Albert Einstein‘s theory of general relativity will have to be subjected to a ‘real thinking’ if researchers will be able to measure particles of gravity they suggest exist after a breakthrough in the cosmos.
The first direct notice of gravitational waves was revealed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in a massive step forward for science.
Gravitons and Science
Before this discovery, gravitational waves had only been inferred in an indirect way, through their impact on the timing of pulsars in binary star systems. The waveform supported the prediction of Einstein’s general relativity. However, American theoretical physicist Dr. James Gates says another hypothesis of the genius could be soon confirmed.
Speaking during physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk podcast, he said: “In 1905, Einstein wrote four papers, and among those papers is one that points out that energy has to be quantized. We know that Einstein doesn’t like quantum theory, but he’s actually one of the founding fathers because of this paper on the photoelectric effect. Now that we have seen waves of gravity, we want to see the quantization of the energy carried by those waves. When we do that, we will have the graviton in our Universe.”
He continued explaining: “You want to be able to see the quantization of the energy that the gravity waves hold that tells you that gravitons – at that point, it is no longer science fiction – are a piece of science.”
In theoretical physics, a graviton is the theoretical quantum of gravity, an elementary particle that arbitrates gravity’s power.
Dr. Tyson intervened, explaining more simply: “A photon is a particle of light, but you can also speak of light as waves, so that is a proper analogy. We have measured gravitational waves; now, we want to measure its particles.”
What Gravity Is – Challenging Einsten’s Theory
Although researchers predicted the breakthrough could come in around ’50 or 100 years,’ as the technology advances enough, Dr. Tyson questioned whether this finding would challenge the general relativity theory itself.
Dr. Gates responded: “If we have gravitons, then gravity being the curvature of space and time has no meaning in the presence of a graviton.”
As per this theory, the observed gravitational impact between masses comes from their warping of spacetime. This has developed into a crucial tool in modern astrophysics, providing the base for the current understanding of black holes and is also part of the structure of the Big Bang.
However, Dr. Gates said the detection of graviton could destroy that: “The detection of a graviton will necessitate a real rethinking of what gravity is. Some of us are already there; I don’t think of gravity in terms of geometry – it’s feel theory.”
To confirm, Dr. Tyson asked: “What you’re saying is Einstein’s theory happens to be a convenience under certain situations that give you the right answer? You’re good with that, but it’s not the total story?”
Dr. Gates confirmed, saying that the statement was true and explaining that more work needs to be done to learn more about gravity and understand it better.