Albert Einstein hypothesized a century ago that gravitational waves exist, and rumors have been swirling for months that scientists have detected them. We could be just hours away from confirmation that they have.
Scientists and journalists will gather at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning for a "status report" from researchers involved in a long quest to detect the waves, which have been likened to ripples in space-time that flow outward at the speed of light when black holes or other massive celestial objects collide.
Confirmation that scientists have detected these waves would be a "huge milestone," said Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and professor at Arizona State University
"It opens a new window on the universe," he said in an email to The Huffington Post. "Gravitational wave astronomy could be the astronomy of the 21st Century. More than that, it may reveal important information on the nature of gravity, black holes, and fundamental physics."
"Every time we have opened a new window in the past, we have been surprised," he continued. "I would be surprised if we weren't surprised again."
Clifford Burgess, a theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, offered a similar assessment of the rumored discovery.
"If this is true, then you have 90 percent odds that it will win the Nobel Prize in Physics this year. It's off-the-scale huge," Burgess told Science magazine.
Burgess added that he had seen lots of rumors but that "this one seems more credible." Scientists generally don't gather at the National Press Club to announce "null results," The Washington Post reported.
Researchers from the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration are expected to announce the discovery.
LIGO, for Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, is a pair of kilometers-long laser devices designed to detect gravitational waves. The devices -- there is one in Livingston, Louisiana, and one in Hanford, Washington -- have been operating on and off for more than a decade.
HuffPost Science will be covering the meeting tomorrow -- stay tuned for details.
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