Power of Observation and Unbridled Imagination Results in Discoveries and Innovation
21st Century Needs More Creative Minds
Human civilization has sustained itself through ‘creative’ thinking that leads to discoveries which ultimately translates into innovative technology. From antiquity the knowledge about universe is evolving for many centuries, so are our technologies leading to the progress of human civilization. To usher into a new world of sustainability, the journey from illusion of obscurity to the effulgence of reality need to continue even at this trying time of 21st century.
17th Century: Great Plague Leads to Great Scientific Discovery
It was 1665 during Great Plague of London one quarter of population died. Students were sent back home. Newton in his 20s came back home. During 1665-1667, young Newton’s creative mind made the base work on calculus, experiments on prism that paved the way for the foundation of optics, and most importantly propounded the concept of gravitation that resulted in first unification in science—the unification of the laws of Earth with that of Heaven. Falling of apple from tree caused by the force of acceleration due to gravity acting on the body (apple) was found to be exactly the same force that keeps planets to go around the Sun—his ‘little moon’ calculations established that the natural law of gravitation is true at every nook and corner of the universe. Newton’s laws of motion and the concept of acceleration (rate of change of velocity/speed) are experienced in our everyday life. When driving a car we press the ‘accelerator’ to increase the speed or more precisely the rate of change of speed of the car to run it faster. Newton’s universal law of gravitation makes planets to go around the Sun in specified orbits.
20th Century: Golden Period of Scientific Discoveries in the midst of War and Chaos
Leaping Beyond the Horizon—Einstein’s Legacy. Einstein came-up with his famous theory of relativity; special theory of relativity (free of gravitation) in 1905 and general theory of relativity (where gravitation was included) in 1915. He was then a technical assistant -second grade at the patent office of Bern, Switzerland, Einstein taught us to think out of the box but with reason.
It is the engagement of a thoughtful, creative, and revolutionary but rational mind that matters. Einstein once said: “I am not particularly intelligent but I am curious”—and thus we have been bestowed with the most beautiful of theories, theory of relativity; that has totally changed our view about universe from its predecessors like Aristotle, Ptolemy, including Newton. Albert Einstein was visualizing a ‘new physics’ through Maxwell’s electrodynamics that shook the foundation of Newtonian understanding of cosmic world. With Einstein’s theory of relativity we have come across the terms like ‘big-bang’, ‘gravitational waves’, ‘black hole’, ‘expanding universe’, and so forth.
Just before the great depression of 1930s, back in 1929 Hubble’s experimental observation of the motion of galaxies established the concept of expanding universe and in 1940s George Gamow propounded the big-bang theory based on Einstein’s expanding universe as the origin of universe that was verified in 1965 on the basis of experimental observation of the existence of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation.
On the TV screen the ‘static’ or the so called ‘snow’ we see when there is no TV signal is due to Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation left behind by big-bang explosion that happened at the beginning of the universe when it was born 13.8 billion years ago.
20th Century Vision of Einstein Leads to 21st Century Marvels of Technology
Einstein’s great vision of 20th century and theory of relativity led to the development of marvels of technology in 21st Century.
Einstein, unlike Newton and all his predecessors, visualized that space and time are not different entities. They together form the fabric of the universe known as space-time.
According to his concept, gravitation is not at all a ‘ghost force’, as was predicted by Newton.
It is a manifestation of the space-time curvature near a body having mass. Larger the mass of the body more curved is the space-time around that body and more is the gravitational force.
A ‘black hole’ having ideally infinite mass has extreme extent of space-time curvature around it with stupendously large gravitational pull. It does not allow even light to escape from it’s monstrous grip.
Hence came the name black hole. The term ‘black hole’ was coined by relativity expert John Wheeler in 1967.
According to Einstein’s relativity theory a moving mass , stupendously large ones like black hole can generate gravitational waves. A moving charge generate electromagnetic waves. Both electromagnetic wave and gravitational wave travels with the velocity of light. In nature gravitational waves are extremely feeble compared to electromagnetic wave thus need extremely sensitive instrument to detect it.
Here comes the marvel of technology LIGO that was capable to detect the presence of ‘gravitational waves’ after a century of Einstein’s prediction from his general theory of relativity.
In 2016 gravitational waves have been detected by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) experiment.
Image Source: Wikipedia
Investment in Science and Technology is Always the Way forward
On September 14, 2015, the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded LIGO. Scientists made it possible to first-ever directly observe gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of space-time predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years earlier.
The public announcement took place on February 11, 2016, in Washington, D.C. Each of the twin LIGO observatories—one in Hanford, Washington, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana—picked up the feeble signal of gravitational waves generated 1.3 billion years ago when two black holes spiraled together and collided. The information of that collision was there in the nature and was carried to Earth by ripples of gravitational waves. They have traveled a distance of 1.3 billion light years riding on the shoulder of space-time curvature with the velocity of light. This took 1.3 billion years.
The instrument LIGO which could receive this gravitational waves converted them into audio signals and the sound resembled the noise of chirping birds.
Barry C. Barish with Rainer Weiss, and Kip Thorne who led the team to build and experiment with LIGO were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in the year 2017. Barish commented: “The detection of gravitational waves is truly a triumph of modern large-scale experimental physics”.
Author of a forth coming book 'Knowledge about Universe-Down the Ages'
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