Breakthrough of the Century: Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves

It took 900 scientists, 10 years, and two observatories.

It took 900 scientists, 10 years, and two observatories, but gravitational waves have been detected for the first time—the most important breakthrough in modern science, many say.

Albert Einstein predicted the presence of gravitational waves in 1915 with his general theory of relativity—putting forth the idea that space and time can bend and warp. A gravitational wave would be a ripple in the fabric of space and time.

Using kilometers-long lasers at the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) facilities in Louisiana and Washington state, scientists detected two black holes colliding a billion light years away. The black holes rapidly orbited each other and finally melded together into one black hole, emitting waves. As the gravity rolled by Earth, it squeezed and compressed the detectors by a fraction of an atomic diameter. Translated into sound waves, the frequency of the waves sounds like a little chirp. The note is middle C.

All this is a big deal. “We are now entering a new age of astronomy,” said Columbia University professor and World Science Festival founder Brian Greene on WNYC. “Now we can look at the universe using waves of gravity. You cannot shield yourself from gravity … we may find things out there that don’t give off light but by waves of gravity.”

It took supercomputers to measure it, but what’s even more sublime is that Einstein conceived of this phenomenon 100 years ago and that the waves match his equation. “It’s stunning that Einstein’s equation can explain this in such exquisite detail,” Greene added.

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Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

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For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

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Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

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The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

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