Has LIGO already discovered evidence for quantum gravity? (Synopsis)

“The bedrock nature of space and time and the unification of cosmos and quantum are surely among science’s great ‘open frontiers.’ These are parts of the intellectual map where we’re still groping for the truth – where, in the fashion of ancient cartographers, we must still inscribe ‘here be dragons.'” -Martin Rees

In 2015, LIGO collected data from a total of three candidate gravitational wave events, all of which were announced and released in 2016. These events verified the great prediction of Einstein: that decaying orbits should emit gravitational radiation with specific magnitudes and frequencies that distort spacetime in a particular, measurable way.

While Einstein's theory makes explicit predictions for a black hole's event horizon and the spacetime just outside, quantum corrections could alter that significantly. Image credit: NASA.

While Einstein’s theory makes explicit predictions for a black hole’s event horizon and the spacetime just outside, quantum corrections could alter that significantly. Image credit: NASA.

But some quantum gravitational ideas modify the event horizon and the space just outside of it, creating the possibility that merging black holes will exhibit “echoes” superimposed atop the Einsteinian signal. For the first time, a team of theorists dove into the LIGO data to test this, and may have just uncovered the first evidence for quantum gravity in our Universe.

The LIGO signal (blue line) for gravitational waves emitted by the first-ever detected merger may have quantum corrections (black), which could alter the total signal (yellow) that shows up in the detector. Image credit: Abedi, Dykaar and Afshordi, 2016, via https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.00266.

The LIGO signal (blue line) for gravitational waves emitted by the first-ever detected merger may have quantum corrections (black), which could alter the total signal (yellow) that shows up in the detector. Image credit: Abedi, Dykaar and Afshordi, 2016, via https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.00266.

With the next run of LIGO already underway, be prepared to find out that gravity may be inherently quantum after all!

2 Comments

  1. “The bedrock nature of space and time and the unification of cosmos and quantum are surely among science’s great ‘open frontiers.’ These are parts of the intellectual map where we’re still groping for the truth – where, in the fashion of ancient cartographers, we must still inscribe ‘here be dragons.’” -Martin Rees
    In 2015, LIGO collected data from a total of three candidate gravitational wave events, all of which were announced and released in 2016. These events verified the great prediction of Einstein: that decaying orbits should emit gravitational radiation with specific magnitudes and frequencies that distort spacetime in a particular, measurable way.
    While Einstein’s theory makes explicit predictions for a black hole’s event horizon and the spacetime just outside, quantum corrections could alter that significantly. Image credit: NASA.
    But some quantum gravitational ideas modify the event horizon and the space just outside of it, creating the possibility that merging black holes will exhibit “echoes” superimposed atop the Einsteinian signal. For the first time, a team of theorists dove into the LIGO data to test this, and may have just uncovered the first evidence for quantum gravity in our Universe.
    The LIGO signal (blue line) for gravitational waves emitted by the first-ever detected merger may have quantum corrections (black), which could alter the total signal (yellow) that shows up in the detector. Image credit: Abedi, Dykaar and Afshordi, 2016, via https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.00266.
    With the next run of LIGO already underway, be prepared to find out that gravity may be inherently quantum after all!

    Related

  2. If the echo signal were to be proved, would that mean Einstein’s Field Equation is wrong?

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