Black Holes and Gravitational Waves? What are you talking about?


Three scientists, Barry Barish, Kip Thorne, and Rainer Weiss were just awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physic. Physics is the study of things like energy and matter.

What did they win this for? For detecting gravitational waves.

What are gravitational waves? To explain this, I am going to have to tell you about gravity and black holes. Gravity is the force that attracts you to the earth and keeps you here  instead of floating about in the air. It is the same force that brings a ball crashing to the earth when you throw it up.

OK so now what is a black hole? You know how there are tons of stars in the sky? Well as a star burns out and dies, it forms a Black Hole. This black hole has gravity so strong that it sucks up everything into it and nothing can escape. Not even light. This black hole then bounces around the universe. When it bumps into another black hole, the collision causes waves of gravity to be sent out in different directions. Kind of like when 2 stones hit the water near each other and the water ripples out. These are gravitational waves. The energy from this collision is extremely intense, but it lessens over distance. Measuring the intensity of the waves can tell us how far away the collision took place and can tell us about the size of the black holes that collided as well.

The three Nobel prize winners from this year built a machine that could ‘hear’ these waves. They came up with the concept about 42 years ago, and it was only recently that it was finally powerful enough to detect these collisions.

When were black hole collisions and gravitational waves first thought about? Albert Einstein had a theory about their existence about 100 years ago, but it remained unproven until very recently.

When were the first black hole collisions ‘heard’? Black hole collisions were first detected in February 2016! But these were from collisions that occurred over 1 billion light years away.

What is a light year? The distance light would travel in space in a year.

How do we know that what was heard were black hole collisions? The machines that have been built at LIGO laboratories (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) in America and in Italy, measure and detect light traveling through very long tubes, and bouncing off mirrors in the tubes. So the scientists will shine laser light in the tubes, and if there are no gravitational waves, the light will bounce off mirrors in the tubes and be detected at a certain time. In the presence of gravitational waves, there will be a slight difference in the time that it takes for the light to be recorded. If you were to put a sound to that, it might sound like this:

So why does this matter anyway? Scientists believe that detecting these collisions will give us a timeline on other events occurring in the universe and that we may be able to trace various things like the formation of planets for instance. Perhaps one day we can fully understand how our universe was formed!




Spread the love
No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Write to us at

Help us keep currentkids, current! We’d love to hear about your crazy adventures and experiences. Send us your pictures, travel diaries, thoughts on cool new gadgets, gaming experiences and anything else you find interesting!

About Us

Welcome to our entertaining and empowering news source for kids with inquisitive minds! This is a digital space that keeps kids aged 8 and above (and your families!) connected to what’s happening in the world. We filter a wide variety of news, events, and interesting bits of trivia to develop short, relevant, unbiased content in creative formats. We give everyone something to relate to and get engaged with in short bytes of information with a snappy, chatty feel. We believe in encouraging curiosity, creativity and continued learning in our safe digital space.

Why is reading non-fiction important?

This helps curious minds to learn more about the outside world. It also enriches their vocabulary and their general knowledge. Simplified news helps children to express their opinions easily with their friends and family and gives them some perspective on complex issues. Our safe news website will give you parents a useful tool with which to navigate the digital world with your children.

We hope you enjoy our posts!

Biyash & Sunaina

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and stay current!


You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.