. They have travelled from the other side of the ocean to you.

So you see it’s the same with gravity waves. Just like ocean waves are waves in the ocean. Gravity waves are waves in the gravity, and just like in the ocean they’ve also come from a very long way away.

Q: I’ve heard that these gravity waves are really hard to find. How did they do that?

A: It’s quite simple really. They have this device called a Gravitational Wave Detector, and what that does is that it detects gravitational waves.

Q: Apparently Gravity waves sound really amazing. It that true?

A: Well I wouldn’t call it amazing exactly. If you’d been listening to Fran’s show on RN on Friday morning you would have heard that they sound like a cello.

Q: A cello?

A: Yes. Although you’ve got to remember it’s the first one we’ve been able to hear so far, and y’know it’s a big universe out there so don’t be surprised if we find other orchestral instruments being played as well. It really is very early days, and the possibilities are quite mind boggling when you think about it. Perhaps we’ll discover a whole orchestra playing the theme tune to 2001 a Space Odyssey.

Q: So this is a really big discovery? Really important?

A: It depends on your perspective. Einstein referred to it as his theory of relativism, where everything depends on where you stand on the issue. There are people starving in Africa right now – so it’s not so important to them – ‘cause, well, they’re starving. There are people in nations who really know a whole lot about science and stuff, and its very important to them. And here in Australia where we know a bit about science, not as much as countries like America, but we know some stuff – well it’s important for probably the next week or two. I think we’ve got the balance about right.

Q: Is there any way I can make money out of these gravitational waves?

A: Well yes there is indeed my friend. It just so happens that I’ll be starting up a gravitational wave business quite soon. The Australian government has a bit of a revenue problem at the moment. It doesn’t know where to invest its revenue. Wind farms are on the nose. Car manufacturing is no longer an option. Normally I’d be recommending coal, but now even that’s looking dreadful. The government is dead keen on supporting new smart cutting edge industries, and you can’t get much more cutting edge than gravitational waves. So keep an eye out on Kickstarter for my new company (Rexagonal Waves) where you’ll be able to get in on the ground floor, and then just sit back and watch the Australian government pile in behind you.

Q: Gosh Rex. You are so good looking and know so much stuff. How do I get to be more like you?

A: Oh no please. Now you’re embarrassing me. I think we’ll wrap it up there. It’s been great to take you questions and I hope I’ve helped make this extraordinary subject that much more extraordinary for you. Thanks.

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12 Responses to Gravitational Waves – Your questions answered

  1. paul walter says:

    Its true, isn’t it Rex, that by the time we discover you can’t make money out of gravitational waves, you will be in Brazil, living off the embazzled investment funds at the Copacabana

  2. RexR says:

    Listen Paul, I’m happy to cut you in. I need a COO. You sound like the man. I just need you to focus on the goal, and not get distracted by concerns about the money. I just need you to figure out the practical application. Sound good? Great. Have at it.

  3. paul walter says:

    Pistol or Garrotte?

  4. Phil Clark says:

    Thanks for your insights into the subject Rex but I think that one of the reasons the discovery is so important is it brings us that one step closer to understanding how our Univers (Big U for everything) works. I compare it to Dalton, Thompson, Plank and Einstein’s work that moved our understanding of atomic structures forward helping form much of our modern technology. It’s not an easy subject to grasp but there are plenty of YouTube videos that try to explain the theories in lay mans terms, well worth a watch. And if your wondering what practical use this may lead to, how abut faster than light drives, fusion reactors and high temperature supper conductors just for starters. This is big and I can’t help but feel that one day we will look back and say, wow I was alive when they discovered that, who could believe how far we have come.

  5. johnleyo says:

    Here is a Simple animation and explanation of Gravitational Waves:

    • Phil Clark says:

      Thanks for this, it’s seems simple but what fascinates me the most about this subject is that there seems to be no understanding of the mechanics behind gravity, space and time, only observations of the effect.

  6. Nicholas Gruen says:

    Is it mere coincidence that the death of Justice Scalia was announced on the same day? (Well roughly the same day).

    Was Justice Scalia in fact hit by a gravitational wave?

    Now I know it happened 1.3 billion light years away and 1.3 billion years ago (the distance in time and space being rather too spooky to be a coincidence I hope you agree!) but two black holes passing beyond each others’ event horizon. That’s what I call a gravitational wave.

    I personally felt a sharp shooting pain in the back of my neck yesterday and I don’t even support the Republican Party.

    • RexR says:

      Very much impressed with the 1.3 billion time verses distance observation, and yes I do agree. It does highlight important ares for further research doesn’t it? For example Is that a critical convergence point out there in deep space? Does the relationship still hold true the further out you get? I’ll start up another Kicksarter and have it looked into.

    • Tim Macknay says:

      Yes – I woke up feeling decidedly grumpy yesterday. At the time I put it down to the two Mojitos and several glasses of Rose I’d consumed the night before, but in hindsight it was clearly the result of the gravity waves emanating outwards from the singularity created by Scalia’s death.

  7. paul walter says:

    It will be proposed by less generous people that Scalia himself was actually a gravitational wave of negative or dark energy , wreaking havoc on the very foundations of democracy and justice.

    But I will not speak ill of the dead and depart, “Lest Athens sin twice against Philosophy”.

  8. Nicholas Gruen says:

    As they used to chant on that black hole all those years ago

    What do we want?
    Someone to join us behind the event horizon!
    When do we want it?
    Any time really, we’re not going anywhere. 1.3 billion years or so.

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