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Last month, we as a species did something remarkable. We detected the presence of gravitational waves. While we all are celebrating and excited about the newest discovery of mankind. I could use answers to a few questions to be able to understand gravitational waves better and the importance of LIGO :-

  1. What if we didn't have LIGO ready before the wave that was detected passed through the Earth?
  2. What if later events were not as powerful as the colliding of two massive black holes that caused the wave that was detected?
  3. How did they exactly come to a conclusion that the wave detected were due to the result of collision of two black holes?
  4. Will they keep trying to detect more gravitational waves given that now we already know that these waves do exist? Why?
  5. I was taught that gravity is a force of attraction between two bodies acting on each other due to their masses and is directed towards their center and that explained most the things to us. But now with gravitational waves into picture. What exactly is going to change in the High School Physics where they teach about "Gravity" and everywhere else?
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closed as too broad by CuriousOne, ACuriousMind, Kyle Kanos, John Rennie, Qmechanic Mar 12 '16 at 20:16

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ When you have multiple questions you can ask each question in a separate post. $\endgroup$ – Timaeus Mar 12 '16 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ Would that be fine if I do that now? Five questions in total. I would if I could combine these questions into one sentence though. $\endgroup$ – Duh Mar 12 '16 at 9:07
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    $\begingroup$ We, as a species, would be doing something remarkable if we would stop hating each other for ridiculously petty reasons. 1) We would have waited for another event. We still are. It's not a one time deal. 2) Why would this have been the strongest event, ever? 3) If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it's usually a duck. 4) How foolish would it be to stop using the instrument for what it was designed for? 5) Nothing is going to change in high school physics. This is graduate and post-graduate stuff. If you want to know about it, you are welcome to attend university. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Mar 12 '16 at 9:07
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    $\begingroup$ related and answering a few of the questions: physics.stackexchange.com/q/236145 (esp. first question), physics.stackexchange.com/q/235248 (esp. 4th question), physics.stackexchange.com/q/236107 (esp. 3rd question). $\endgroup$ – Martin Mar 12 '16 at 9:20
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The answer to your points 1 and 2 will be mere speculations and so I cannot help with that. As for your 3rd question, LIGO had many sample templates based on theoretical predictions of different models of binary massive systems. The spectrum that the detector received was matched with the templates to see which one they corresponded exactly to. Thus they came to the conclusion that the wave detected was due to the result of collision of two black holes.

The answer to your 4th question is that it is generally believed that analysis of gravitational waves is going to reveal newer insights into astronomy and the detection was just the first step in this regard. The topic of gravitational wave astronomy will be an important component of astronomy from now onwards.

The answer to the 5th question is, almost no change will take place in the school curriculum. Further doubts can be settled by observing that the Bohr model of the Hydrogen atom, instead of quantum electrodynamics is taught at the school level, even though everone knows that the former is not a complete/ totally accurate theory.

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    $\begingroup$ I like the sarcasm about the Bohr model... even though I think they should throw that out of the curriculum. Students are smart enough to understand the orbital model. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Mar 12 '16 at 9:15
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answers! And for clarifying my doubt in 5th question. Though, I hope to see at least basic introduction of gravitational waves in physics textbooks from now on. $\endgroup$ – Duh Mar 12 '16 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ @CuriousOne I agree.. still it is better to start with simplified models rather than go into all relevant details at once and overwhelm the student.. $\endgroup$ – Bruce Lee Mar 12 '16 at 9:29
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    $\begingroup$ I don't like the "teach a falsehood and make them forget all about it a year later". That's nonsensical. We can teach orbitals in tenth grade, or so, just fine. I am not advocating to make them solve the Schroedinger equation, of course not. Thankfully computers now allow us to give nice interactive 3d renderings of orbitals and a picture is worth a thousand words, anyway. See e.g. chemguide.co.uk/atoms/properties/orbits.gif $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Mar 12 '16 at 9:34

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