On this day May 29, 1919, just one year shy of a century mark a young Astronomer, Arthur Eddington who was known as England’s top measurement man was at the Gulf of Guinea looking up at a very fateful sky.
It just seems like yesterday when I was a child looking up at the sky. For a friend in between the endless shades of black and blue. It feels like something I shared with the first Astronomers. But I wasn’t ever so lucky to feel the rush of being able to fathom the secrets about our cosmos and understand the ultimate masterpiece that is The Universe.
I found the answer to my questions in books and through expert documentaries and other AV media. As the information sources and channels expanded, thanks to the internet, the thrill of figuring out has receded, it is almost near to nothing.
But in times past, many times in the backdrop of a war, a global population hurt, scared, and enraged, there were many scientists who toiled all their lives looking up at the stars and looking into and around the things they could grasp about the grand design of the Cosmos. They were rarely supported by more than a handful of their peers.
Arthur Eddington amidst a World War had set out to bring proof for Einstein’s theory of relativity. Einstein was a German and was at war with England. This challenge in the face of science was one of a kind. But there was a Solar Eclipse to capture and that is all that mattered to this English Astronomer and German Physicist. They were hardly oblivious to the war surrounding them but they had fought relentlessly against it. Eddington had embraced the religion of ‘Quakers’ who had based their belief systems, values and principles around kindness and never participating in any war. Quakers were not and could not be forced to go to war and what a shame it would have been if Eddington had perished in the war instead of leading the experiment on the remote island of Principe. Einstein had refused to pledge his allegiance to politics and war by not signing the infamous ‘Manifesto’ and vocally protested the use of gas on battlefields as well as the development of the Atom Bomb.
In our times, we are cheering yet another proof to Einstein’s theory: Gravitational Waves.
The first observation of gravitational waves was made on 14 September 2015 and was announced by the LIGO and Virgo Collaborations on 11 February 2016.
Information about scientific discovery reaches us within minutes of it being announced and circulated with great cheer and enthusiasm. And we all congratulate each other and celebrate the success and existence of space research organizations and collaborations as a common human endeavour.
Expert opinions and answers to questions regarding the phenomena are answered for the world to know and learn.
What is a Gravitational Wave
“Good question! A gravitational wave is a ripple in space-time.
By this we mean that when a gravitational wave passes by us, all the distances appear to oscillate.
If it passes between me and you, the distance between us would grow, then shrink again, and so on, oscillating until the wave had passed.
We never see this because the gravitational waves that reach earth are so tiny.
But if we did have a strong gravitational wave pass through us we would really see this oscillating distance, and it would look really weird!
Their discovery is so important partly because it confirms a key prediction of Einstein’s theory of gravity, called general relativity, which was formulated 100 years ago. But perhaps the main reason the discovery is important is that it opens a new window onto the stars. Gravitational wave detectors are a new kind of telescope that will allow us to learn a great deal more about the universe than we ever could otherwise.”
Source: Peter Graham, Stanford Physics Professor and Gravitational Wave Researcher: Quora Answer to -“How do I explain to students in the fourth grader, what a Gravitational Wave is, and why it’s discovery is important?
–Peter Graham explaining the importance of the discovery of ‘Gravitational Waves’ with simple yet remarkable clarity–
Two black holes collided to show us that, we the objects of the universe are creating ripples, however big or small.
We have been lucky to have been born at a time after the first set of solid proofs had been acquired by remarkably determined people.
Eddington, who led the experiment, first measured the “true” positions of the stars during January and February 1919. Then in May he went to the remote island of Príncipe (in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa) to measure the stars’ positions during the eclipse, as viewed through the sun’s gravitational lens.
Eddington also sent a group of astronomers to take measurements from Sobral, Brazil, in case the eclipse was blocked by clouds over Príncipe. Outfitting and transporting the dual expeditions were no small feats in the days before transoceanic airplanes and instantaneous global communication.
Both locations had clear skies, and the astronomers took several pictures during the six minutes of total eclipse. When Eddington returned to England, his data from Príncipe confirmed Einstein’s predictions. Eddington announced his findings on Nov. 6, 1919. The next morning, Einstein, until then a relatively obscure newcomer in theoretical physics, was on the front page of major newspapers around the world.
The bending of light around massive objects is now known as gravitational lensing, and has become an important tool in astrophysics. Physicists now use gravitational lensing to try to understand dark matter and the expansion of the universe.
Sources: International Astronomical Union, Wikipedia, NASA
The movie ‘Einstein and Eddington’ takes us back to the time when Eddington was trying to validate, bring proof through his experiment for Einstein’s theory of General Relativity.
It tells us that Space and Time can be bent. Like a sheet of cloth. You and I are bending the fabric of space-time as well, just like The Moon, The Earth, The Sun is.
The stories tell us about two Men of Science, two “true” men of science who denounced society and society’s ways of hatred and war. They united under the pursuit of truth. What they achieved was the beginning of this grand quest which saw another benchmark after a century today at CERN. A heartwarming biopic about two remarkable men, who helped shape our thoughts about our universe we live in, which we are a part of and it of us.
While they struggled to cope with love, God, family and other pursuits of human life.
“None of us can know what the world is, the way we used to know it. Einstein says that time is not the same for all of us, but different for each one of us. Its very had to conceive of such separate views, of such relative ways of seeing. Today is the first day of a new world, that is much harder to live in, but certain. More lonely. But which has at its heart human endeavour. One man has shown us how. Look at what one man can do. In this mans work, in the beautiful complexity of the new universe he has shown us. I for one have no doubt. I can hear God think.”
-Sir Arthur Eddington
The BBC movie Einstein and Eddington, directed by Philip Martin and written by Peter Moffat with music by Nicholas Hooper, is a good contrast to the book within the same context, as in the book ‘Einstein’s Dreams is more of an internal journey and the movie ‘Einstein and Eddington’ will give you the backdrop of the events in that era.-