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If close enough, her auditory mechanism could vibrate in response.


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She would hear the wave. In empty darkness, she could hear spacetime ring. Barring death by black hole. Gravitational waves are like sounds without a material medium. When black holes collide, they make a sound. No human has ever heard the sound of a gravitational wave. No instrument has indisputably recorded one. Traveling from the impact as fast as light to the Earth could take a billion years, and by the time the gravitational wave gets from the black hole collision to this planet, the din of the crash is imperceptibly faint.

'Black Hole Blues' (2016): Book Excerpt

Fainter than that. Quieter than can be described with conventional superlatives. A campaign to record the skies began a half century ago. Each machine frames 4 square kilometers. With integrated costs exceeding a billion dollars and an international collaboration of hundreds of scientists and engineers, LIGO is the culmination of entire careers and decades of technological innovation. The machines were taken offline over the past few years for an upgrade to their advanced detection capabilities.

Dead stars collide and old stars explode and the big bang happened. All kinds of high-impact mayhem can ring spacetime.

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Over the lifetime of the observatories, scientists will reconstruct a clanging discordant score to accompany the silent movie humanity has compiled of the history of the universe from still images of the sky, a series of frozen snapshots captured over the past four hundred years since Galileo first pointed a crude telescope at the Sun. I follow this monumental experimental attempt to measure subtle shifts in the shape of spacetime in part as a scientist hoping to make a contribution to a monolithic field, in part as a neophyte hoping to understand an unfamiliar machine, in part as a writer hoping to document the first human-procured records of bare black holes.

As the global network of gravity observatories nears the final stretch of this race, it gets harder to turn attention away from the promise of discovery, although there are still those who vehemently doubt the prospects for success. The Sense of Style. Steven Pinker. The Big Picture.

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