Physicists explain how February's detection of gravitational waves, first predicted by Albert Einstein back in 1916, could have exciting implications for our understanding of the cosmos. Holly Rubenstein reports.
It's been described as the Holy Grail of science. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY PHYSICIST DAVID REITZE SAYING: "Ladies and gentleman. We have detected gravitational waves. We did it." APPLAUSE. February's announcement of the detection of gravitational waves, the ripples in space and time postulated by Albert Einstein 100 years ago, created a new future of scientific discovery for astrophysicists. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PHYSICIST PROFESSOR BRIAN COX, SAYING: "This opens up a whole new window on our observation of the universe. For all of history we've looked at the universe through light and just detecting light. Now we have another way, which is the waves, the ripples in space and time." (SOUNDBITE) (English) ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF THE ASTROPHYSICS OF GALAXIES AND BLACK HOLES AT ETH ZURICH, PROFESSOR KEVIN SCHAWINSKI, SAYING: "So in a way it's like when Galileo Galilei for the first time looked through an optical telescope and saw the moons of Jupiter. It completely revolutionised our view of the solar system and the universe." Until recently, everything we knew about the cosmos stemmed from electromagnetic waves - like radio, visible light or gamma rays. But these waves encounter interference as they travel across the universe, meaning they can only tell part of the story. Gravitational waves on the other hand experience no such barriers. It means they could offer a wealth of additional information to scientists, about enigmatic objects like black holes, and the mysterious nature of the very early universe. Scientists are hoping to ride this wave of success to their next major discovery. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF THE ASTROPHYSICS OF GALAXIES AND BLACK HOLES AT ETH ZURICH, PROFESSOR KEVIN SCHAWINSKI, SAYING: "So gravitational wave astronomy will completely change the way we do astrophysics. Now, what I'm most excited about is in maybe 15, 20 years time when we're going to launch a gravitational wave observatory into space which will let us see the super massive black holes. The black holes with masses a million or even time a billion times the mass of the sun. We'll be able to see those merge."