Category Archives: Physics

The past, the present and the future: Einstein’s gravitational waves

 

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[Here, in The Beauty Contest, we plan not to write only about finance and macroeconomics, but about other topics too. We are lucky to start this endeavour having José de Arcos with us, who will write today about the significance of Einstein’s gravitational waves. José de Arcos holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology and he is currently working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Harvard Medical School. He also participated in the Daya Bay reactor neutrino experiment in Shenzhen, China]

I recently had the great honor of attending a lecture by Dr. Rainer Weiss where he introduced the achievements of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) experiment [1] in an easy going and approachable tone. He has inspired me to spread the word and share with you one of the most remarkable accomplishments in human history in my own way.

In the past, no such long time ago in the timescale of the universe, the first human species looked up toward the stars for first time, wondering, as we do today, what secrets were hidden in those twinkling lights. The first astronomers deduced that there was some kind of pattern in the never-ending dance of stars, a periodicity that taught them when was optimal to harvest their crops, and as a result the first civilizations flourished. The same lights showed the way to all travelers, sailors and wanderers who pushed our own frontiers a bit further at a time, until we mapped the whole world. But even then, we kept looking up to the infinity of the darkness, still wondering what secrets were hidden in those sparkling dots. One of the first experimental physicists, Tycho Brahe, kept track of the position of the planets for decades, providing Johannes Kepler with enough data to recognize a mathematical pattern: the planets moved in an elliptical fashion. And along came Newton, who, in a staggering demonstration of intelligence, was able to unravel the laws of gravitation. The work of three men changed the history of all humanity in a remarkable way.

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Celestial navigation was one of the first practical applications of astronomy

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