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Gravitational waves slosh throughout the universe as ripples in space-time produced by some of the most cataclysmic events possible.
With facilities like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and Virgo, we can now detect the strongest of those ripples as they wash over the Earth. But gravitational waves leave behind a memory — a permanent bend in space-time — as they pass through, and we are now on the verge of being able to detect that too, allowing us to push our understanding of gravity to the limits.
Fact - Century - Einstein - Theory - Relativity
Despite the fact that it's over a century old, Einstein's theory of general relativity is our current understanding of how gravity operates. In this view, space and time are merged together into a unified framework known as (no surprises here) space-time. This space-time isn't just a fixed stage but bends and flexes in response to the presence of matter and energy.
That bending, warping and flexing of space-time then goes on to tell matter how to move. In general relativity, everything from bits of light to speeding bullets to blasting spaceships want to travel in straight lines. But the space-time around them is warped, forcing them all to follow curved trajectories — like trying to cross a mountain pass in a straight line, but following the peaks and valleys of the topography.
Gravity - Result - Warping - Space-time - Fact
What we call "gravity" is then the result of all that warping of space-time, and the fact that moving objects have no choice but to follow the curves and undulations of space-time around it.
And like any other flexible surface, space-time doesn't just bend and flex; it also vibrates.
Trampoline - Trampoline - Anyone - Trampoline - Gravity
If you stand on a trampoline, you'll bend the trampoline down. If anyone tries to walk on the trampoline near you, they will feel your "gravity" and be forced to follow a curving path. But...
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