The gravitational-wave laboratory

This in from Craig J Hogan of the University of Washington, Seattle, in the June issue of Physics World:

Sounding out the Big Bang

“Gravitational waves…provide a unique signature of the physics of (inflation) and other crucial phase transitions in the early universe that changed the course of cosmic history.”

I used to feel that gravitational-wave science is getting too technical on the experimental and engineering side for me to follow with interest, but this article compiles all the physical implications of the science pretty comprehensively. If the universe is the laboratory for carrying out experiments for theories of quantum gravity and inflation theory, then gravitational waves are the new observation medium via which we obtain information from the experiments, just as light and electromagnetic radiation has served us all this while. The unique characteristics of gravitational waves, for example, their purely quadrupolar nature enables us to employ it as a medium to observe changes in cosmic history that are otherwise undetected via the other kinds of media such as the temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background. Perhaps, as Craig J Hogan echoes in this article, the gravitational-wave laboratory will be the ultimate venue for the experiment that validates string theory or other background-independent theories of quantum gravity?

Accompanying article:  C J Hogan 2006 The sounds of spacetime American Scientist 94 534

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~ by musafiremes on June 26, 2007.

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