Gravitational waves: Numbers don’t do them justice

The veteran gravitational wave hunter from Glasgow University has come to the National Press Club in Washington DC to witness the announcement of the first direct detection of ripples in the fabric of space-time caused by the merger of two “intermediate-sized” black holes.

The numbers look bald on paper, but it’s when you try to imagine the scenario being described in those numbers that you rock backwards.

Imagine two monster black holes spinning down on each other in space. One has a mass which is about 35 times that of our Sun, the other roughly 30. At the moment just before they coalesce, they’re turning around each other several tens of times a second. And then, their event horizons merge and they become one – like two soap bubbles in a bath.