We live in a remarkable age where far-out concepts and theories once the exclusive domain of science fiction are creeping closer to reality. Last week, noted theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University tweeted out a statement that scientists may have discovered the elusive cosmic distortions known as gravitational waves, a phenomenon first predicted by Albert Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity more than 100 years ago but never actually observed. Gravitational waves are unpredictable ripples in the space-time fabric thought to be created by areas of extreme energy generated by violent occurrences like black holes, colliding neutron stars, supernovae and galactic mergers.
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Though there has been no official announcement via the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project, the experiment designed to hunt down these strange sci-fi ripples from detecting stations in Hanford, Wash., and Livingston, La., Krauss says the probability is high that the discovery has been made due to serious rumblings in the scientific community and whispers among his close colleagues.
Many of Krauss's Twitter followers took to social media to express their super-geeky displeasure at Krauss jumping the gun and announcing the rumor of these extraordinary findings prematurely, thereby reducing scientific credibility and stealing the thunder from the actual team of scientists that did the heavy lifting. Once reviewed by peers and tested, this gravitational wave discovery could turn out to be one of the most astonishing and significant breakthroughs in the history of physics, leading to deeper understanding of black holes, dying stars and other mysterious cosmic curiosities. Alan Weinstein, a representative at the LIGO research headquarters at Caltech, has neither confirmed nor denied the discovery, and simply states that they are "analyzing data and will share news when ready.’
“They will be extremely cautious," Krauss told The Guardian. "There’s no reason for them to make a claim they are not certain of. We would have a new window on the universe. Gravitational waves are generated in the most exotic, strange locations in nature, such as at the edge of black holes at the beginning of time. We are pretty certain they exist, but we’ve not been able to use them to probe the universe.”
Should Krauss have jumped the gun and revealed LIGO's secret discovery before any official press release, or is all fair in love and physics?