If Einstein’s theory passes this test, then great! If it doesn’t, then even better! (because this would signal a problem with the theory [Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity] and possibly prompt a Khunian scientific revolution).  Nico Yunes - via email

(Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)

The recent detection of gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes signals a new era in gravitational-wave astrophysics that will allow us to probe the Universe in never before known ways, writes a Montana State University physicist a recent scholarly paper.

Our friend, Nico Yunes, who can be heard on the Morning Show of 1450 KMMS-AM when he's in town, and two co-authors published earlier this month in the prestigious Physical Review Letters. In the paper, Yunes and co-authors – France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, CNRS, researcher Enrico Barausse and MSU undergraduate physics student Katie Chamberlain – argue that LIGO’s detections just scratches the surface of what awaits to be discovered.

Reading the initial information, I was at a complete loss. We're talking about when two black holes collide. A topic we have traveled extensively in our radio conversations. Yet, I remained left behind.

That said, I emailed Nico asking WHY this is important. His two points are below:

1) We need to understand what the best description of Nature is. To do that, we need to test our hypothesis (science is self-correcting, remember?). One of our current hypothesis is that Einstein’s theory is the correct description of Nature, but we lack confirmation of this when two black holes collide. By using data from LIGO and future data from space-based eLISA, we’ll be able to carry out one of the most stringent test of Einstein’s theory in this strong field regime. If Einstein’s theory passes this test, then great! If it doesn’t, then even better! (because this would signal a problem with the theory and possibly prompt a Khunian scientific revolution).

2) Carrying out the test described here requires the launch of eLISA in its design specification. This means developing new technology that will allow the mission to be a success. We discussed in the past the creation of micro-Newton thrusters. This technology would have to be further improved, which in turn, would further have tons of applications in industry and technology.

In February, an international group of researchers announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves – ripples in the fabric of spacetime – which are a direct consequence of Albert Einstein’s 1915 General Theory of Relativity, using two enormous detectors in Livingston, Louisiana and in Hanford, Washington. The detectors, known as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, picked up waves coming from the merger of two black holes into one single, more massive black hole. News reports called it "the scientific discovery of the century," and the story was featured on the front pages of newspapers worldwide including The New York Times and the Washington Post.

“Just as telescopes observe light at different frequencies, in analogy to different colors of the visible spectrum, future space-based gravitational-wave detectors are slated to observe at frequencies different than those at which LIGO operates, giving us insight into gravity during not just the merger of black holes, but also as they spiral closer and closer to each other before merging,” Yunes said.

“Indeed, the planned European-led space-borne detector eLISA (the evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) will detect some of the same sources as Advanced LIGO, but during a "younger" period of their evolution,” Yunes added.

The eLISA project would put three satellites into space to create a triangular gravitational wave detector of a million kilometers or 621,000 miles per side. Each satellite would fire a laser at its companions to create the detection “sides” of the triangle. Because it is in space, eLISA would be able to detect gravitational waves at much lower frequencies, without being hindered by the seismic noise (created by the constant shaking of the Earth surface) that limits ground-based detectors such as LIGO. The complexity of the project puts the launch of the satellites sometime after 2030.

“The information contained in these sources opens up the possibility of multi-band gravitational wave astrophysics,” Barausse said. Yunes and his co-authors demonstrated that these unique multi-band sources that will be observed both by LIGO and eLISA allow for unique and tremendously powerful tests of Einstein's theory.

“The combined observation of gravitational waves with LIGO and eLISA would provide the most stringent verification to some of the main pillars of General Relativity,” Barausse added.

Now just let that all soak in and marinate your thought center for five minutes and let me know what you come up with.