Gravitational Waves

The video in this link describes in a simple manner the consequences of the  recently announced discovery of Gravitational Waves.  Their existence is final proof that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity is correct.  It also potentially gives us a new tool for extending astronomical observations so that we can learn more about our universe.

This discovery of gravitational waves also conclusively proves that Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation, that is used effectively in everyday physics even to this day is only an approximation.  This approximation can still be used since it works in almost real life cases that we experience. The application of this law begins to fall apart where there are very large gravitational fields present due to massive objects and short distances between objects.  (Approximations are not necessarily a bad thing so long as you recognize them as such, and also recognize their limitations.)

Einstein was the genius who could see things beyond the boundaries of the normal human experiences that are the basis of all of our perceptions.  He could then come up with universal laws in this regard, laws that are based on science that can be proved and not simply based on belief.  He was an amazing person.

It is fashionable these days in some circles to challenge the scientific approach and scientific results, and to label some of these as beliefs, as if the scientific process is akin to following a religion and a belief system.  Such an attitude only shows ignorance, and a laziness when it comes to trying to understand things.  This kind of attitude is unfortunately increasing in societies that are supposed to be advanced.  Check this comic strip out.  (I do not want to reproduce the strip in its entirely here for fear of violating copyright.)

 

 

 

Nobel Prize in Physics given for work done on Neutrinos

Check out this article from the BBC.

Here are a few bullets from the article describing these neutrinos.

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The mysterious neutrino

  • Second most abundant particle in the Universe, after photons of light
  • Means ‘small neutral one’ in Italian; was first proposed by Wolfgang Pauli in 1930
  • Uncharged, and created in nuclear reactions and some radioactive decay chains
  • Shown to have a tiny mass, but hardly interacts with other particles of matter
  • Comes in three flavours, or types, referred to as muon, tau and electron
  • These flavours are able to oscillate – flip from one type to another – during flight

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What is more interesting to me is the process that led to where we are today in terms of the discovery, study, and understanding of these particles.  The first hint of the existence of these particles was due to an anomaly in the math related to radioactive behavior that was observed in the 1930s.  Although the existence of the particle was proposed at that time, there was no proof in this regard. Over the years physicists were able to prove the real existence of these particles through actual observations, and then, over a further period of time, overcome some issues related to a more complete understanding of these particles.  It turns out that once they were able to observe neutrinos, they still could not  get the numbers to agree as to the quantity of these particles.  The physicists who got the Nobel prize were able to discover that these particles were changing flavors continuously, while the early processes for detecting the particles was only seeing one of these flavors.  This discovery was apparently only made in the early 2000s.  It finally all made sense, and apparently the fact that these particles can change flavors during flight also implies that they also have mass, a fact that was not known in the past.

Amazing stuff!  And I am sure that we are not done yet with our proper understanding of these particles.

It is wonderful to see the scientific process lead to discoveries like this that give us a better understanding of the world that we live in.  We still have a long way to go.

It is all about continuing to ask questions, and in persisting in the efforts to get the answers. Articles of faith can often turn out to be problematic.