gravity wave breakthrough, einstein strikes again!

gravity_chirphi all the LIGO gravity wave announcement is really exciting and WAY COOL for a lot of reasons. its the 1-century anniversary of einstein making the prediction. “einstein strikes again!” much like universe expansion, he changed his mind over their reality but seemed to have settled on their plausibility.[b2] its another huge victory for Big Science™. the experiment has extreme sensitivity and cost about ~$1B over several decades. it was heavily funded by NSF instead of european agencies, although there are other detectors set to go online soon. its a tour de force of experimental science.

there is a big CS angle here, playing a supporting role unf with little fanfare. articles state at least 24M cpu hours were involved in simulations; the figure is probably much higher. (few seem to be keeping track.) it was largely processed by Atlas, operated by Albert Einstein Institute.[20]

this is all fabulous, but could some day a CS-centric initiative (eg into the deep aspects of say complexity theory or automated theorem proving) be launched with similar scale and epochal results? am feeling someday CS may play the starring role.

so, two black holes merging in one of the most energetic cosmic events ever traced, apart from the big bang. actually its quite reminiscent of the big bang and one sort of wonders, maybe, like out of the disney movie of the same name, the end game for black holes is for all of them to eventually merge and swallow the entire universe… and then but of course maybe that leads to a new big bang?

scientists are expecting on the order of tens of similar events per year! so this is an entirely new branch of observational physics and science born this week. scientists and physicists around the world are nearly giddy (as much as is possible for meticulous professionals!).

think, gravity waves and higgs discovery only a few years apart. it seems to be a golden age for physics. it reminds me of that famous shakespeare quote:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

gravity waves are basically a dynamic ripple in space-time. physicists have been somewhat conditioned to think of spacetime as stretchable but mostly somewhat monolithic and static. now we have a new very dynamic picture. it also reminds one of the long attempts to unify general relativity and quantum mechanics that go back to einsteins age.

b. LIGO2


2 thoughts on “gravity wave breakthrough, einstein strikes again!

  1. gentzen

    How about looking at this as an astronomy breakthrough, instead of a physics, engineering or CS breakthrough? After all, neither CS nor physics will be changed much after this breakthrough, but astronomy will. And astronomy is an end in itself, it doesn’t need to defend itself by reference to potential applications of its results to more practical relevant issues, like math or to a certain degree also physics and CS need to do.

    Can we say the same thing about the Higgs boson and high energy physics? I’m less certain here, because high energy physics is less of an end in itself. It tries to justify itself by enabling a better understanding of the conditions directly after the big bang, and how it can help us verify predictions of theoretical physics, and possibly even serve as an arbiter between difference competing theories.

    With respect to CS, instead of looking with envy at the huge amounts of money spent in physics for uncertain advances, we should be grateful that our science is still young, and doesn’t yet need such efforts to advance further. If we really would want to spend huge amounts of money and effort there, then it would a good idea to found experiments similar to the ones proposed by Alex Arkhipov (and Scott Aaronson) for verifying the potential of quantum computers, without really being able to build one.

    1. vznvzn Post author

      all good pts, thx for sharing & this does spur my thinking further. are we just saying the same thing? its arguably a breakthru in multiple crosscutting fields, in each one. astronomy, cosmology, physics, computer science. they interconnect in a holistic way. its a a very big deal to verify an extremely-difficult-to-model physical process like black holes through computational experiments. the model confirms the phenomena and the phenomena confirms the experiment. its a feedback loop. its a yin & yang combination (a fusion/ synergy long the theme of this blog, almost a founding idea).

      all the fields have theoretical and applied components and they have to mesh well or there can be imbalances. (example: string theory as too abstract with no testable/ falsifiable predictions etc)… CS is indeed involved in some very expensive experiments in QM computing, thx for reminding me of that, its estimated DWave has burned thru ~$150M or so. also, agreed the gravitational wave experiments are in some ways a huge long shot/ expensive bet that paid off after decades of building detectors that “werent good enough” aka failed! (more shades of fusion energy here…)

      lets have both big and small experiments. tabletop, and massive long shots. in all the fields. let there be a big spectrum/ variety/ diversity. and there already is, largely. but maybe this spectrum will expand in fruitful/ awesome ways yet undreamed of in our current philosophy, eh? there is not much envy in this essay because supercomputers already consume massive budgets and in a sense CS already has its “big science”… and in a single word “google”! etc… however do sometimes see opportunities to allocate resources differently in “visionary” ways… maybe its a good thing almost nobody reads this blog eh? the world is not really ready for too much scifi future 😀


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