Gravity is one of the many unsolved puzzles in science. Sure, scientists have figured out a lot about how it works, and every high school physics students has had to learn to calculate how fast an object would fall on Jupiter, but there’s still so much about it that we don’t know.
But maybe that can all change soon.
Enter LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitation-wave Observatory. By measuring slight variations in the path of lasers at multiple facilities, scientists hope to be able to monitor ripples in gravity. And the implications to that are much bigger than just fooling the bathroom scale.
Gravitational waves are so important to science not just because it could potentially help us to better deal with lifting heavy objects into orbit. These waves are waves through space itself. Just like observations about the ripples on a body of water can let you know something about the water itself, these gravitational waves could help us to learn a little something about space. Not just outer space, space. The entire fabric of reality as we know it. It’s likely that scientists won’t know the full extent of the importance of this discovery until it’s made. So far, all that they’ve been able to determine is that the waves much be smaller and harder to observe than they originally anticipated.
You can read the full details of how LIGO measures perpendicular laser beams to detect slight variations in gravity here. Scientists hope that recent upgrades to the project will make it much more likely that they will begin to detect gravitational waves.