When news about the discovery of gravitational waves in space was revealed to the public last week, many people were left to wonder what implications such a find could have on life on Earth.
This is why a number of leading scientists have offered to share their insights on the breakthrough discovery to help bring regular individuals up to speed with what gravitational waves are and why it is important to confirm their existence.
PHD Comics Clip
Jorge Cham, creator of the popular newspaper and web comic strip Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD) Comics collaborated with physicists Umberto Cannella and Daniel Whiteson in order to produce an animated film that accurately explains gravitational waves and their importance.
In the three-minute clip, the scientists define a gravitational wave as a ripple in the very fabric of time and space that is produced by massive objects such as stars and planets.
They liken this ripple to the "distortions" that are formed around a heavy object, such as bowling ball, when it is placed on top of a tightly-pulled rubber sheet, such as a trampoline.
The scientists believe that the ripples in space help keep the planets in the Solar System orbiting around the Sun. There is really no force pulling the objects toward the star, but rather there is just a massive distortion in the space around them.
A gravitational wave is created whenever an object with considerable mass accelerates. The movement causes the space around the object to distort and create ripples. For such a wave to be detectable, it has to be produced by supermassive objects, such as a pair of black holes or two hefty neutron stars that move around each other.
Researchers had a difficult time detecting gravitational waves through the use of existing models. This is because the compressing or stretching of space between two points would not be noticeable since the researchers' frames of reference would seem to have similar distances even when placed apart.
They were able to discover the existence of the ripples after measuring them using a universal constant such as the speed of light. They focused on recording just how long light would take to travel between two set points.
The research team that made the find used the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) to identify very small changes in space created by gravitational waves.
The scientists in the PHD Comics clip compare this achievement to being able to hear a song being hummed by another person at a noisy party.
The new discovery provides researchers with a new way to investigate and understand the universe.