Gravity Waves and ET

The other shoe has dropped.

After a century of speculation and a half-century of searching, science teams using instruments built by Caltech and MIT have made a discovery that will take up permanent residency in physics textbooks from now to the end of textbooks. They’ve found the gravity waves that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity predicted must pervade the cosmos.

There’s little doubt that this experiment should be celebrated. It’s a triumph of perseverance and clever effort: the instrumentation involved is able to detect distortions amounting to a millionth of a billionth of a meter in a tube four kilometers long. That’s like measuring the distance to Mars with a precision greater than the thickness of a bacterium’s cell wall.

Once more, Einstein’s concept of space-time has been vindicated, and while pundits love to talk about how incomplete science is and how little those pointy-headed academics know, this discovery indicates that there are things we do know. Important things, such as the behavior of space and time.

This is a story about physics, of course. But although one seldom hears “extraterrestrial intelligence” and “space-time continuum” in the same breath (unless you’re a Dr. Who fan), there’s a perceived connection between the two subjects.

I often get correspondence from folks who think that listening for radio signals or looking for laser flashes are fundamentally flawed approaches to hunting down evidence for alien beings. The extraterrestrials, these people suggest, will have moved on to a more avant-garde communication mode: gravity waves.

There are, indeed, some positive arguments for aliens with a penchant for palaver to opt for gravity wave communication. Gravity waves can travel unhindered through the dusty material that suffuses interstellar space — unlike laser light. And gravity waves aren’t distorted and scattered by the ionized gas that clutters the cosmos —> Read More