Physics & Chemistry
An astrophysics experiment in America has demonstrated how fundamental research in one subject area can have a profound effect on work in another as the instruments used for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) pave the way for quantum experiments on a macroscopic scale. This is according to the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society.
LIGO is a huge experiment, funded mainly by the U.S. National Science Foundation and involving more than 600 astrophysicists worldwide, undertaken to detect gravitational waves and thereby help us monitor space through another valuable set of lenses - gravitational radiation.
By measuring tiny motions of test masses caused by passing gravitational waves, LIGO expects to directly detect this radiation, thought to stem from exotic phenomena in space such as the collisions of neutron stars and black holes, and supernovae.
Laser light is used to monitor relative displacements of interferometer mirrors, which are suspended as pendulums to act as quasi-free test masses.
Since the effect of gravitational waves is expected to be very small, LIGO detectors are sensitive enough to measure displacements smaller than one-thousandth the size of a proton for mirrors that are 4 km apart.
Institute of Physics