The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
Texas A&M fans react after The Aggies win the NCAA Bryan-College Station Super Regional at Olsen Field on Sunday, June 9, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
The mad dash to Omaha
Ian Curtis, Sports Reporter • June 21, 2024

After Texas A&M baseball’s win over Florida sent the Aggies to their first Men’s College World Series Championship Series in program...

Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
Sixth sense
June 18, 2024
Enjoying the Destination
Enjoying the Destination
Cara Hudson, Maroon Life Writer • June 17, 2024

For the history buffs, there’s a story to why Bryan and College Station are so closely intertwined. In 1871 when the Texas Legislature approved...

Chris Hemsworth as Dementus in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.
Review: ‘Furiosa’ is a must-see
Justin ChenJune 4, 2024

My jaw dropped open in 2016. Rarely in life does that happen, but the viewing experience of “Mad Max: Fury Road" was something to behold....

Q&A: The science behind space-time


Daniel Holz is a co-author of the scientific paper that announced finding the gravitational waves.

A team of scientists recently announced they recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light years away to confirm a prediction of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Battalion SciTech reporter Srinivas Harshal spoke with Daniel Holz, professor of physics at the University of Chicago and one of the co-authors on the scientific paper that announced finding the gravitational waves, about his experience working on LIGO.
THE BATTALION: What exactly are gravitational waves?
HOLZ: They are ripples in space-time. Einstein conceived gravity as due to the curvature of space-time. Think of it like a heavy mass on a trampoline that causes the trampoline to bend. Heavy masses cause space-time to bend. That means distances and rates at which clocks tick are affected as we go closer to these masses. For example the sun bends space-time. Earth is going in a straight line but [the sun] causes it to go around because of a bending in space-time. Gravitational waves are actual waves in the fabric of space-time. If you drop stones in a pond you get ripples. When you have two black holes crash into each other they cause ripples in gravity and those waves are called gravitational waves.
THE BATTALION: Why is this discovery important?
HOLZ: We are confirming Einstein’s theory, and for the first time we are directly detecting waves as exactly described. These are coming from surfaces of black holes which are incredible, profound objects in physics. We have two black holes travelling at half the speed of light, and we see this incredible warping of space-time. The most important thing is that this gives us a way of probing the universe in ways we never have or could before.
THE BATTALION: What was it like working on this massive project?
HOLZ: I’ve been collaborating on this project for over a year and a half alongside over 11,000 scientists from around the world. For years I’ve been thinking about it, working on it, writing papers on it, and this truly has been the Holy Grail. When you see something work exactly the way it is supposed to work and realize that now you can learn more about the universe, the feeling is just incredible.

THE BATTALION: Now that you’ve made the all-important discovery, what can we expect in the future?

HOLZ: Now it gets really good. We know LIGO works, we have known these black holes crashing each other. We are improving the machine and will turn on the machine in the summer.  We’ve never been able to measure the universe this way in the history of human civilization. We’ve learned about most of the by looking through eyes or telescopes. We now have this new sense which listens not to sound gravitational waves. It’s a whole new sense and so a lot of new information. By looking we’d have never know that these black holes collided. We can discover new black holes or neutron stars. We have guesses as to what to expect so it’s all incredibly exciting. The whole science and astronomy community can’t wait because we want to know what’s out there.

THE BATTALION: How exactly does LIGO work?

HOLZ: It measures distances in two perpendicular directions. It is an L-shaped instrument and at end of each arm there are mirrors. The LIGO is measuring distances to those mirrors with extreme precision. When a wave comes through — the ripple in space-time — the distance between mirrors changes in a predictable oscillatory manner. It measures the frequency of oscillation and how often it changes with time. The frequency gets faster and faster over the course of half a second. It’s called a “chirp” that goes like “whoop.” That’s when you know we have gravitational waves colliding.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Battalion

Your donation will support the student journalists of Texas A&M University - College Station. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Battalion

Comments (0)

All The Battalion Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *