Space Time Discovery Moves Theoretical Ideas into Experimental Phase

Theoretical physics is a sphere of mathematics that delves into the theories behind phenomena observed in nature (as opposed to being able to actually use tools to experiment and demonstrate these principles). In some cases, issues in theoretical physics are actually transferred to the class of experimental physics because technology has been developed that allows mathematicians and scientists to actually measure formerly unreachable phenomenon.

A prime example of the above transition between classes of physics can be offered with the recent discovery of gravitational vibrations emitted from deep space. Previously, Albert Einstein suggested as part of the theory of relativity that objects with powerful forces of gravity are able to not only bend spacetime immediately surrounding them, but also cause ripples in spacetime that affect virtually every other object within the ripples path (basically any object that does not have sufficient gravity to really withstand the effects).

Previously being a totally theoretical concept, this month researchers were able to use a new tool developed to actually measure the ripples or vibrations given off by a powerful source of gravity in the distant parts of our galaxy: two stars caught in each other’s gravitational pulls and made to spin closer and closer eventually until they collide. The force of the rotation of these two stars is enough to even ripple the spacetime that earth is a part of. Using lasers that crossed perpendicularly after being sent through four kilometers of specially designed tunnel (made to negate any potential outside influences on the movement of the lasers), scientists were able to note a tremor in the frequency of the light emitted by the lasers.

A change in light frequency cannot be attributed to any influence other than changes in spacetime. This discovery was of paramount importance because not only did it definitively prove Einstein’s calculations about the qualities of spacetime, but it allowed humans to measure a completely unseen and distant phenomenon.