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Biggest Detector To Look For Gravitational Waves 109

Hugh Pickens sends in coverage in the Telegraph of a joint NASA-ESA experimental mission, to launch around 2020. It involves three spacecraft orbiting the Sun, separated by 3 million miles, each with a payload of two lasers and a 4.6-cm cube of gold-platinum alloy. The point of it all is to look for gravitational waves. The mission is called LISA, a reasonably non-strained acronym for Laser Interferometer Space Antenna. The Telegraph makes a point of LISA being the largest experiment ever constructed (in terms of its dimensions). Neither that newspaper nor the project page at NASA mentions how much the experiment will cost, but it's almost certainly an order of magnitude or more above the $66 million estimated for a gravitational wave detector the size of the galaxy, which we discussed last fall.
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Biggest Detector To Look For Gravitational Waves

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  • So I didn't RTFA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jasno ( 124830 ) on Monday May 10, 2010 @07:26PM (#32163538) Journal

    What happens if they don't find anything?

    Do gravitational waves radiate energy? Have we seen instances, such as during a supernova, where there was missing energy which could be explained by them?

  • by MacroRodent ( 1478749 ) on Monday May 10, 2010 @11:19PM (#32165176)
    Wouldn't a lump of lead work as well and be cheaper?
  • Re:Lousy Democrats (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jandoedel ( 1149947 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @03:45AM (#32166484)
    it's only the thin coating surrounding the mass that is made of a gold/platinum alloy, not the entire cube. So it is NOT 2kg of gold...
    actually gold coatings are used quite a lot for these things.

    They have a mass floating freely in space, and surrounding it is this gold/platinum coat, that never touches it, it just flies around it and has microthrusters to keep it away from the central mass. This gold/platinum coat is shielding the mass from some external influences, like the solar magnetic field, so that the central mass only feels the influence of the gravitational waves.
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @08:23AM (#32167680) Journal

    We know the Holy Grail is to have a Grand Unified Theory of the four forces. To date, three have been combined with gravity being the lone holdout.

    Is there a reason why gravity can't be a force unto itself but rather, the result of the other three forces? By that I mean, since the Strong and Weak forces hold things together, is there some reason they can't be creating gravity with their forces weakening the further out you go, similar to how radio waves get weaker as they propagate outwards.

    Even though this experiment is an attempt to detect gravitational waves, since we haven't found any to date, could the above be a different explanation for why we haven't found any (yet)?

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.