Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Scientists have just made the biggest discovery of the decade

blackholes.png

A team of scientists, physicists and people with titles filled with impressive letters have announced that for the first time in history gravitational waves have been detected - and it changes everything.

About 100 years ago, Albert Einstein (the chap with the hair) put forward a theory that upset a lot of physicists. 

This theory of General Relativity attempted to explain how gravity works - why something that goes up must come down. It was beautiful, incredible, and also totally impossible to prove. Until now.

Researchers at laboratories around the world have been monitoring similar versions of the same experiment, that see lasers fired down long tunnels in an effort to detect tiny vibrations caused by gravitational waves. One such experiment has now picked up waves emitted by two black holes colliding a billion light-years from Earth.

Their collective findings, now published in the journal Physical Review Letters, indicate that gravitational waves are indeed real - and could help redefine our understanding of the Big Bang, black holes and how the whole Universe works.

"Gravitational waves provide a completely new way at looking at the Universe," Professor Stephen Hawking (the chap with the chair) told the BBC. "The ability to detect them has the potential to revolutionise astronomy. This discovery is the first detection of a black hole binary system and the first observation of black holes merging.

"Apart from testing (Albert Einstein's theory of) General Relativity, we could hope to see black holes through the history of the Universe. We may even see relics of the very early Universe during the Big Bang at some of the most extreme energies possible."

At present, we've only been able to theorise about the Big Bang through physical properties we have a solid understanding of - such as light and radiation. However, these are both affected by any body they come into contact with, leaving a weak impression of any hint of the Big Bang they may carry. Gravitational waves behave in an entirely different way, meaning that we (well, clever physicists) have a much better chance of interpreting them and the echoes left over from the start of the Universe. 

For now, the discovery will result in a lot of backslapping and handing out of Nobel prizes - but long term, it will change our understand of how we came to be. Which is a pretty big deal.

(Image: Bohn, Throwe, Hébert, Henriksson, Bunandar, Taylor, Scheel)

Related

shutterstock_196241660.jpg

This is the reason why Coke tastes better from a glass bottle

Finalpizzaplanehead.jpg

The US Army’s latest weapon is a three-year-old pizza

shutterstock_124146607.jpg

New study suggests violent video games won't mess up your kids

Comments

More

Super Mario in Grand Theft Auto is weird and awesome

Who would've thought Mario would get into a knife fight in a park?

by Jamie Carson
18 Jan 2017

The only Vines worth preserving

The most important cultural artefacts of our time

by Tristan Cross
17 Jan 2017

Hurrah: The Nintendo Switch now has a price and release date

Here's everything you need to know about the new console

by Tom Fordy
13 Jan 2017

The best underwater photographs of 2016 are staggeringly beautiful

Aquatic snaps that made a splash

by Dave Fawbert
12 Jan 2017

Using Google Maps actually does ruin your sense of direction

"Make a U-turn where possible"

by Dave Fawbert
11 Jan 2017

Netflix releases 8-bit game featuring Narcos and Stranger Things

Goodbye, productivity.

by Emily Badiozzaman
10 Jan 2017

The original Game Boy is coming back

Time to dust off your Pokemon Red & Blue cartridges

by Jamie Carson
10 Jan 2017

Watch Steve Jobs launch first iPhone 10 years ago

Today marks 10 years since Steve Jobs presented the world with this iconic product, but it could have been so different

09 Jan 2017

The best gadgets to launch at the biggest tech conference in the world

Christmas 2017 can't come early enough

by Joe Ellison
05 Jan 2017

This is why hitting the snooze button is bad for your health

If you snooze, you really do lose

03 Jan 2017