Riding the “Waves”

Being predicted in 1916 as part of General Theory of Relativity by none other than “The one of a kind” brain, Einstein; it took more than a century by world scientist to physically detect Gravitational waves and remove the last hurdle for proposed Theory of Relativity. For all those whose lives burdened by day-to-day job commuting, daily manager tussles, data crunching and deadlines, family and social overabundant wants, whole universe of love interest and crush problems, EMIs and ever alluring investment plans to aid EMIs, drunken Sensex bobbing up and down or same sex decriminalization (for India); you all need to continue without expecting any change. Though space-time fabric and hence gravitational waves are effective enough to all celestial body and governing the universe, they don’t have any control over humankind’s daily chores. So please don’t expect something major of such (actually major) discovery of Gravitational Waves.

As any astrophysicist agree on the view that there is nothing more endearing than to excavate mysteries buried deep down the Universe’s vast, expansive blackness. It is Pandora’s Box. You will never know what you find next which is utterly bewildering and next to impossible if you are not wearing scientific goggles (Though Science manage to explain all these through well-defined rules and mathematical equations which is more superior than magic).

To explain the intricacies of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and importance of detection of Gravitational Waves is no small feat. I would suggest well-known books on the same (find few reference links at end). In short, Einstein was not completely “moved” by force presented as Newton’s laws when the same applied on much more larger scale as Universe. He was not convinced specifically by source of gravity which was assumed to be based on objects’ mass in classical physics. Einstein was keen on providing new model for objects which were much bigger as heavenly bodies in Universe. He took the base of Newton’s Laws and proposed General Theory of Relativity in 1916 (He has already proposed Special Theory of Relativity in 1905 fixing the limit for speed of any object i.e. speed of light).

In very simpler terms, theory assumes space as space-time fabric; kind of a stretchable fabric. Let’s conduct a thought experiment where four of your friends tightly held the each four corners of this square fabric so that it gives you smooth surface same as pool table without any table support (you can imagine corners held by anyone you like. It’s thought experiment, so take liberty :).  Now you rolled one solid snooker ball (in this case strip won’t also make any difference, take your pick) across to center. You can observe the “dint” created by ball. You can also observe that if ball travels across, it will carry this “dint” along with it. Now if you put leather ball of cricket or say baseball, you (along with your helpers if they are interested in science) notes that it will have bigger distortion. In the same manner, all universal bodies i.e. stars, planets, pulsars, asteroids, black-holes make impact on the space-time fabric. Only difference is that space-time fabric is 3-D covering entire object rather than 2-D as in our pool table analogy.

Image converted using ifftoany
Space-time fabric and “dints” created by space bodies

Also observe that as we done in our thought experiment, this wrap of space-time fabric travel along with heavenly body as in motion of earth around Sun. Bigger the object, more contorted the fabric is. And just because Sun is so large as compared to earth and other planets in our solar system that their “impacts” are relatively small compared to larger “impact” of Sun. This “impact” is nothing but gravity. And when such bodies collide or move or blast themselves off, than they transmit waves in the space-time fabric same as ripples at other end of swimming pool once that someone large has crashed down on your end. And this waves are nothing but gravitational waves which in turn travel at speed of light (So if Sun destroy itself by something mysterious, it’s gravitational waves will hit Earth after 8.5 minutes, at the same time when earth experience complete blackout).

Latest Gravitational waves detection has inspired this blog series which I will continue with few more articles on Gravitational waves and LIGO. And if it found footing than may want to took up with more of Einstein’s theory and Quantum Physics which in my view are the most magical understanding of the real world in terms of science.


Last Thought: Newton’s laws of gravitation are not applicable at Universe level, but hold with accuracy as daily affair. Einstein’s theory is good for understanding universe but are cumbersome at taking into account at small level such as velocity of car, train etc. In general, Newton’s laws are nothing but adaptable view of Einstein’s theory. When you come down from Universe to earth, object’s mass could be considered for gravitational laws and hold correctly as per Newton’s laws.

Further References:


http://www.desy.de/user/projects/Physics/Administrivia/rel_booklist.html (Really impressive link to find the suitable GTR book)

(Final Note: I am big fan of science but I’m not scientist. When Einstein could be humble enough to accept his “Biggest Folly”, I am just the small fleck in comparison. So any errors/deviations are liable to me and not Science.)




4 thoughts on “Riding the “Waves”

    1. Thanks David, I know this whole “stuff” about gravitational waves and space-time fabric is not that easy to comprehend and that’s why I am always amazed by it. Btw nice to see people loving the science and approaching as career options. My best wishes with you.

      Liked by 1 person

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