Have gravitational waves been proven to exist?
Have gravitational waves been proven to exist 100%? Or are astrophysicists only about 99.9% sure that they are real? I read in a book by Timothy Ferris that some people from Princeton proved pretty much beyond a shadow of a doubt that they exist, but I wanted to make sure. Thank you for your time.
Gravitational waves are predicted by General Relativity, which is one of the most supported theories in science. Nevertheless, they have never actually been detected, mostly because of the difficulty involved in the endeavor. Astronomers do watch the orbits of close binary pulsars, which are predicted to emit gravitational waves, and find that the orbits decay at exactly the correct rate predicted by the theory of gravitational radiation and have no other explanation available. So that is the best evidence that gravitational waves exist, and is probably what you were reading about. It's pretty good evidence. My money is on their existence.
I also want to point out that nothing in science is proven 100%, beyond a shadow of a doubt. The best you can do is to say that something is "so well supported that it would be perverse to deny it." Even such "facts," however, have been falsified from time to time. All scientific findings are tentative by their very nature.
Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:
- Podcast? Subscribe? Tell me about the Ask an Astronomer Podcast
- Subscribe to our Podcast | Listen to our current Episode
- Cool! But I can't now. Send me a quick reminder now for later.
- What happens when two black holes get too close?
- How do gravitons escape black holes to tell the universe about their gravity?
- What is the speed of gravity?
How to ask a question:
If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.Table 'curious.Referrers' doesn't existTable 'curious.Referrers' doesn't exist
This page has been accessed 24771 times since May 2, 2002.
Last modified: June 4, 2003 10:02:30 AM
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.
Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)