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Space Science

A Galaxy-Sized Observatory For Gravitational Waves 190

Posted by kdawson
from the galaxy's-your-oyster dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Gravitational waves squash and stretch space as they travel through the universe. Current attempts to spot them involve monitoring a region of space several kilometers across on Earth for the telltale signs of this squeezing. These experiments have so far seen nothing. But by monitoring an array of pulsars throughout the galaxy, astronomers should be able to see the effects of gravitational waves passing by. They say such an array of pulsars should effectively shimmer as the gravitational waves wash over it, like a grid of buoys bobbing on the ocean. That'll create an observatory that is effectively the size of the entire galaxy. These observations should be capable of monitoring how galaxies and supermassive black holes evolve together, and shed light on the physics of the early universe. Best of all, the next generation of radio-telescope arrays should be capable of making these observations at a cost of around $66 million over ten years. That's a small fraction of the hundreds of millions that Earth-based observatories have already cost."
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A Galaxy-Sized Observatory For Gravitational Waves

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  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:17PM (#29432575)
    A human landing on mars gives us pretty pictures and a bunch of cozy, warm feelings.

    Understanding fundamental physics (and mathematics) gave us the computer age along with keeping Moore's "law" working for the past 40 years. What did physics ever give to you? Pretty much every major engineering invention since 1950 depends on it in some way or other.
  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:27PM (#29432739) Homepage Journal

    Is thisntest desing in such away

    Is your title designed in such a way that could falsify your hopes of being taken seriously?

    ....

    Yes.

  • by Gerafix (1028986) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:32PM (#29432833)
    Since when does everything science accomplish have to have immediate material benefit to humanity? Science is the advancement of Homo sapien knowledge about the universe. If you're going to complain about spending money complain about throwing trillions of dollars at the people who brought down the economy. Some people need to grow up.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:33PM (#29432845) Homepage

    What do you mean finding absolutely nothing?

    Judging by his links to thunderbolts.info, what I think he means is "I'm a crazy idiot who doesn't understand anything, and think this is a sound foundation to question the work of scientists everywhere. Solar wind is caused by an electric field! What do you mean it's a plasma with equal amounts of positive and negative charges, and a field can't move opposite charges in the same direction? No really, I have no idea what you're talking about because I never too physics in school! But my theories are right anyway!"

  • Re:Usefulness (Score:4, Insightful)

    by A beautiful mind (821714) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:34PM (#29432859)
    Detecting or not detecting gravitational waves validates* or invalidates part of Einstein's theory of general relativity. That's a pretty big deal. It means that we have found the first flaw in a theory whitstanding constant attacks on it since 1915 if we would not find gravitational waves.

    *take "validates" in this context to mean that there is no experiment or information in disagreement with the theory, therefor going by science's falsification requirement, science considers the theory to be currently valid.
  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:44PM (#29432993)
    "Gravitational waves squash and stretch space as they travel through the universe."

    Does anyone else find these words to be a little presumptuous. It's not like they've ever detected any. Might I suggest the following wording instead:

    "Gravitational waves would squash and stretch space as they travel through space, if they exist"
  • by mcpkaaos (449561) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:57PM (#29433165)

    He's 15 years old. It's much easier for him to understand and critique something that has been summed up than to spend the time and critical thought necessary to understand our present economy. Let's give the little bastard^Wwhippersnapper a break, he's trying.

  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:01PM (#29433227)

    Exactly. So, why should we be spending money that we don't have?

    Finding gravitational waves isn't going to help 99.99% of the population.

    How about you look at this this way instead:

    There is a lot of money going around to try to help a flailing economy. Why should that money go ONLY to those who have been bad at their business? Automakers that don't make the right cars? Banks that don't have solid lending strategies? Why NOT give some of that money that's all going to the same economy to scientists who quietly go about their business and get things done?

