Albert Einstein was way ahead of his time when it came to scientific discoveries – but he couldn’t have foreseen this latest development. Yet over 100 years after Einstein predicted the existence of “gravitational waves,” modern astronomers have confirmed that he was right... kind of. Yes, a set of hi-tech, universe-scouring gizmos detected signs of a catastrophe in space. And this profound discovery proved that even one of history’s greatest scientific minds can also be completely off the mark.
What was Einstein talking about? Well, in 1916 the physicist was formulating his theories on the nature of space and gravity. As a result of his work, Einstein came to consider the possibility that pulses of energy could surge through space. Today, we call these ripples “gravitational waves.”
Einstein’s theorizing was telling him that gravitational waves existed, but he wasn’t actually certain of his own predictions. In later years, in fact, he seemed to have a crisis of confidence of sorts: he even published work challenging his original ideas about the proposed phenomenon. Many other scientists, though, seemed to be more confident in the great physicist’s initial musings.
During the 1990s, many decades after Einstein’s death, a project was instigated to try and find out how accurate his ideas had really been. Scientists built a facility known as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which involves two sophisticated measuring devices constructed on separate sites. One of these contraptions operates in a place called Livingston in Louisiana, while the other is in Hanford, Washington.
During the initial 13 years of the LIGO project’s operations, neither detector managed to record anything of note. But beginning in 2015 they finally started to yield some amazing results. Disturbances identified as gravitational waves, originating from a distance of 1.3 billion light years from the Earth, were recorded by the devices, apparently confirming Einstein’s original prediction about their existence.