Supporting evidence has to Einstein’s most known theory may have been detected building excitement in one of the year’s most significant physics breakthroughs.
The rumors began to circulate in September that gravitational wave detections had occurred. In a tweet Lawrence Kraus said “My earlier rumor about LIGO has been confirmed by independent sources. Stay tuned! Gravitational waves may have been discovered!! Exciting.”
A new age of scientific understanding could be born if the detection is real. In the Theory of General Relativity, Einstein proposed that massive objects curve the fabric of spacetime. This would alter the movement of other objects as they became close to the massive object, even light. He also suggest that sufficiently heavy objects could cause ripples in spacetime to to propagate outwards.
This could be the first direct evidence of the what Einstein predicted. Orbiting pulsars have been seen to lose energy the exact way his theory predicts, which is seen as indirect evidence to support his theory.
To measure these waves, a network of LIGOs (Laser Interfermometer Gravitational-Wave Observatories) has been built. LIGOs bounce lasers off a series of mirrors before recombining it in a manner that would be disrupted should a wave pass through. While their express purpose is to learn something about the sources of gravitational waves, finding an indisputable example of a gravitational wave is a major discovery.
LIGOs roots go back to 2002 but were shut down after 8 years of empty results. This past September a new more powerful version was put into action almost immediately detections appeared.
There is yet to be an official announcement. Local events can create false positives on a single LIGO. Only when comparing data from other LIGOs around the world can gravitational wave detection be confirmed.
The delay in the announcement is probably in reaction to a mistake by another team of researchers who announced evidence of gravitational waves but had a misunderstanding of a key aspect of their data. The obession with thoroughness has left plenty of time for rumors to spread and even gave PBS Space enough time to make a video.