LIGO story by Adam Reid, 8th Grade Recently, our eighth grade class hosted a presentation from Richard Oram, PhD, Operations Manager, of the LIGO facility in Livingston Parish, Louisiana. In an informative, detailed slide show, held in the Lewis Family Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd, we learned about the discoveries and milestones of engineers and scientists worldwide.
Last September, the discovery of gravitational waves confirmed Einstein's theory of general relativity. Over 1.3 billion years ago, two massive black holes, over 30 times the mass of our sun, collided. A ripple effect was created; huge amounts of released energy sent gravitational waves traveling at the speed of light into intergalactic space. The discovery was the first ever made by mankind, and quite possibly, the first in a series to come.
LIGO was the first successful attempt to discover gravitational waves using its two laser interferometers. In simple terms, LIGO is able to detect these usually subatomic waves using two waves of concentrated light and comparing them to each other. Based on the patterns sent back to their observatory, they were able to determine that the Earth had been warped for approximately 0.2 seconds. A billion dollar project managed to produce a very small amount of evidence, but it was sufficient enough to convince physicists that Einstein was right a hundred years before a light was shone onto our relatively insignificant existence.
My own personal experience was rather unique. Physics is an area that I have a lot of background information in; I found the presentation very easy to understand. More importantly, I feel that others were able to share in that same learning experience as well.