Gravitational Waves: Einstein Was Right, Again, Maybe

Cosmologists hope for a field-rocking announcement next week.

Bang! Supernova SN 2006gy

Nasa/CXC/M. Weiss

What's the latest cosmology gossip? According to the Guardian, the field is awash with rumors that next week, American scientists will announce the detection of gravitational waves: incredibly small ripples carrying energy across the void of the universe. reports simply that at a press conference scheduled for 12:00 noon EDT on Monday, March 17, "[A] team of scientists will unveil what they bill as a 'major discovery' in the field of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics."

Predicted by Albert Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity, gravitational waves are speculated to be “an echo of the big bang [sic] in which the universe came into existence 14bn year ago,” writes the Guardian, which caught an echo of the intense excitement that seems to be swirling among scientists with these and other quotes:

"If they do announce primordial gravitational waves on Monday, I will take a huge amount of convincing," said Hiranya Peiris, a cosmologist from University College London. "But if they do have a robust detection … Jesus, wow! I'll be taking next week off." ..."If a detection has been made, it is extraordinarily exciting. This is the real big tick-box that we have been waiting for. It will tell us something incredibly fundamental about what was happening when the universe was 10-34 seconds old," said Prof Andrew Jaffe, a cosmologist from Imperial College, London, who works on another telescope involved in the search called Polarbear.

This seems to be a fantastic moment in time to be a physicist. In addition to this possible discovery of gravitational waves, theorists are still digesting data gathered in 2012 from the Large Hadron Collider, including proof of the existence of the elusive Higgs particle. That's the story covered in the engrossing new film "Particle Fever," which you should definitely go see.