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A Physicist Tweeted That Gravitational Waves "May Have Been Discovered" And People Are Excited

Gravitational waves, if directly detected, would be one of the biggest physics discoveries of the century. But no scientific paper has been published yet, so don't hold your breath.

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Yesterday physicist Lawrence Krauss tweeted this.

My earlier rumor about LIGO has been confirmed by independent sources. Stay tuned! Gravitational waves may have been discovered!! Exciting.

Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time that were predicted by Albert Einstein. Essentially, space itself is seen to briefly stretch as one of these waves passes by, then return to normal.

In his tweet, Krauss is referring to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), a US experiment that uses two detectors – one in Hanford, Washington, and one in Livingston, Louisiana – to search for gravitational waves.

Krauss is a cosmologist at Arizona State University, and doesn't work on LIGO.

His tweet brought rumours of the detection of gravitational waves to a much bigger audience, and, even though the detection is unconfirmed, people are getting excited about the possibility.

Krauss first mentioned these rumours in a tweet in September last year.

We've detected the gravitational waves for the first time? Sub space communication here we come!

The rumour about gravitational waves in spacetime has triggered several geekgasms across the globe

Gravitational waves are the new Higgs boson, pass it on.

Gravitational waves, if directly detected, would be one of the biggest physics discoveries this century.

dewogong / imgur.com

The waves are basically ripples in Einstein's fabric of space-time.

The more mass an object has, the more it bends the fabric of space-time. And when two really big objects interact – such as two black holes orbiting each other, or two galaxies merging – they're thought to create these ripples in space-time.

Some ripples are also thought to have been left behind by the big bang.

We've seen the effects of gravitational waves before. In 1993, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the discovery of a new type of pulsar, and indirect evidence of those space-time ripples from a star system of two pulsars. But they've never been detected directly.

LIGO is searching for these ripples.

Frank Glowna / commons.wikimedia.org

LIGO originally ran between 2002 and 2010 but failed to detect gravitational waves during that time. It was then redesigned, using what scientists had learnt during its original run, and began its latest observing run in September last year.

Many physicists are urging caution and stressing the importance of letting the researchers analyse the data before speculating about results.

Tobin Fricke / en.wikipedia.org

LIGO is a large collaboration, and any results will be thoroughly analysed and internally vetted before a paper is submitted to a journal for publication and the results are announced publicly.

"It takes time to analyse, interpret, and review results," physicist and LIGO spokesperson Gabriela González at Louisiana State University told New Scientist. "We expect to have news on the run results in the next few months."

The rumor probably wasn't started by LIGO folks. Rumors are the last thing they want! Their only concern is carefully analyzing any data.

So take this (and other such rumors) with an enormous grain of salt. If it doesn't pan out, well, that's just how science works sometimes.

Meanwhile, thanks to the timing of the rumours, some people suggested that LIGO might actually have detected something else.

@LKrauss1 Probably detected the Bowie Ascension, but I'll hold out hope for Gravitational Waves.

@LKrauss1 Are you sure you've not just picked up #DavidBowie signal passing through space time dimensions?

ALIENS: "Are you sure they're ready?" BOWIE: "Yes, my time among them is complete. Allow them the secret of gravitational waves."

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