New technology that breaks the quantum measurement barrier has been developed to detect the gravity waves first predicted by Einstein in 1916, says David Blair is a Winthrop Professor of Physics at The University of Western Australia and Director of the Australian International Gravitational Research Centre. “Gravitational wave astronomy is going to be the new astronomy that’s likely to really revolutionise our understanding of the universe,” he says. “It will allow us to listen to the big bang and to black holes forming throughout the universe. These are detectors that can allow humanity to explore the beginning of time and the end of time.”
The addition of a new technique called ‘quantum squeezing’ at the world’s largest gravitational wave detector allowed researchers to eliminate a lot of the ‘noise’ caused by quantum fluctuations. The new equipment has allowed the physicists to break the quantum measurement barrier, defined until recently by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
“It proves that the quantum barrier [that] physicists thought would limit sensitivity can be overcome," said Blair. "This is a major breakthrough that makes us even more confident that in a few years we will begin to directly measure the ripples in space,” he says.
As a result there is no lower limit on the amount of measurable energy, and extremely subtle gravitational waves will become detectable.
“They’ve got the most perfect mirrors ever created, they’ve got the most powerful laser light that’s ever been used in any measuring system," Blair says. “They’ve got a vacuum that is so good that the size of any leak would represent less than a teaspoon full of air leaking into it in about 300 years. They can measure the smallest amounts of energy that has ever been measured but the new method enables them measure even less. The uncertainties from empty space can be suppressed so as to measure something even smaller.”
Image at the top of the page a black hole in the dwarf galaxy Henize 2-10 that is about 2 million times the mass of the sun, Reines estimated. That’s comparable to the size of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, even though Henize 2-10 is only about the size of a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way called the Magellanic Clouds.
The Daily Galaxy via The University of Western Australia
Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Virginia/A.Reines et al. Radio: NRAO/AUI/NSF/Virginia/A.Reines et al. Optical: NASA/STScI/Virginia/A.Reines et al.