Last month Here be Dragons launched the first episode in a five-part series called The Possible. Called Hello, Robot, it took viewers inside the secure testing facility of Boston Dynamics a robotics specialist. Now the production company has released its second instalment Listening to the Universe, heading to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) to see how scientists are measuring gravitational waves.
Gravitational waves are tiny ripples in space time – which Einstein predicted – but were previously thought to be too small to detect here on Earth. But with LIGO that has now been shown to be possible, enabling scientists to peer into the darkest regions of space.
“More recently, an MIT physics professor did the math and concluded that Einstein was wrong,” states the video’s description. “So he built the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which measures almost infinitesimally small disturbances in spacetime—smaller than anything that’s been measured before. And in 2016, LIGO succeeded, detecting gravitational waves from a massive, faraway collision between black holes.”
For those interested in astronomy LIGO provides a new way to observe the universe and Here Be Dragons meets with some of the researchers pioneering the technology. Explaining how minute these waves are, Nergis Mavalvala, professor of astrophysics, MIT, explains: “Gravitational waves are incredibly hard to detect, you can think of them as ripples stretching and shrinking space as they travel through the universe. They travel at the speed of light and they pass undisturbed through every object that they meet. But by the time the gravitational wave gets to us hear on the Earth its effect is miniscule. A thousand times smaller than a nucleus of an atom, and the nucleus of an atom is ten thousand times smaller than the atom itself, and an atom is a thousand times smaller than what we can see with a microscope.
The video is available through the Within app for iOS, Android using Google Cardboard, or HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and PlayStation VR head-mounted displays (HMDs).
For an update on the next instalment of The Possible, keep reading VRFocus.