Gravitational Waves Explained by Intelligent People

Knowing that they’re smarter than us, scientists explain the hubbub around the gravitational wave news in ways that a toddler might understand. That toddler is us, by the way.

Whether you prefer gravitational waves being compared to magnets over dog toys or boats, these explanations will finally make you understand the breakthrough around gravitational waves and why it’s important. Just don’t do what I did and combine all three. You’ll only find yourself confused, wondering what dog toys are doing on a sinking boat made of magnets.

My personal favorite of the three is the explanation given by Fulvio Melia from the University of Arizona. “Think of gravity like a magnet, and everything in space has it. The bigger the object, the stronger the magnet. The sun is really big – big enough to attract the Earth, and the Earth attracts the moon, and because of gravity, they’re all attracted to each other. It’s like they all want to hug and be close. But they can’t, so they send out little waves instead.” His explanation almost reads like the next big major children’s story, The Little Magnet That Couldn’t.

If you don't like that one, however, there are other good ones like Vicky Kalogera's. Kalogera is a professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University. She writes: "Stars are like balls flying around in the universe and when they get very old they turn black, and they become black holes. But even if they’re old they might still like to play the spinning game – and, like you and your friend, they might also crash into each other. If they do crash into each other, it’s like you and your friend jumping into the lake. It makes a huge splash and then ripples spread out all across the lake, right to the edge."

Finally, science makes some sense!