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Detecting Gravity Waves

  1. Nov 24, 2014 #1
    Just watched Intersteller and my mind started running wild with all sort of fun thoughts. So I'm not sure how serious of a questions this is, but I got to thinking if it's possible to use gravity waves as a form of communication. And in turn, started wondering how said waves could be detected.

    The way I think of matter on spacetime is like that usual analogy of marbles on a rubber sheet. And I think of phenomena like quantum tunneling as marbles bouncing over each other when hit hard enough, like billiard balls bouncing off a pool table if hit too hard at an odd angle. This would be made easier, I would think, if the surface on which the marbles/billiard balls are rolling were not perfectly flat, but perturbed in some way.

    So I was wondering if passing gravity waves could have an affect on the probability of a particle crossing/"tunneling through" a wall. I mean if you had an isolated container at constant temperature/pressure with a thin wall on one side opposite a detector, is it possible that the number of particles that hit the detector on the other side could be affected by passing gravity waves?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 24, 2014 #2
    Possible, yes. But it is much bigger problem how to generate them :D
  4. Nov 24, 2014 #3


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    It's not really feasible, not at this time at least. Gravitational waves cause a change in the distances between objects, with the amount of change dependent upon both the amplitude of the wave and the distance between one object and another. Since gravitational waves are absurdly weak, it generally requires placing two objects a long distance apart to detect the waves. LIGO, a gravitational wave observatory, uses an interferometer consisting of two arms, each 4 km long, yet it hasn't been able to conclusively detect gravitational waves so far. Even with 4km long arms a passing gravitational wave generated from an astronomical source will only change the distance between the arms by about 10-18 meters (A proton is about 10-15 meters in radius).

    As far as I know, tunneling is extremely sensitive to distances in the range of 10-12 meters.

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