The of Our Universe

Kip Thorne

Edited by Sobel


A

   — here on Earth

   multicelled life was arising and spreading—

in a galaxy far far away

   two spinning black holes danced ’round one another,

   rippling the fabric of space and time.


The ripples, called gravity waves

   sucked energy from the holes’ orbit, so

The holes spiraled inward,

   eclipsing each ,

   toward a climactic collision:


The holes,

   at half of light speed,

   collided catastrophically

     and merged

        in a brief, cataclysmic storm

        of writhing and twisting spacetime

   that brought the waves to crescendo.


The climaxing gravity waves

   surged into interstellar space.

Spreading across our universe,

     they stretched and they squeezed

        all that they met

        (stars and planets and nebulae…)

     in patterns that encoded

        a portrait of their birth:

colliding holes and spacetime storm.


The gravity waves were hugely strong,

   with fifty times more total power

   —more luminosity—

   than all of the light from all of the stars in all of our universe, combined.


Fifty universe luminosities

   from two black holes colliding.

But not any light. Not any x-rays. Not any gamma rays or radio.

   No electromagnetic waves at all,

      None of any type.


Fifty universe luminosities

   carried wholly and solely by gravity waves,

   by tendices and vortices, entwined,

   by structures made from warped spacetime.


Fifty thousand years ago,

   when humans shared Earth with Neandertals,

the waves plunged into our galaxy:

   The Milky Way. Our home.


On September fourteen of twenty fifteen

   they dove into Earth in Antarctica.

Whispering up through Earth’s bowels unscathed,

   and emerging near New Orleans,

     the waves encountered LIGO

        —a complex and huge, L-shaped device

          designed and built to perceive them.


In LIGO the gravity waves stretched and squeezed

   two long beams of light,

which extracted the portraits the waves encoded:

   colliding holes and spacetime storm.


A momentous Eureka Event, it was

humans’ first moment of contact

   with the Warped Side of Our Universe.


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Author: Kip Thorne {authorlink}
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