  • by nstlgc (945418) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:02PM (#29433243)
    Technically speaking, no. They squash and stretch space by definition. If they don't exist, space obviously won't be squashed and stretched by them, but that won't change their definition. They just won't exist. It's like saying "a unicorn has wings". The fact that it allegedly doesn't exist doesn't mean it doesn't have wings when someone draws one.
  • by kindbud (90044) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @10:25PM (#29435135) Homepage

    Space itself is a theoretical construct and gravitational waves passing through it are part of the same theory. So it is more correct to say:

    "Gravitational waves, if they exist, would squash and stretch space, if it exists, as they travel, if travel is possible, through the universe, if it exists."

    But that's retarded, so they don't.

    Anything else I can help with, just ask.

  • Re:Usefulness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blueg3 (192743) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @10:56PM (#29435387)

    Personally, I don't believe in something like gravitational waves

    Science: You're doing it wrong.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:34AM (#29436119) Homepage

    This is precisely this type of condescending, we-are-am-smater-than-you attitude that turns people off on science and scientists. Maybe physicists should concentrate on the foundational issues (e.g., the true nature of motion) first before they go chasing after gravity waves. You folks are not as smart as you think you are.

    But of course you are as smart as you think, which is smarter than every other physicist alive or dead (while so pointedly stating that you aren't one), so this is the kind of condescending attitude we need. LOL.

    Did you know that over 90% of physicists believe that matter can move in spacetime even though it is known that spacetime is frozen from the infinite past to the infinite future?

    Spacetime isn't frozen. It's warped by mass and constantly expanding. "Did you know" indeed. :)

    Did you know that most physicists believe that moving bodies remain in motion for no reason at all, as if by magic?

    They also believe that bodies at rest remain at rest for no reason at all, as if by magic! This is no more mysterious.

    Well, magic, and that and for it to do otherwise in either case would require an expenditure of energy and a transfer of momentum.

    I'll admit, I bit and read the blog, and it was highly amusing. It was very humorous reading about how you agree with Aristotle* that there must be a "force" to make an object move at a constant velocity, and the object should instantly stop as soon as that "force" is removed. And therefore there must be "energy" around us to make this happen. As if "force" and "energy" are vague, mysterious entities, like a sci-fi writer referring to a "mysterious force" or "a being of pure energy".

    But actually, force is a change in momentum. If there was a net force acting on a moving object, it would accelerate (or decelerate). If there's no force on an object, it can't accelerate or decelerate, i.e. its velocity must be constant. If the speed of the object changes, then there was a transfer of energy. Energy, by the way, is the principle Newton was looking for. It's the transfer and storage of energy in various forms that explains how objects can begin moving, and continue moving. Conservation of energy was formulated not too long after Newton's conservation of momentum and fills in what Newton couldn't.

    The problem with upending physics is that you have to understand it first. This has been the case for all the great physicists, and it's the case today. And you don't understand causality. An object changing its speed, going from motion to no motion, is the effect, and for this to happen there must be a measurable cause, specifically a transfer of momentum and energy. So, please, Conservation of Energy demands an answer: in the absence of any outside force, why would an object moving at a constant velocity stop?

    * Great thinker but lousy physicist -- thought his ideas were so good they didn't need testing**! Must be why you're drawn to him. ;)

    ** Maybe if he had, he would have realized that he was close but off on his idea of an object's natural state in the absence of interference being one of rest, when it's really one of constancy, and we would have Aristotle's Laws of Motion.

  • Re:That's dumb (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xouumalperxe (815707) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:02AM (#29437711)

    Saint Nicholas is a historical person who has simply had more myths and legends attach themselves to him than has George Washington, also still a historical person despite the Cherry Tree and Dollar across the Potommac stories.

    The myth of Santa Claus has taken such a scale that, though Saint Nicholas might be a historical person, it's fair to say that Santa Claus is a separate entity, a myth based on a historical figure.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:17PM (#29446451)

    I believe the GP used the term bald in the sense of:

    lacking detail; bare; plain; unadorned: a bald prose style.

    Or maybe even:

    open; undisguised: a bald lie.

    If you are going to be a pedant, at least be familiar with the multiple definitions of a term, and maybe question whether the modern or popular definition is or is not the original definition. My guess is the latter.

    It's fun to nitpick strangers, isn't it?

"The medium is the message." -- Marshall McLuhan

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