Let’s talk about gravitational waves. Or actually let’s say that gravitational waves and humankind’s discovery of proof that they exist may actually mean something to most of us out there who would just go, “Huh?” when people talk about a LIGO detector and the joy of hearing two black holes collide. “Huh?” Yeah, that’s what I mean.
The theory that gravity existed in the form of waves was proposed by Albert Einstein almost a century ago. Since then, we’ve never been able to detect these waves, largely because we start with the knowledge that gravity is technically a very weak force. How do you measure gravitational waves generated by astronomical bodies, without having your readings clouded by the gravity of the Earth and its moon? The LIGO arrangement is apparently tuned to such finesse that within days of the setup launching and being fine tuned, the signature of the gravitational ripple of two colliding black holes was registered in the contraption. Of course, I use the term contraption with the greatest of respect, for not only could it detect something that originated a billion plus light years away (and hence the same time in years in the past), it could hear that above the sound of our noisy Earth.
Does it even matter to us? We’ve had confirmation of the Higgs-Boson and now gravitational waves. How does it even make an iota of difference to the common man? Are we going to benefit because of this? Will gravitational drives or anti-gravity be the next announcement? Are we all going to get cars that can levitate and zip around with no expenditure of energy? Isn’t that what the boffins try to tell us when they provide the backstory to movies like Interstellar?
The story of almost all new developments in transportation are based on the better understanding that we have of the higher thought processes of science. From the wonders of LED and Laser lighting, global positioning satellites, to the nano particles that form the paint coats on your car, to the sheer computing power under the hood or even the maintenance-free batteries and engine oils, we can attribute almost every advance to a much higher level of understanding of the physical domain as well as to our ability to chemically alter almost everything.
But none of this predicates a need to know anything about the fundamentals. You just need to know that your paint doesn’t fade, your car knows exactly where it is and can take you where you need to go and that nothing can escape the sheer brilliance of your headlights.
Once we allow ourselves the satisfaction of knowing that our lives run just fine without any need to grasp the complexities, life goes on just fine. We don’t need to know how the traffic ystem works, just that by siply following the rules we are able to avoid accidents. Touching a switch brings all the technology you need on tap,
That allows us to sit back and postulate as to what are the next great discoveries that we would like to witness, discoveries that will change our lives without our needing to understand anything of the processes. Like when do we get to teleport like the folks at Star Trek offer us? Or fly around in multi-layered traffic lanes like Star Wars, the Fifth Element and Total Recall propose?
The discovery of gravitational waves may not end our dependence on Mother Earth anytime soon, but I’m sure it will impact our everyday lives in the future and a not so distant one at that. Till such a time, we’ll be tied down to the ground by the very force that produces these waves.