What Gravitational Waves Sound Like: New Audio of Black Holes Colliding Confirms Predictions Einstein Made 100 Years Ago

On Thursday, scientists announced that they had recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light years away, providing the first real proof that gravitational waves actually exist–something Albert Einstein predicted 100 years ago in his famous paper on general relativity. If you would like an introduction to the whole concept of gravitational waves, I’d recommend watching the animation below, created by PhD Comics–the same folks who created a handy animation explaining the Higgs Boson when it was confirmed back in 2012.


But, for the moment, I’d really like you to listen to the “Gravitational Wave Chirp,” the audio recording unveiled by scientists this week. (Hear it up top.) As The New York Times describes it, the chirp rises to “the note of middle C before abruptly stopping,” And it’s likely to “take its place among the great sound bites of science,” ranking up there with Alexander Graham Bell’s “Mr. Watson — come here” and Sputnik’s first beeps from orbit.” Decades from now, you can tell your grandkids you heard it here first.

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  • Toad says:

    Of course, gravitational waves don’t make a sound. Sound is air waves, not waves of the fabric of existence flexing.

    Frequencies from one type of wave can be mapped over onto another type of wave, though, which has been done here. Why map it onto sound rather than light? Why not make an image?

    That’s a good question that you might be able to sense an answer to intuitively, and might want to think about for second, but the answer can be found at this better(I’m sorry to say) announcement of the finding: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/this-is-what-a-gravitational-wave-sounds-like

    That answer is: “Unlike light waves, which propagate wavelengths that are smaller than the object that emits them, gravitational ripples produce wavelengths larger than the objects that produce them. In that way, they are more analogous to acoustic energy than electromagnetic energy, so recording them is usually considered akin to recording rather than light.”

    When scientists are making an analogy, even a close analogy like this “sound” recording of waves that aren’t sound, it’s important to keep track of the analogy, instead of taking it literally. The whole point here is to think about this, not to shrug off thinking and just listen to the pretty sound.

  • Ramon Sender says:

    Want to hear just the sound of the wave itself?
    http://www.raysender.com/graviton%20sound.mp3

  • William says:

    Well, I happen to like the pretty sound, even though it’s not real. And I don’t shrug off thinking about what it represents.

    For us laymen, who don’t know the intricacies of the physics involved, but are still able to be awed by our Universe (both the outward and the inward), demonstrations like this help me grasp (what little I can, that is ) the awesome & incredible workings of the immensity of our reality.

  • William says:

    Wow! I put it on repeat mode in my media player–it’s so cool!

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