Recently a paper in Nature about 2 black holes PG 1302-102 merging and causing a supernova 100 million times more powerful than common ones got me thinking.

How much damage do gravitational waves do and how close would someone have to be to the source for it to hurt them? or would you not feel a thing from it?

(The link given in comments does not answer whether a gravitational wave would do any damage or whether you would feel it. It does not cover how big a collision would have to be and how far away you would have to be to feel it. What you would feel and how the wave would interact with your body to cause the feeling. There is a +100 bounty still on the question so I assume it has not been answered)


marked as duplicate by Sebastian Riese, ACuriousMind, John Rennie, Emilio Pisanty, user10851 Sep 18 '15 at 17:43

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    $\begingroup$ Probably related: physics.stackexchange.com/q/168274 $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Sep 17 '15 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ I also think that the linked question isn't a duplicate (hence my statement of "probably related" and not "possible duplicate"). But, to be sure, the +100 bounty was awarded to Ali Moh's answer; an open bounty has a banner under the question saying something like "this bounty is open for X days." $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Sep 18 '15 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ PG 1302-102 hasn't collided yet, and colliding black holes don't create supernovas $\endgroup$ – endolith Oct 18 '17 at 13:49

The bounty on the link that @KyleKanos provided (physics.stackexchange.com/q/168274) was awarded because the answer is correct. It gives information about how close you'd need to be to detect the distortion with human senses. At what point it "hurts" I think is not clear - How much can we stretch you before it hurts? That's not just a question of physics.

What is true and related, is that we believe that we're constantly exposed to gravitational waves passing by. As in the answer at the link provided, these waves are very weak by the time that they reach us and therefore have no noticeable effect of any type on "ordinary" human scales. What effect there is manifests as an alternating compression and stretching of your body. In theory, if you were close enough, this would hurt and if you were closer still it would rip you apart. Again, these effects are very small at any reasonable distance for any reasonable sized event generating gravitational waves.

  • $\begingroup$ So all I have to do is divide the schwtchild radius by the distance I am away from the supernova to get an answer in h and it doesn't matter how strong the supernova is? $\endgroup$ – Jitter Sep 17 '15 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ Schwarzschild radius depends on mass, so bigger events still mean you need to be farther away at fixed level of strain. @Jitter $\endgroup$ – Brick Sep 17 '15 at 23:07

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