Measuring gravitational waves — in layman’s terms

Astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar has explained the complexity involved in detecting the gravitational waves that emanated at a distance of 1.3 billion light years from earth. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat  

How can a common man comprehend the nano-impact of gravitational waves detected in the landmark astrophysics discovery of the century?

Eminent astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar came out with an analogy for the benefit of the layman to explain the complexity involved in detecting the gravitational wave that emanated at a distance of 1.3 billion light years from the earth.

“Imagine a fly sitting on an elephant. The weight of fly is added to his body but the elephant will not feel it. What LIGO (the detector used in the discovery) detected was much smaller than the perceived impact of the fly sitting on the elephant,” Prof. Narlikar said while speaking to reporters at the Pune-based Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCCA), on Thursday night.

Prof. Narlikar, who was the first head of the IUCCA, recalled that he and one of his scientist colleague Sanjeev Dhurandhar had put up a proposal seeking funding for research on gravitational waves in India in 1988 soon after the Centre was set up but had failed to convince the authorities who doubted their “credibility” to undertake such a project for developing a detector.

Congratulating the Indian scientists who formed a part of the international team, Prof. Naralikar said detection of the gravitational waves is a “remarkable discovery which will be remembered for long”.

Ajit Kembarvi, former director of IUCCA, said the team of Indian scientists called “INDIGO” which worked on the project made a significant contribution in developing methods for analysing data from the two detectors in the US that recorded the gravitational waves.

“IUCCA is also setting up a high performance computer in its premises for further analysis of the data,” he added.

In an announcement that electrified the world of astronomy, scientists on Thursday said that they have finally detected gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Albert Einstein predicted a century ago.

When two black holes collided some 1.3 billion years ago, the joining of those two great masses sent forth a wobble that hurtled through space and arrived at Earth on September 14, 2015, when it was picked up by sophisticated instruments, researchers announced.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 5:51:39 AM |

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